On December 16, President Clinton named retired Admiral Bobby Ray
Inman to fill the post of secretary of defense. To say that the
nominee was universally hailed would be a masterpiece of understatement.
To pundits, media people, politicians, and leading "well-informed
sources" inside the Beltway, Bobby Ray Inman could walk on water.
He was the perfect choice to bring order and prestige to Clinton's
troubled and screwed-up foreign and military policies. Bobby Ray
was brilliant, sober, knowledgeable, the Insiders' Insider, Mr.
Intelligence. When Bobby Ray retired from many years of public service
in Washington in the early 1980s, and returned to Texas, the reporters
at Austin put on an affectionate show in his behalf, singing, to
the tune of "Jesus Christ, Superstar": "Bobby Ray, Superstar/Are
you the messiah that they say you are?" Clearly, Washington greeted
his return on December 16 with the fervent answer. Yes!
Moreover, Inman had come highly recommended. The main person pushing
for his appointment within the administration was Clinton's First
Friend in the Trilateralist Establishment, Rhodes Scholar and Oxford
roomie Strobe Talbott, now deputy secretary of state, and secretary
of state-in-waiting. Inman's coronation seemed secure.
And yet, in just three weeks from that date, on January 16, Bobby
Ray Inman, reeling from bitter attacks by New York Times
columnist Bill Safire, attacks seconded by a couple of other media
people, decided to withdraw from the fray. He waited a couple of
weeks to tell the president, until Clinton's mother's funeral and
his Russian trip were out of the way, and then Inman went out in
a blaze of fury, in a remarkable televised press conference on January
18, less than a week before his Senate confirmation hearings were
slated to begin.
The almost monolithic response by the media was the most instructive
and revealing aspect of the Inman Affair. Almost exclusively, the
media focused on speculations of the supposedly odd psychological
state of mind of Admiral Inman. How could Inman retreat just because
Bill Safire and a couple of other columnists were criticizing him?
How could he possibly conjure up a "conspiracy" between Safire and
Senator Dole to attack him and besmirch his character? Inman talked
about "sources" but he couldn't prove his charges, could
he? Inman was denounced as remarkably "thin-skinned," his behavior
in charging conspiracy treated as "weird" and "bizarre," and the
general reaction echoed that of Senator Dole: that someone harboring
"fantasies" of this sort was not really equipped to be the captain
at the helm of America's defenses. In the psychobabble beloved by
the media, it was noted (which Inman had never denied) that Inman
was always reluctant about taking the job, and that therefore these
fantasies and this thin skin were really excuses for Inman's not
taking the position.
Amidst all the stress on Bobby Ray's supposedly fragile psyche,
it was overlooked that very little space was devoted to the content
of the charges that Safire and the others were leveling against
Bobby Ray; and virtually no space to Bobby Ray's explanation
of the hostility that Safire and the others had long harbored against
him, and which led to their anti-Inman campaign.
The media accounts all stress that no Senators were opposing the
Inman nomination; but the Senate staffers were preparing detailed
and thorough "scrutiny" of Inman's affairs. The media all imply
that Inman was "paranoid" and engaging in fantasies. But if Bobby
Ray, formerly Deputy Director of the CIA and head of the National
Security Agency, is not equipped to distinguish between "paranoia"
and genuine conspiracies, who is? Surely, "Mr. Intelligence" is
better equipped for this task than reporters for the New York
Times or the Wall Street Journal.
So let's stop the juvenile psychoanalyzing of Bobby Ray and cut
to the content. The charges about to surface against Inman in the
hearings included possible financial and even criminal peccadilloes
in the private sector, centering around two companies. One was Inman's
role as a member of the board of International Signal and Control,
a firm found by a federal district judge to be a criminal enterprise
engaged in illegal arms dealing, money laundering, and business
fraud on a massive scale. The other firm was Tracor, Inc., an Austin,
Texas military contractor of which Bobby Ray was chief executive,
but not before Inman received nearly $1 million in executive compensation.
Then, of course, there was Inman's Nannygate, in which he hastily
paid $6,000 in back Social Security taxes for an aged part-time
housekeeper only after he had been nominated for secretary
Furthermore, Bill Safire was not above ridiculing Inman's name
in his widely influential column. Brushing aside the knowledge that
a name like "Bobby Ray" is common in Texas and throughout the South,
Safire ridiculed such a name for a grown man.
There was also a particularly ugly side to the media campaign against
Inman. One of the points dredged up against Inman was that, while
a high official in intelligence in 1980, he had acted to keep a
gay in the National Security Agency from being fired from his post.
Part of the anti-Inman tactic was a vicious whispering campaign
to the effect that Inman himself, though married, is a secret gay.
Before he dropped out, Inman told friends that no less than four
reporters had called him up to ask him if he is gay.
Is it any wonder that Inman, who had left Washington because he
hated the chronic back-stabbing, decided to Hell with it, and that,
in fury, he decided to strike back at his tormentors instead of
giving the usual bromides about "personal reasons" for withdrawal
and making a quick exit from the scene?
