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The Tragedy of Bud McFarlane

What is Robert "Bud" McFarlane doing meddling in Sudan? Twenty-three years ago, as Ronald Reagan's National Security Advisor, he embarked on a secret mission to Tehran--which he and his future successor, John Poindexter, had promoted in the White House--bearing a chocolate cake topped with a brass key (meant to symbolize a "new opening"), a crate of missile parts, and a Bible signed by the president. The ultimate result was the arms-for-hostages deal that almost destroyed Reagan's presidency and earned McFarlane multiple charges of withholding information from Congress.

The whole affair was sordid and laced with pathos. Not long after, McFarlane resigned from his post at the White House and, subsequently, attempted suicide. ''Bud's tragic flaw was wanting to be Henry Kissinger, to be at the vortex, moving planets and shaking continents, respected as a profound, strategic thinker,'' one associate told Maureen Dowd while McFarlane was still recuperating in the hospital. ''He regretted his resignation from the White House moments after he did it, because he realized he would never get a shot at achieving his dream.''

Now, at the age of 72, he seems to be at it again. According to The Washington Post, McFarlane seems to have been involved in a quid pro quo in which he appears to be informally lobbying for the removal of U.S. sanctions against the genocidal government of Sudan. Honestly, does he need the money that much? The Post puts his proceeds from the non-lobbying gig at around $1.9 million, paid by the government of Qatar. But along with that comes a huge amount of risk and a vast hassle for a man of McFarlane's advanced years--not to mention the stain on one's conscience. Indeed, in the United States, it's been extremely difficult to lobby openly on behalf of Khartoum since the genocide began: The last registered Sudan lobbyist in Washington was Robert Cabelly, who was forced to drop his contract in 2006, after Congress got wind of the fact that Condoleezza Rice's State Department had given him a sanctions waiver that allowed him to engage in business with President Omar Al Bashir.

No, one suspects that McFarlane isn't motivated so much by money as he is by the chance to revive grandiose dreams from his younger days.