Celebrate the Facts!
Politicians need agents to do the dirty work, and there seem to be plenty of volunteers for the job. Typically disposable, these scapegoats stand front and center until their usefulness ends. Recent noxious Trump cheerleaders such as Steve Bannon, Rudy Giuliani, Bill Barr, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, and Steven Miller hopped on the Trump escalator and rode it up, but the end of the trail is not so cool. The likes of Kellyanne Conway, Ivanka Trump, and Kayleigh McEnaney are hard-to-endure, but these people are irritating bit players compared to similar historical figures. What happens to these political entrepreneurs is the subject of this investigation – and they all seem to follow a similar story arc to a rather dark end.
David Stockman played a crucial role in the Reagan administration promoting the corrosive effects of 'shareholder values' mantras and selective tax cuts that have resulted in an unsustainable disparity of wealth in the United States, as detailed in a previous investigation.
Stockman parlayed a B.A. in history from Michigan State University, graduate studies at Harvard Divinity School, and a dogmatic proto-Libertarian view of tax abatement for the wealthy and constraint of the Federal government into his moment in dark American history. Stockman won a Michigan Congressional seat in 1976, then resigned in 1981 to become the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under President Ronald Reagan, serving from 1981 until August 1985. Stockman was the youngest cabinet member in the 20th century, and his inexperience showed.
Stockman was one of the most controversial OMB directors ever appointed, also known as the 'Father of Reaganomics.' Committed to the long-discredited doctrine of trickle-down economics, he assisted in passing the 'Reagan Budget' (the Gramm-Latta Budget), which Stockman hoped would curtail the 'welfare state.' Unfortunately, during his term, he also oversaw enormous budget deficits.
After his time in public office, Stockman attempted to monetize his political career with work at Salomon and Blackstone with some success. In 2003 Stockman became CEO of Collins & Aikman Corporation, a Detroit-based manufacturer of automotive interior components. However, Collins & Aikman fired Stockman just before it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2005.
In 2007 United States prosecutors charged Stockman with fraud related to alleged financial misdeeds at Collins & Aikman. The United States Securities and Exchange Commission also brought civil charges against Stockman. The United States dropped the charges in 2009 while Stockman suffered a personal financial loss of over $13 million.
Stockman has enhanced his checkered past with a literary effort riffing Libertarian themes to lukewarm receptions and attempting to stay relevant with a boutique web presence. Stockman's work features simplistic and dogmatic free-market ideology, but one wonders if that is more about excusing his past deeds than providing any sincere commentary.
Colin Powell played an outsized role in history, helping legitimize the incredibly poorly-advised United States invasion of Iraq in 2003. The George W. Bush administration pushed the attack on implausible Iraqi connections to Al-Qaeda and laughable claims Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
Powell was a retired four-star general who served as the 65th United States Secretary of State from 2001 to 2005, becoming the first African-American Secretary of State. Up to his engagements on behalf of the Bush administration, Powell had a stellar reputation. Thus, one might surmise that a man of this education, experience, and temperament would avoid poor judgments in his future.
As United States Secretary of State, Powell appeared before the United Nations, presenting the Bush administration's case, thereby cementing his place in history as an enabler of the invasion. Despite stating in February 2001 that Iraq had not developed "any significant capability" regarding WMDs, and despite intense behind-the-scenes arguments about the validity of WMD charges, Powell made the case in front of the United Nations for a United States-led invasion of Iraq based on Iraq's possession of WMDs. Powell not only made the case but presented 'evidence' of such allegations. Unfortunately, Powell's presentation of the 'evidence' was a case study of sketchy bits of information duct-taped together with conjecture and misinformation, leading to an erroneous conclusion.
There were no WMDs in Iraq, and the United States had adequate ability to ascertain such due to satellite surveillance and overflights by U2 aircraft and certainly knew such assertions were fallacious. Thus, Powell's advocacy of such a case seems inexplicable, and his explanations seem hard to understand in an honest empirical evaluation.
After resigning as Secretary of State, Powell has made a career as a 'talking head' on Infotainment shows, has written a book, and has shown support for liberal or centrist causes. One wonders if this is his effort to whitewash his role in the disastrous Iraq invasion, the resultant incredible deaths of Americans and Iraqis, and the permanent stain on the credibility of the United States.
Oliver North was definitely in over his skis in his role in the Ronald Reagan Iran-Contra affair where he was the intermediary in the 'arms for hostages' scandal and, as a result, took a drastic fall. Reagan's anti-communist dogmatism involved military intervention, support of brutal ragtag militias, and violation of virtually every international standard of decency. North directed the diversion of profits from the arms sales to support the Contras in Nicaragua, part of Reagan's dogmatic push against socialist movements in Latin America, as detailed in a previous investigation.
North traded limited immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying before Congress about the scheme. As a result, North joined the convict club with three felony convictions for his role in breaking Federal laws, but courts reversed the convictions in 1991 because of legal technicalities related to his Congressional immunity.
