A String of Perles
Jude Wanniski
March 20, 2002


Memo To: Dana Milbank, The Washington Post
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Bill Kristol’s Boss

What a sensational story about Bill Kristol's plot to have everyone on his team employed in the Bush administration, even though he supported Sen. John McCain in the 2000 presidential race over Texas Governor George W. Bush. How could Karl Rove, the President's closest political advisor, permit Kristol's gang to take over the ranch, sub rosa? Well, to tell you the truth, Mr. Milbank, I never, ever believed Kristol and The Weekly Standard supported John McCain, except to pull the wool over his eyes. From the very start, as long as Governor Bush was willing to make Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz his closest foreign-policy advisors, with Condaleezza Rice allowed to sit in the corner and watch, Kristol was doing everything he could to get Dubya elected. There is of course a "Kristol Network," and you have listed a flock of them in your excellent report, but you have to realize Kristol is part of a larger network that is run by Richard Perle, chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, and a major player in Washington practically from the day he arrived in 1969.

Bill Kristol has a very high IQ, which he likes to remind his friends about, but he defers to Perle on matters of great intelligence, national security, foreign policy and such. For the most part, Bill gets all his big ideas from his own kitchen cabinet, and conducts the chorus, but it is Perle who ultimately writes the words and music. The Kristol Chorus consists of communicators, journalists, and speechwriters, but he does not control the brass. Perle does, including Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Condi Rice, and Scooter Libby – Vice President Cheney's chief of staff. Perle also manages many of the generals and admirals who have been promoted from the ranks on his say-so. That's the kind of power it takes a long time to accumulate, and Perle got it from his father-in-law, the late Albert Wohlstetter, who was arguably the most powerful, “unknown” political figure of the 20th century – a man I personally admired greatly.

I noted in my memo of last week the names of the various journals and journalists who operate under Perle's intellectual umbrella. I append it here, and assure you that the folks named really are not that disturbed to be so listed. It is a badge of honor among the Warrior Class to be identified as one of Richard's String of Perles. In fact, there have been any number of people who I understand complained that I did not mention them. So little space, you know, which is why I'm glad you wrote your piece and covered some of that ground.

I say “some” because if you look carefully, you will find that a host of other media outlets sing from the same page as Kristol’s team, which is solid proof that there is someone well above Bill’s pay grade calling the shots. I mentioned Paul Gigot and the WSJ editorial page, Bill Safire of the NYT, ABC’s George Will, Bill Gertz of the Washington Times, Rich Lowry of National Review, etc. I could have mentioned a bunch of others: Daniel Pipes, the columnist, John Podhoretz of the NYPost, Robert George of the NYPost. In fact, The New York Post editorial page in general is directed by Perle. There are several Perle acolytes at The New Republic, the most active being Robert Kaplan. Charles Krauthammer, who would like to bomb to bits anything resembling an Iraqi, is a scary follower of Perle, on a par in scariness with Frank Gaffney, a true nutcake. These folks all have their scripts delivered from on high and dutifully run them. Seymour Hersch of The New Yorker is most decidedly NOT on Perle’s string. But Jeffrey Goldberg of The New Yorker most decidedly dances to Perle’s tune. His current screed in the magazine, about how the evil Saddam Hussein gassed his fellow citizens, the Iraqi Kurds, was pre-packaged by Jim Woolsey, the former Director of Central Intelligence, who is a Perle stooge. It is pure propaganda. The current director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, is also a Perle stooge, and should have been the first man fired by President Bush when he took office, but Perle watched after him, as did Bill Kristol. There are still long lists of Perle practitioners who I could name here, many of whom will be ticked because I left them off the list. The flotsam and jetsam. If they e-mail me, I will try to collect their names and do them the justice of a memo on the margin devoted to their notice. We have to all move ahead, Dana Milbank, but we cannot leave anyone behind!