It is fascinating, by the way, that so many of the Liberal media,
always quick to attack "homophobia" and to proclaim that they are
pro-gayer than thou, should not be above vicious gay-bashing against
political figures they dislike. (The last time they pulled this
stunt was against Vladimir Zhirinovsky, after he won the Russian
election, but of course the U.S. media are still a bit less powerful
in Moscow than they are in Washington, D.C.)
Saluting "The Withdrawal of Admiral Inman," the New York Times
(Jan. 20) crowed that "there was no politician or commentator so
contrarian as to believe his [Inman's] improbable parting charge
of a conspiracy" between Senator Dole and William Safire. Hey, not
so fast, fella! You forgot to check with us at Triple R.
Why not believe it? Stranger things have happened in Washington,
and in recent weeks many neocons (e.g., at the Wall Street Journal)
have been making noises about shifting their allegiance for 1996
from Jack Kemp to none other than Senator Dole, who of course is
eagerly seeking media support. And Bill Safire is a powerful leader
of the neocon forces. And, as we said above, who in the U.S. is
in a position to know more about political conspiracies than Admiral
This is not to say that Inman's conspiracy charge is proven. What
we need to find out the truth is an all out, tough congressional
investigation, armed with subpoena power, to get to the bottom of
the entire mess. None of the principals or their henchmen should
be spared. Big Media has become an excessively powerful and malignant
force in American political life; and it is high time that its machinations
are exposed to public view.
The most fascinating, but oddly enough the least reported, aspect
of the Inman Affair, is the source of the implacable hostility that
Safire and his allies have borne for many years toward Bobby Ray
Inman. Inman revealed the source in his famous January 18 press
conference, but he failed to bring out the background. The source:
In early 1981, Israel suddenly bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor. Puzzled,
Inman, then deputy head of the CIA, realized that Israel could only
have known where the nuclear reactor was located by having gotten
access to U.S. satellite photographs. But Israel's access was supposed
to be limited to photographs of direct threats to Israel, which
would not include Baghdad. On looking into the matter, furthermore,
Inman found that Israel was habitually obtaining unwarranted access
to photographs of regions even farther removed, including Libya
and Pakistan. In the absence of Reagan's head of the CIA, Bill Casey,
Inman ordered Israel's access to U.S. satellite photographs limited
to 250 miles of its border. When Casey returned from a South Pacific
trip, his favorite journalist and former campaign manager, Bill
Safire, urged Casey to reverse the decision, a pressure that coincided
with complaints from Israeli Defense Minister General Ariel Sharon,
who had rushed to Washington to try to change the new policy.
Secretary of Defense Cap Weinberger, however held firm, supported
Inman, and overruled Casey, and from then on Safire pursued a vendetta
against Bobby Ray Inman.
This incident must be understood against its structural background:
the CIA had long consisted of two clashing factions: the hard-line
hawks, fanatical Cold Warriors, pro-Zionists and close to Israel's
spy agency Mossad; and the moderates, close to the Establishment
and the Rockefeller World Empire. The hard-liners and Mossadniks
were big in the Operations department, and included Ops chief James
Jesus Angleton, and Bill Buckley's CIA mentor and buddy E. Howard
Hunt; they were headed by William J. Casey. The moderates were strong
in the Intelligence department, and included William Colby and Admiral
Cut to the present, and the conspiracy charge by Inman against
Safire and Company begins to make sense. For one point rarely mentioned
in the media accounts is that Inman, in his press conference, did
not only mention Safire and Senator Dole. He also mentioned, as
part of the campaign against him, not only the editors of the New
York Times, but three other media powers: New York Times
columnist Anthony Lewis, Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman,
and Washington Post cartoonist Herblock (Herbert Block).
On the face of it, a concerted campaign by these people against
Inman would seem implausible; after all, Safire is a neocon, whereas
the New York Times, Tony Lewis, Ellen Goodman, and Herblock
are all notorious left-liberals. What could they all possibly have
The answer is that they all have one important thing in common,
one tie that binds. They are all ardent Zionists, and the source
of the hostility to Inman at not being sufficiently pro-Israel now
makes sense in underpinning the vendetta when Inman reluctantly
agreed to Clinton's and Talbott's importuning to return in triumph
In a fuller perspective, then, Admiral Bobby Ray Inman does not
seem to be a paranoid nut after all. On the contrary, no one can
blame him for saving himself and fleeing back to the warmer milieu
of Austin, Texas. It is no wonder that Bobby Ray feels more "comfortable"
in Austin than in Washington, to use one of his favorite words.
But it would have been far healthier for America, and for Americans'
knowledge of the political forces at work in this country, if Bobby
Ray had stood fast, and had forced a knock-down drag-out confrontation,
in the course of which much of the truth might have come to the
surface. As it is, it is inevitable that Safire & Company will be
accorded near-legendary political influence from now on. In a town
that worships Power, Bill Safire has now virtually attained the
status of a Rajah.