Establishment Ethics: Oxymoronic
by Howard Phillips
From Howard Phillips Issues and Strategy Bulletin, April 15, 1997


In 1973, when I, as Director of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, was striving to terminate billions of dollars worth of unconstitutional, destructive "Great Society" programs, I had no more influential adversary at the White House than Richard Nixon's counsel and former law partner, Leonard Garment.


Ultimately, in 1974, Garment played a key role in persuading President Nixon to authorize the creation of the Legal Services Corporation, which has added some $5 trillion to the national debt, and probably done more than any other Federal activity in this century to promote abortion, homosexuality, and the welfare state.


Mr. Garment's approach to political infighting can, to some degree, be discerned from a recent interview with Armstrong Williams on NET's The Right Side. Here are some excerpts from the transcript:

"‘You can't tell the truth all the time. It just doesn't work that way!’ said former Nixon advisor Leonard Garment, author of Crazy Rhythm [on NET's The Right Side, 3/11/97]."

GARMENT: "When I say that there is almost a level of dishonesty or lying that's required to make it to the top, I'm saying I think the American people can judge really gross dishonesty from a kind of practical need to be almost all things to all people in order to put together enough electoral votes to be elected. The name of the game is being elected! They all say: Well, when I get elected, I'm going to do great things! And then they start running for re-election.

"Politicians have to really put on such an act! I mean, there's so much baloney. The essential talent of politicians is to do two things at the leadership level. One, is to be able to lie very effectively. Nobody could ever tell the literal truth publicly and still manage, never be able to run this country, never be able to do anything if he got up and literally told the truth! You'd be out, boom, within two weeks!

WILLIAMS: "I would rather be out!"

GARMENT: "Oh well, then you'll never be President. Maybe you should be, but you won't be!"

WILLIAMS: "Lying? You can't be trusted!"

GARMENT: "That's a point of view."

WILLIAMS: "Are you trying to justify this? Shouldn't the American people trust their leaders to be truthful to them?"

GARMENT: "I'm talking about human nature. You're talking about an ideal that is a religious ideal that I respect, but that's not the way..."

WILLIAMS: "No! It is an ideal of right and wrong. It's the higher moral standard!"

GARMENT: "We measure right and wrong in a somewhat different way."

WILLIAMS: "And if you can't tell the truth, then you shouldn't say anything! That's what my parents taught me! They taught me to be truthful."

GARMENT: "I wouldn't be able to function in a very tough practical world if I just all the time told the truth."

WILLIAMS: "But then you don't have to lie!"

GARMENT: "Well, lie? It's a very hard word to define. ...Being dishonest doesn't mean literally telling the truth factually on every occasion. Being honest means that overall you're making a determined effort to fulfill your responsibilities as a political leader and as a decent human beings."

WILLIAMS: "By your standards, Clinton is just an excellent President. He's doing everything that he's supposed to do."

GARMENT: "He has very real skill. It's not a virtuous skill, but it is a skill! I hope it's not taught in school though!"


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