Five years ago I posted a reminder that Bush’s first secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, was considered slimy by Nixon aide John Ehrlichman. Being called slimy by Ehrlichman, historians willl recall, was like being called Catholic by the Pope.
Now we have historian and James Carroll, in The House of War, his new biography of the Pentagon:
And then an odd thing happened. The Senate confirmation of the nominee should have been routine, but a conservative young Republican congressman from Illinois, looking to make a mark by embarrassing the Kennedy administration, attacked Nitze from out of nowhere.
The congressman charged him with having attended a National Council of Churches meeting years before, an event at which disarmament had been advocated by some in attendance. Disarmament!
Showing his ignorance, the congressman charged the author of NSC-68 and the Gaither Report, two of the most hawkish statements ever to come out of Washington, with being “soft.” The proponent of a first strike over Berlin and an all-out air assault on Cuba was a disarmer!
It was a ludicrous charge and hardly honest. Even if the young congressman was ignorant of Nitze’s militant history going back to the Stategic Bombing Survey, he had to have known that John Foster Dulles, secretary of state at the time of the Council of Churches meeting, had also attended, had even given the keynote speech. It was hardly a gathering of pinkos. And Nitze had, in any case, publicly argued against disarmament positions.
But the attack was launched, and others in Congress picked it up, a club with which to hit the Democrats. Nitze’s nomination to a job he did not want was nearly defeated. The wound of the insult would never quite heal.
The first-term congressman who slandered him was named Donald Rumsfeld.