Friday, November 30, 2018

"We need leaders who tell the truth. This is not now happening" (William D. Ruckelshaus, this August)


"William Doyle Ruckelshaus [seen above c2009] served as the first EPA Agency Administrator, from December 1970 to April 1973. During EPA's formative years, he concentrated on developing the new agency's organizational structure; enforcement actions against severely polluted cities and industrial polluters; setting health-based standards for air pollutants and standards for automobile emissions; requiring states to submit new air quality plans; and the banning of the general use of the pesticide DDT."
-- from an Environmental Protection Agency website bio,
"William D. Ruckelshaus: First Term [as EPA administrator]"

"It’s hard to believe that, 45 years later, we may be in store for another damaging attack on the foundations of our democracy. Yet the cynical conduct of this president, his lawyers and a handful of congressional Republicans is frightening to me and should be to every citizen of this country. We are not playing just another Washington political game; there is much more at stake. . . .

"We need leaders who tell the truth. This is not now happening. [Special counsel Robert] Mueller is living up to his superior reputation as a model public servant. His is a search for the truth; we should not complicate his job. Support him, and when he has finished his work, listen to what he has found.

"What Mueller unearths will guide our next steps and will strengthen our trust in our institutions -- including the one we are now using to find the truth. I hope the president at last studies the lessons of a history I lived -- and that he heeds its warning."

-- long-ago Deputy AG William D. Ruckelshaus, in an Aug. 6 WaPo
"Only one other president has ever acted this desperate"

by Ken

My apologies if everybody else has long since read and processed the op-ed published by the Washington Post on August 6, "Only one other president has ever acted this desperate." I've only just read it -- by clicking an (undated) WaPo link that appeared following a new op-ed, "The clownish caricature of Nixon in the White House," the other day by true-red Post columnist Michael Gerson assailing the character and deeds of this monster whom circumstances oblige us to call President Abomination.

What can I say? The news these last couple of years has been so unremittingly grim that I've largely retreated into isolation from it. Still, this doesn't mean I have to go looking for trouble -- reality has a nasty, vindictive way of finding me anyway.

I should note that following the Gerson op-ed there was also a link to an equally forceful anti-President Abomination piece by another committed conservative WaPo columnist, Jennifer Rubin, "If only Republicans weren’t such cowards." Now, there's an awful lot that Michael and Jennifer and I will never agree on, but in these dark and dangerous times they have both amply demonstrated, going back to the 2016 presidential campaign, that -- appearances to the contrary -- there is still such a thing as "principled conservatives." There are others of their kind, but not all that many -- I'm well aware how lonely they're feeling, not least because such voices seem to be heard only in the media, and not all that frequently there. However, in the realm of Republican public officialdom, I'm hard put to think of any such voices I've heard.

Which brings me back to William Ruckelshaus. Just seeing his name attached to the aforementioned WaPo op-ed got my total attention, because there are names you just can't let go of.

I love that little bio of WDR from the archive of the Environmental Protection Agency website, which covers only his first term as EPA adminstrator -- the very first EPA administrator. It's often pointed out, when the abominations of the presidency of Richard M. Nixon are discussed, usually in the context of the subsequent, serially more abominable presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush are discussed, that there were redeeming features of the Nixon administration, and usually topping the list is that it was during Nixon's presidency that the EPA was created, and under its first administrator it carved out a mission, a mission that has been ever more fiercely undermined by those successively more abominable Republican administrations.

What's more, as that designation "First Term" reminds us, Ruckelshaus served a second term as EPA administrator, in 1983-85 brought back by a somewhat abashed President Reagan to clean up at least some of the public-relations mess created by his disastrous first EPA administrator, the frightful Anne Burford Gorsuch, a monstrosity who would leave an even viler legacy in the person of her son, eventual Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch (who clearly comes by his monstrousness honestly, possibly the only lick of honesty that can be attributed to him).


There was another small matter, which the gentleman himself recalled in starkly matter-of-fact terms in that August op-ed. He had already been used by Nixon to try to clean up PR messes, first as acting FBI director and then as deputy attorney general. And then --
In October 1973, Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire [Watergate special prosecutor Archibald] Cox. Richardson refused and resigned. As deputy attorney general and next in line, I was ordered by the president to fire Cox; I also refused and resigned. Cox was finally fired by Solicitor General Robert H. Bork. The result is what came to be known as the Saturday Night Massacre.
And there we have it, in a mere handful of words. There are moments in history when individuals are called on to stand up and show what they're made of. On that fateful night in October 1973, in quick succession AG Richardson "refused and resigned" and Deputy AG Ruckelshaus "refused and resigned."

"Neither Richardson nor I saw any justifiable reason for Cox’s dismissal," Ruckelshaus wrote in August.
WDR back in the day (c1970)
When it became clear that Cox would not give up his pursuit of the Oval Office tapes, Nixon took the only action he could to protect himself: He tried to get rid of the man charged with investigating him.

