Haiti accord makes Carter look good GOP ticked off

September 21, 1994|By ROGER SIMON

WASHINGTON -- You know what really ticks off the Republicans about the recent agreement negotiated with Haiti?

It not only makes Bill Clinton look good, but it also makes Jimmy Carter look good.

And when you compare what the Republican ex-presidents do with their spare time and what Carter does with his, it is not much of a contest.

Our laws are designed so that no ex-president will be forced to debase his former office by money grubbing.

They do that by choice.

Ex-presidents get an annual pension of $143,800, Secret Service protection, medical care, travel expenses, an office, a staff, telephone expenses, stationery, magazine subscriptions, plant watering and -- I kid you not -- golf cart repair.

Not including Secret Service protection, each ex-president gets more than $500,000 per year in benefits.

So what was one of the first things Ronald Reagan did after leaving office?

He went to Japan and gave two speeches for $2 million. (He knew his popularity would not last forever, however. And now he struggles along on $60,000 per speech.)

Gerald Ford gets both a presidential and a congressional pension (as does George Bush), yet he became famous for charging for speeches after leaving office, even those he made in support of fellow Republicans. Ford also serves on corporate boards that pay him hefty fees to nod his head and pose for pictures in the annual report.

And George Bush has not been as quiet as you think since leaving office. Last September he spoke to Amway distributors in Atlanta for a cool $100,000. (I hope he told them to make the soap suds more soapy and less sudsy.)

But what has Jimmy Carter been doing since he left office? What is the public image of him?

He's the guy up on the ladder, nailing a house together for Habitat for Humanity, which provides shelter for the poor.

And, in his spare time, he negotiated an end to the North Korea nuclear crisis in June, and now he has negotiated the removal of the Haitian military regime from office.

So you can see why the Republicans are so angry. Their ex-presidents are chasing dollars while the Democrats' ex-president is pursuing peace.

And the Republican leadership does not like it one bit.

"Occupation is better than invasion, but it is still a bad policy," grumped House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich.

"If you were opposed to the invasion, I don't know how you can support the occupation," growled Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole.

And just about every critic is pointing out that this isn't much of a settlement, since Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, the military dictator, is still in Haiti.

But it seems to me that George Bush sent 500,000 American troops to the Persian Gulf, suffered 148 American deaths, and spent around $7 billion and Saddam Hussein is still in Iraq and in power.

At least the way President Clinton has worked it out, Cedras is no longer going to be in power even if he does hang around Haiti. Besides, with 15,000 American troops on the ground, we can probably scoop up Cedras any time we want and deposit him anywhere we want.

Others complain America will get "bogged down" in Haiti. But we didn't get bogged down in Grenada (19 American dead) or in Panama (23 American dead), invasions ordered by Republican presidents.

One oft-heard complaint, however, is the most curious of all: Going into Haiti did not have the support of the American people, and Bill Clinton did it just to boost his popularity.

But how can both be true? If the American people don't support sending troops to Haiti, how does Bill Clinton get more popular by doing so?

Besides, it must be clear to Bill Clinton that popularity based on military action does not last long.

George Bush was very popular after Operation Desert Storm. And where did that get him come election time?

No, I don't think Clinton was motivated by politics. I think he felt that trying to establish democracy in Haiti was worth the risk and that the recent agreement, as flawed as it might be, is going to lead to the loss of far fewer lives on both sides.

As for Jimmy Carter, well, if he doesn't get the Nobel Peace Prize this year, then the thing is rigged.

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