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David Brock & the Watergate Legacy
By Robert ParryDavid Brock’s tell-all Blinded by the Right parallels another account by a young man who came to Washington and found a home in Republican circles. That confessional book was Blind Ambition by Richard Nixon’s White House counsel John Dean, who described how his drive to succeed led him to join the crimes ofWatergate.
May 6, 2002
In that sense, the two “blinded” books by former insiders can be seen as book-ends. Dean’s marks the early days of Nixon’s vision of a mechanism for dirty tricks to neutralize political enemies – and Brock’s chronicles its maturity through the impeachment battles against Bill Clinton and ultimately its success installing George W. Bush in the White House.
This continuum of Republican attack politics from Watergate to W. is the unacknowledged back story of Brock’s book, which is its own back story to the last third of those three decades. While missing the larger historical context, Brock’s book still ranks as a valuable guidebook explaining how the conservative attack machine worked in the 1990s and who had become its key players.
The book’s value in dissecting the dirty tricks – along with detailing the raging hypocrisies of many right-wing operatives – has prompted a new campaign by conservatives to discredit Brock personally and thus his book. They have denounced him as an admitted liar in the past who allegedly is lying still, a reaction reminiscent of the Republican fury directed at Dean when he shifted from helping Nixon’s Watergate cover-up to exposing it.
In both cases, the conservative attacks on these “traitors” had a “pay no heed to that man behind the curtain” quality. In Dean’s case, the attacks failed because Nixon’s White House tapes corroborated Dean’s account. In Brock’s case, the outcome is still in doubt, as a far-more sophisticated conservative attack machine seems confident that it can promote any false counter-charge against Brock and make it stick.
The most prominent assault on Blinded by the Right’s credibility has come from David Horowitz, a conservative operative who says Brock defamed him with a bogus anecdote in which Horowitz allegedly uttered an anti-gay slur. As more information has come out, however, Horowitz’s denial has collapsed, with Brock’s account now corroborated. [See below for more details.]
Getting lost in the shouting matches about Brock’s credibility is the solid historical foundation underpinning Brock’s account. While Brock adds color and texture to the grotesque portrait of the Republican attack machine, its outlines have been known for years, reported in books, such as The Hunting of the President by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons, and at a few Web sites, such as Consortiumnews.com.
Brock’s experiences as a right-wing media hitman in the 1990s also didn’t occur in a historical vacuum.
The genesis of the modern Right-Wing Machine dates back to the early 1970s, when Richard Nixon saw the need for an infrastructure to attack – or in his view, counter-attack – his enemies. With his chip-on-the-shoulder pugnacity, Nixon wanted to punish Vietnam War protesters and Eastern liberal Democrats who Nixon believed looked down on him. He also lashed out at Jews.
Parts of Nixon’s strategy were recorded by his loyal chief of staff H.R. Haldeman whose notes were published posthumously in The Haldeman Diaries in 1994.
On Sept. 12, 1970, for instance, Haldeman wrote that Nixon returned to his pet plan for creating a conservative infrastructure. That morning at Camp David, Nixon was “pushing again on [his] project of building OUR establishment in [the] press, business, education, etc.,” Haldeman wrote.
The urgency for this conservative “establishment” grew in 1971 when former Pentagon official Daniel Ellsberg leaked the secret Pentagon Papers history of the Vietnam War, which revealed that the U.S. government had misled the nation in justifying the bloody conflict.
Nixon demanded action to neutralize Ellsberg and other perceived enemies.
“We’re up against an enemy, a conspiracy,” Nixon said in a tape-recorded White House conversation on July 1, 1971. “They’re using any means. We are going to use any means. Is that clear? … Now, how do you fight this [Ellsberg case]? You can’t fight this with gentlemanly gloves. … We’ll kill these sons of bitches.”
Nixon then referred to an obscure White House official named Cooke, who had given Ellsberg some papers when Ellsberg worked at the Rand Corp. “I want to get him [Cooke] killed,” Nixon said. “Let him get in the papers and deny it. … Get a story out and get one to a reporter who will use it. Give them the facts and we will kill him in the press. Isn’t that clear? And I play it gloves off. Now, Goddammit, get going on it.” [For more details, see Stanley I. Kutler’s Abuse of Power.]
Another Nixon scheme for distracting the public’s attention from the substance of the Pentagon Papers was to transform it into a spy scandal with a House subcommittee on internal security finding a Jew to serve as the scapegoat.
“Don’t you see what a marvelous opportunity for the committee,” Nixon said on July 2, 1971. “They can really take this and go. And make speeches about the spy ring. … But you know what’s going to charge up an audience. Jesus Christ, they’ll be hanging from the rafters. … Going after all these Jews. Just find one that is a Jew, will you.”
Nixon’s men did play it “gloves off.” Under Nixon’s direct supervision, a special group of operatives, known as the “Plumbers,” went to work repairing the damage from the leaked information. The Plumbers broke into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist looking for dirt to discredit Ellsberg.
The Plumbers operations then merged with a broader secret operation to spy on and neutralize the Democrats before the 1972 election. The Plumbers planted electronic listening devices in the Watergate headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, but the operation went awry on June 17, 1972, when the White House burglars went back in to replace malfunctioning bugs and were arrested.
Nixon immediately launched a cover-up, drawing Dean and other White House officials into a criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice. Dean helped contain the scandal for the months before the November election, but the cover-up unraveled in 1973 and Dean warned Nixon that the cover-up was becoming a “cancer on the Presidency.”
Dean later became the star witness before a Senate committee investigating Watergate. Dean detailed the criminal actions of Nixon and his inner circle. Nixon and his loyalists countered by trying to pin the Watergate blame on Dean, essentially making the same argument now being used against Brock – that since Dean had lied earlier in Watergate, his testimony about the cover-up couldn’t be trusted.
Only the release of Nixon’s White House tapes, under order of the U.S. Supreme Court, made clear that Dean’s testimony was truthful and that Nixon was the one lying. On Aug. 9, 1974, Nixon resigned the Presidency.
Though the evidence against Nixon was overwhelming, his followers continued to blame the “liberal” news media for hounding Nixon from office and for “losing” the Vietnam War, another charge that even Pentagon historians concluded wasn't true. [See William M. Hammond's The Military and the Media: The U.S. Army in Vietnam, an official U.S. Army publication.]
Still viewing themselves as the victims, Nixon's supporters redoubled their work on building “OUR establishment.”
Taking the lead was Nixon’s treasury secretary, William Simon, a Wall Street financier who also was president of the John M. Olin Foundation. In the late 1970s, Simon pulled together executives of other conservative foundations to coordinate their efforts to build a network of think tanks, media outlets and attack groups.
Millions of dollars were soon flowing to conservative organizations that vied with each other for the biggest bucks by demonstrating how effectively they could undermine liberals, Democrats and other “enemies.” The tougher the attack strategies, the more likely the organizations would get fat checks from the foundations.
The Reagan-Bush Years
In the 1980s, this expanding conservative apparatus gained additional strength from its close alliance with the Reagan-Bush administration. The machine’s goal was, in effect, to ensure that another Watergate didn’t happen – and to give Reagan a free hand in carrying out his military policies in Central America without fear of Vietnam War-style opposition.
The conservative media highlighted favorable stories about Ronald Reagan while joining with the the administration and conservative attack groups in trying to discredit mainstream journalists who reported information that put Reagan’s policies in a negative light. [For details, see Robert Parry's Lost History.]
When events spun out of control, as they did in fall 1986 with the disclosures that led to the Iran-contra scandal, the conservative apparatus only battled more fiercely to protect Reagan’s political flanks and contain the damage.
"This is the cauldron I stepped into [in 1986] when, at age 23, I entered the grand marble and brass lobby of the Washington Times building," Brock wrote in Blinded by the Right. Brock started his Washington career writing for the Washington Times, a newspaper founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a right-wing South Korean theocrat who presents himself as the messiah whose religious movement will rule the earth and extinguish all human individuality. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's The Dark Side of Rev. Moon.]
Brock’s career as a conservative journalist was complicated by the fact that he was gay and the “family values” conservative movement viewed homosexuality as a sin and a perversion.
Still, Brock seized his first big opportunity: the 1991 confirmation hearing for Clarence Thomas who had been nominated by President George H.W. Bush to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Given Thomas’s thin qualifications and his hard-line conservative views, he already was facing stiff opposition when a former aide, Anita Hill, testified that Thomas had subjected her to crude sexual harassment, a charge Thomas angrily denied. The Thomas confirmation hearings deteriorated even further, into a tawdry exchange of ugly charges with Republican senators depicting Hill as delusional and scaring off another potential woman witness who claimed to undergo similar experiences with Thomas.
With the conservative attack apparatus in full gear, Thomas eked out a narrow victory in the Senate. Still, Thomas’s reputation was in tatters, a situation that gave Brock the career opening he needed. In an article for the conservative American Spectator, Brock trashed Anita Hill as “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty.” He followed that up with a best-selling book, The Real Anita Hill, which further denigrated Hill and portrayed Thomas as a wronged man.
