US President who
changed the world
Chalabi’s fall led to Tenet’s exit
Los Angles, June 6
Though they were married for 52 years, Ms Nancy has told with great pain how she her husband did not recognise her during the final years of his struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Nancy, who was herself a Hollywood starlet in the 1940s and 50s, said it was virtually love at first sight when she met Mr Reagan in 1949 when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild.
Mr Ronald Reagan was still getting over his divorce from the actress Jane Wyman but the couple married in 1952, had two children and acted like besotted teenagers from then on.
The President left messages of love for his wife around the White House and wrote a constant stream of love letters, some of which were published in Nancy’s book “I Love You, Ronnie” published in 2000.
No matter where he was in the world, Mr Reagan made sure he wrote to his wife.
In 1983, on the 31st anniversary of their wedding, Mr Reagan was on Air Force One when he wrote: “I more than love you, I’m not whole without you. You are life itself to me. When you are gone I’m waiting for you to return so I can start living again.”
Two films stand above the rest in Reagan’s long filmography.
In “Knute Rockne — All American,” (1940) he took on the role of dying football hero George Gipp who spurred his team with a line that went on to become Reagan’s political rallying call: “Win one for the Gipper.”
And in “Kings Row” (1942), Reagan played a playboy who wakes up in a hospital bed after a sadistic surgeon cut off his legs and asks: “Where’s the rest of me?” a line which became the title of his 1965 autobiography.
After World War II, which he served in the US Air Force making training films, Mr Reagan the actor became involved in Hollywood politics.
In 1947, the then Democrat, who was married to fellow film star Jane Wyman, was elected head of the powerful Screen Actors’ Guild, a post he held until 1952 and again from 1959 to 1960.
His terms straddled one of Hollywood’s most treacherous political periods — the “Red Scare” of the 1950s — and allowed him to cut his teeth as a politician.
During the period in which Senator Joseph McCarthy launched his witchhunt that blackballed actors suspected of being communist sympathizers, an increasingly conservative Mr Reagan assisted in purging the guild of sympathisers.
During that period, he married his second wife: actress Nancy Davis, whom he met in 1951 and wed a year later.
During the 1950s, with his movie career sagging, he became a travelling corporate spokesman for General Electric and also turned to television, before entering mainstream politics in 1964 after becoming a Republican. — AFP
Washington, June 6
Mr Reagan, who died yesterday at 93 after a long struggle with alzheimer’s disease, was a genial optimist and maestro of a simple — critics said too simple — creed promising lower taxes, less government, a powerful national defence and unabashed patriotism.
As a governing credo it was bold and new when Mr Reagan began a turbulent White House reign marked by economic resurgence, the collapse of Soviet Communism, vast budget deficits, an assassination attempt and a scandal or two.
Early in his political rise, analysts laughed him off as a shallow show-business buffoon, all grin and pompadour. One high-ranking Democrat, Clark Clifford, dismissed him as an ‘’amiable dunce.’’
But Mr Reagan’s crystal-clear convictions and sunny manner captivated voters tired of blurry, indecisive politicians. And Mr Reagan marched steadily upward from popular ideologue to California Governor to two-term Republican president from 1981 to 1989 — a force from the right such as modern America had never seen.
Mr Reagan became the first Right-wing president in 50 years; the first in 30 years to serve two terms; the first ever to spend a trillion dollars on peacetime defence, the first to hold five US-Soviet summits or witness a doubling of the national debt.
He made his conservative successors politically possible.
Historians may long argue his proper rank among US presidents — great or not? — But few would contest that he was a leader who left a deep imprint, grudgingly admired even by opponents and revered by millions.
Mr Reagan left the presidency more popular than any predecessor despite the Iran-Contra scandal that marred his last years in office. And when he passed the mantle to protege George H.W. Bush in January 1989, it was with a sweeping farewell boast typical of his glowing self-confidence.
‘’We meant to change a nation and instead we changed a world,’’ he said as he and his adoring wife, Nancy, headed for retirement in Los Angeles’ swank Bel-Air district.
Even when stricken by the disabling alzheimer’s disease in 1994 — a disease that confined him to final years of seclusion, not even able to recognize his wife — Reagan disclosed it in a ‘’My fellow Americans’’ letter brimming with upbeat faith in the future. As President, however, Mr Reagan was in fact a paradox.
He railed against federal spending but followed policies — twinning a vast military buildup with tax cuts — that more than doubled the total national debt.
He abhorred bargaining with hostage-takers and called for an arms boycott against states accused of fomenting terrorism. But he also sold arms to Iran in a clandestine operation that mushroomed into the gravest scandal of his presidency.
