Fighting for the truth . . . exposing the corrupt
WILLIAM COHENS LEGACY
HOW THE WORST DEFENSE SECRETARY IN 50 YEARS
WHO NEVER SERVED A DAY IN THE MILITARY
DESTROYED MORALE, LET DOWN THE TROOPS
AND PROVIDED POLITICAL COVER FOR DRAFT-DODGER
Once he was a respected United States senator from Maine.
Now, hes a rich influence peddler (The Cohen Group); failed former secretary of defense; and a man who squandered his carefully-cultivated and mostly mythical moral piety defending the only draft-dodger to be elected President of the United States.
Sadly, William Cohen and his hard-charging Hillary-clone wife, Janet Langhart, (see our companion story on the home page), have become an object of derision, even among Democrats and the media elite, who used to write adoring articles about them.
How did Cohen fall so far from his lofty perch?
He forgot where he came from, said a trooper with the Maine State Police who also served in the National Guard. When Bill first went to Washington before he got a big head about himself he was a man we could be proud of. It took guts to go against his party and vote against Nixon on impeachment. He worked hard to save Bath Iron Works. Bill had a moderate view on the issues that appealed to a lot of voters here in Maine.
But over the years, he changed. Washington changed him. He started to believe those fawning stories about himself in the newspapers. He loved the attention he got as a guest on the Sunday morning TV talk shows.
Gradually, his voting record shifted more and more to the left. His pals were liberals like Gary Hart and Ted Kennedy, and by the time Cohen became Clintons defense secretary, the change was complete.
We (in the Maine National Guard) realized he didnt give a damn about us hed become just another politician who went to Washington and forgot the folks back home.
A brutal assessment perhaps, and Cohen still has a sizeable following in the Pine Tree State, but more and more people think the former mayor of Bangor and college basketball star ruined his legacy when he became a toady for Bill Clinton.
A DISAPPOINTING START
When Cohen shocked the political establishment by agreeing
to become the token Republican in the Clinton cabinet, such astute
political observers as the Portland (Me.) PRESS HERALDs Jim Brunelle wrote:
Almost nobody thought Cohen would last very long after assuming the post
in January 1997. The first time he found himself in conflict with the president,
they said, out he would go, either propelled by a disillusioned Democratic administration
or under his own principled steam.
Even Charles Lane in the liberal magazine THE NEW REPUBLIC wondered: . . . the question people are asking about Secretary of Defense Cohen, says one of Clintons former cabinet officers, is whether the president has bitten off more independence than he can chew. In this widely held view, Cohens resignation on principle someday is all but inevitable.
However, the man from Maine quickly fell into lockstep with his boss and patron. There were no more lofty pronouncements about principles and integrity, from Bill Cohen. He went along with Clinton lock, stock and barrel.
PROVIDING POLITICAL COVER
In fact, Cohen proved invaluable to the president in the wake
of two questionable military strikes that critics contend were ordered by Clinton
to draw attention away from embarrassing news stories at home.
The first Wag the Dog episode occurred in August 1998 when President Clinton had the military fire missiles at terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. Most of the million-dollar cruise missiles missed their mark, but they did demolish a so-called poison gas facility in the Sudan, which later turned out to be, according to independent observers, a pharmaceutical plant and no threat to anyone.
Of course it was just a coincidence that Clinton playmate Monica Lewinsky was set to give her first testimony in the White House sex scandal the very next day. Nothing like the expenditure of millions of dollars worth of ordnance and waving the flag to divert attention and headlines from such embarrassing news.
Like the good team player he had become, the man of principle Bill Cohen explained away the curious timing of the air strikes as necessary and having nothing to do with politics.
It got even stickier for Cohen a few months later.
In December, on the eve of the House vote to impeach the president, Clinton ordered his military into action again. Lives of American pilots were put in jeopardy by the command to bomb targets in Iraq.
Military leaders whispered to reporters that the air strikes were another political diversion. But quick to the rescue came Clintons favorite Republican, Bill Cohen.
Puffing himself up with as much moral indignation as he could muster, the sanctimonious and self-righteous former U.S. senator from Maine assured the assembled press that like the August attacks the timing of such a raid was purely coincidental.
It was almost as if Claude Raines had come back to life and - as he did playing the police inspector in Casablanca - declare with a straight face: Im shocked, SHOCKED that gambling is going on in this establishment!
Only a skilled pontificator like Bill Cohen could have pulled it off. Even his enemies on Capital Hill called it a masterful performance.
I am prepared to place 30 years of public service on the line to say, Cohen intoned with a straight face, the ONLY factor that was important in this decision (to bomb) is what is in the American peoples best interests. There were NO other factors.
Any other defense secretary would have been hooted out of the room, but Cohen used up his last ounce of integrity and credibility to silence the critics and save Clintons hash.
AN OBVIOUS DOUBLE-STANDARD
When Cohen first became secretary of defense, he breathed fire
about sexual misconduct in the military.
