]]]]]]]]]]]]]   NANCY & DON: CREATING A STORY TO HIDE ONE    [[[[[[[ 
                     by Paul Craig Roberts
           Condensed from the Wall St. J., 5/25/1988                    
[Note carefully the activity of the WASHINGTON POST and other media, 
including the use of extortion, in this unique article which is repro-
duced in condensed form here (original title was "Regan's Refrain: 
Vanity Rules Washington.")]
     Washington's response to Donald T. Regan's political memoir 
reveals much of the inner workings of this political city.
     The Washington Post, which has opposed every Reaganite policy and 
person, has come strongly to the defense of Nancy Reagan. The news-
paper mustered its front page, editorials, columnists and op-ed page 
in a massive assault on Don Regan for reporting a fact that the Post 
would have loved to have leaked.
     This shows the power of social connections, which provide a 
shield against any damaging blow. Members of the social club have been 
known to drive cars off bridges with fatal consequences, leave the 
scene, fail to report the accident until there was no alternative, and 
remain revered moral leaders.
     According to the Washington establishment, the message of Regan's 
book is that he is an egomaniac settling a grudge in an act of perso-
nal vengeance. This is called creating a story to hide one. In a town 
long ruled by envy and revenge (just read the "Biography of Roy Cohn" 
by Sidney Zion), Mr. Regan's bad behavior is nothing new. What is new 
is his audacity in rattling the establishment's cage.
     Mr Regan says his predecessors in the White House staff governed 
by press leak. Reaganite staff and policies were often sacrificed in 
exchange for favorable media coverage for the "pragmatists" who were 
doing all the leaking. Mr. Regan reports that when he tried to stop 
all this, Washington Post reporters let him know that his choices were 
to continue the game or bite the dust. David Hoffman advised that it 
would be better to get "good press" like Jim Baker than to be treated 
like Bill Casey. The blackmail became explicit when the newspaper 
published a damaging and false story about Regan. Asked for an expla-
nation, Lou Cannon replied: "Maybe if you guys had played ball with 
us, things like this would not have happened."
     In the end, the Post helped Nancy bring Regan down. The extra-
ordinary participation of the newspaper in the government of the coun-
try will come as a revelation to many people -- which is why the Post 
prefers the story to be Nancy's astrology and Don Regan's vengeance.
     Mr Regan's  book reveals that a person who actually believes in 
something is likely to have his or her reputation and career destroyed 
by letting substance get in the way of image. The value of a presiden-
tial appointment is the opportunity to build connections that guaran-
tee a good landing in a high-paying job with a law firm, an associa-
tion or on Wall Street. The successful "policy maker" discovers his 
policy by reading the morning newspapers and watching the TV evening 
news.
     Mr Regan reports that for almost all of the president's advisers, 
"it was natural to believe that even a president who had won his 
office by a landslide had to `go along to get along.'" This belief 
left them disinclined to carry out the president's program. "If Reagan 
was opposed to tax increases on philosophical grounds, his advisers 
were for them on tactical grounds; if he saw the need for increases in 
defense spending as a means of restoring American influence in the 
world, they favored cuts in the defense budget for the purpose of 
placating his opponents in Congress. The list was long. Reagan was 
continuously being pressured to compromise in ways that preserved the 
influence of the opposition."
     Mr Reagan's own managers, says Mr. Regan, had "trouble believing 
that his ideas, and the revival of patriotism and national self-
confidence that came out of those ideas, were the secret of his suc-
cess." That explains why the most PR-conscious administration in his-
tory was able to turn a successful economic policy into a PR shambles.
     The pundits have declared that by telling on Nancy, Mr. Regan has 
displayed his lack of judgment. But what his book really shows is how 
badly Mrs. Reagan and her friends misjudged him. Why couldn't the 
great minds of Washington read this man? How do we know they are doing 
any better with Mikhail Gorbachev?
     Mr Reagan knew he had to go and had worked out his resignation 
with President Reagan. If this deal had been allowed to stand, Mr. 
Regan's book might never have been written. Instead, in an act of 
foolish savagery, the establishment demanded another victim. But this 
time the victim retaliated. Anybody who reads Mr Regan's book on the 
vanity that is Washington will wonder why we need this city.

     [P.C. Roberts, an assistant treasury secretary under Regan in 
1981-82, holds a chair at the Center for Strategic and International 
Studies in Washington. 
     I have long ago quit reading the hot air by McCracken, Kahn, and 
the legions of other economists, but Roberts, in my book, ranks with 
Friedman, Buchanan, and Allen ("Midnight Economist") as an economist who 
has something to say. He is always worth reading.]
 


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