David Brancaccio interviewed Lawrence B. Wilkerson this weekend in an interview that was completely ignored by a country which really should be paying attention. Wilkerson was Chief of Staff at the Department of State from August 2002 to January 2005 and helped Imperial Foreign Minister Colin Powell make the case for the invasion and occupation of Iraq before the United Nations.
A military veteran and lecturer at war colleges, Wilkerson is no flaming terrorist-loving liberal. « What he has to say about the Emperor’s cabal is quite fascinating »:
‘DAVID BRANCACCIO: There’s an argument that swashbuckling executives, Defense Secretary and the Vice President making executive decisions without involving the bureaucracy is very efficient, gets the …
‘LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Oh yes.
‘DAVID BRANCACCIO: … job done.
‘LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Oh yes.
‘DAVID BRANCACCIO: But you’re saying that …
‘LAWRENCE WILKERSON: This is the argument that’s marshaled by presidents from Truman on. Although I will say that Truman and Eisenhower were probably the two least apartment to do this sort of thing.
‘DAVID BRANCACCIO: Well think about it. Involving, just for starters, the entire National Security Council on, for instance, evaluating the intelligence that— would help inform a decision to go to war in Iraq. And that’s going to slow things down. They’re going to be dissenting opinions. You’re never going to get that war done.
‘LAWRENCE WILKERSON: You mean kind of like what our founding fathers intended when they put the Constitution together? Checks and balances, dissent would be listened to and so forth and so on. … Ferdinand Eberstadt writes to Walter Lippmann and … Ferdinand says to Lippmann, “I understand that this may be a more effective process, that a few men making a decision maybe a more effective process, a secretive process may be very efficient.” But suppose we get a dumb man? Suppose we get people who can’t make good decisions as FDR was pretty good at. I’m worried and I would rather have the discussion and debate in the process we’ve designed than I would a dictate from a dumb strongman. And that dumb strongman is his felicitous phrase.
‘DAVID BRANCACCIO: You’re worried that we not have come to that but that we’re heading down this path of …
‘LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Oh I think it’s come to that. I think we’ve had some decisions at this administration that were more or less dictates. We’ve had a decision that the Constitution as read by Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo and a few other very selected administration lawyers doesn’t pertain the way it has pertained for 200-plus years. A very ahistorical reading of the Constitution.
‘And these people marshal such stellar lights as … Alexander Hamilton. They haven’t even read Federalist Six. I’m sure they haven’t. Where Alexander Hamilton lays down his markers about the dangers of a dictate-issuing chief executive. This is not the way America was intended to be run by its founders and it is not the interpretation of the Constitution that any of the founders as far as I read the Federalist Papers and other discussions about their views would have subscribed to. This is an interpretation of the constitution that is outlandish and as I said, clearly ahistorical.
‘DAVID BRANCACCIO: And if the system were shown to work that might be one thing. But … in the case of recent US for…
‘LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Dictatorships work on occasion. You’re right. Dictatorships do work but I … I’m like Ferdinand Eberstadt. I’d prefer to see the squabble of democracy to the efficiency of dictators.’
Everyone laughed back on 18-Dec-00 when the Emperor said, and I quote, ‘If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just as long as I’m the dictator.’
Anyone still find it funny?