The defense chief, who spent four years studying Latin at Bowdin College in Brunswick, Maine while his less fortunate contemporaries fought and died in the jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam, declared war on sexual harassment.
I will hold (military) commanders fully accountable there is a zero-tolerance policy as far as Im concerned.
An obvious double-standard was soon to emerge.
It didnt take long for Cohen to flip-flop from his previous pious pronouncements when one of his favorite generals Air Force four-star Joseph Ralston - got in a jam over a prior adulterous affair.
I am satisfied Gen. Ralstons conduct was neither prejudicial to good order and discipline nor discrediting to the armed forces, Cohen rationalized in a written statement, splitting hairs in Clinton-like fashion over the legal definition of adulterous behavior as a crime according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Another Air Force general didnt fare so well under Cohens reign at the Pentagon.
When the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia took the lives of 19 American airman, Cohen needed a scapegoat.
He found him in the local commander.
Robert Dorr, writing in AIR FORCE TIMES, said it best: It is time for a new investigation of the Khobar Towers bombing. No fewer than three investigations showed the local commander, Brig. Gen. Terry Schwalier, who had been tapped for promotion to major general, instituted proper security measures. When Defense Secretary Cohen ordered a fourth investigation, it supported Schwalier.
But the Pentagons civilian boss wrote a report of his own with different findings, withheld Schwaliers promotion and ended the generals career.
So outraged was Air Force chief-of-staff Gen. Ron Fogleman, a man of real integrity, that he resigned his post and retired in protest.
Cohen hadnt a clue. After all, the NEW YORK TIMES had called for Schwaliers scalp in a lead editorial Secretary Cohens Call and Bill knew that the politically-correct path was to dump Schwailer, the facts be damned.
POLITICS AS USUAL
Daryl Jones was an Air Force Reserve officer and powerful member
of the Florida State Senate. An African-American, Democrat and Clinton backer,
the hot-shot jet jockey seemed a cinch to be the next Secretary
of the Air Force.
But after witnesses testified before a Senate committee that Jones had been grounded as a flier and then lied about it, the nomination started to come unraveled.
It was a major embarrassment. Air Force colleagues testified that Jones had run out of fuel on one occasion, flew the wrong way on another and damaged his expensive aircraft, scraping the planes tail on the runway twice in one day!
Eager to please his president, Cohen stood by Jones anyway, calling him a man of proven ability who understands the challenges of public service.
Cohen even tried to pull in some chits from his former Senate colleagues on the Armed Services Committee. Key among them was Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe. Knowing Jones was chosen for political correctness and would do no good for the Air Force, Snowe showed great courage in resisting Cohens none-too-subtle pressure. The nomination died on a tied 9-to-9 vote in committee. The Air Force was spared the man Bill Cohen championed.
We at MilitaryCorruption.com have chronicled elsewhere on these
pages, and COL David Hackworth has done likewise in his weekly column at (www.hackworth.com),
the obscene expenditure of more than a quarter of a million dollars of taxpayer
money on a self-congratulatory party in Hollywood hosted by Cohen
wife and celebrity hob-nobber, Janet Langhart.
The official excuse for the caviar and champagne bash was to honor Bob Hope and the USO, but when that turned out to be a lie, Pentagon flacks invented a new reason to waste Department of Defense funds. The party, they now claimed, was to pay tribute to motion picture czar Jack Valenti!
Who knows? Maybe the self-confident Langhart figured some new career opportunities might come from the huge cash outlay?
She certainly has expensive tastes. In an article called Office Deluxe, the NEW YORK POST reported that docile hubby, Secretary of Defense William Cohen shouldve been named Secretary of the Interior interior decorating that is.
Cohen spent $52,000 in taxpayer dollars on refurbishing his Pentagon office. Capital Style (magazine) reports Cohens decorating bill which came in $22,000 over-budget includes $15,000 for restoring several antique pieces, a $2,343 Murphy bed, and $14,000 for an Aries blue carpet.
The defense chief had some help on his spending spree. THIS IS TO BE OKD BY MRS. COHEN, read a notation on the requisition form.
OUT OF TOUCH WITH THE TROOPS
If you go out in the field, morale is pretty high,
Didnt he know that the dog-and-pony show visitations to the troops he went on were about as spontaneous as a Pentagon press briefers script? Sources at Camp Casey, Korea tell us that public affairs officers at the 2nd Infantry Division were given guidance sheets complete with practice questions and answers. The troops were instructed on how to respond to questions about such touchy topics as sexual harassment.
On one trip to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, civilian Cohen, having no military service record to draw on, made a memorable gaff.
At the end of his speech, full of the usual platitudes and political bilge, Cohen thought hed get a rise out of the numbed assembly by clenching his fist and thrusting his arm in the air. Doing so, he let out the infantry soldiers battle cry: HOOAH!
No one reacted. Many in the AIR FORCE audience looked at their boots in embarrassment. They couldnt believe that a secretary of defense could be that dumb!
THE FORCED ANTHRAX SHOT $CAM
If there is anything Bill Cohen will be remembered for during
his years as defense secretary, probably the most infamous event will be his
role in perpetrating one of the worst attacks on military morale in the history
of our nations armed forces.
