Books: The Man Who Mumbled

CASEY by Joseph E. Persico; Viking; 601 pages; $24.95

Late in 1986, a member of the National Security Council was showing his guest around the White House. They paused before the painting of a group of dogs. That, said Lieut. Colonel Oliver North, was the President's Cabinet; "the one who's sleeping is Bill Casey."

So much for Ollie's vaunted respect for superiors. But he was not alone. Almost everyone held William Casey at arm's length in those days. A major scandal had just surfaced: in a covert arms-for-hostages deal, the Great Satan had sold weapons to its enemy, Iran. Profits had...

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