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May 16, 1994 $2.25 U.S./$2.

75Canada

RIGHT OF
,PASSAGE
f you judge the South African electhe uerformance of those
Ttion
by

as a costly
l w to
h see'it
o administered
it, disaster
it's hardthat
not
could well plunge thecountry into a PO- j
litical
crisis. Major logistical foul-ups in i
the first twodays meant that voting could
not take placeat nearly 30 percent of the !
stations in some regions, and there was
a serious shortage of paper ballots. There
were chargesthat hundreds of thousands
of ballots were spoiled in the KwaZulu/
Natal area because of a shortage of the
stickers adding the Inkatha Freedom Party to theballot.
But if you judge the election by the
perseverance of millions who waited patiently for the polling booths to open,

JANET MALCOLM'

~IQ-WEQDUMT
ANNA FELS
,

'DISCOVERY"NA
"4
POETRY WINNERS
\.

'

then it's impdssible to see the process as


anything but a victory for the will ofthe
people. The soul of South Africa's transition to democracy is to be found in those
voters, many of them aged and infirm,
who refused to budge when polling stations failed to open. They had been waiting all their lives
for this moment-nothing would deter them from making the
"X" that signified their passage to"ful1
citizenship in the landof their birth.
The moodcountrywide was peaceful,
festive and in some areas jubilant, but
more often serious andappropriately
solemn. From illiterate rural women in
destitute homelands to Johannesburg's
well-heeled bourgeoisie,from edgy young
township comrades to stolid Afrikaner
farmers, there was an overwhelming
senseof the historic moment. It was
20
as if all South Africans, black,white and
"coloreds" alike, were :
voting for thefirst
time in their lives.
377536
p-

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The Nation sinee 1865.

May 16,1994

651

CONTENTS.

>

Volume 258, Number 19

LETTERS

658 Managing Pols

650

Right of Passage
Many Nixons
Andrew Kogkind
R.I.P., R.M.N.
Vidal Gore
.One Last Hurrah
Robert Scheer
Clinton & Co.: Credibility Trap
David Corn

COLUMNS

654 More Awful News


655 Minority Report
656 Subject to Debate

Patrick Woodall
and Nancy Watzrnan

BOOKS & THE ARTS

670 Malcolm: The SilentWoman:


Sylvia Plath
and Ted Hughes
673 Prizewinning Poets-1994
675 Saramago: The Gospel According
To Jesus Christ
676 Hedrick: Harriet BeecherStowe:
A Life
678 Television

Calvin Dillin
Christopher Hitchens
Katha Pollitt

ARTICLES

657 Playing the Denial Game:


The Managed Care Scam

662 Rebuild the Coalition:


New Openings for Single-Payer
Naftali Bendavid
665 The Social Responsibility Gap:
Sweatshops Behind the Labels
Laurie Udesky

EDITORIALS
649
651
652
653
653

Suzanne Gordon and


Judith Shindul-Rothschild

Anna Fels

rlan Staians
Martha Sakfon
Lewis core

Illustrations by Randall Enos

Editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel (acting); Victor Navasky (on leave)

Publisher, Arthur L. Carter

Executive Editor,Richard Lingeman; Associate Editors, Andrew Kopkind.


Katha Pollitt, Bruce SHaplro, Micah L.Sifry; Lrterary Editors, Elsa Dixler,
Art Winslow; Poetry>Edrtor,Grace Schulman; Managing Editor, JoAnn
Wypijewski; Copy Chiefi Roane Carey; Copy Edrtor, Judith Long; Assistant to the Edrtor,
D e m s Selby; Interns, Michael Abowd(Wmhrngton),David
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Bureaus: Washrngfon,David Corn; Europe, Daniel Singer;Budapest,Mikl6s
V h o s ; Tokyo,Karl Taro Greenfeld;Southern Afrrca,Mark Gevisser. Corporations, Robert Sherrill, Defense, Michael T. Hare; Columnists and Regular
Contributors:Alexander Cockburn (Beat theDeviI), Christopher Hitchens
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EDITORIALS.