As reported elsewhere on this web site, (see GREED AND GUINEA PIGS), the unholy trio of Bill Clinton, William Cohen and retired Navy Admiral William Crowe cooked up a scam to force unproven vaccine on Americas service members in the guise of protecting them from Anthrax infection.
Crowe, who gave Bill I loathe the military Clinton critical cover in the 1992 presidential campaign and was subsequently rewarded with an appointment as ambassador to Great Britain bought a piece of Bioport, the nations sole manufacturer of the so-called vaccine just weeks before the Lansing, Michigan company landed a fat multi-million dollar government contract.
Far worse than the obvious political payoff here, was the (to date) seven deaths and hundreds of serious reactions to the series of forced Anthrax shots. The lives of thousands of service members and their families have been ruined by the threat of court-martial and prison for refusing to be guinea-pigged by the controversial injections.
As defense secretary, Cohen, the self-advertised man of integrity, could have said NO, this is a political payoff and it endangers the health and morale of our troops. But, as he did with Clintons air attacks on Serbia (and all the subsequent civilian casualties from U.S. bombs), Cohen found it easier to get along by going along.
COVER-UPS AND SCANDALS
When Clinton playmate Monica Lewinsky needed to
be shuffled off to another job from the White House, it was Cohen who looked
the other way as the bimbo with knee pads got a high-paying job at the
But even worse, Lewinsky needed a Top Secret clearance to work in her job as confidential assistant (gofer) to the supercilious Pentagon spin-meister Kenneth Bacon.
Not only did Lewinskys job require a Top Secret clearance, but also she needed a Sensitive Compartmentalized Information (SCI) clearance the highest security clearance granted by the U.S. government. THIS for the presidents oral sex provider!
The Pentagon, headed by Cohen, refused to release any paperwork about Lewinskys background investigation by the Defense Investigative Service (now known as DSS) or even specify IF that agency had conducted an investigation, as is the case will all other applicants.
IT HAPPENED ON BILL COHENS WATCH
A General Accounting Office report revealed that Army record-keeping
was so poor that it couldnt confirm the receipt of hundreds of millions
of dollars worth of spare parts and other material.
The report showed that the Army could not account for $833 million in shipped inventory in the 1998 budget year.
IT HAPPENED ON BILL COHENS WATCH
When Pentagon flack Kenneth Bacon violated the Federal Privacy Act by releasing information from Linda Tripps personnel file, he got no punishment but a wink and a slap on the wrist from his mentor, the secretary of defense.
IT HAPPENED ON BILL COHENS WATCH
When shrill feminist Sara Lister, then assistant secretary of the Army for manpower, disparaged the Marine Corps as extremists and a little dangerous, who leaped to her aid? William Cohen. The tone-deaf politician only retreated when Congress condemned Listers asinine remarks.
IT HAPPENED ON BILL COHENS WATCH
After the 2000 Presidential election, Texas attorney Philip
E. Jones (a political independent) told MilitaryCorruption.com
he was overwhelmed with the number of reports from military personnel
complaining that their votes werent counted or they were not even allowed
There were allegations that entire units were deployed to Bosnia the day before the election when it was too late to obtain an absentee ballot, Jones said.
At San Diego, Calif., naval units were likewise sent to sea the day before the election. Coincidence, or part of a political move by the Democrats and their lackeys in the Pentagon to hold down voting by the Republican-leaning military?
Lloyd Grove of USA TODAYS The Reliable Source
reported last year that retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark was bad-mouthinghis
Clark, who as NATOs Supreme Allied Commander repeatedly clashed with Cohen and was fired from his perch last May, told fellow guests in Santa Barbara at the TALK Magazine/UBS Paine Webber confab that Pentagon contractors had built the Cohens a house and the former Maine senator has taken his senate henchmen into business with him (at The Cohen Group).
As the Clinton Administration fades into history, more and more people with inside information will come forward and reveal other embarrassing details of the Cohen years at the Pentagon. None will be any kinder than Clark.
Not that Bill Cohen is concerned. Hes done well cashing-in on his contacts thanks to his Washington cronies. Cohen sits on the board of the scandal-plagued and bankrupt Global Crossing (which donates the bulk of its funds to Democrats) and is well on his way to becoming yet another former secretary of defense who succeeded in becoming a multi-millionaire.
Cohen wont need to write any more plodding spy novels or pretentious poetry books. A real Maine poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, would have nothing to worry about from the pen of William Cohen.
LEGACY OF FAILURE
AIR FORCE TIMES columnist Robert Dorr, looking back on the
Cohen years, asked: What kind of job has William Cohen done as the nations
secretary of defense?
He declared: Cohen seems to lack a strategic vision for America, its military and its personnel . . . Because he is smart, nice and likeable, it is difficult to say this, but my opinion is that history will give Cohen low marks for his tenure as Pentagon chief.
That will be the final legacy of failure for the senator from Maine who should have quit while he was ahead.