I like Jude Wanniski. I probably like him best because his Media Guide, which his company Polyconomics Inc. publishes each year, has ranked The Journal of Commerce as one of the better newspapers in the entire country in reporting on news about world trade.
I also like him because he is a partisan. He has strong beliefs and acts on them.Mr. Wanniski, who is 50, for a long time was an editorial writer with the Wall St. Journal. He did a good job. In the profession he was respected as a fair, objective editorial writer. He left the Wall St. Journal, however,
because of his strong association with conservative political causes and politicians. No one ever accused him of slanting facts in editorials to reflect his own beliefs. But the sad reality of the journalists' profession is that we need to be somewhat discrete about our own biases, especially our political biases.
I suspect Mr. Wanniski's partisan beliefs led to his defense of Donald T. Regan in a Dec. 19 Op-Ed column in the Wall St. Journal.
Mr. Regan is the brunt of a lot of criticism these days. As Mr. Wanniski points out in his column, there is almost unanimous agreement in Washington among Democrats, Republicans, liberals and conservatives that the White House chief of staff should resign because of the Iran/contra crisis.
Many in Washington feel that Mr. Regan had to know that White House aide Lt. Col. Oliver North took the money he received from selling arms to Iran and used it to provide arms and supplies for the the Nicaraguan rebels. For that, they feel, he should be fired. But even if he were unaware of Col. North's activities, they feel he should be asked to resign simply because it was his job to make certain such things did not happen. Definitely a no win situation for Mr. Regan.
I am not taking issue with that here. What disturbs me about Mr. Wanniski's column is his praise and commendation of Mr. Regan's management style. Washingtonians, and perhaps even Reagan cabinet members, dislike Mr. Regan because he has totally subjected his own will to the desires of his boss, the president, says Mr. Wanniski. In these past six years, Mr. Regan has not made a move that did not reflect his reading of the president's bent in the exercise of leaderships, he says. He has never displayed an agenda of his own, as others of cabinet rank have, or as James Baker III did as chief of staff in 1982, when for several months he seemed determined to save the president from himself.
It's my belief that it is the responsibility of those of us who work for bosses to, from time to time, save them from themselves. It is also the responsibility of those who are bosses to encourage the underlings to raise questions and give advice when they sincerely feel that the boss is wrong.
Mr. Regan came to government after a successful career in business. Under his leadership as chief executive, Merrill Lynch prospered. When Mr. Regan gave an order, he expected it to be carried out no ifs or buts, is how several employees of Merrill Lynch have described the man to me. His office was designed, one senior executive with Merrill Lynch told me, to make certain he could dominate those who came into it. His desk and chair was slightly raised so he looked down on you literally and the window was in back of you so that as he spoke he basked in the sun's rays. Mr. Regan was not loved at Merrill Lynch either, it seems.
All bosses need people who get things done for them. Many bosses think they need people who get things done for them unquestioningly. And, sad to say, corporations are filled with those kinds of people. (Not many newsrooms, although one or two such reporters would not be all that bad.) But such corporate types usually end up doing as much harm to the company and the boss as they do good. And they definitely do much harm to themselves.
If Mr. Wanniski is correct that Mr. Regan is such a person, he should be asked to resign. He is in much too sensitive position to do exactly what his commander-in-chief wants.