Brock skyrocketed to fame and fortune as the exemplar of conservative investigative journalism.
The Clinton Wars
With Bill Clinton’s electoral victory in 1992, the conservative apparatus changed roles, though not techniques. From playing an aggressive defense – attacking those perceived as threatening the Reagan-Bush agenda – the conservative machine switched to playing aggressive offense – doing all it could to destroy the Clinton Presidency.
In the final days of the 1992 campaign, high-ranking officials in George H.W. Bush’s administration had tried to make Clinton’s Whitewater real-estate investments a campaign issue by having a criminal referral sent to Washington. That gambit failed when Republican U.S. Attorney Charles Banks in Little Rock, Ark., refused to participate in what he viewed as a corrupt scheme to influence the outcome of a presidential election.
In 1993, with Clinton in the White House, conservatives revived the strategy of the Whitewater criminal referral, touching off a media frenzy that pressured the Democratic administration to accept a special prosecutor. Later, a conservative-controlled three judge panel, headed by Appeals Court Judge David Sentelle, a protégé of Sen. Jesse Helms, picked Bush’s conservative solicitor general, Kenneth Starr, to lead the investigation.
Though living in a relative obscurity during these years, Nixon continued to give strategic advice to Sen. Bob Dole and other Republican leaders, according to Nixon aide Monica Crowley who chronicled the last years of his life in her book, Nixon Off the Record. On the Whitewater controversy, Nixon again was egging on the Republicans.
On April 13, 1994, in one of his last political remarks, only four days before the stroke that would kill him, Nixon told Crowley, “Our people must not be afraid to grab this thing and shake all of the evidence loose. Watergate was wrong. Whitewater is wrong. I paid the price; Clinton should pay the price. Our people shouldn’t let this issue go down. They mustn’t let it sink.”
Though Brock might not have been aware of the lineage of the conservative attack strategy, he soon became a lead figure in the drive to settle Nixon's score. In the first year of Clinton’s Presidency, Brock cobbled together a bizarre set of allegations from state troopers who had guarded Clinton.
Again writing for the American Spectator, Brock turned the tales about alleged sexual misbehavior by Bill and Hillary Clinton into another national media frenzy in December 1993. The so-called Troopergate charges – some which proved to be false or highly unlikely – smashed the modern taboo against prying into the private life of a sitting American president.
Brock became a hero to the American Right, despite his sexual orientation which was widely rumored in national political circles. In February 1994, I covered the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington where Brock spoke to a packed banquet hall of cheering activists. At the same hotel, Paula Jones, whose first name was mentioned in Brock’s Troopergate article, gave a news conference indicating she might file a lawsuit.
The angry tone of the CPAC gathering made clear that the bumper stickers on sale, which already were calling for Clinton’s impeachment or worse, were not empty political slogans. The increasingly powerful conservative apparatus was determined to oust Clinton over one charge or another. Nixon’s political legacy – mixing dirty tricks, “rat-fucking,” character assassination and cover-ups – had become the everyday tricks of the trade for America’s conservative movement.
Looking back on this strange political world in Blinded by the Right, Brock paints a panorama fitting of Hieronymus Bosch, the Dutch artist of the late 15th and early 16th centuries whose nightmarish work depicted demonic creatures preying upon hapless victims in hell.
Brock’s first-hand account reveals these modern-day tormentors crawling around drunk, having promiscuous sex while condemning others, spending “charitable” donations on lavish life-styles, sneaking up to spy into the private home of a Clinton administration official, and hanging a portrait of Lenin – apparently because the Communist dictator was admired for his ruthless political style.
While some of the operatives existed on the fringes of American politics – Richard Mellon Scaife, the Rev. Moon, Ann Coulter and a cast of sharp-tongued talking heads – others were paragons of the Republican establishment. They included former White House counsel C. Boyden Gray, U.S. Appeals Court Judge Laurence Silberman, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, former Solicitor General Kenneth Starr and current Solicitor General Ted Olson.
Other key characters in the book include well-connected GOP lawyers who worked behind the scenes as the “elves” transforming the dubious Paula Jones sexual harassment charges -- which Brock says even the operatives didn't believe -- into a chance to corner Clinton with embarrassing questions about his sexual habits and partners.
In Brock’s account, the anti-Clinton moralizing was pursued in stunning disregard of the conservatives’ own wild behavior, featuring illicit drugs, heavy drinking and extramarital sex. Brock’s book portrays the well-known cases of Republican stalwarts, such as Henry Hyde and Newt Gingrich, dallying with younger women, as more the rule than the exception.
