Sunday, March 23
Perle's Plunder Blunder
Maureen Dowd, New York Times, March 23, 2003
WASHINGTON: It's Richard Perle's world. We're just fighting in it.
The Prince of Darkness, a man who whips up revelatory soufflés and revolutionary pre-emption doctrines with equal ease, took a victory lap at the American Enterprise Institute on Friday morning.
The critical battle for Baghdad was yet to come and "Shock and Awe" was still a few hours away. [...]
Now Mr. Perle, who urged America to war with moral certitude, finds himself subject to questions about his own standards of right and wrong.
Stephen Labaton wrote in The Times on Friday that Mr. Perle was advising the Pentagon on war even as he was retained by Global Crossing, the bankrupt telecommunications company, to help overcome Pentagon resistance to its proposed sale to a joint venture involving a Hong Kong billionaire.
The confidant of Rummy and Wolfy serves as the chairman of the Defense Policy Board, an influential Pentagon advisory panel. That's why Global Crossing agreed to pay Mr. Perle a fat fee: $725,000. The fee structure is especially smelly because $600,000 of the windfall is contingent on government approval of the sale. (In his original agreement, Mr. Perle also asked the company to shell out for "working meals," which could add up, given his status as a gourmand from the Potomac to Provence, where he keeps a vacation home among the feckless French.)
Although his position on the Defense Policy Board is not paid, Mr. Perle is still bound by government ethics rules that forbid officials from reaping financial benefit from their government positions. He and his lawyer told Mr. Labaton that his work for Global Crossing did not violate the rules because he did not lobby for the company and was serving in an advisory capacity to its lawyers.
But that distinction is silly because Global Crossing has so many other big names on its roster of influence-peddlers that it doesn't need Mr. Perle's Guccis for actual lobbying footwork or advice on the process. His name alone could be worth the $725,000 if it helps win the Pentagon's seal of approval.
His convictions of right and wrong extend to the right and wrong investments. On Wednesday he participated in a Goldman Sachs conference call to advise clients on investment opportunities arising from the war, titled, "Implications of an Imminent War: Iraq Now. North Korea Next?"
Maybe Mr. Perle should remove the laurel wreath from his head and replace it with a paper bag.