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Jewish World Review April 11, 2001 / 18 Nissan, 5761

Michael Ledeen

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Consumer Reports

EXAM TIME! -- IT must be exam time at the journalism schools, because the Washington Post has just published a "how-to-do-it" piece on the vaunted "Federal Page" that is an inspiration to us all. The frolicsome editors published an article by one Walter Pincus, known to greater Washington as the slimer-in-chief for his many smear jobs on Republicans and other conservatives.

Pincus's target this time is my friend and colleague John Bolton, recently nominated for the post of undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. The charge? He "was paid $30,000 over three years in the mid-1990s by Taiwan's government for research papers on U.N. membership issues involving Taiwan." Not only that, but Bolton also testified to Congress, supporting Taiwan's full membership in the United Nations.

Imagine! Does Pincus think that Taiwan should have hired one of the countless members of the Communist Chinese chorus to write the papers for them? Did the Taiwanese show bad judgment when they asked one of the most respected and literate policy intellectuals in town to write them? Not at all. Was there anything untoward in these actions? Well, the whole story was told to the Office of Government Ethics and the state department's Legal Advisor's Office, as well as to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and none of them found anything wrong.

Maybe it's an out-and-out policy spat. But no, when Senator Kerry challenged Bolton's views on U.N. membership for Taiwan, Bolton pointed out that it would be improper for him, in his new post, to advocate (even) diplomatic recognition of the place.

So why is the Post so exercised? Why did they unleash Walter Pincus for a full quarter of the page on this non-event?

The answer, as I am sure the profs in the journalism departments are pointing out to their students even now, is to be found in the accompanying photograph, which shows Bolton eyeing a "disputed ballot" in Palm Beach County. You see, Bolton was part of the Jim Baker team that sacrificed its eyesight (and, no doubt, a significant chunk of its sanity) to the endless recount of chads and dimples after the November election. And that, dear friends, is considered criminal in the corridors of the gray Stalinist building on 15th Street that encases the Post's staff.

This sort of thing used to have an effect, but everyone seems to have recognized it as a failed prank. When I checked with the State Department late Monday afternoon, I was told there hadn't been a single call from the media on the matter.

This may be yet another blow to Walter Pincus's self-esteem, but he and his wife can always do a reprise of their fabulous dinner party for the Clintons a few years ago, when Mrs. Pincus was a political appointee in the Executive Branch. They can certainly count on gushing coverage from the Post.

JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Tocqueville on American Character . Comment by clicking here.


04/05/00: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/00: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/00: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/00: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/00: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/00: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/00: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/00: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/00: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/00: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen