In 1985, when I was an elevator mechanic, I was discovered bent over around a failing giant DC commutator which helped run a large hospital elevator. I could not get it to work properly even after five attempts at cleaning the brushes and windings and tightening the electrical connections, and I called for help. Mike Hsia, the fabulous Chinese engineer who was hired by my father, tapped me on the shoulder. He spoke broken English.
"Got something wrong, George?" he quipped. He had a wry sense of humor which belted through the broken English.
"I sure do, Mike," I bemoaned. "This goddammed thing doesn't work, no matter what I do."
"Aw, easy to fix. I know just right person who can." I thought he was joking.
Well, call him then, please!"
"Very good person, but REtired." And that was the end of that. He was joking. My hero Mike came up short. I think another crew had to come in and replace it.
Arnaud Paul Charles Marie-Philippe de Borchgrave d’Altena is gone too, retired permanently from this planet. And Donald Trump might sometimes feel like I did that day.
Trump desperately needs Arnaud now, but he departed this life at 88 in 2013. I'm not sure Donald will be able to find anyone else so well suited to fill his considerable void of foreign affairs knowledge. Arnaud would have done that for him in a heartbeat. He was a legend in his own time, when most of his fellow journalists barely became much more than a rumor.
He was the best that conservatives ever had to offer up, and were he around today, Donald Trump could have replaced his entire advisory and press team with him alone. His advice would probably ensure Mr. Donald a win. And, for certain, Trump would be all ears and no mouth.
Born into Belgian aristocracy in 1927, de Borchgrave renounced his elite title to become an American citizen at age 50. By his own account, he covered nearly 18 wars. He took a bullet in more than one of them, but he never really shed his aristocratic genes, once handing his boss the bill for some new suits after his suitcase took a bullet through his hotel window. (It's not clear whether the expense report included the suitcase).
“Arnaud once told me that all he needed to bring when he traveled on assignment was a tuxedo and a safari suit,” Dorinda Elliott of Newsweek recalled to the New Yorker. Peter Greenberg, also of Newsweek, said, "Back then there were three reporting budgets: foreign, domestic and Arnaud." Trump would have paid him well, and the two would surely have been at home in Trump's high rise Versailles.
One of Arnaud's last letters popped up in Sidney Blumenthal's email to Hillary Clinton on Feb 25, 2011. I just discovered it last night. After doing the Bernie thing for months, stupidly ignoring the email issue, I started my digital dumpster dive, and up popped Arnaud. I almost fell off my seat. I hadn't thought about him since I studied him as an International Relations student at Lake Forest College. He was a middle aged man in the late 60s, but he was finally off and running in the good 'ole USA. I've always leaned toward socialism, but de Borchgrave's wisdom and wit often just blew my thoughts out the window. That was good thing for a radical student like me to be subjected to in the 60s.
Hillary Clinton has always kept her cards as close as a kleptomaniac in the KGB, but, in an ironic twist, in June, 2015, she had to prod the House Select Committee on Benghazi (through the committee democrats and Blumenthal's lawyer) to release this one, along with dozens more that had been withheld from the first batch. In this email, Blumenthal begins a series of Libya related communications with Clinton, and he informs her of Arnaud, who was then Editor at Large for UPI (United Press International). In this email, Blumenthal states to Clinton, "You must know this, but detailed by a well-informaed journalist [Arnaud de Borchgrave] with much experience with Q [Moammar Gadhafi]". He pasted the de Borchgrave's entire (Feb 25, 2011) article about Moammar Gadhafi, "Manic depressive megalomaniac" in the email. It is not clear whether Clinton had previously read Arnaud. But she surely read this email.
After reading this one and the other emails between Blumenthal and Clinton, who is a very quick study, I really wonder whether she didn't just revert to one of her famously long naps to effectively ignore what she already read or told and presumably understood. She did the same thing after she spoke with Elizabeth Warren in 2004 on the PBS show with moderator Bill Moyers (Transcript-video clip). Clinton appears to want to collect information not so much because she has the responsibility to make decisions but because she wants to keep those sources ready and at hand to be of service to her at some later time. She makes fools and enemies of many people whom she initially befriends. The fools hang around for years; the enemies leave for good. I'm not so sure she doesn't equate actionable intelligence with disposable intelligence.
Hillary Clinton apparently slept, literally and figuratively, right through the buildup before the Benghazi event itself, ignoring all advice, and its attendant brutal reality, as Obama has famously done as well, until yesterday in Orlando. The two of them are similar in this respect. They solicit advice usually to avoid it unless it inures to their own political gain. Their unspoken agreement might be summarized thus: Let's find out everything, but do nothing unless it suits us first, and if the surrogates don't like it, to hell with them. Remember when Obama fired Dennis Blair? Same thing.
And people say Trump is the megalomaniac? He can't even get a fresh deck of cards to play the reality game with Hillary Clinton. Miss Remote is finally dealing some out, though. And we will see what we will see.
Will Rogers said, "I only know what I read in the newspapers."