No other major nation was so permissive, but old barriers had dissolved, and with them, old proprieties. In late February, another presidential candidate, Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey attacked the financial dealings of Bush and his family, noting that brother Prescott was "building a golf course" in China for the "butcher of Tien An Men Square," and charging that Bush policy "is pretty closely tied to his own family interests." In March, Perot, revealing his plans for a possible third-party presidential bid, spiced his anti-Washington rhetoric by proposing "a law making it a criminal offense for foreign companies or individuals to influence U.S. laws or policies with money." Legislation like that would strike at the heart of both privatized foreign policy and Washington's international influence bazaar. But Perot--the derring-do businessman who arranged for a commando raid into Iran to free two of his employees a decade ago--understands what Iran-Contra unleashed.
In a year of profound public disillusionment, the politics could be incendiary. Just as the House of Representatives' check-bouncing scandal essentially represents Democratic institutional corruption--though 25%-30% of congressmen involved are Republicans--the executive branch's moral breakdown on foreign-policy corruption and self-dealing is institutionally Republican--though a fair minority of Washington's foreign agents and international consultants are Democrats.
If his eventual presidential rivals pick up the criticisms now beginning to swirl, Bush could find the 1992 foreign-policy debate turning ugly.