Conservatives over in America, in an effort to find any scandal possible to throw at the President, are obsessing daily, still, over the events that lead up to Benghazi. It’s an interesting scandal, because it seems to be one in which those shouting the loudest, are doing so simply to destabilise the President, rather than caring too deeply for those affected by the horrendous tragedy in Benghazi. I would hazard a guess that most cannot name the victims. It is used simply as an excuse to call for secession, or impeachment, or casting out demons, or any other craze the far-right in the US has decided to cling onto today.
And yet, ask most right winged, angry Americans who the greatest President of all time was, and most will say Ronald Reagan. Some will note President Lincoln, others may say Thomas Jefferson. Both of whom are examples of Presidents who overstepped Constitutional executive power, both increased the size of government, and Jefferson especially was incredibly anti-Capitalism (as I note here, in my article on Jefferson, and the Tea Party). So it is of no surprise, that the Reagan Presidency is also a rather hypocritical Presidency to be particularly fond of, if you’re a right winged American. Reagan’s Presidency was perhaps the most corrupt in living memory. And here is why:
President Reagan’s Deputy Chief of Staff at the White House, Michael Deaver was convicted in 1987 of committing perjury in statements submitted to a Congressional subcommittee and then grand jury, in relation to his secret lobbying activities within the administration. He was sentenced to three years, later reduced to probation for three years and a $100,000 fine, along with 1,500 hours of public service.
Reagan’s National Security Advisor, Robert McFarlane was imprisoned in 1990 and fined $20,000 for his part in the Iran-Contra affair in ’86, in which the Reagan Administration ignored the arms embargo on Iran, and initiated the selling of weapons. The money gained through sales would then be slyly diverted to help train and fund the violent contra’s in Nicaragua; a group that had been struck off the US funding list, by Congress in ’82 and ’84. But of course, McFarlane’s clear corruption and overstepping of Federal executive power, was ignored when President Bush – another Republican – pardoned him in 1992.
In 1982, Reagan appointed California State Republican Rita Lavelle to the position of assistant administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for solid waste and emergency response. She was in control of around $1.5bn to be used for chemical spills and hazardous waste. She was convicted in 1984 of lying to Congress, over her misuse of the $1.5bn fund. She served three months, paid a $10,000 fine, and was place on probation for five years.
In 2005, Lavelle was convicted again, this time of wire fraud, and making false statements to the FBI, in relation to forged documents and trying to defraud another company out of $36,000.
The 43rd United States Secretary of the Interior, appointed by President Reagan in 1981, was James Watt. He held the record (until a President W Bush appointee) of protecting the fewest endangered species on the list, in US history. In 1995 Watt was indicted on 25 counts of perjury and obstruction of justice for giving false statements to a grand jury during an investigation into Department of Housing and Urban Development influence peddling, of which Watt lobbied in the 1980s. He plea bargained, paid a $5000 fine, five years probation, and ordered to give 500 hours of community service.
Five years after nominating Rita Lavelle, and whilst Secretary of the Interior was running up his record of caring little for endangered species, Reagan nominated another dubious character, to Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Deborah Gore Dean was convicted by jury of accepting an illegal gratuity, on three counts of trying to defraud the Federal Government, on four counts of perjury. She was eventually sentenced on the first two conspiracy counts and ordered to pay $2,500 for each.
President Reagan’s Defence Secretary Caspar Weinberger was fully pardoned by President Bush before he could stand trial for two counts of perjury and one count of obstructing justice for his role in Iran-Contra. He was responsible for selling Hawk missiles to Iran.
John Poindexter, another National Security Advisor, was convicted in 1990 on five charges of lying to Congress by obstructing Congressional investigations into Iran-Contra. His conviction was later overturned due only to the wording of the case against him. President George W Bush later recalled Poindexter to head up DARPA Information Awareness Office. He eventually retired, after proposing a market for future contracts, based on predicting events (such as assassinations) in the Middle East. Former Senator Byron Dorgan said of the idea of the idea:
“The idea of a federal betting parlor on atrocities and terrorism is ridiculous and it’s grotesque.”
Another President Reagan appointee, and President Bush pardonee, is Elliott Abrams. Quite horrifically, Abrams was Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, whilst Human Rights Watch and Amnesty accused Abrams of covering up human rights offences in Latin America. This can be noted, when in 1993, the UN’s Commission on the Truth for El Salvador found that 5000 civilians were rounded up and executed in 1981, whilst being supported by the US. Prior to the ruling, when reports were hitting the US press of executions in El Salvador in the 1980s, Abrams said the reports were misleading, and left wing propaganda.
So good at this position of covering up Reagan’s funding of human rights violators and terrorists, that he was later promoted to Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs. In this role, he was 100 hours community service for his role in Iran-Contra. President Bush Sr pardoned him. President Bush Jr promoted Abrams to Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Democracy, Human Rights, and International Operations at the National Security Council just after taking office in 2001. This is about seven years before Sarah Palin continuously attacked President Obama for “palling up to terrorists” for once maybe having spoken briefly to Bill Ayers. Republican hypocrisy at its finest.
The list goes on; Catalina Vasquez Villalpando, Silvio D. DeBartolomeis, Joseph A. Strauss, Anne Gorsuch Burford, Thomas Demery.
It isn’t just President Reagan’s administration that was deeply corrupt, violent, extreme, and criminal; it was the next Republican President also. President Bush is guilty of pardoning criminal after criminal, simply because he could. They were not treated to the same level of justice that ordinary American citizens are treated to. They were considered above the law, by their powerful friend in the White House. President George W Bush brought a couple of them back into political life. Republican sleaze. If this had all happened in 2013, under President Obama; I dare say Glenn Beck would be holding “Throw Obama in Prison” rallies whilst drawing parallels to Stalin and lack of Jesus in schools; Fox News would be indecipherable through the sound of daily venomous rage; calls for secession because the President is “destroying America” would be even more irritatingly loud; and Congressional Republicans would be trying to impeach at every possible second. Instead, the most aggressively corrupt administration in US history, is ironically, the administration of the conservative hero, President Reagan. Big government wasn’t the problem. Reagan-style government was, and is the problem.