By detailing this breathtaking hypocrisy, Brock’s book presents a clear and present danger to the conservative movement. If rank-and-file Republicans and Christian conservatives ever came to recognize the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do behavior of the professional conservative elite of Washington, the political cost could be devastating.
So, Brock is getting a taste of his old medicine. His former conservative colleagues – and some liberal adversaries – are trying to discredit Brock and his book by using the same methods that Brock employed in his conservative-writing days: exaggeration, selective use of fact and outright falsehoods.
Ironically, a key venue for this assault on Brock’s credibility has been Salon.com, which was one of the few news outlets that went against the grain during the Clinton onslaught.
Writing for Salon, reporters Murray Waas, Joe Conason and Gene Lyons exposed the so-called Arkansas Project, a Scaife-financed operation to dig up dirt about Clinton in Arkansas. Those lurid Arkansas tales then were spread through conservative news outlets, such as the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page and the American Spectator, into the gullible mainstream news media.
Blinded by the Right corroborates Salon's reporting on the Arkansas Project. But following Brock’s book, Salon has published two vitriolic articles by David Horowitz, an ex-leftist-radical-turned-rightist-operative who is leading the charge against Brock.
After breaking with the Left in the 1980s, Horowitz founded the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, which became a major recipient of conservative foundation money as the group attacked supposed liberal bias in the media. According to a 1997 study by the National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy, Horowitz’s center received $3.3 million from 1992-94 from 12 “core” conservative foundations.
Horowitz shows up briefly in Blinded by the Right as an example of a conservative who appears on the surface to be tolerant of gays while privately mocking them. Brock wrote that Horowitz uttered an anti-gay slur to a conservative editor who unbeknownst to Horowitz was gay. The editor, whom Brock didn’t identify, disclosed his sexual orientation and took Horowitz to task for the remark.
An Alleged Lie
Upon reading this passage, Horowitz deduced that the unidentified gay editor was Chad Conway at the Free Press and placed a call to Conway to discuss the anecdote in Brock’s book. On April 17, Horowitz reported in Salon what he claimed to be Conway’s response. Horowitz wrote that Conway denied Brock’s account.
“When I read Chad the passage, he was as appalled by Brock’s slander as I had been,” Horowitz wrote. Horowitz quoted Conway as saying, “You have never made an anti-gay slur to me or about David Brock or anyone else.”
Horowitz said the account proved that Brock was still a liar. “The only accurate statement in Brock’s account of my ‘slur’ is that I didn’t know for a time that my editor at the Free Press, Chad Conway, was gay,’’ Horowitz wrote.
Horowitz said that when he confronted Brock on National Public Radio “with this refutation of his claims, he was not the least apologetic or regretful for what he had done. He neither retracted his slander, nor attempted to defend it.”
The subhead of Horowitz’s article stated that Brock “lied about me” and any fair reading of the article would conclude that Brock had fabricated the anecdote, that Horowitz had never said anything that might be regarded as an anti-gay slur to Conway.
A Spreading Accusation
Indeed, that was the interpretation made by Salon’s editor-in-chief David Talbot, who wrote a broader article the same day, touching on Brock’s book. Talbot said Horowitz was the only one who “has plausibly challenged even Brock’s minor charges.”
Whether “minor” or not, Horowitz’s supposed debunking of Brock’s anecdote became Exhibit A that Brock was still lying and that his book couldn’t be taken seriously. On April 25, conservative commentator Tucker Carlson used Horowitz’s article to batter Brock when he appeared on CNN’s Crossfire.
Referring to Brock’s anecdote about the anti-gay slur, Tucker said, “Horowitz reads this and is upset by it, tracks down the person, your friend, who says that’s totally made up, fictitious. Brock made that up. Horowitz confronts you with this. And what do you do?
You ignore him. You don’t even address the charge that you made this up.”
Brock responded, “I’m standing by what I wrote.”
“I’m telling you that there are a lot of things that you made up,” Carlson said, concluding his remarks about Brock’s book to CNN’s listeners: “Don’t believe a word of it.”
In the following days, however, Conway, the book editor, sent out e-mails challenging Horowitz’s version of events and corroborating Brock’s anecdote. One of the e-mails went to Salon and was published on April 30.
Conway said that after Brock’s book was published Horowitz called to complain. “The moment Horowitz told me the anecdote in question I remembered it well,” Conway wrote. “I had dined out on the story for weeks – once on David Brock’s tab.” In other words, Conway confirmed that he had told Brock about Horowitz uttering an anti-gay slur.
