The Washington Post continues to carry water for the Democratic party in this front page attack on Charles Black, a retired lobbyist who is advising the McCain campaign. Post-men Michael Shear and Jeffrey Birnbaum begin by calling Black “McCain’s man in Washington.” In the next paragraph they write that “for half a decade in the 1980s, Black was also Jonas Savimbi’s man in the capital” as a lobbyist for “the brutal Angolan guerilla leader.” Later in the piece, Shear and Birnbaum list a series of pro-American dictators for whom Black lobbied. Finally, as if there were any doubt, the authors note that Democrats are “clamoring for Black to be fired as McCain’s top political strategist.”
Jonas Savimbi led the fight against a Communist regime in Angola. Though he does seem to have been “brutal,” a good case can be made that supporting his rebellion was in our interests and not contrary to the interests of Angola. But even if that case is not strong, there’s no reason why Black should be barred from participating in a political campaign for having represented it on Savimbi’s behalf as a lobbyist. Certainly, nothing in the article (either from the authors or the sources they quote) attempts to demonstrate otherwise.
The same is true when it comes to Black’s representation of pro-American dictators during the Cold War. Every Cold War president with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter supported anti-Communist dictators routinely, though not invariably. They did so because they believed this was in national interest, and often they were probably right. Again, therefore, there is nothing problematic about lobbying efforts on behalf of these dictators or about taking advice from a lobbyist who made such efforts.
From the Vietnam war on, many liberals doubted the validity of the Cold War and vigorously questioned the way we prosecuted it. To some extent the Post’s article, along with the Democratic views it amplifies, reflects these doubts. With the Cold War well behind us and safely won, there is probably some satisfaction for liberals in re-airing their ideological objections in a setting where they can ignore the difficult choices the U.S. had to make. For these liberals, the intellectual dishonesty of this project probably just adds to the fun.
But the real point of the Post’s piece is to express an anti-McCain talking point. At bottom, the talking point, as stated in the article, is the “Washington-esque” quality of having a dictator as a client. But it is Obamaesque to attack McCain for having an adviser who helped pro-American dictators present their views in Washington, while promising that he will talk, without pre-conditions, to anti-American dictators.