Many Nixons

And thus I clothe my naked villany


With odd old ends stoln forth of holy writ.
And seem a saint when most Iplay the devil.

Richard III
hat becomes a legend most? Over the course
of dmost fifty years in public life, Richard
Nixon created an extraordinary wardrobe of
political costumes:the respectable Republican
cloth coat: the gaudy uniform of an imperial President, the
executioners hood, thefelons stripes, the statesmans man-

tle-and now, most marvelously, the shroud of a saint. Old


Nixons were succeeded
by countless new Nixons following one
another down the decades in dizzying parade.If he was a devil
in disguise, the disguise was perfect.
Nixons unending dissimulations practically provoked the
new discourse of psychohistory, which so titillated scholars
in the1970s and suggested a way of understanding Nixon as
a phenomenon of mind rather than a practitioner of politics.
That academic conceit follows Njxoninto theobituaries: All
that we have witnessedin his career, from the persecution of
Alger Hissthrough the six-plus crises to his self-rehabilitation
after Watergate, were products of an unloving mother,,a d$class6 upbringing, self-loathing, social awkwardness
and psy-

652

The Nation.

'

chological repression. Tales


of his batty behavior in the final
days of the White House-praying on his knees withHenry
Kissinger, gnawing franticallyat a childproof aspirin bottle
in themiddle ofthe night-describe the Nixon legend best.
. ,The habit of removing Nixon
from'historyand.placing.him
in a purely psychological dimension
has led commentatorsto
the most outrageous estimations his
of genius. In fact he was
an intensely political President whose actions and policies
have had as greatan impact on American lifeand world history as any 'of .his presidentid peers. If he had a principal
talent, it was a certain sense
of the geopoliticsof his age,lwhich
cambe ennobledas visionky only in comparison withthe low
standardtof:his.predecessors and successors.
1 :;y i :
:\$hat sense ,led him'to anunderstanding that the :eadl of
&erica's dominance of the global game of power'ivas"in
sight. :The enervating 'experience of Vietnam
and the co'incidbrit rise of a 'rejuvenated Japan and Western Europe demanded' a,downsizing of imperial commitments
that'is Still
underjway. It required an end to'thewar in'Indochina; reductions'in military expenditures(dlsix Nixon budgetshadsubStantial defense cuts)
and,hn overhaul of US, relatioris with
the' Soviet Union and China-at the very least. Nixonwas
hardly the only one in public lifeto grasp those realities; but
' he wps the one whd grasped them
and happened to be at the
nation's helm.
His most critical response wasa kind of coup he stagedon
the global economyin '1971by devaluing the dollar and'effectively scrappingthe system of monetary relations that had
been in effect sincethe end of World War11: (The so-called
Bretton Woods structure had been devised in large'part by
Keynes, and it was Nixon'sbold "shock"'that led himto decldre-to most Republicans' horror--"We are all Keynesians
now:') But) fearful that devaluation would leadto-inflation
,(themby threateninghis re-election as well as imperiling G.O.P.
bondholders), Nixon toppedthe shock with wage and price
controls. He offered nothing to replace the ever-expanding'
cbld war militaiybudgets that had fueledthe American economy sincethe end of World War
11:The ensuing mess greatly
accelerated the machinery of decline that has caused' much
misqry and from which, it is fair to say, America will never
,
_,
recover-not to the level of pre-Nixon prosperity.' '
Nixon wasnot always the reactionary bogyman that many'
dnce believed: His domestic policies
in areas of social
welfare
and the environment were often more liberal than his succes-,
sors'; but of course he faceda Democratic'Congress and an
enraged citizenry.And then he bombedand bullied his way
peace.
I

'

WHAT W E LIVE WITH


,TODAY BECAUSE OF NIXON
,

,' ,

'

. L

+ ,

'

