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The Hickory Stick is a “Washington” bookstore. It’s not in the
District of Columbia. It’s in Connecticut — where I have a license
plate that says, “Constitution State.”

Our most famous local celebrity is Henry Kissinger — who, like me,
came here to recuperate from “Potomac fever.” Among his quotations
during his years in high office was: “Power is an aphrodisiac!” It
inspired Art Buchwald to quip: “I wonder — who’s Kissing’er now?”

As transplants, Henry and I are understandably not always admired.
Recently, Henry nearly provoked a riot at his Hickory Stick
book-signing. Some irate residents accused him of the assassination of
Chilean president Alliende — and his replacement by dictator Pinochet.

The incident inspired former BBC reporter Brian Saxton (another local
transplant) to write an article in the Danbury News Times, quoting a
matronly woman protester, “I’m satisfied I finally confronted Kissinger
after all these years … he’s a fox, he’s sly.”

Saxton also notes,

“The 83-year-old Pinochet, now out of power, living in Britain, is
facing extradition to Spain on charges of crimes against humanity.

“Other demonstrators had rallied outside the bookstore to accuse
Kissinger of complicity in the coup and criticize his role in the
Vietnam War and the U.S. bombing in Cambodia.”

Sadly, I now share many of the views of Henry’s local critics. But I
also confess a special fondness for The Hickory Stick — and the kind
lady who manages it. In 1996 she had a signing party for “Without Honor”
– a book I wrote on Watergate. The book doesn’t speak well of
Kissinger. (It also describes the 1974 role of Hillary Rodham on the
House Judiciary Committee’s then-Nixon impeachment inquiry staff.)

The book documented that in June 1974, as a counter offensive against
his impeachment, President Nixon accused the Democrats of “wallowing in
Watergate” — while he was doing the “people’s business.” Accompanied by
Secretary of State Kissinger, Nixon began what he called “A Journey for
Peace.” With overseas media coverage by the nation’s most highly
respected political commentators, Nixon (with Kissinger’s help) was
brightening his image as a master of foreign policy.

Kissinger took advantage of the media to wage a political war against
the “partisan” Democrats back in Washington, D.C. For more than a year,
anti-war protesters had been condemning Nixon and Kissinger for having
established the White House “plumbers” — to plug “leaks” to the press
of the secret bombings of Cambodia.

In those years on Capitol Hill, there was a popular maxim attributed
to Louisiana Senator Russell Long: “When you fight with alligators, take
‘em on one at a time.” Now a modern Carville-type strategy, it was
earlier practiced more subtly by Kissinger. In 1974 he used his media
forum to single out one congressman in particular, Joshua Eilberg of
Philadelphia — the most politically vulnerable of the Democrats (and
perhaps a predecessor to Carville’s Ken Starr).

Eilberg found himself under attack from Rabbi Baruch Korff, head of
the “National Citizens Committee for Fairness to the President.” Korff
worked with Kissinger to defend the President from impeachment.

At a luncheon just before the Nixon and Kissinger’s departure for
Israel, Korff read a resolution of his committee. He affirmed, “Faith in
God and country, in constitutional government, and in our beloved
President, who is one of the strongest links in the chain of the
presidency.” To a crowd of 400 cheering guests, Nixon assured Korff, “I
shall do nothing to weaken this office.”

Nixon had described Korff as “my rabbi.” Korff was reminding voters
in Eilberg’s district that Kissinger was the “first Jewish Secretary of
State in American history.” But Eilberg regarded Kissinger as a
“Quisling” — who joined with the White House “Germans” (Kleindienst,
Haldeman, and Ehrlichman) to foster the Gestapo-like tactics of
“plumbers” Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy.

A popular joke among Jewish Democrats at that time was that Israel’s
Prime Minister Golda Meir {a former school teacher from Milwaukee) had a
foreign minister (Abba Eban) who was more well educated than Kissinger.
Of Welsh extraction, Eban was born as “Aubrey Evans.” Meir had said,
“Unlike Henry, Abba speaks English without a Hoch-Deutsche accent.”

In a newsletter to his constituents, Eilberg cited Kissinger’s
complicity in at least seventeen illegal wiretaps — including one on
Kissinger’s Jewish aide, Morton Halperin. The newsletter suggested
comparisons between our Secretary of State and Hitler’s Heinrich
Himmler.

On June 11, 1974 Kissinger launched a media attack on Eilberg. At a
stopover in Salzburg, Austria, Kissinger appeared on primetime TV and
announced that he would resign unless his name was cleared on the
wiretapping charges alleged by Eilberg. In his clipped accent Kissinger
said, “I have believed that I could help the president to heal divisions
in this country. I can do this only if my honor is not at issue. If that
condition cannot be maintained I cannot perform my duties. I do not
believe it is possible to conduct the foreign policy of the United
States under these circumstances when the character and credibility of
the Secretary of State is at issue.”

As a news story, the evidence that Kissinger had directed illegal
wiretaps of journalists, and of even his own aide, was quite stale. The
New York Times had broken the story a year earlier.

Other facts previously extensively reported included a lawsuit by
Halperin charging the Secretary of State with illegal wiretapping. (Many
years later, the suit was settled in
Halperin’s favor with an apology by Kissinger.)

In attacking Eilberg for leaking news that had been in the public
record for more than a year, Kissinger struck a public relations blow
against the Judiciary Committee that then-chairman Rodino could have
easily deflected. All that would have been necessary to defend Eilberg
was a simple truthful statement — that Rodino refused to make. There
was nothing in our congressional “confidentiality rules” that deprived
Eilberg of the right to remind his constituents of information that was
already on the public record.

Instead, Rodino followed the political advice of his temporary
“impeachment inquiry staff” — which then included Hillary Rodham and
Bernard Nussbaum (who was later to become President Clinton’s first
White House Counsel). They wanted to keep Nixon in office “twisting in
the wind” for as long as possible — to assure the election of a liberal
Democrat in ’76. To appear judicious in fostering delay, Rodino agreed
publicly with Kissinger that such leaks “demeaned the committee” and
advised the media that he was ordering them to be “stopped immediately.”

Since Rodino publicly chastised Eilberg, the New York Times also
sided with Kissinger. It ignored the fact that in 1973 it had scooped
its competitors with documented evidence of the illegal wiretaps. The
Times editors agreed with Rodino and wrote, “The leakers, apparently
impatient with the rules of secrecy adopted by the committee and
presumably anxious to ‘get the President’ are subjecting him to trial by
the court of public opinion based upon fragmentary and unrebutted
evidence.”

Today, I am the same age as my state-mate Henry. I still read the New
York Times — even though it defended Clinton against impeachment and
now supports his foreign policy. I see Henry on TV plugging his new book
– and urging the sending of ground troops to Kosovo. When I think about
Clinton’s and Carville’s “newspeak” definitions of the “people’s
business,” I get chilled. I recall the warning of philosopher George
Santayana: “Those who can’t remember the past are condemned to live it
again.”

Who can forget the White House plumbers — in the days when Kissinger
piloted Nixon’s Ship of State? But I now feel like an Internet version
of Coleridge’s “Ancient Mariner” — telling a tale no longer “fit to
print” in the New York Times.


Jerome Zeifman formerly served as the House Judiciary Committee’s chief
counsel. His book “Without Honor: The Impeachment of President Nixon
and the Crimes of Camelot” is now out-of-print but is being republished
in e-book form. Comments may be sent to
jzeifman@yahoo.com.

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