TRUTH HURTS | 1999-06-26

When I first got a top secret clearance, I had been appointed to be on a task force which was determining rules of security clearances for the entire civil service. I was to be directly responsible to the head of the entire civil service for, among other things, security clearances.

So this was a fairly important clearance, and it was supposed to be a cinch. For some reason, I always seem to be disappointing people who expect things to be easy.

My adjudicator, looking over the voluminous files that described my wild past in America and abroad, just shook his head. There were lots of files, including some adverse information from both the FBI and the CIA. I wondered how he would make a decision.

He used common sense.

He said, "You are DEFINITELY not a Communist."

When it came to security, our problem was Communists.

Today, our major problem is psychopaths, people who say what we want to hear (See March 20 article, "Rule Without Conscience"). I am often a lousy diplomat and I am definitely a troublemaker. But I am not going to tell anybody what they want to hear.

The last thing the government had to worry about with someone with my history was that I was a Communist. By the same token, you do not have to worry that I will be too nice.

In these columns, I have offended everybody. Pat Buchanan, the closest friend we have in Washington, caught a lot of criticism here from the very beginning of "Whitaker Online." (Please see "Respectable Conservatives Kill Their Wounded", Sept. 26 and October 3 article, "Defining Respectable Conservatives - They're Just Bureaucrats".) Looking back over my Washington career, I have always been amazed that anybody ever hired me.

Shortly after I started working for Congressman John Ashbrook, National Review had an article blasting me and everybody who sympathized with my point of view. On the very first page, who would they quote against my side but -- Congressman John Ashbrook! Standing in his office and looking at it together, we both laughed out loud.

What John Ashbrook needed as a senior staffer was not someone who agreed with him on everything, but an advisor who was brave enough or stupid enough to tell him the truth.

When I was appointed to a job in the Reagan Administration, it turned out that one of my buddies was charged with providing the materials for my political clearance. The big thing that might disqualify me was harsh criticism of Reagan himself. So the first thing he had to do was to tear a couple of pages out of my first book.

It is hard for me to think of anybody I haven't criticized. It is hard for me to imagine anyone I WOULDN'T criticize, including myself.

Especially myself.

In the real world, everybody praises honesty to the skies but very, very few of them actually want to be exposed to it. The person who is successful today is the person who never really offends people. At the same time, he convinces them that he tells the brutal, unvarnished truth and they, because they are tough and realistic, are able to take it.

In short, his "truth" doesn't cause any pain.

That little balancing act requires a psychopath.

Real truth hurts.