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UQ Wire: Tom Kean Is Not A Household Name

Unanswered Questions: Thinking For Ourselves
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Tom Kean Is Not A Household Name

By Barbara O'Brien

Tom Kean is not a household name in most of the U.S., but he is well known in New Jersey and the New York metropolitan area. He's a genial, patrician man who served ably as governor of New Jersey a decade ago. Kean has a scandal-free reputation, and if the Bushies were looking for the least controversial appointee in North America, they picked a winner.

Kean's most recent venture into politics was to direct Doug Forrester's Senate campaign. Forrester, you may remember, was the poor shnook who ran New Jersey Senator Robert Torricelli out of the race and then lost to my man Fightin' Frank Lautenberg.

I don't know of any connections Kean might have with the Bushes, other than they are Republicans. Kean is a different species of Republican from Bush. He's an old-fashioned, Nelson Rockefeller progressive Republican. (Yes, my dears, it is possible to say the words progressive and Republican in the same sentence. Theodore Roosevelt was a Republican, after all, and he was the leader of the Progressive Age. Progressive Republicans are just about extinct, however. If Kean were a bird, they'd have him in a breeding program.)

There's a problem, of course. Kean has no experience with national security.

A two-term former governor who served from 1982 to 1990, Kean is known for his dedication to reforming education and broadening Republicanism to embrace minorities, but he is not known as a national security expert.

"It is surprising," said John Weingart, associate director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. "I think Tom Kean has a deservedly wonderful reputation as a smart and unquestionably honest public citizen with a wide range of experience in government, but that wide range was on the domestic side."

As chairman of this commission, Kean will have a deep learning curve about how the CIA, FBI and U.S. military operate in detecting and warding off terrorism, Weingart said. [Laura Bruno, "Kean Known as Expert on Education, Not National Security," Parsippany Daily Record, December 17, 2002]

The Bushies may be hoping that Kean's lack of experience in security matters will make him ineffectual. They may be right. But Kean is a smart man with integrity, and he may prove them wrong.

And, at least, he's no Henry Kissinger.

Kean is president of Drew University in New Jersey and also is a director of several global companies. These include petroleum giant Amerada Hess; Aramark, the food-services company, and Pepsi Bottling Group.

Kristen Breitweiser, co-chairwoman of Sept. 11 Advocates, noted that Aramark has business agreements with companies in Saudi Arabia, which has drawn increasing criticism from U.S. officials for not cracking down sufficiently on terrorism. Hess has oil exploration facilities in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, which are home to terrorists.

"I'm collecting all the information so when we meet with all the commissioners we'll be able to properly ask all the questions," Breitweiser said. As for Kean, she said, "I'm not even at a point where I'm considering whether or not he would be good at it."

Another advocate for Sept. 11 families, Stephen Push, said he was not concerned by Kean's directorships and was pleased with Bush's speed in replacing Kissinger. [Thomas Frank, New York Newsday, December 17, 2002]

Kean's corporate connections connect him to September 11. Aramark ran the food court on top of the south tower of the World Trade Center and concessions and tours of the observation deck. Several of its employees died when the towers were destroyed. Kean also is a director of Fiduciary Trust Co., a financial company that lost 87 employees in the World Trade Center.

Here's where we are with the investigative committee: The Democrats named former congressman Lee Hamilton to be vice chairman in place of Mitchell. The other Democratic commissioners are former Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia; Rep. Tim Roemer of Indiana; Washington lawyer Richard Ben-Venieste; and Jamie Gorelick, deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration.

Along with Kean, the Republicans on the commission are former Sen. Slade Gorton of Washington, former Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson, former Navy Secretary John Lehman, and Washington lawyer Fred Fielding.

Families of September 11 were disappointed that the Republicans did not choose Senator Warren Rudman, who co-chaired a couple of important committees on national security in the past. (See the Timeline of Terror for information on the Hart-Rudman committee.)


- Barbara O'Brien, creator of The Mahablog! a.k.a., is a New York resident and a freelance writer. She previously provided a regular column for Scoop on the US Elections. Readers are encouraged to visit The Mahaweb!! and see the Timeline of Terror! and much, much more.

STANDARD DISCLAIMER FROM UQ.ORG: does not necessarily endorse the views expressed in the above article. We present this in the interests of research -for the relevant information we believe it contains. We hope that the reader finds in it inspiration to work with us further, in helping to build bridges between our various investigative communities, towards a greater, common understanding of the unanswered questions which now lie before us.

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