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The Obits: Denton, Schlesinger, Walsh and Davis

March 29th, 2014 - 12:29 am

Quite a quartet.  Quite a variety of famous men, and a woman no one ever heard of, all members of a generation rapidly headed for judgment and reward, all dead in the past few days.  I knew two of them — Admiral Jeremiah Denton and Secretary James Schlesinger — fairly well, and I spent years in the nightmare supervised by Judge Walsh when he was special prosecutor in the Iran-Contra matter.  I never knew Wendy Davis, but her obituary is a disaster, and I’m going to correct it.

But first the famous men.

It’s hard to render more honor to Admiral/Senator Denton than he has received from the great New York Sun.  He was the Platonic ideal of the hero, an almost mythic embodiment of courage and honor who informed and inspired us by repeatedly blinking out the word “torture” in Morse Code during an interview with a Japanese television reporter designed by his Vietnamese captors to deceive us into thinking Denton and his fellow POWs were being decently treated.  As befits an officer, he was among the last prisoners released from that Asian hell, and he served one term in the Senate before retiring.  He was a fine senator who was shabbily treated by most of the leading journalists.  He’d attended the Naval Academy, after all, not the anti-war bastions of ignorance and narcissism that were hard at work to indoctrinate our intellectual elites in the ways of anti-Americanism and multiculturalism.

Jim Schlesinger was a brilliant man, one of few capable of running CIA, Energy, and Defense, under Democrat and Republican presidents.  An evening with him was always delightful, as well as a learning experience.  I’m sure he was tough to work for;  he wasn’t very patient with people less talented than he, which means most of mankind.  He had a fabulous wife, which says a lot.  He was very academicky, from his manner of speaking to the ever present pipe throughout his public career.  He did several surprising things, converting from Judaism to Lutheranism, and going public with some of CIA’s most cherished secrets, the so-called “crown jewels,” including stories about James Jesus Angleton that effectively ended the career of CIA’s long-time counterintelligence chief.  He served as SecDef at the same time Henry Kissinger was at State, and one can only hope there are some tape recordings of their debates, both for their literary and intellectual content.  Surely one of the major figures of recent American history.

Lawrence Walsh’s public career goes back to the Eisenhower years, when Walsh was secretary at the National Security Council.  He never doubted his own importance, and when he served as attorney to some of our biggest corporations, he was celebrated for taking three suites at the Watergate Hotel:  his own and the one above and below.  He didn’t want to be disturbed, you see.  He wanted the job of special prosecutor and avidly pursued every scalp he thought he might carve from Reagan’s people.  In the course of his investigations he once dropped off a briefcase of highly classified documents at curbside at Los Angeles airport, a violation of security regulations.  It was never found, nor was Walsh ever charged with anything.  Despite the very high profile of the investigation — and the miles of nonsensical ink written about presumed malfeasance by the Reagan people — he managed to destroy only a few small fry who couldn’t bear the costs of legal defense, a retired Air Force general for evading taxes on arms sales to Iran, and Oliver North for accepting a security fence.  For the rest of us, he issued a report that essentially said “if he did anything wrong, I can’t find it.”  Of the three famous men, he did the least for the country and got the best press coverage.

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Top Rated Comments   
the best obits i ever read were in the old London "Times," and the other leading British papers are also very good. maybe we should start an obit section at PJM and put our best writers to work on it.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh.

It wasn't that Wendy Davis.

17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (15)
All Comments   (15)
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Menschen like you, Michael, carry on the best of those who have passed on.

It's good to have you around, if for no other reason, than to show those who are still "wet behind the ears", the advantages of actually thinking, as opposed to swallowing, "hook, line & sinker" the meanderings of those who want to think for others.

17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
"since bridge is the game that best encapsulates the varieties of life. It requires lying, for example…and deception, as Obama is seeing, is an essential part of the real world."

Yes, in the rules of the political game, frauds often succeeded. It's well to keep good faith, honesty, mercy, integrity, humane and the like, but this does not mean that man will overreach others by their cunning if he seeks to accomplish great things. As the Great Machiavelli said in the Prince "the prince must follow the fox manner to discern toils that lie in wait for him, because the princes who have followed the manner of the foxes and known how to overreach men by their cunning have had the best success, in the end they got the better of those who trusted to honest dealing." But president Obama, unfortunately, follows the manner of ostrich.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
May their souls rest in peace!
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Lawrence Walsh’s ... once dropped off a briefcase of highly classified documents at curbside at Los Angeles airport, a violation of security regulations. It was never found, nor was Walsh ever charged with anything".

Sandy Berger received similar "consideration". I would love to see the DOJ memo wherein they decline to prosecute.

Interesting how (based on what I've read in the papers) Larry Franklin got nailed for a lesser violation in his W. Va. home.

I guess it depends for which team one plays.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Lawrence Walsh bit is still quite pertinent, underlying as it does that corruption is never found under Democrat rocks. And naturally he was a "moderate".
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
The trick with lying is to do it convincingly when your opponent is not inclined to believe you.

Obama lies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but he does it to people who want to believe him, which is why he gets away with it domestically. When he gets out in the world and tries it, the result is quite embarrassing, because the people he is trying to fool make their living telling whoppers to others who are quite mistrustful.

Obama also seems to have fallen into the trap of believing his own lies, which doubly hampers him on the domestic and international stages, since he appears no longer capable of separating reality from his own clumsy fantasies.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh.

It wasn't that Wendy Davis.

17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Usually, I enjoy and agree with what Michael Ledeen says, but he omits one fact that puts James Schlesinger in the Jerk category as much as the current Veep or SoS.

The night Nixon resigned, Schlesinger, in his then-capacity as Secretary of Defense, had the brilliant idea of placing tanks at various strategic locations throughout Washington to forestall any possibility of a military coup, said possibility being obvious to no one but him.

Gerry Ford immediately fired him and he deservedly passed from public life forever. It was a while before I could see the wisdom of the Nixon pardon, but firing Schlesinger was right on the money IMO, then and since.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
You are wrong. As armchair states below Schlesinger was SecDef until November 1975, confirmed by both Wikipedia and the DoD website.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Incidentally, I found the DoD link only through Bing, it was impossible to find from the DoD home page. However you can find links to "Women's History Month", "National Hispanic Heritage Day" and the like. There is a menu of "Top Issues" and the second one listed after Afghanistan is "Sexual Assault Prevention", ahead of "Warrior Care", "Cyber Security" and "Defense Strategic Guidance".
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
I believe Schlesinger stayed in the Ford administration until November 1975; and left at that time over differences with Ford on policy...He served his country honorably and with competence and for "love of country"; reasonable people can and do disagree! If he thought tanks were needed, I bet he had good reason; a man (like him) does not do "things" without "reason"!
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Writing a good obituary is a skill few seem to have today. How does one write a short biographical piece that encompasses the life of a person who has many highs and lows? Many friends and many enemies? What should be recorded in memory of those who precede us in death? Perhaps remembrance at all is sufficient. I remember Denton, Schlesinger, and Walsch. I've played tournament bridge which is a way I suppose to connect with Ms. Davis in her passing. Thanks for sharing Michael. Tempus Fugit, Memento Mori.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Russel Baker got his start writing obituaries. And while I disagreed with his politics it was always a pleasure to read his columns, especially in the NYTimes Sunday magazine right before drifting off to sleep on Sunday nights. Baker and Safire were quite a contrast and a pair.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
the best obits i ever read were in the old London "Times," and the other leading British papers are also very good. maybe we should start an obit section at PJM and put our best writers to work on it.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
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