Washington insiders often quip, “I’m against all conspiracies that
I’m not in on.” They measure power by the number of conspiracies they
are part of.
Reportedly, beyond the beltway right- and left-wingers clash night
and day. But within the beltway there are many two-winged conspirators.
They work both the left and right sides of the capital’s aisles,
streets, and alleys. They rent bedrooms in the best hotels, and
sometimes the White House.
A few trendsetters (such as Democrat James Carville and his
Republican wife, and Republican Bill Cohen and his Democrat wife) engage
in bi-wing cohabitation in their homes. More brazen types (such as Dick
Morris) are media consultants for both the left and right, and use hotel
rooms for covert liaisons.
Old-fashioned moralists compare modern politics with deviltry. But
media moguls regard two-winged marketing as heavenly. The TV industry
thrives on domestic culture wars and international terrorism. By
inciting clashes between the left and the right, the two-wingers help
both Democrats and Republicans to raise campaign contributions. The
money is then used for high priced TV commercials.
The left-right polarization fostered by two-wingers endangers dying
breeds of centrists. The more bipartisan conspiracies flourish, the more
non-partisans find themselves caught “between the bark and the tree.”
(It’s a term used by Cajun Louisiana congressman Ed Willis, one of my
deceased mentors. A hard-line centrist, he was opposed both by
left-wingers and KKKers from the right.)
In my case, having left Washington, I feel free to share my
perceptions of some two-winged bipartisan conspiracies that I knew
about, but was not in on.
The first left-right alliance that I learned about began in 1961.
John Kennedy had narrowly won election — reportedly by denouncing the
Birmingham jailing of Martin Luther King. Later, Attorney General Bobby
Kennedy secretly authorized J. Edgar Hoover to wiretap Reverend King.
In the Johnson Administration Democratic Attorney General Ramsey
Clark secretly authorized John Doar (a Republican carry-over from the
Eisenhower years) to surveil black and Hispanic activists. It was not
until 1975 that the Rockefeller Commission (established by President
Ford and headed by Doar) had recommended “a single intelligence unit to
analyze the FBI information we receive about persons who make the urban
ghetto their base of operations.”
In those years Democrat Terry Lenzner — later hired to investigate
Clinton’s political enemies — served as Doar’s chief assistant. In
approving Doar’s recommendations, Ramsey Clark had cautioned Doar and
Lenzner that “the planning and creation of the unit must be kept in
strictest confidence.” As the Rockefeller report further noted:
- The FBI was to constitute only one source of information for the
proposed unit. As additional sources Doar suggested federal poverty
programs, Labor Department programs, and neighborhood legal services…
Other sources of dissident information suggested by Doar included the
Intelligence Unit of the Internal Revenue Service and perhaps the Post
In 1974, Judiciary Committee Chairman Peter Rodino and I were
personally informed in confidence (by then Attorney General William
Saxbe and FBI director Clarence Kelly) that the operation included at
least 300 felonies committed by government agents, none of whom were
Another conspiracy that personally distressed me dated from President
Nixon’s election to a second term. In 1972 he won by a landslide. But it
was also a stunning victory for Democratic congressional incumbents. So
much so that Watergate caused some left-wing Democrats to join with
right-wing Republicans to keep Nixon in office.
The left-wing Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee were
counseled by two Republicans: John Doar, who had previously campaigned
for Bobby Kennedy; and Bert Jenner, who had broken ranks with his party
to raise campaign contributions for Democrat Adlai Stevenson.
The Doar-Jenner impeachment inquiry staff also included Hillary
Rodham. Previously a “Goldwater Girl,” Rodham was drawn to the left by
her boyfriend Bill Clinton and her Yale professor Burke Marshall.
Formerly an Assistant to Bobby Kennedy, Rodham’s mentor had been Ted
Kennedy’s chief Chappaquidick lawyer.
The Judiciary Committee’s left wing (which then included such now
prominent Democrats as John Conyers, Charles Rangel, and Elizabeth
Holtzman) wanted to keep Nixon in office, “twisting in the wind” until
the end of his term. They hoped to make Ted Kennedy president in ’76.
They did not want to give Vice
President Jerry Ford a chance to reunite the Republican Party.
Fortunately, the bi-winged conspirators were successfully opposed by
Republicans such as Barry Goldwater and Bob McClory — and by Democrats
such as Tip O’Neill and Don Edwards (a former FBI agent). But sadly
Watergate left a legacy of further two-winged conspiracies.
Other secret alliances have flourished among professional
fund-raisers. For example, many work for the National Organization of
Women, while others raise money from the anti-abortionists. These days,
the bombing of abortion clinics increases donations to NOW. Conversely,
NOW supports libertine Democrats such as Clinton (who champions their
rights to abortions). This incites their conservative moralists to join
As a former member of the National Press Club (which I saw as a
hotbed of bi-partisan conspiracies) I recall seeing fund-raisers for
pro-choice groups joining in libations at the same tables as
right-to-lifers. At the bar (which is officially named “The Reliable
Source”) I also heard rumors of private friendships between such odd
political couples as: President Clinton’s former counsel, Lanny Davis
and Gordon Liddy; Oliver North and Clinton spinmeister Paul Begala; Pat
Buchanan and Clinton’s press secretary Dee Dee Meyers; and Jesse Helms
and Madeleine Albright.
The most exclusive dens of two-winged conspiracies have always been
in Senate hideaway offices. I have heard from a reliable source that,
when the recent Senate impeachment trial began, some Republicans
conspired with Democrat Senator Tom Harkins to keep Clinton in office –
and deny the presidency to Al Gore.
Recently, from remarks by the House’s chief impeachment counsel, I
found some confirmation of the bi-partisan conspiracy theory. A Democrat
of the Tip O’Neill school, counsel David Schippers was hired by Henry
Hyde — a Goldwater type of Republican from Illinois. In a statement
that was largely ignored by the mainstream media, Schippers said that
the House Impeachment managers were betrayed by the Republican
leadership in the Senate. He explained:
- The most important factor that the public should know that they
don’t know is that, before we ever appeared on the Senate floor we were
told by six Republican senators that there was no way we win.
One senator said — this is a direct quote — “I don’t care if you
have proof that he raped a woman, stood up and shot her dead, you’re
still not going to get 67 votes.”
At that point I raised my hand and said, “Senator, are you telling me
I just watched a hundred senators raise their right hand to God and
swear to do equal and impartial justice and that they will ignore that
oath too?” And the senator said, “You’re darn right they are.”
These days, President Clinton himself seems the most artful of
the two-wingers. With training from Dick Morris he derived political
benefits from the Oklahoma City bombing and the Columbine murders.
Appealing for bipartisanship he blames
Republican right-wingers for inciting violence at home. But he also
makes deals with most of them to bomb Yugoslavia without a roll call
vote in the Congress.
Finally, perhaps the most insidious conspirators are our missile
manufacturers. They also seem to be our most dangerous double-crossers.
For generations they have made large contributions to both political
parties. They have been selling weapons systems to capitalist and
communist countries, to Christians and Muslims, to dictators and
Yet despite my lamentations about conspiracies, I also see a ray of
hope in next year’s presidential election. Perhaps the un-winged (down
to earth) Jesse Ventura is a new trendsetter. Beyond the beltway more
and more centrists seem to be yearning to clip the wings of
conspiratorial politicians, fundraisers, and media superstars.
Let’s pray we non-partisan centrists find the right candidate — and
don’t get caught between the bark and the tree.
Jerome Zeifman formerly served as chief counsel to the House
Judiciary Committee. Comments may be sent to: email@example.com