I had author, journalist, and war correspondent Doug Wissing on Big Talk way back in March, 2018. At the time he was working on a biography of an Indiana boy who made good, a gentlemanly fellow named Ben Evans of Crawfordsville who went on to, for all intents and purposes, run the CIA through four presidents and seven agency directors.
That book is finished and, in fact, has hit the streets. Gentleman in the Shadows: Benjamin C. Evans and the Central Intelligence Agency was released just a few weeks ago by the Indiana Historical Society Press. Evans was one of those people who make Washington, DC — and, by extension, the whole of the United States government — hum. They are the “deep state” that Trumpists and the head Trumper himself decry these days but without them the machinery of federal government would come crashing to a halt. The vast majority of federal government employees are civil servants, meaning they can’t be fired by incoming presidents or department heads for political reasons. They are serious, dedicated professionals (for the most part — they are human after all) who know how to do their jobs, know how their departments work, and understand how they as individuals as well as their departments connect — or disconnect — with and from everyone around them.
Here, for example, is a quote from the US Military Academy (West Point)’s In Memoriam page on its Class of 1946 alumnus, Ben Evans:
Ben carried the chief administrative responsibility for the CIAs interaction with the White House, Cabinet, and other departments and agencies. His position called for skill, experience, judgement, diplomacy, firmness, and discretion. These were all characteristics Ben had in abundance.
Evans started his CIA career as a secret agent in Havana, Cuba just as Fidel’s revolution had taken control of the country. Wissing found a juicy anecdote wherein Evans’ two-year-old daughter had become attached to her lifelike Fidel Castro doll — yep, there was such a thing, complete with fatigues, beard, and glasses! She carried the doll everywhere she went, including all around the villa the Evans family lived in even as her father worked clandestinely to overthrow Castro.
Wissing describes Evans as “the most powerful man you’ve never heard of.” Evans was intimately involved in nearly every major American geopolitical event during the years he served as the CIA’s executive secretary. And that even includes Watergate. President Nixon, you may recall, wanted the CIA to put the kibosh on the FBI’s investigation into his reelection committee’s more unsavory pastimes. Evans, says Wissing, had to resist Nixon’s pressure while at the same time keeping the White House happy.
You can hear these stories and more this afternoon at 5:30 on Big Talk as Wissing joins me for the third time on the program. Big Talk airs every Thursday at that time on WFHB, 91.3 FM. If you miss it, come back here tomorrow for the podcast link.
Out Of Ordre
As I get older, I find myself typing things more and more in a — shall we say? — dyslectic manner. You know, reversing letters and words and so on.
One reversal I repeat pretty much every time is Untied States for United States. I always go back and correct it but the thought occurs to me that, what with the polarization and mistrust rampant in this holy land these days, it really is more accurate to called these states untied rather than united.
[ MG NOTE: I did a little digging and found out that what I’m talking about is not dyslexia but dysgraphia. Dyslexia has to do with reading and dysgraphia, writing. ]
Behind Closed Curtains
Dig, I’ve decided to dub the 2016 election the Fuck-It Election.
For some 15 months millions of people — hell, tens of millions of people — told pollsters they couldn’t figure out who to vote for. A lot of them even said they’d vote for Hillary Clinton, because, ‘y’know, she had all that experience and chops and so on. All those people were either afraid to admit they liked Donald Trump or hadn’t yet wrapped their brains around him as president.
But when they got into the voting booth and they had to make the decision at last, they said, Ah, fuck it, and pulled the lever or filled in the box for the Republican candidate. A lot of it had to do with how much they detested Hillary Clinton, despite her experience and chops and so on.
What did they have to lose? Trump was going to shake things up. He was the ultimate outsider (so they believed). Let’s run a fire hose through the house and clean out all the stink and garbage. Then we can get back to voting for people who have experience and chops and so on.
Maybe I’m kidding myself, but that’s why I’m leaning toward thinking whoever the Dem candidate is this year will win. Trump’s loyal 35-40 percent will always be there but it was the seven-to-12 percent who said Fuck it that got him over the hump.
They may not be so prone to say Fuck it again.