The passing of Gerald R. Ford, the 38th President of the United States gave me cause for a bit of historical delving. I wanted to find out more about the ascendancy of both Rumsfeld and Cheney during Ford’s tenure in the White House and how that ascendancy relates to the Presidency of Mister Bush today. As we know, the power vacuum left by Nixon’s departure gave room for the rise of influence of the conservative cabals associated with what we now know are the neo-cons, with representatives from both the Republican and Democratic sides of the aisle. The dominant cabals to wield influence in the Ford years and up to the present were the Coalition for a Democratic Majority (CDM) and its spawn, the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD) and more recently the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). I believe that Gerald Ford in the weakness of his position became an essential puppet of the first two of these groups and that we and American democracy are suffering from that legacy to this day. What follows will be a historical review of the role of the major players in both the Ford and Bush administrations and associated outside organizations.
Ford was sworn into office on August 8, 1974. On August 20th he selected Senator Nelson Rockefeller to be his Vice President. By the end of that month Ford’s approval rating reached 71%. Ford was generally viewed as a uniter by a very divided nation. Behind the scenes, however, there were machinations afoot and these machinations were primarily orchestrated by one Donald Rumsfeld.
In his February 2001 article, Darth Rumsfeld from the American Prospect, Jason Vest said of Rummy:
And while a few profiles have made passing references to Rumsfeld's Machiavellian power politicking during the Ford era, few seem to comprehend just how formidable he is likely to be within the Bush administration. Indeed, there's a striking parallel between the new administration's power structure and the regime Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney effectively controlled nearly 30 years ago, in which the duo set up a dominant advisory axis to a perceptibly weak-on-national-security president, in part by marginalizing a high-profile secretary of state seen as too moderate. Back then, Rumsfeld had a reliable coterie of proteges and comrades he could depend on in the service of furthering his goals. Three decades later, a new generation of Rumsfeld admirers is obsessed with the idea that a completely effective nuclear missile defense system can be deployed, giving America the power to use "peace through strength" in dealing with the rest of the world.
Ford brought Rumsfeld into the White House from his position as US Ambassador to NATO to manage his transition into the Presidency. Prior to his stint for NATO, Rumsfeld had worked in the Nixon White House at the Office of Economic Opportunity and at the Cost of Living Council. Dick Cheney had worked for Rumsfeld through this time as a deputy assistant. (source)
Ford then appointed Rumsfeld to be his Chief of Staff and he held that position until 1975. According to T.D. Allman in his excellent shredding of Cheney in the Rolling Stone,
Having turned Ford into their instrument, Rumsfeld and Cheney staged a palace coup. They pushed Ford to fire Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, tell Vice President Nelson Rockefeller to look for another job and remove Henry Kissinger from his post as national security adviser. Rumsfeld was named secretary of defense, and Cheney became chief of staff to the president. The Yale dropout and draft dodger was, at the age of thirty-four, the second-most-powerful man in the White House.
As the 1976 election approached, Rumsfeld and Cheney used the immense powers they had arrogated to themselves to persuade Ford to scuttle the Salt II treaty on nuclear-arms control. The move helped Ford turn back Reagan's challenge for the party's nomination -- but at the cost of ceding the heart of the GOP to the New Right. Then, in the presidential election, Jimmy Carter defeated Ford by 2 million votes.
Time Magazine in 1975 called this coup the "Shake-Up." Read the full accounting of it here and here. There had been conflicts between Kissinger, then both the National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, and Defense Secretary James Schlesinger. There was also displeasure with CIA director William Colby who had divulged much information to the Church Committee investigations about CIA assassination attempts of Castro and other nefarious and illegal activities in Chile and in the United States. Rumsfeld and other hard liners were also displeased with Kissinger’s efforts to encourage détente and the SALT II talks with the USSR, preferring a full escalation of military might. There was also displeasure with Ford’s selection of Nelson Rockefeller as Vice President, because he was perceived to be too moderate. This shake up was the beginning of the hard line, right wing shift of power within not only the Republican, but also the Democratic Party.
On November 1, 1975 Ford orchestrated the coup. Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, and CIA Director William Colby were fired. Henry Kissinger was removed as National Security Advisor and was replaced by Brent Scowcroft. Schlesinger was replaced by Donald Rumsfeld and Colby was replaced by George H.W. Bush. When Rumsfeld became Secretary of Defense the new Chief of Staff became Dick Cheney.
This review of Cheney by Time in the November 17, 1975 summarized him as a "loyal deputy" and concluded.
Because of Rumsfeld's policy of "interchangeability"—the practice of having deputies regularly fill in for their bosses—Cheney in the past year has spent almost as much time with the President at home and on the road as Rumsfeld has. Like Rumsfeld, Cheney will run Ford's White House staff and implement his decisions. But he is not expected to be a manipulator of policies and personalities as his old boss was. (source)
Ha ha ha ha..... sob. If they only knew then what we know now.
The two groups influencing this coup behind the scenes were the Coalition for a Democratic Majority (CDM) and the Committee on Present Danger (CPD). The CDM was a think tank formed by Senator Henry Scoop Jackson (D-WA) in 1972.