Conway elaborated on the slur: “During one of many amusing and stimulating phone conversations I enjoyed with Horowitz over the years, a piece he had written on some gay issue came up and he said to me, ‘The problem with the gays is that they are all hysterical!’ I laughed and said, ‘David, you don’t think I’m hysterical, do you?’ ‘Jesus,’ said Horowitz, ‘you’re not gay, are you?’ He then apologized for the remark, and I laughed it off, enjoying his discomfort enormously.”
Conway then describes his more recent conversation with Horowitz: “When Horowitz called me to tell me about Brock’s book, I reminded him of the story (he remembered it, too, in a vague form), laughed and said I had told a lot of people that story, including Brock. … Horowitz is wrong for trying to turn this on Brock. For the record, I don’t think Horowitz is anti-gay and I always enjoyed him. But, yes, he did, before he knew I was gay, make an anti-gay slander to me and Brock was quite right to use it as an example of the sorts of things said when ‘we,’ the homos, are not in the room.”
Beyond confirming Brock’s anecdote, Conway makes clear that he informed Horowitz about its truthfulness before Horowitz’s April 17 article, which alleged that the anecdote was false. Conway also notes that Horowitz remembered the anecdote “in a vague form.” So, if Conway is to be believed, Horowitz knowingly published a dishonest article.
Also on April 30, Salon published Horowitz’s reaction to Conway’s e-mail. Instead of apologizing to Brock for the earlier misleading article, which portrayed Brock as a liar, Horowitz launched into another diatribe again calling Brock “a liar.” On the substance of the anecdote, however, Horowitz did not challenge Conway’s central point – that Conway had confirmed the accuracy of Brock’s anecdote.
“I did neglect to describe the details of the original conversation with Chad (Conway) in my Salon article,” Horowitz wrote. But he claimed he had a good reason. “When I called Chad to talk about it before writing my Salon piece, neither of us could remember the specific issue that had provoked the comment and had led to Chad’s ‘coming out.’ This is not surprising since the conversation took place three or four years ago. It is crucial, however, because context determines the meaning of such remarks.”
Horowitz’s argument appears to be that since he didn’t remember the detailed context of the anecdote, it was all right to pretend that Brock had fabricated the anecdote when, in fact, the anecdote was true and Horowitz knew it to be true. This deception was then repeated in an article by Salon’s editor-in-chief and passed on to a national audience watching CNN’s Crossfire.
While Salon may feel that its journalistic duty was fulfilled by publishing Conway’s e-mail, the larger point is that Horowitz misled Salon’s editor, its readers and millions of people who now believe that Brock is continuing to lie and that his book should not be trusted. In such cases, traditional journalistic standards call for a correction and an apology, not another round of denouncing the victim.
For those who read it, Brock’s book may clear up much of the confusion about what happened in the 1990s. Still, it is unlikely alone to change the nation’s political drift toward an Orwellian world where any fact can be twisted in any direction by committed propagandists backed by seemingly limitless money.
That unpleasant reality was demonstrated again when the truth that Brock now conveys got ground up by the attack machinery of which Brock was once an important cog.
To address the larger problem will require Americans who care about democracy to commit themselves and their resources to building a different news media, one that respects the principles of honest journalism and is willing to tell the hard story of how this nation's political system veered so far off the track in the past three decades.
In the 1980s, as a correspondent for The Associated Press and Newsweek, Robert Parry broke many of the stories now known as the Iran-contra scandal. His latest book is entitled, Lost History.
-- Cherri (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 08, 2002
My feeling is that David Brock's recounting of his experiences is true.
Democrats shouldn't feel too smug, however, considering that Clinton was, and is, a liar for the ages.
-- Peter Errington (email@example.com), May 08, 2002.
mechanism for dirty tricks to neutralize political enemies
Oh my gawd! It is true; there *is* a right-wind conspiracy! Too funny. Sorry I couldn't read the rest of the bs.
I'm instantly reminded of the Dem rep who says that Gail Norton's true and accurate description of ANWR is illegal! She cannot tell the truth in Washington. Too funny!
-- Maria (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 08, 2002.
Maria, That's probably why you do not comprehend what is occuring, if you don't read anything that you percieve as different from your idea of facts. Why don't you make the effort to read what may just end up being the truth. Especially what Nixon said and what the actual tapes recorded him saying (and doing).
-- Cherri (email@example.com), May 09, 2002.
From The Nation, May 27, "The Real David Brock", Christopher Hitchens.
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 10, 2002.
Very interesting, Lars. Christopher Hitchens is lefty as hell IMHO but I regard him as an honest man.
-- Peter Errington (email@example.com), May 10, 2002.