'I

<

.,

at Buchanan, MIRVed missiles,DiaheSawyer#,


P
names on the Vietnam Wd,G. Gordon Liddy, He& Kissinger, the E.P.A., David Gergen,WilJih
20,180

Safire, the Khmer. Rouge, William Rehnquist, August0


Pinochet, M.I.A.s, the War on Drugs, Woodwardand
Bernstein, John McLaughlin; -gate.
DAVIDCORN
5

May I d , I994

through Cambodiaand.,Chile and slaughtered Americans


and
Vietnarhese. The point of his Sino-Russian gambitswas to
play off one
against ,theother while keepingultimate control.
He didn't end the cold war anytmore than Reagan did, 'dthougii both take-and are given-the credit.
, - .
Richard Nixonwas, at theend as at the beginning, amonster of a million disguises. Butso are they all monsters; it's
just the disguises that change.
ANDREW KOPKIND
l . II

-pi

n April 23'1 was'awakenedearly,inthe morning by


a callfrom BBC radio;Richard MiIhous Nixon
had
met his terminal crisis peacefully in t h night.
~
'Sternly the progrim's host told me that both former Prime Minister EdwardHeath andXenry (never to be
fofmef, alas) Kissinger
had referred to thetajrty-seventh Presidentmas a '$towering-figark"I said'to thethost that the'first
another leader driven from
would havehad a fellow feeling for
office, while Kissinger's only claim
to our attentiorwas his
years in service as Nixon's foreign poliw'vaIet. Otherwise,
Henry would nowbe just another retiredsclioolteacher, busy
at work
on Son of Metternich.
,'
So.John :Kennedyand Richard Nixon (Congress, class
of
1946) are now both gone-paladin and goblin, eachput back
in the theatrical boxof discarded puppetsand, to a future eye
(or puppetmaster), interchangeable.Why not a new drama
starring Tack Goblin and Dick Paladin? In their politkal actions they were more alike'than not if one7takes the longest
view and regards the national history of their dayas simply
a classiclaboratory example of entropy doing
its merry'chilly
is
thing:In any case,as I wrote in 1983, "We areNixon; he us."
Much isnow being made, among
the t e h for a man whom
only ahandful of Americans ofa cer;tain"age remember,of
Nixon's foreign policy triumphs.
He went to Moscow and then
dktente. He went to Beijing and then:saw.,the Great Wall.
Other Presidents could have done
whai,hedid, but none dared
because of-Nixon.'As pictures of Jolinson and Mao come
on the screen, one hearshthat solemn b'aiitone:
'"1am not ,saying that ,President Johnson aiscard-carryihg Communist. No.
I a m not'even sayingthat his presence on that wall meansthat'
heis a'communist. No. But I question .'..!'.As N@on had
been &signedthe part osthe Nixon+ there
was no'other Niion
to keep.him from those two nice'excursions, 'ostensibly in
search of
After I heard the trumpets and the drums, and watched ourt
remaining kibrarians-the high emeritus rank
that we bestow
on former Presidents (a witty one because now no one does
a wholelot of reading)-I played a film clip of Nixon
in his
vice presidential days, For some reason
the sounkltraclc is gone:
A silent movie. An official banquet?of some sort. Nixon remembers to smilethe way people do. Tlien
a waiter approaches
him. witha large,' corruptly sticky dessert. Atthat moment,
to speak to his partner on the left, frustrating
Nixon leahs over
the waiter's effort toserve him. The waiter moveson. Nixon
sits back realizes that his dessert has been
given to the man
on his right. He waves to the waiter, who does-not see him.
11

The aNatio~.

