Friday, February 4, 2011

Ronald Reagan's Reactionary Dream Team

Secretary of State - Alexander Haig

A career soldier who revered obedience above all else, Haig dutifully transmitted President Nixon's orders to wiretap journalists and colleagues to the F.B.I., masterminded the carpet bombing of Cambodia and the 1972 Christmas bombings of Hanoi, and helped overthrow the democratically elected government of Chile. At his Senate confirmation hearings he remarked that a "rigid legalistic preoccupation" with international law should not prevent the U.S. from getting rid of governments threatening "American interests."

Attempting to explain the rape and execution-style killings of four American Maryknoll missionaries in El Salvador, he testified to the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the nuns "may have tried to run a road block" and that there "may have been an exchange of fire." He conceded, however, that he had never met any "pistol-packing nuns."

Secretary of Defense - Caspar Weinberger

Harvard and Oxford educated, Vice-President and general counsel for Bechtel Corporation, a crafty, stubbornly combative anti-Communist who regarded detente as a failure for the West, he believed in the end of the world as predicted in the Book of Revelations.

Calling for unrestrained war spending and an accelerated push for first-strike nuclear weapons, he said in his first press conference that the U.S. would "probably want to make use of" neutron bombs in Europe.

Interior Secretary - James Watt

For Watt there were two broad classes of people in the U.S. - liberals and Americans.

An enthusiastic partisan of big business, Watt opposed strip-mining regulations, advocated oil drilling in wilderness areas, and supported the use of motorized rafts in the Grand Canyon.

At his confirmation hearings he assured the Senate that he was capable of balancing economic development and conservation, but left many doubts by adding that he did "not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns."

U.N. Ambassador - Jeane Kirkpatrick

A devoted defender of the Salvadoran junta that killed some 70,000 Salvadoreans between 1979 and 1994, Jeane Kirkpatrick won the heart of Ronald Reagan with her article, "Dictatorships and Double Standards," in which she advocated supporting neo-fascist regimes on the pretext that they were only "moderately authoritarian," while governments allied with the U.S.S.R. were "totalitarian."

She believed that South African apartheid had some "good elements" in it, and rejected the international consensus describing the West Bank as occupied territory. She also dissented from the view that the 1932 Salvadorean matanza, in which the ruling oligarchy slaughtered tens of thousands of peasants, was a singularly traumatizing event: "To many Salvadoreans the violence of this repression seems less important than the fact of restored order and the thirteen years of civil peace that ensued."

Budget Director - David Stockman

Once a student anti-war activist, he abandoned radical politics following the revelation that "the left was inherently totalitarian." Freed of delusions of social justice this chain-smoking number-cruncher transferred his crusader's zeal to slashing social spending.

Stockman opposed the ideals of the Enlightenment, rejected equality as a moral principle, and denied that citizens had any right to government services.

White House Counselor - Ed Meese

A rigid law-and-order man, he called the A.C.L.U. a "criminals' lobby" and rated Joseph McCarthy a great Senator.

As assistant to Governor Reagan in the 1960s, Meese sent helicopters to drop tear gas on the U.C. Berkeley campus. During the pitched battles over People's Park, police killed James Rector, a young black man. Reminiscing about the event during the 1980 presidential campaign, Meese declared nonchalantly that, "James Rector deserved to die."

Attorney General - William French Smith

Formerly a U.C. Regent, he supported Governor Reagan's decision to gas student protesters in Berkeley in 1969, and later led the successful fight to fire Communist Party member Angela Davis from U.C.L.A.

He owned farmland managed by Blue Goose, a firm that flouted immigration laws, paying undocumented Mexican workers substantially less than the minimum wage, while holding them in conditions without housing, toilets, or drinking water. Just in case they got any ideas about collective advancement, his law firm specialized in union busting.

The highest law enforcement official in the country, Smith's goals as Attorney General were to eliminate the Freedom of Information Act, have more right-wing judges appointed, roll back affirmative action, cut food stamp aid, and punish evaders of peacetime draft registration.

Vice President - George Bush

Newly sworn in, he signed a contract in a land deal in Texas stipulating that his lot not "be sold, leased or rented to any person other than of the Caucasian race, except in the case of servant's quarters."

Director of the C.I.A. when the U.S. gave the green light to Indonesia's mass murder campaign in East Timor, Bush never met a right-wing dictator he didn't like. In Manila, he admiringly toasted Ferdinand Marcos'"adherence to democratic principle," charitably overlooking Amnesty International's report that torture was "widespread and systematic" under his rule.

Treasury Secretary - Donald Regan

Ex-Marine, member of the Business Roundtable, Chairman and chief of Merrill Lynch, professional salesman Regan professed a "sled dog theory" of business, which held that "in order to get ahead, you don't just need a team of strong dogs, you also need a puppy - to throw to the wolves."

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