Richard Clarke and his media constituency have been as busy as one-armed men with nettle rashes hanging wallpaper. Anthropomorphic weasels all, they operate in stealth, tinkering to fill their missiles with a toxic mixture of whining and lip-biting contrition, feigned for bestseller status. Their missiles are then hurled with shock-and-awe timing. Weasels. Weasels are the hangers-on, the also-rans who would be emperor. Can't trust 'em when you hire them. Duck when you fire them.
All U.S. presidents and prominent figures around the world and out of this world, (i.e., Hollywood) must endure weasels and their drivel on occasion. Democracy and a free, albeit left-leaning, press cultivate these attention-deprived souls whose enhanced views of self create a sense of entitlement to 15 minutes of fame.
Alexander Hamilton was a post-Revolutionary War weasel, although he wasn't bad at backbiting during the war for the sake of a better command at Yorktown. Resentful of John Adams and his unwavering principles, Hamilton, secretary of the treasury under Washington, manipulated electoral votes and spread scurrilous lies about John Adams to thwart his election. Hamilton was Al Gore in a powdered wig and earth-tone tights.
Abigail Adams did not mince words in one of her letters to John about Alexander, the not-so-great, "Beware that spare Cassius has always occurred to me when I have seen that cock sparrow. Oh, I have read his heart in his wicked eyes. The very devil is in them. They are lasciviousness itself." Quite the "negative tone" the fair first ladies set in their day. CNN would have called her a wench. Peter Jennings would have called her another Nancy Reagan.
Disgruntled also-rans finish second, third and beyond because of their character flaws. Dishonesty, waffling, blind ambition and greed drive them to "et tu Brute?" conduct. Their claims should be dismissed because they come from flawed souls looking for power and attention.
Richard Nixon had John Dean, White House counsel, who said nothing as events unfolded and then sold his soul for a book, a self-portrait of a righteous and visionary man consumed by Tricky Dickey. Watergate is pass, but weasels never die. Dean has a new book with the perfect title for another 15 minutes of fame for a beady-eyed has-been: "Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush."
Ronald Reagan had David Stockman, his director of the Office of Management and Budget, who developed the blueprints for Reaganomics, left Reagan's employ, and then promptly wrote a book confessing that Reaganomics was a sham. History and robust economies, twice in the last score of years following the Reagan tax cut formula, prove this weasel wrong.
George Stephanopolous ran the war room during the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign and served in the White House for four years until he departed to oust Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts from Sunday mornings on ABC. Stephy realized, as early as the '92 campaign, that his boss was a flawed human being. That didn't bring a resignation. When he was fired as Clinton's communication director, he still hung in there for the full first term to ensure that his 443-page confessional book, "All Too Human," would sell. Mixed in with Stephy's descriptions of his monumental contributions to history is this: Clinton was a morally corrupt man who didn't have the skills to be president.
None of that was worth saying or resigning over until the book and TV contracts were in place. Weasel!
Sometimes insurrection comes from the lower echelon. Former Israeli prime minister Bebe Netanyahu and his wife were depicted as jackbooted thugs by their former au pair, Tanya Shaw. Just 21 when she was fired, Tanya whined that Sara Netanyahu was compulsively neat and fired poor Tanya because she burned some soup. Oh, what times are these when the wife of the prime minister keeps a clean house and fires the inept! The nanny got her 15 minutes of fame because anti-Israel factions embraced this impetuous adolescent as a rube who could advance their political views. Weasels all.
Enter Richard Clarke. Mr. Clarke has finagled a bestseller. He has won the hearts and minds of some 9-11-01 families because he feeds them a line about it all being preventable. Mr. Clarke describes himself as being, at once, an all-seeing, all-knowing consigliore, across two administrations, but yet a powerless pawn unable to move two administrations, although mostly the Bushies, to action. Could his self-aggrandizement, motives and greed be any more transparent? He is a front man for a media hostile to Mr. Bush and those factions who, in Hamilton fashion, wish to undermine the president. Weasels.
Weasels have existed throughout history, in fiction and in life. They are at their worst when they vent in autobiographical formats. These tomes are a combination of ego, revisionist history and inexplicable silence. Richard Clarke's June 2003 letter of resignation praised Mr. Bush for his swift action against the terrorists and his steady hand in leading the country. Now he blames Mr. Bush for 9/11 even as he explains his own inaction for eight years in the Clinton administration. How can you trust a man who wriggles his way out of accountability with such inconsistencies? You can't. That's why we call them weasels.
Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org