May 16, I994

Now the Nixon faceis beginning to resemble that of the third


English king of his name. Eyes-yes, mere slits-dart first left,
then right: The coast 3s clear: RuthlessPlantagenet-king,using
his fork likema,broadsword,
scoops up half thedessert on his
neighbors plate and dumps it on his own. As he takes hkfirst
taste of thedessert, there is aradiance inhis eyes that I have
never seen before or since. He is happy.Pie in thesky on the
plate at last. R.,I..P.,R.M.N.
:

GORE-VIDAL

653

begando reverse comse: &President he madedetente with


the Soviets and-:theopening to (China thekey planks of his
foreign.policy.,
3- ,, , ,.
,,
Henry Kissinger is often-given creditfor the historic openingto China because of;his-back-channel negotiations., But
the recorckis clear,.thatitwas Nixon who first acknowledged
that bhe true, government ,of, Chinawas in Beijing and not
Taipei. He advanced this .notion.in,anarticle in Foreign Affaitsin. 1967, before he,met Eissinger;,
, ,, I -,
,o:r
..@ixon,was avisionary,,alonBRhe lines of Woodrow,Wilson.
Butinstead .of pro,jectlng.fa,messianichole for: theUnited
StatesfNixonunderstood:the.flimits of,power,2she-referred
I
to the emerging muLtipolar.wrld in the speech outlining the
YNkw Doctrihe({(Yes,hecontinued,toplay oWmany deadly

sideshows df,the old cpld.,war; including


murder in Cambodia
and ;Chile, but-as.GeorgeMcQovernonce told :me,::In deal-,
ing with the two majo.r.Communistpowers, Nixon probably
had aiketter.resor6t h m ahy Prpident since World War,Id.
. i & h@id.
~ his.many detractors hother. to
notice, that,rNixon
a more rational policy longafter being I
con&im@d,to;support
hounded from.office, In ,1983, when,the Reaganites were in
the.grip,of nuclearwarfighting hysteria, Nixon distanced hiniself froLmtheirapproach with his book Real Peace, in whic,h
,
he trashed the-dlqctrine,of winnable nuclear warr and wrote
that peace was the only option. As I reported in ,theLhs
Angeles Timesafter I, interviewed Nixon, the formerRresident,urged the.VnitedStates and the
Soviet Union toshare
research,onstirwars missile systems because otherwise, such
defepsive systemscould fuel fears that they might be used as
a *shieldfqr a nuclear,first strike. He added, When you
have 10,000,of these damned things, therg,is no defense.
, ,fll this was overshadowedby Watergate,,which revealed a
mentality all too. willingto sabotage the spirit of democracy,
a
nLyndon Johnsons persistent lying
about,
but nq more so @
Vietnam or Ronald Reagans stonewalling on Iradcontra.
Every,modernPresident
# _ ,,
has used the claims of nationa1,sec$tx tosustajn @self% ofQce,,and democracy
be d y e d .
Was.N+On reagy,the.worst? ,
, .,
We bL@h-thermembry OS other Presidents by stressing the@
ach&vements,onc,e.they.,ar,e
gone. Kennedy remembered,
is
for,
the Peace corps^ and,Jobsonfor civil rights. Nixonsbgthe,-, b,ack
.
,of:the
- . ,cold ,warwasno less an achievement.
IL.: ; . j
: .:
-_;
*
,, , , . ROBERT
SCHEER
I

