Principalities & Powers


History, wrote Voltaire, is the sound of wooden shoes running up the backstairs and of silken slippers running down—a remark that implies that the real story of high politics is never what we are able to see but always a tale hidden from public view. Since he lived in an age of despots, enlightened and otherwise, and was on intimate terms with several of them, Voltaire was in a good position to know, and it's doubtful, if he were alive today in the age of such despots as a Free Press and Open Government, that he would be any more convinced that what he saw was really what was going on inside the dark corridors of power. Indeed, in the last few years, for all the disclosure laws enacted and all the ethics codes by which politicians and the press claim to abide, an ever-growing number of Americans seems to believe that conspiracies are firmly in the saddle and that the saddle is firmly buckled on their own backs.

The Clinton era has encouraged this belief, and probably not since the mysteries of Pearl Harbor and communist espionage in the Roosevelt administration has the American presidency been as engulfed in distrust and suspicion as it is today. Whitewater, Travelgate, a steamy labyrinth of sexual escapades, and the death of Vince Foster are only the icing on the conspiratorial cake. There are also the Waco massacre, the apparent coverup in the Ruby Ridge bloodletting, various anomalies in the Oklahoma City bombing and...

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