When Henry Kissinger accepted President Bush's appointment last month as head of an independent commission to investigate Sept. 11, the legendary diplomat declared that he would not bow to political pressure. And when it came to his lucrative consulting business, Kissinger refused Democratic demands that he publicly disclose the extensive list of clients that employ Kissinger Associates Inc. But last week the Senate Ethics Committee informed him that under congressional financial-disclosure laws, he was required to reveal his international company's clients. Though the White House backed his attempts to keep the list secret, Kissinger resigned his post on Friday. While saying he would comply with whatever financial-disclosure rules were imposed on other members, Kissinger said he feared the controversy would dog his firm and tie up the commission's work. A frustrated Kissinger simply had had enough. Says a Republican with close White House ties: "He didn't look for this job. The job looked for him. He's 79; what does he need it for?"
With Kissinger's departure, the commission is in disarray. Two days earlier, former Senate majority leader George Mitchell, vice chairman of the panel, resigned rather than leave his law firm. Victims' families are lobbying for the appointment of former New Hampshire Republican Senator Warren Rudman to head the inquiry, but the White House is unlikely to tap him. Sources tell TIME that one of the Administration's top choices to replace Kissinger is another Republican veteran, David M. Abshire, ambassador to nato during the Reagan years. The White House, taken aback by Kissinger's abdication, has to make sure this choice sticks. --By Romesh Ratnesar, Matthew Cooper and Michael Weisskopf