Mudslinging has long been established as effective tactics in political campaigning. Certainly neither party is above it even a little bit, when the goal is to win first, and there is no second.
I know I personally would be interested in some kind of more-or-less valid study exploring why negative campaigning has been so effective in terms of votes per dollar. Apparently there's something about people that makes them more easily inclined to be *against* one person than *for* his opponent.
And certainly Cherri's pattern of posts, and her selection of material she considers worthwhile, is *entirely* negative. I have seen endless badmouthing of Cherri's chosen enemies, but I have yet to see a single post where Cherri *favors* anything or anyone. Every post is an attack. Maybe I missed one?
I don't doubt the Republicans have made efforts to destroy reputations. I don't doubt the Democrats have done the same. I DO doubt that Cherri will ever get far enough from her personal hatreds to notice the pattern, and wonder what it says about human nature.
-- Flint (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 10, 2002.
Aaaaaaaamen, aaaaaaamen, aaamen amen amen.
-- Carlos (email@example.com), May 11, 2002.
A good article, Lars. The left's new love-affair with Brock is just as sickening as right-wing talk show hosts embracing Dick Morris.
-- the freaky geek (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 12, 2002.
Flint, in terms of what the article said, your entire posting was a simple ad hominem. The article addresses certain tactics used by the Republican Party. It provides a reasonable amount of justification for its conclusions drawn from activities that were so widely publicized at the time that they constitute public knowlege.
Your response to this followed the same pattern that all your responses to Cherri have followed for nearly a year: you state that Cherri hates Republicans and this is all that must be taken into account. For evidence, you assert that Cherri only posts articles that cast Republicans in a negative light.
First, if the facts in this article are true (as you know they are) then Cherri is not casting the Republicans in a negative light by posting an article that states these facts. It is the Republicans who have engaged in these acts who have cast themselves in this negative light. A deserved reputation, however negative, when it is based on a person's own actions is not a distortion, but a truth. Feel free to state the usual counter-argument that the Democrats have earned an equally black reputation. Leaving aside the truth of this argument, it leaves Cherri's posted argument wholly intact.
Next, I find it highly ironic that you claim a repetitive pattern of posting negative articles about a person is evidence that the poster "hates" the subject person. By this standard, you have now qualified, by your standard, as a "Cherri hater". Therefore, we may now dismiss anything you have to say about her as unworthy of our attention or consideration.
-- Little Nipper (email@example.com), May 12, 2002.
Little Nipper, Thanks.
The assumption that I "hate" the administration, or "hate" republicans (which I was one of until I started seeing the lies and corruption), and hate big business, is just that-an assumption on the part of those who are not willing to look beneath the superficial coating. As I explained to my foster kids who were confused about their birth mothers, It is ok to love your mother and hate her actions.
My admiration for industry is deep, it is an incredable thing that so many people working together, each doing different things can create the country we live in today. I have no respect for those who contribute nothing, use the work of the minds and efforts of the bodies of people of honest industries for their own greed through corruption.
Point in fact; Energy and Enron.
I think I will start a thread tieing in the different things that were done which endded up alowing Enron to do what they did and show how it was negitive and endded up blowing up in their faces. From SEC rule changes to legeslation placed into bills at the last minute, to the rmoval or degridation oversight protections, to the outright corruption involved.
Perhaps when people see each of these things tied together they will understand, will comprehend the overall picture.
-- Cherri (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 12, 2002.
I pointed out that Cherri's postings have been highly selective. All are anti-Republican (I didn't comment on whether the Republicans deserved it; I agree they do) and all have been negative.
Now, from this pattern (which you cannot deny, but carefully sidestep this, it being the entire point of my post!), I speculate that Cherri's motivations are negative rather than positive. That she has not, to my knowledge, *promoted* a competing viewpoint as being positive or desirable.
Now, you may personally prefer mudslinging as well, I don't know. I notice that you are quick to defend it as Truth when it bashes Republicans, and silent when does otherwise. But this ALSO might be a pattern of pure coincidence. Perhaps the hundred or so posts I've seen of yours are an accidentally nonrandom subset.
Meanwhile, I encourage you to return to the point of my post. I really DO wonder what there is about people, that negative campaigning consistently produces better results per dollar spent. I think there is no question that Cherri illustrates this tendency quite clearly.
[A deserved reputation, however negative, when it is based on a person's own actions is not a distortion, but a truth.]
Are you kidding yourself here? I'm sure you as a person, like everyone else, have both good and bad points, good and bad days, sometimes make wise and sometimes foolish decisions. If someone were to come along and mention ONLY your bad points, your bad days, your foolish decisions, and omit everything else, are you REALLY going to sit there and say this is not a distortion, simply because each citation is true?
