Power is heady stuff and can make jackals out of people who suddenly find themselves wielding it. This verity might explain why some jackals on the far right are out to stop the nomination of Frank Carlucci, 50, a seasoned federal official, as Caspar Weinberger's deputy secretary of defense.
Carlucci, now deputy director of the CIA, served in the Nixon and Ford administrations in top policymaking jobs. Much of his experience was in working as right-hand man to Weinberger when he was director of the Office of Management and Budget and secretary of health, education and welfare.
Indeed, Weinberger and Carlucci were a team, known for fixing gimlet eyes on budgets and for manfully struggling against waste and inefficiency. If Weinberger earned a reputation as "Cap the Knife," his younger aide deserved to be called "Carlucci the Cutter." It seemed natural for Weinberger, once nominated to be secretary of defense, to ask that Carlucci, with nearly 25 years in public service, to be his right-hand man again.
But now a document is circulating in Republican circles describing Carlucci as "an obstruction, rather than an asset, to Reagan's interests," and leveling heavy criticism against him. This document, prepared for the Senate Republican Steering Committee, but conveniently distributed elsewhere in Washington, claims that Carlucci, as the CIA's No. 2 official, helped impair U.S. intelligence capability, assessment and product, and gave "active support" to a 1978 presidential order on intelligence community conduct.
This broadside also charged that Carlucci refused to comply with Department of Justice requests for CIA cable traffic and other information relating to Billy Carter's involvement with Libya. The paper also claimed that Carlucci refused to publish an estimate of Soviet intentions and objectives after the Afghanistan invasion.
Now, frank Carlucci is a conservative, a Republican, a patriot, a bright, hard-working public official, and hardly the unreliable fellow that the far right-wingers would have President-elect Reagan believe he is. But ultraright senators, and a clutch of hawks determined to greatly increase the defense budget, see a Weinberger-Carlucci team as likely to be too diligent in cost-cutting at Defense.
They want an outright militarist to be Weinberger's deputy. It is significant that the paper damning Carlucci originated in the office of the Defense Department transition team, headed by William R. Van Cleave, who sees himself as the sort of deputy Weinberger needs for balance.
Most people who closely observed the trials and tribulations of the CIA -- and I include myself in that group -- feel that Carlucci has helped preserve a sense of rationality at the agency, particularly during the Carter years.
It is absurd to charge Carlucci with taking actions weakening our intelligence capability, and whatever work he did in carrying out a presidential directive on CIA conduct was in line with following the law. The charges that he covered up for Billy Carter are rubbish, and so is the claim that he was derelict on Afghanistan.
Carlucci is a professional public servant, the kind Republicans need to run the government. He served as a State Department official in South Africa, the Congo, Zanzibar and Brazil. As assistant director of the Office of Economic Opportunity under President Nixon, he had to fend off holdover Democratic liberals and, at one point, directed that all Xerox machines be locked up in the basement in order to prevent documents from being copied and leaked to congressional Democrats.
Weinberger, aware of Carlucci's good work at OEO, took him to the White House for the OMB job, and then to HEW. In 1975, Carlucci became ambassador to Portugal, argued against Henry Kissinger's inclination to write off that nation to the revolutionary movement and did much to maintain U.S. credibility during that turbulent time. Carlucci worked closely with Gen. Al Haig, then commander of NATO forces, to keep Portugal in the alliance.
By any measure, Carlucci is a valuable asset, and no wonder Weinberger wants him as his deputy at Defense. Carlucci's friends say that if he is nominated for the job, he would love to confront his accusers in Senate hearings. What his accusers are hoping is that such a day will never come. They want to cut him off by spreading the charges -- cited in this curious staff paper -- so that Reagan will be pressured not to nominate Carlucci at all.
There are several issues here. If Weinberger wants Carlucci as much as I think he does, will he refuse to become secretary of defense unless Reagan nominates him? Does Reagan want Weinberger badly enough to nominate Carlucci, knowing that the right wing will howl and try to undercut the nomination? Is the president-elect mindful enough of the need to make a good showing in the early months of his administration to resist the jackals and put the best people in his government?
And, if the Reagan administration and the hawkish Congress are bound and determined to substantially increase defense spending, isn't it best to have a pair of cost-minded professionals such as Weinberger and Carlucci on top at Defense to prevent scandal and waste?