He built a career on fiery anti-Communist rhetoric and Kremlin-bashing, but developed an affection for Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the course of five summit meetings.
His meeting with Mr Gorbachev in Moscow in 1988 typified the ironies that made Mr Reagan such a fascinating public figure for so long. Here was America’s best-known anti-Communist, the man who called the Soviet Union an ‘’evil empire,’’ doing business in the Kremlin with the political heir of Lenin on a chummy ‘’Ron’’ and ‘’Mikhail’’ basis.
Asked if he still saw the Soviet Union as the ‘’evil empire,’’ he retired his famous phrase without a flinch. ‘’No,’’ he said, ‘’I was talking about another time, another era.’’
He and Mr Gorbachev put into force a treaty banning intermediate-range missiles, the first to abolish an entire class of nuclear weapons.
Mr Reagan’s last political hurrah came in 1984, when he scored the biggest electoral landslide in US history, winning 525 of a possible 538 votes in the Electoral College and sweeping 49 of 50 states against liberal Democrat Walter Mondale.
He was thrust into his gravest crisis with the disclosure in November 1986 that the USA had sold arms to Iran in 1985-86 and diverted proceeds to the Contras.
Congressional hearings in 1987 backed Mr Reagan on one central point: Witnesses said he was never told about the Contra funds diversion. But the hearings also portrayed an out-of-control White House and an out-of-touch president, whose zealous aides made major foreign policy moves on their own. Mr Reagan himself always insisted he was guilty of nothing but poor judgment. - Reuters, PTI
Chalabi’s fall led to Tenet’s exit
THERE is a touch of irony to the fact that Washington’s worst-kept secret was its intelligence chief’s impatience to quit his job.
Yet, when Central Intelligence Agency Director George J. Tenet announced on Thursday morning that President George W. Bush had accepted his resignation the previous night, lawmakers and analysts went into a frenzy trying to speculate the “real reason” behind the departure.
Anticipating the speculation, Mr Tenet told colleagues at the CIA in an emotional speech “Washington and the media will put many different faces on the decision, it was a personal decision and had only one basis in fact — the well-being of my wonderful family — nothing more, and nothing less.”
For seven years Mr Tenet steered the agency through good times and bad. As the second-longest serving director of the CIA after Allen Dulles, the Greek-American has overseen more than his share of intelligence lapses — lapses that include missing India’s May 1998 nuclear test and the inability to preempt attacks on America on the morning of September 11, 2001.
Mr Tenet, a Clinton administration appointee, surprised many in Washington by making it this long in an ideologically diametrically opposite Bush administration. The affable director was even reported to have a warm, personal relationship with Mr Bush.
But the high-wire act characteristic of Washington failures, and the administration has to accept responsibility for those failures.”
“This is an opportunity for the president to lead. As I’ve said for some time, we must reshape our intelligence community for the 21st century and create a new position of ‘director of national intelligence’ with real control of all intelligence personnel and budgets,” the Massachusetts Democratic Senator said.
His colleague in the Senate and former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was struck by the timing of Mr Tenet’s announcement. “[S]ince the whole controversy around Chalabi is heating up and Chalabi blames the CIA for his problems and there are a lot of pro-Chalabi supporters still at the highest levels of the administration,” she said, hinting at the neo-conservative hawks that walk the Pentagon and White House corridors and have made no secret of their dislike for the CIA director.
Ironically, Mr Tenet’s fate is being tied with that of former Iraqi Governing Council leader Ahmed Chalabi — a man whose motives the CIA director has persistently questioned. Similar concerns have been repeatedly voiced by the State Department.
A Pentagon favourite and chief instigator of the war in Iraq, Mr Chalabi has fallen from grace in Washington where recent reports link him to serious intelligence leaks. The CIA’s critical assessment of Mr Chalabi has been boosted by allegations that the Iraqi exile told Iran that the United States had broken its code for secret communication.
An angry Mr Chalabi on Thursday blamed Mr Tenet for instigating the charges. “I denied these charges and I will deny them again,” he said. “He continued attempting to make a coup d’etat against Saddam in the face of all possible evidence that this would be unsuccessful. His policies caused the death of hundreds of Iraqis in these futile efforts.”
The New York Times speculated that Mr Tenet’s resignation may have been hastened by a critical, 400-page report from the Senate Intelligence Committee that was presented to the CIA for comment last month.
Regardless of the true reason behind the resignation, there is a semblance of an agreement in Washington that Mr Tenet’s legacy will be evident only once the dust settles in Iraq.
“He served his country a long time. History will tell what the implications of his tenure were. I think history will either vindicate him or say: ‘Hey, there was a problem there,’” said House speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican.
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