Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Bert Lance and the Politics of Fear

Somehow I was distracted; I missed the death of  Bert Lance, Jimmy Carter's sometimes budget director, remembered even in the lede to his New York Times obituary as having been "forced to resign...because of  accusations ..."

I confess to having had a soft spot for Ol' Bert.  Considering his impressive rise through the treacherous underbrush of Georgia politics and finance, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he skated around a few corners, but I never counted him among the world-class criminals who seem to regard  banking and politics as their summum bonum (or, perhaps, malum).

No; they got him, I think, by the convergence of two unfortunate forces. One, he looked like a criminal.  I mean, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, catch the picture at right.  The chin, the nose, the shifty eyes.  Granted, I don't really know what shifty eyes are, but with that chin and nose, he must have them. is this the sort of man you would trust with your wealth and the nation's fortune?  Yes, on the facts I guess the question answers itself but I think he is sterling evidence for the proposition that if you are going to face public judgment, you'd better have a pretty face.

And more important, reason two: nobody feared him.  They didn't fear him because they didn't fear his boss, Jimmy Carter.  Taking down a carter  intimate was away of showing the cracker-boy was in charge in the big city and how he'd better mind or something worse might happen to him.    Wouldn't have acted that way with Lyndon Johnson.


CrocodileChuck said...

"Wouldn't have acted that way with Lyndon Johnson"

Ever hear of Bobby Baker?

He was being grilled by a Senate Sub Committee on corruption charges days before the the then President went to Dallas......

Buce said...

Fair comment, but I'm not persuaded. Baker was a much bigger crook than Lance. He was no longer Johnson's surrogate by the time they closed in on him. Johnson was only VP, not P and the one who wanted to take him down would have been his President, or at least the President's brother. True that Watergate ended it all, but it's possible Johnson/Baker would have won anyway.

I suppose there is a lot more on this in the new Caro, which I haven't read.