Nipper, a careful, systematic, exclusive selection of ONLY the bad points about anyone or any organization is distortion. If you don't agree, please consult a dictionary. The issue is WHY someone would make such an effort to create such a distortion, not whether it's distorted.
Now, you might wonder what could motivate someone to depict you in the worst possible light at every opportunity, and in no other light ever. Surely there must be some reason for this -- *provided* you accept that the depiction is selective and distorted, of course.
Enron is not the "overall picture", anymore than selecting a serial killer is the "overall picture" of human nature. Enron was run by some greedy crooks, to be sure. Perhaps a fairly passive and laissez- faire system (and a few handy bribes?) allowed them to get away with it. But they are NOT typical, and rigid bureaucratic micromanaging regulation is probably NOT the solution. Countries that try that approach quickly discover that payoffs to bureaucrats quickly become the ONLY way to conduct business. Not a good trade.
Nonetheless, I fully expect you to produce a "Here is a serial killer, therefore men are shit" logical argument, and I fully expect Nipper to defend it as not distorted, provided you distort things to his preference. The question is whether we want to derive a cure that's not worse than the disease (bearing in mind that Enron is an exception, of which there are few. We don't want cures that create more exceptions.)
But to get to the real issue (of workable reform), we need to focus on what went wrong, what would help make that more difficult, what our changes might make easier that we do NOT want, etc. Focusing on how the baddies are all Republicans (hiss! boo!) isn't very useful. Except maybe to Nipper [grin].
-- Flint (email@example.com), May 12, 2002.
Regarding Enron as totally atypical:
I think the investing public has been screwed by more than just Enron. Sleazy accounting to drive up share prices, along with reprehensible carelessness or worse by brokerage houses (Merrill Lynch having its people push stocks they knew were junk), all this makes me glad I've stuck to real estate all these years.
Too bad my old bud CPR isn't here, he'd be so proud of me.
-- Peter Errington (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 12, 2002.
What do you recommend, though? Should we outlaw conflicts of interest, as defined in hundreds of massive volumes that will grow rapidly and constantly, with carefully lawyered and purchased exceptions invisible to any nonspecialist? Should we ignore such conflicts, and caveat emptor? Should we require disclosure of such conflicts? But then what should be disclosed? I doubt we want to start fishing for conflicts whenever somone's recommendation turns out to be incorrect, because we're sure to find whatever we look for if our goal is that hazy.
In general, the goal is to beat the system, no matter what form that system takes. If it's micromanagement, you find direct payoffs rampant. If it's general principles, you find wealthy contributors buying exceptions. You will always find lawyers picking over the law finding loopholes, places where the letter and intent of the law don't quite match, or where verbiage clearly intended for one purpose can be used for another quite different, if you structure things just right.
As things stand, we permit a great deal of flexibility in lieu of micromanagement by regulation. In exchange, we have a de facto rule of business much like that of war -- don't lose! My reading is that most of what Enron did was technically legal, although the amounts of money involved motivated all participants to overlook the pattern of abuse of the law's intent. But change only a few economic factors, and Enron's machinations would look prescient and brilliant, and nobody would find corruption behind their wealth.
I predict another round of "reforms" which will have the direct effects of a)preventing most of what Enron did, and b)as a result, making yet other circumventions suddenly attractive. It's a giant game of whack-a-mole, suppress it here and it will pop up over there, so long as the lust for money and power seeks expression.
-- Flint (email@example.com), May 12, 2002.
Go back and read the article Cherri posted. Then read what you wrote in reply to me. Then read the article again. Repeat this as often as necessary to grasp the inherent ironies. They are abundant.
I'm sure you as a person, like everyone else, have both good and bad points, good and bad days, sometimes make wise and sometimes foolish decisions.
This article focuses on a series of actions and choices that could scarcely be characterized as the result of a few bad days or foolish slips in judgement. Read it again.
If you prefer to talk about Cherri, that's fine -- but it would be polite to take it elsewhere. I think the article she posted deserves its own discussion. Here. In this thread. Starting a new thread is cheap and easy. Try it.
-- Little Nipper (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 12, 2002.
Flint, the tone of your response to my post seems to me as if you think we are mainly talking about gray areas. I say we are talking about rampant criminality. I don't give a damn about what the regs are, the investing public was lied to in a truly shocking manner. For example, for Enron to present a loan from a Canadian bank (hundreds of millions of dollars to one of its subsidiaries) as pure profit to Enron, with nary one explanatory note in its annual report, that is blatant fraud. And I would bet my house against a donut that Arthur Anderson has been involved in similar frauds with other companies. Fortune magazine wants the bastards responsible to be nailed to the wall, and I do too.