One LastHurrah

~~

ard ast,itmay be forrliberalSto accept,, Pichard


Nixoh:was a better President thanmost: On dor
amesticpolicy hemwasacentrist, not at allgivento
dism@tling the welf- state,Ias were Reagan dnd
Bush. Yes, there mw&the:divisive
Southern cainpaignl strategy,
but as President ,hC!issued the first Executive 0rder.enforcing
equal opportunity-irk federal employhent; he extended that
guarantee to stateandlocalgovernmentwhenhe signedthe
airiendment to the 11964 Civil-Rights Law. ,
.
,
On foreign policygNixons was a voice of reason not only.
compared :withthemRepublican hawks but with the cold war
liberals, John Kemedy and Lyndon Johnson included. Nixon
was the,fiEst,cold-warPresident to challenge,the notion that
Communism wasinherently monolithic, expansionist
and ideologically unyielding.
.
True, the Sino-Soviet dispute vias evident bythe end of the
1950s, and Comrnunistvrevolutions (as opposed to satellite
governments imposed by the Soviet Army in Eastern Europe)
were always nationalistic. Any rational observer couldhave
seen that theChinese and Vietnamese Communists were at
odds andpredicted that a Vietnamese victory would be followed by increased tension and even,fighting ,with.China.
Similarly, howdifficult-was it to figure out that the,Cuban
Revolution was;atresponse to U.S. imperialisminthe Carib, :, .
bean and not theqesulhof Soviet machinations?
But the men who made foreign policy for,Kennedy-and
Johnsonwerenotrational. Kennedy gaveus the Bay of Pigs,
brought us.to the. brinkof nuclear disaster .with the missile
crisis and -1aunched:theVietnam.War,with the lie thatU.S.
advisers had been sent there to carry out+floodrelief?
And itwas L.B.J.who sent a half-million troops to Vietnam
andunleashed the B-52 carpet bombing on the absurdpremisethat we werebattling international Communism in Vietnam.;
The carnage escalated dramatically in,1964,when Johnson
launched American bombers in retaliation for an alleged attack by.North Vietnamese PT boats,on American ships ih the
Gulf of Tonkin. Thanks to documents releaqe,dtwenty years
after the fact, we now know what Johnsonknew all along:
The attack had never occurred. The consequencesof that deception were far more seriousthan those of Nixohs lies about
Cambodia, terfible as they were.And it was Nixon, along with
the NorthVietnamese and Vietcong negotiators:whaended
,
the war thatLthe Democrats had started..
Obviously the eadyNixon deserves much of the blame for.
poisoning American politics by the red scare.But beginning,
with his service in the Eisenhower Administration, Nixon

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1 ,

<...I

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CredibilityTrap
We couldnt,believe
he said that. We were really
shocked. So remarked a senior National Security
C o i i d staff member two days
after Secretary of
StatesWarrenChristdpliers testimony to a Sen.ate subcommittee defending the Clintonpolicy
in Bosniaby citing the need tofviadicate United
States leadership and ,maintain the credibility? of -U.S forces.

Christopher had openly embracedlrhe preferred argument


of,theneoconsewatives: The United States must act toughin
the present conflict-even if the conflict ofthe moment isnot

654

The Nation.

