In 1966, three congressmen ran for election or reelection to office -- Robert Dole, Donald Rumsfeld, Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush. These four individuals resurrected Richard Nixon's political career (remember, he had lost to John F. Kennedy in 1960) and pushed him to run for president in 1968. Nixon was elected in 1968 because Robert F. Kennedy, who wanted to get us out of Vietnam, was assassinated.
Dole left Nixon's White House in 1970 because he no longer liked what was happening there or the direction of the Vietnam War. Dole would form his own camp within the Republican Party, just as Ronald Reagan did 10 years later. Reagan, who switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in 1966, was never a friend of Nixon's.
Dole was replaced in 1970, and Rumsfeld allowed his friend Dick Cheney to enter the group, forming an alliance that continues to this day.
In June 1972, Watergate came along, and Nixon was finished. Somehow, Rumsfeld and Cheney faded out of sight while their fellow administration officials faced indictment.
In August 1974, the Ford administration took over, carrying over Rumsfeld (who served as Defense Secretary) and Cheney (who served as Chief of Staff). Bush Sr. was hired to become CIA Director. Now, 30 years later, it's the same bunch, this time with Bush's son in charge. Oh, and along the way, all of them became multi-millionaires.
Vice President Cheney is now using his position to restore some of the powers of the presidency that he believes were diminished as the result of Watergate and the Vietnam War. Rumsfeld tried to stop Congress' post-Watergate broadening of the Freedom of Information Act. The act requires the government to disclose certain records to citizens. Working with Cheney, Rumsfeld persuaded Ford to veto the legislation, according to declassified documents obtained last year by the National Security Archive at Georgetown University. Congress overrode Ford's veto.
But today, the Supreme Court is stepping in and is upholding rulings that enhance the powers of the executive branch. Cheney has defended his refusal to disclose information about private meetings with energy industry representatives. Who knows what powers will be granted by the new court, now that Samuel Alito and John Roberts are on it?
As CIA Director, Bush Sr. would recruit Manuel Noriega in Panama to work for the CIA, and he would hire a man in Iraq by the name of Saddam Hussein. (Remember that famous photo of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Hussein?) Since 1952, the CIA had been involved in assassinating world leaders and putting puppets in their place. Carter tried to put an end to those practices, and when he wa leaving the White House in 1981, it was George H. W. Bush making the arrangements through the CIA to embarrass him over the Iran hostage crisis. When Bush became vice president in Reagan's administration, he went back to the CIA and undid Carter's housecleaning, rehiring 250 agents that had been fired by Carter, including Hussein and Noriega.
Before he left office in January 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander of our armed forces during World War II, warned us about a future threat coming from the military-industrial complex, and even from his own political party. I believe George H. W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush, have become that threat. In 2005, the Bush presidency is more imperial, more secretive and more dangerous to our democratic system of checks and balances than Nixon's ever was. We are engaged in what is called a war without end, and vast amounts of public money are being reallocated to the military-industrial complex.
"Conflicts arise from a number of sources -- regional, economic, racial, religious, ethnic," John F. Kennedy once said. "In a world full of frustration and irritation, America's leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason."
Where are the lights of learning and reason? When JFK was murdered, they took away a man who brought us, for a short time, a message of hope and expectation. He represented all those dreams we shared of becoming good Americans, respected the world over. The man may be gone, but his message remains his legacy. As time passes, we must prevent his words and deeds from fading from our hearts and our minds.
Spokane writer John Gaetano is author of the John F. Kennedy assassination-based novel America the Beautiful, from which he will read on Saturday, March 4, at noon at Auntie's.