Happy Human Rights Day

Via Undiplomatic, I see that Bush decided to celebrate Human Rights Day by awarding the Presidential Citizens Medal to, among other, Chuck Colson. Here’s what the Presidential Citizens Medal is supposed to be:

“The Presidential Citizens Medal was established in November 13, 1969, to recognize U.S. citizens who have performed exemplary deeds of service for the nation. It is one of the highest honors the President can confer upon a civilian, second only to the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”

And here, from ThinkProgress, is David Plotz at Slate, offering some background on Chuck Colson:

“As special counsel to the president, he was Richard Nixon’s hard man, the “evil genius” of an evil administration. According to Watergate historian Stanley Kutler, Colson sought to hire Teamsters thugs to beat up anti-war demonstrators, and he plotted to raid or firebomb the Brookings Institution. He eventually pleaded guilty to scheming to defame Daniel Ellsberg and interfering with his trial. In 1974, Colson served seven months in federal prison.”

From Time in 1974:

“Colson took on the tough jobs for the President. He leaked damaging or misleading information to the press about people who criticized the President, had young men hired to pose as homosexuals supporting McGovern at the Democratic National Convention, and engineered mail campaigns in favor of Nixon’s policies. He allegedly ordered his close friend E. Howard Hunt to fabricate a State Department telegram implicating President Kennedy in the assassination of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. At one point, according to Senate Watergate testimony, he urged that Washington’s Brookings Institution be fire-bombed as a diversionary tactic in a raid to seize some politically damaging documents. “Chuck could never play anything straight,” says one of his former underlings. “Everything had to be contrived, a setup. Chuck always had to stuff the ballot box.””

He also wrote the Enemies’ List, said that he would walk over his own grandmother if it would help get Nixon re-elected, and hired the “plumbers” who carried out the Watergate break-in.

The one episode that will always sum up Chuck Colson for me is his plan to firebomb the Brookings Institution. Imagine: a Special Counsel to the President of the United States actually proposing to firebomb a centrist political think-tank.

When I think of “U.S. citizens who have performed exemplary deeds of service for the nation”, Chuck Colson is not exactly the sort of person who leaps to mind. But then, when I think of “good judges of people’s exemplary service”, George W. Bush doesn’t exactly leap to mind either.

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