vital to U.S. strategic interests-to showit can be tough


in another conflict down
the road. (Conservatives split-on
the credibility front. Senators John Warner and John McCain, both
ardent Pentagon champions, dont want
to risk a single U.S.
soldier for the Balkans; House minority whip NewtGingiich
rants for a show of will.) Whenever foreign policy leaders
to sound. Several adminmention credibility, alarms ought
istrations sent58,191 Americans to their death and killed millions of Vietnamese to prove theyhad spine and could keep
acommitment, even a lousy one. Now creeping credibilityism
is animating the White House thinking on Bosriia.
This iswhat so disturbed some N.S.C.-staffers. Except
for
the uniformed officialsof the Pentagon, there are few dbves
in the decision-making circles of the Administration-. ,But
among those Clintonites who want
to intervenelin BoSda for
humanitarian reasons (letstry to stop the one-sided war)or
out of geostrategic concerns (Iets
try to prevent the rise of
a fascist state in Europe and end a conflict that threatens to
destabilizethe region), there has beena concerted attempt to
avoid talkthat harks back to Vietnam. Christopherblew itand in adopting the language of Clinton critics,heshowed
how susceptible to pressure the White House is. What stings
the White House is the sort of criticismthat Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman recently expressed
on the Senate floor:
We are in a situation . . . where a third- or fourth-rate military power . . . makes the United States look timid and
weak. . . , We need to find here a resolve.
In pondering the Clinton foreign policy crews response
to
such rhetoric, its usefuI to dredge up onenotableepisode
from the past of National Security AdviserAnthony Lake.
Flash,backto Vietnam. In the springof 1970, President N&on
. ordered a secret invasion of
Cambodia by U.S. troops. Before
the action began, National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger
asked several key aides
to critique the plan. Lake foresawthe
invasion as a disaster that would prompt more ugly protests
at home. (The invasion did lead to antiwar demonstrations,
including the one at Kent State University, where fourstudents
were shot andkilled by the National Guard.) The day before
Nixon was to announce the incursion, Lakeand fellow N.S.C:
aide Roger Morns resigned. The two had contemplated holding a,news conference
to disclose that Nixon had drdered illegal wiretapsand was drinking, but they held their tongues:
(I consider [it]to be the biggest failure ofmy life, Morris
later told reporter Seymour Hersh.)Explaining the invasion
during a televised address,a nervous, perspiring Nixon @led
the invasion a test of American resolve. The United States,
he declared, must not act like
a pitiful, helpless &ant the
in
face of a challenge.
menty-four years later, in
a moment of historical
slnchronicity, Lakefinds himself bombarded with helpless
giant acto such
cusations. CapitolHill aides notethat Lake is sensitive
charges. But he has not as yet gone as far as Christopher in
a gutpublicly voicingthe credibility cIaptrap. Bosnia poses
wrenching dilemma,but one rule ought to besacred:.No one
should die or be killed for the sake of U.S. credibility..
to outside presThere is an up side to Clintons vulnerability
sure. He can be moved-though whether in a good or bad direction depends on
the nature of the pressyre: (La$ yearafter
in
the President orderedthe bombing strike against Baghdad

May 2 6 .I994

retaliation for ,the Gleged assassination attempt on George


Bush, one White House aide explainedthe decision: What
a d you expect usto do? Sitthere and do nothing, while the
press and others kept pounding us for doing nothing?.)An
increasing number of complaints about Clinton% goingnowhere po1i;dY on Haiti may be forcing a change in thePresidents position.For months,the Administrationhad refused
to tighten the squeeze on the military junta that overthrew
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Then the Congressional.
Bldck Caucus and a group of litieral Democraticsenators introduced legislationto strengthen the embargo againstHaiti.
A set of Hollywood liberals decried
the White House. Randall Robinson, executive director of TransAfrica, wenton a
hunger strike to protest tlie Clinton poli&. The news media
began reportingon the human rights nightmare in
Haiti (several peoplea day, manyknown Aristide supporters, murdered;
facelessbodies dumpedin the street). Membersof Congress
were arrested at the White House in a protest. At a press conference, Robinson called Clinton
anaccomplickto
the murderersof Haiti, and Aristide complaineh that he received
only beautiful words from Clinton, but no action.
The White House
was beginningto face a political cost for
its forcible repatriation Haitian
of
refugees and its lack offer-
vor in pressing for Aristides return. (The
N.S.C. staff becalme
nervous when they heard
that 6OMinuteswas airing a segment
on Haiti, thoughthe show turned oui not to be verydamaging
to the President.) Clinton finally re1ented;the .White
House
declared it would support a full embargo on Haiti. The statement was a start, yet Clinton offered no details. In January,
when the Administrationlast talked about a stricter embargo,
it conditioned its support for a stronger embargo on further .
political accoTodations from Aristide.But then, days after
the White House announcement, Clinton canned Lawrence
Pezzullo, theBtate Department special
envoy to Haiti who had
been pressing Aristideto compromise. Pezzullos removal is
a signd that policy may indeed
shift, Its also a reminder that
the way to move this Administration is to confront Clinton
with crediblethreats of political discomfort. DAVIDCORN

1
Special Issue on Brown v. Board of Education

8 ,

MOREAWFUL
NEWS
A new report says movie popcorns badAs big a source offat as you could find.

Its damage to your bodyseven worse


doing to your
mind.
Than what the movies
Calvin Trillin