Nixon was desperate. His goal was to shut down the Watergate investigation by ridding himself of Cox. Instead, Nixon got Leon Jaworski, the highly respected former president of the American Bar Association. Nine months later, the Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision forcing Nixon to release the tapes that proved his guilt. Shortly thereafter, the president resigned.

Not only was that Saturday night the beginning of the end of the Nixon presidency, but it also accelerated the growing wave of political cynicism and distrust in our government we are still living with today. One manifestation of that legacy: a president who will never admit he uttered a falsehood and a Congress too often pursuing only a partisan version of the truth.
Ruckelshaus recalled receiving "hundreds of letters" after he refused and resigned, and those letters "enshrined this thought in my head for the rest of my life": that "Nixon was brought down by his disrespect for the rule of law." Earlier in his piece WDR offered a laconic gloss on the events of October 1973:
A lesson for the president from history: It turned out badly for Nixon. Not only could he not derail the investigation, but also, 10 months later, he was forced to resign the presidency.


I love it! It will be interesting to see whether this bit of history repeats itself. In which connection I heartily recommend a Dana Milbank op-ed, "The truth is finally catching up with Trump":
In the beginning, they proffered “alternative facts.” Later, they told us that “truth isn’t truth.”

All along, President Trump and his lieutenants were betting that Jonathan Swift was correct when he wrote more than three centuries ago that “falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it.”

But after two long years, the truth is finally catching up with Trump and his winged whoppers.
Note, however, the care with which Dana points out, in the case of each of these "winged whoppers," that, while "Americans no longer need trust the media’s word against Trump’s," because "they can see with their own eyes, if they choose to, that facts are closing in on him from all directions," there's a crucial qualification: that "if they choose to." As more and more commentators are pointing out, this Trump legacy will endure long after he has walked or been booted into the sunset: a codification of Ronald Reagan's debilitating legacy: that "reality" can be whatever you want it to be.

None of which changes my takeaway for the day: that an important part of the reason Nixon's machinations turned out badly for him was that first Elliot Richardson and then William Ruckelshaus, received an illegitimate and unjustifiable order from the president of the United States and did the two things that an honorable person would have to do -- they "refused and resigned."

We might also recall that the third man in the October 1972 DoJ chain of command, the one who without apparent difficulty carried out the boss's execution order, a far-right-wing GOP legal hack name of Robert Bork, was rewarded by the Abominable Reagan first, in 1982, with a seat on the country's second-highest court, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and then, in 1987, with nomination to the Supreme Court. True, that nomination failed, with 58 "no" votes in the Senate, as a result of what right-wingers still call "Borking," a supposedly despicable tactic that consisted of simply citing stuff the "victim" has said, written, or done.

It's one of those curious facts of life that right-wing crackpots are deeply, loudly, indignantly, self-righteously offended when you dare to simply citing things they've said or written or done. But this is another story. Today I just want to remember that night in October 1973 when two men understood what they were being ordered to do and instead of doing it, "refused and resigned."

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At 1:17 PM, Blogger edmondo said...

Max Boot. William Ruckelhaus. George Will.

We sure love us some republicans here on DWT. Let me clue you in. If you are on the same side as these people, you are on the wrong side.

At 2:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is one bit of value to presenting these people here on DWT. It shows that the GOP is NOT unified nor completely in lock step. There are cracks in their political "Atlantic Wall" that can be exploited.

Otherwise, I agree with edmondo

At 3:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

edmondo is correct. DWT trots out these Nazi apostates in its duty to move the left further right.

Boot, WDR and Will are despicable right wing assholes. But today, they are left of trump, therefore they are our new heroes and the pinnacle of loftiness to which we must now aspire.

The Nazi party *IS* actually unified. But they've culled some of their former functionaries. Even hitler executed former aides/allies that did not join his lust for world domination and genocide.

'73 was 45 years ago... and an historical meme that we'll never see again... ever. Society is far too stupid and evil to get back there; and there exists no independent political impetus to do anything but accelerate our vector away from '73.

Can I also remind you morons that the EPA was gifted to us by fucking Nixon?

**THAT'S** how far we've plummeted. Might as well be the fucking dark ages.

At 4:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great going, Ken!

At 4:21 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

To Edmundo and Anonymous 2:29 and 3:18 - get some reality, will ya? Just criticizing everyone is not a strategy for anything. Kvetching is not going to get us anywhere and we do have to get somewhere, and fast. Democracy is ramshackle with many opinions. Take the good when and where you find it. Resigning during the Saturday Night Massacre and dissing Bork were GOOD, and we were very fortunate to get them when we did.

At 6:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hone, I'll give you that we were lucky on those rare occasions when someone acted on principles... back in the day. Nobody does so any more.

But NOT criticizing when it is warranted is part of why we're in an era where nobody does act on principles any more.
We are descending the escalator where no matter how horrible someone acts, people like you will say "at least he didn't send kids to concentration camps". Or some such.
Well, this is the quickest way to provide the vacuum where we DO get someone who sends kids to concentration camps, but then I guess we all forgot about those immigrant kids we kidnapped and put in camps.


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