Rehabilitating John Poindexter.

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
Feb. 25 2002 6:47 PM

John Poindexter, "Outstanding American"

Ari Fleischer salutes a mendacious former national security adviser.

On Valentine's Day, the Associated Press reported that the Pentagon was rehabilitating John Poindexter, the former national security adviser during the Reagan administration. In 1990, Poindexter was convicted of conspiracy, making false statements to Congress, and obstructing congressional inquiries, all in connection with the Iran-Contra scandal. (Click here to read what special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh's Iran-Contra report had to say about Poindexter, and click here to retrieve some of the 5,000 White House e-mails that Poindexter tried to destroy.) The conviction was subsequently thrown out on a technicality having to do with the immunity Poindexter received for testifying before Congress about Iran-Contra. Poindexter was also the guy whose memo instituting a disinformation campaign against Libya's Col. Muammar Qaddafi caused false information to be fed to the Wall Street Journal that was defended as "authoritative" by Reagan White House spokesman Larry Speakes. That incident occasioned the resignation of State Department spokesman Bernard Kalb. Now Poindexter heads the Pentagon Information Awareness Office. As Slate's Scott Shuger recently pointed out, Poindexter's biography does not inspire confidence about this new assignment.


Surprisingly, Donald Rumsfeld wasn't asked about his new employee in his Feb. 24 appearances on CBS's Face the Nation and NBC's Meet the Press. Indeed, the White House didn't get asked about Poindexter's new job until today. (Chatterbox chalks this up to the fact that, in terms of complexity, Iran-Contra was the most headache-inducing White House scandal in American history.) Kudos, therefore, to Helen Thomas, the former UPI reporter turned Hearst columnist, for bringing it up. The response, at the daily White House briefing, was classic Ari Fleischer:

Fleischer: I'm not aware of any appointment.
Thomas: Yet.
Fleischer: Let me just say about Adm. Poindexter, Adm. Poindexter is somebody who this administration thinks is an outstanding American and an outstanding citizen who has done a very good job in what he has done for our country, serving in the military.
Thomas: How can you say that, when he told Col. North to lie?
Fleischer: Helen, I think your views on Iran-Contra are well-known, but the president does believe that Adm. Poindexter served—
Thomas: It isn't my view, this is the prosecutor for the United States.
Fleischer: I understand. The president thinks that Adm. Poindexter has served our nation very well.

Thomas can be a blowhard, which may explain why there wasn't any immediate follow-up. But Chatterbox hopes this isn't the last we hear of this. If Poindexter's rehabilitation is allowed to slip through unremarked, it will only be a matter of time before Oliver North is appointed ambassador to Nicaragua.

[Clarification, Feb. 25, 8:15 p.m.: The AP didn't break the story about Poindexter getting a Pentagon job. As best as Chatterbox can make out, John Markoff did in the Feb. 13 New York Times.]

Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His  book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.


The World

How Canada’s Shooting Tragedies Have Shaped Its Gun Control Politics

Where Ebola Lives Between Outbreaks

Gunman Killed Inside Canadian Parliament; Soldier Shot at National Monument Dies

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Paul Farmer: Up to 90 Percent of Ebola Patients Should Survive

Is he right?


“I’m Not a Scientist” Is No Excuse

Politicians brag about their ignorance while making ignorant decisions.


Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea 

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 9:19 PM The Phone Call Is Twenty Minutes of Pitch-Perfect, Wrenching Cinema
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.