Art Buchwald: Perle Jam (The Washington Post, April 1, 2003)

Meanwhile, on the home front . . .

Richard Perle resigned as chairman of the Defense Policy Board last Thursday. I'm sorry. He was forced out by unfriendly fire.

Perle remains a member of the board, which advises the Pentagon on how to run the war. He is also a bosom buddy of Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Cheney and possibly the president.

Despite what Maureen Dowd and other liberal columnists wrote about him, I think Perle is a law-abiding, ethical man.

This is what the critics said: Although Perle was getting paid only $1 by the Defense Department for his advice, he had just signed a contract with Global Crossing, a company that's in deep doo-doo for losing billions of dollars. Global Crossing said it would give Perle $725,000 for his advice.

It turns out that Global Crossing, which is bankrupt, wants to sell its company to a Hong Kong firm. The holdup is that the Defense Department won't approve the sale because of national security. Because of all the publicity, Global Crossing canceled its contract with Perle.

His critics said Perle was wearing two hats. He wore the white one when he was Rumsfeld's devoted adviser and the black one when he ran his consulting firm. They said he wore the black hat when he was hired by Global Crossing to persuade the Pentagon to change its mind.

Was this a normal business deal or conflict of interest?

I thought it was a normal deal and I sent an e-mail to Maureen Dowd:

Dear Maureen,

Perle was only doing what dozens of former Cabinet officers have done, beginning with Henry Kissinger -- and that is advising his clients about how to profit from a war.

Influence-peddling in Washington is as common as mom's apple pie. Who says a well-known consultant can't charge a fee to clients for opening doors for them?

Perle is no different from anybody else. He has to make a living. Why wouldn't Global Crossing want Perle to front for them? It would have been a perfect fit.

Now, the other thing that Perle does is advise banks and corporations on what to expect after the war with Iraq. He was in a position to do this because, as a Defense Policy Board adviser, he would suggest how much the country is going to spend during Iraqi reconstruction.

A lot of his consulting is top-secret, but Perle knows what buttons to push to get things done.

Perle is taking it hard. He feels the news media treated him unfairly. He is so depressed, he is thinking about giving back the dollar Rumsfeld paid him as defense adviser.

I'm glad Perle straightened out this misunderstanding because the Pentagon needs a few good men.