Jackson and his coalition favored a strong military and promoted the concept of ‘peace through strength.’ The CDM has its roots in the intellectual movement of neo-conservatism—intellectual and pragmatic, with an emphasis on democracy, anticommunism, and globalism. By the mid-1970’s the Vietnam war had cooled the ardor of the American public for the policy of interventionism, a philosophy of great importance to the CDM. The election of President Jimmy Carter pushed the 'hardliners' into action and, in 1976, the CDM helped to found the Commmittee on the Present Danger (CPD), a lobby group for containment militarism. The CPD developed and implemented a new 'Soviet Threat' campaign. The broader goal of CDM, however, was to reinstate containment militarism as the central theme of U.S. foreign policy.
The CDM included members such as Les Aspin, Lloyd Bentsen, Midge Decter, Fritz Hollings, Hubert Humphrey, Daniel Inouye, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Irving Kristol, Patrick Moynihan, Sam Nunn, Bill Richardson and James Woolsey. It has been known to affiliate with other right wing think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute and The Coaltion for Peace Through Strength. It also shared office space with Team B, the group authorized by President Ford in 1976 and managed by then CIA Director, George H.W. Bush. It was the combination of the CDM and the Team B that formed the nucleus of the reconstituted Committee on the Present Danger (CPD). (source) http://rightweb.irc-online.org/...
The Team B members have consisted of the following: Richard Pipes, Daniel Pipes, Paul Nitze, Clare Booth Luce, John Connally, Daniel Graham, Edward Teller, Thomas Wolf, John Foster, William VanCleve, Richard Perle and last but not least, Paul Wolfowitz. (souces here and here. Ah the tangled webs they did weave. Essentially these hard liners were rabidly anti-communist and rabidly anti disarmament. Their job was to "create" evidence to counter the prevailing wisdom of the CIA (Team A) with regard to the threats posed by the Soviet Union. The idea of Team B it seems to me was carried forward into Rumsfelds’ Pentagon with the Office of Special Plans, who also generated their own truthiness about the threats of Iraq.
In CPD's view, the agency chronically minimized the Soviet military threat, thus creating a false basis for what CPD saw as insufficient U.S. defense expenditures. At the Pentagon, Rumsfeld was pushing hard for new strategic endeavors, such as the MX missile and the B-1 bomber. Though William Colby had successfully fought against outside analysis, new CIA Director George Bush was much more receptive to the suggestion from the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board -- which included CPD members -- that the agency's analysts hadn't been on the ball. It was no surprise, then, that when Bush asked the White House for permission to bring in the CPD, he obtained an enthusiastic response.
The CPD experts, who by this point had come to be known as "Team B," crafted an assessment that, as American University national security expert Anne Hessing Cahn put it, "everywhere saw the worst case," was rife with what we now know was rampant overestimation of Soviet military capability, and led to dire predictions. It's hard to know which is more surprising: that Team B's exaggerated findings were accepted then, or that reporters still accept them today.
The findings were submitted to the White House too late to be of any use to the floundering Gerald Ford, but CPD mounted an incredibly effective media campaign of leaking and spinning to create something approaching public hysteria. Despite Kissinger's condemnation of Team B's assessment, Rumsfeld was effusive in promoting it as a credible study -- and thereby undermining arms control efforts for the next four years. Two days before Jimmy Carter's inauguration, Rumsfeld fired parting shots at Kissinger and other disarmament advocates, saying that "no doubt exists about the capabilities of the Soviet armed forces" and that those capabilities "indicate a tendency toward war fighting . . . rather than the more modish Western models of deterrence through mutual vulnerability." (source)
The original CPD was founded in 1950 as a lobby group to perpetuate the red scare against communists. It faded out in influence during the 1960’s but was revitalized by the Team B and CDM people. With the defeat of the Soviet Union, the focus of the CPD has of course shifted to Islamic based terrorism, but their intent remains the same, total American hegemony and exportation of American democracy and capitalism. I encourage you all to look at their website CPD here and read more analysis of their activities here. The current leadership of the group consists of Sentators John Kyl, Joe Lieberman, George Schultz and James Woolsey. The membership list here includes such lovely notables as Jack Kemp, Newt Gingrich, Cliff May and Ron Silver.
To wrap this up, because there is so much more to tell, but this is getting lengthy, the seeds of many of the current fiascos with the Bush Administration were planted right under President Ford’s nose. It seems that he was completely used and manipulated by the likes of Rumsfeld and cronies and that their power was allowed to flourish and grow all through the Reagan and Bush I presidencies to culminate in the true nightmares we are experiencing today. I don’t fault Ford necessarily, but I do wish he had spoken up after the fact with hindsight. I wish that more people had spoken up about what they knew of Rumsfeld and Cheney from those bad old days so that we wouldn’t be having these bad days now.
Interesting bonus tidbit: In my quest for information about the Ford Administration I came across this recently declassified memo/transcript of a secret meeting between the Iraqi Foreign Minister and Kissinger in December 1975 where there was discussion of the CIA backed Kurdish insurgency against the Baathists among other things. It is a very interesting read. PDF file of transcript here.