North became a talking head on the Fox network Infotainment products and was the host of a right-wing radio show before taking an eleven-month stint as President of the National Rifle Association. Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive, ousted him after a public squabble over financial differences.
tpHenry Kissinger was a consequential United States Secretary of State under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and had positive accomplishments as he helped to open relations with China and played a role in a détente with the Soviet Union. However, history will revile Kissinger as the public advocate for a series of illegitimate international interventions and for his support of autocratic regimes who committed atrocities.
Kissinger was a German immigrant whose family had fled Nazi persecution as they were Jewish. He was an Army veteran who received three degrees from Harvard University, including his Ph.D., and then remained on faculty teaching. Kissinger became foreign policy advisor to Nelson Rockefeller, a serial presidential candidate in 1960, 1964, and 1968. In 1968 Kissinger referred to Richard Nixon as 'the most dangerous of all the men running to have as president.'
Regardless of his contempt for Nixon, Kissinger became Nixon's National Security Advisor and later Secretary of State, where his mastery of guile and intrigue led to excesses that arguably made him a war criminal, as outlined in Christopher Hitchens' masterful work titled The Trial of Henry Kissinger.
Kissinger took dual roles in the Nixon administration's second term and later Ford Administration as both National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. In his first two years as Secretary of State, he helped Richard Nixon sabotage Vietnamese peace talks for his political gain, expanded the Viet Nam war into Laos and Cambodia, paving the way for the rise of the Khmer Rouge and the death of two million people, and advocated the bombing of 'anything that moves.'
In 1971, Kissinger backed Pakistan in its war against Bangladesh; in 1973, he orchestrated a military coup against the democratically-elected but socialist President of Chile Salvador Allende, installing the violently oppressive Pinochet dictatorship. Pinochet and his henchmen proceeded to murder and otherwise repress their political opposition.
In 1975, as Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under Ford, Kissinger lent his support to President Suharto of Indonesia, a known madman already accountable for the mass murders of hundreds of thousands in the deadly conquest of East Timor. In a 1975 meeting of the National Security Council attended by President Ford Henry Kissinger, ' It is an act of insanity and national humiliation to have a law prohibiting the President from ordering assassination.'
Kissinger has spent his remaining time on earth monetizing his fame and opining on his accomplishments. Kissinger is still alive at age 98 at the time of this investigation. Kissinger seems to be trying a bit too hard as if somewhere there is a conscience or some bit of guilt.
Joe McCarthy changed the face of American politics, entertainment, and media, and not in a good way. American politicians have adopted his branding of anti-communism to this day and used it to smear opponents with impossible-to-dispute claims. In concert with another consequential evildoer, Roy Cohn, he created a national frenzy and ended his career loathed and despised.
Joe McCarthy was the son of Wisconsin dairy farmers and attended Marquette University from 1930 to 1935. McCarthy received a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1935 from Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1942 McCarthy joined the United States Marine Corps, and his college degree qualified him for a direct commission as a first lieutenant. McCarthy served as an intelligence officer in the South Pacific. McCarthy volunteered to fly 12 combat missions as a gunner-observer and somewhat safe, but regardless, he self-branded himself with the nickname 'Tail-Gunner Joe.'
McCarthy successfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 1946, defeating Robert M. La Follette Jr. in the Republican primary, who had inherited his father's seat. McCarthy assailed his Democratic opponent, Howard McMurray, as a man so desperate for the election that he would accept communist support. The baseless charge worked, and McCarthy trounced McMurray and, in 1947, became the junior United States senator from Wisconsin.
McCarthy rose to infamy in February 1950, when he said he had a list of 'members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring' employed in the State Department. Of course, no such list existed. In the modern era, this would have been trending on Twitter. The United States initiated a generational anti-communism free fall that extends to this moment. McCarthy had a unique ability to sense the political pulse and an insane desire to channel outward his sense of self-loathing.
After his 1950 speech, McCarthy made accusations of Communist infiltration into the State Department, Hollywood, the administration of President Harry S. Truman, the Voice of America, and the United States Army. In addition, McCarthy used various charges of communism, communist sympathies, disloyalty, or sex crimes to attack politicians and other individuals. Finally, McCarthy initiated a 'Lavender Scare' against suspected homosexuals, once again using an anti-communism cover, used to torture and malign innocent people.
McCarthy did not live long enough to whitewash his infamous history of hate as he died at 48 in 1957. His death certificate listed the cause of death as 'hepatitis, acute, cause unknown,' almost certainly due to alcoholism.
The findings of this investigation are clear. There is no good end to political sycophancy and misrepresentation. The outcomes of such endeavor, commonly known as karma, are predictable and not fulsome. Such figures seem to understand their failures and seem to spend their days finding public rationales for their misdeeds and failing. In the light of later evaluation, such sycophancy results in a miserable end.
Michael Donnelly investigates societal concerns with an untribal approach - to limit the discussion to the facts derived from primary sources so the reader can make more informed decisions.