-- Peter Errington (email@example.com), May 13, 2002.
Oh ‘Little Thing’, you are assuming that this hack David Brock knows of what he speaks. I think Flint is right on the money when he links you and Cherri together as true believer’s of anything negative towards Republican’s and conservatives, regardless of it’s truthfulness.
-- Send (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 13, 2002.
Nice try, but I doubt you're fooling anyone but yourself. But what is your purpose in doing so? I'm puzzled.
[This article focuses on a series of actions and choices that could scarcely be characterized as the result of a few bad days or foolish slips in judgement.]
You are correct. Indeed, this is as I have been saying all along (apparently your idea of rereading doesn't apply to actually absorbing). Enron, however awful they were (and I agree they were criminal) is *not universally symptomatic* of any particular administration or political orientation. There are real crooks and real cads out there. The Republicans *really have* pulled lots of dirty tricks. Heavy spin is SOP for any politician. I suspect without the careful creation of every possible false impression, politics as we know it would be impossible.
I've now tried twice to get through to you that criminals are not the norm, they are the exception. Yes, Yes, Yes, a thousand times yes, criminals are criminal. They are awful. There is no debate about that. The facts condemn them. Yes. OK, are you satisfied?
Hopefully, you can now pat yourself on the back for winning an argument nobody is having with you, and return to the discussion actually at hand. Cherri's careful selection of nothing but rotten eggs as representative of eggs generally is not honest. Your insistence that rotten eggs really ARE rotten, and that therefore her SELECTION is unbiased, is simply amazing. The existence of rotten eggs, no matter how rotten you delight in finding them, does not render eggs generically inedible. Look, I love to read Molly Ivins, and she reports plenty of actual facts I wouldn't dream of doubting. But that does NOT make Molly Ivins into anything resembling an objective observer. Like Cherri, Ivins only looks for vehicles with which to denegrate the party she opposes. And she only finds what she's looking for. And if she blundered onto anything else, she wouldn't see any value in mentioning it.
I'm not opposed to political advocacy either. Cherri is a rather extreme political advocate. Your support of extreme advocacy as "not casting the Republicans in a negative light" is likely to be found persuasive by Cherri, but nobody else. As I said earlier, this is usually called mudslinging, and used because it works. Both parties use it, and it works for both of them. I still wonder why. I suggest to you that it's still advocacy even if it advocates something you agree with. Hey, anyone who roots for the Rangers is a friend of mine -- UNLESS they are the umpires. And that's where you and Cherri and I part company.
Brock has written a hatchet job about someone else's hatchet jobs, a book advocating the position that *others* are advocates, using heavy spin to highlight other spinners. I'm surprised your exquisite sense of irony misses this -- much like the feminists saw no sexism worth commenting on with Clinton's behavior, but had apoplexy at the allegation (still unproved) that Clarence Thomas might once have told a dirty joke.
Anyway, I'm running out of ways to say what you choose not to hear anyway. You have made it clear that you simply cannot, or will not, see any distortion in anything twisted according to your preference. At times I admit I envy that ability. As Ken Decker said so appropriately, arguing with Cherri is like painting over the graffiti on a bathroom stall. Your claims that such graffiti is representative of good literature on the grounds that some of the phone numbers *really do* reach whores doesn't impress me very much.
Perhaps I misunderstood your intent. Are you suggesting we change the law, or tighten up our regulations? Or do you feel our current system provides ample protection, and when it's violated we should hang them high and show no mercy? If so, I agree with you (and with Fortune). Arthur Andersen was supposed to attest to the soundness of the corporation and to the essential accuracy of their public financial representation. Yet Andersen's accountants could not possibly help being aware of billions of dollars in very real Enron debt, for which Enron could not avoid being accountable. At least a dozen, and probably a hundred, high-ranking Andersen heads should roll.
As for the Enron bigwigs themselves, they should throw away the key.
I'm not sure what to do with those like Wall Street analysts or some government bureaucrats, who didn't really do anything particularly wrong, but still failed to look more closely at Enron than at others. I doubt you could ever find any record of any one of them being told to back off and treat Enron by looking the other way. Perhaps no smoking guns ever existed. That's more a political issue, and we'll see who (if anyone) becomes scapegoat.
-- Flint (email@example.com), May 13, 2002.
Flint, you are a rock of certainty in an uncertain world. Your certainty is a monument, a shrine, an edifice, a grand mausoleum where your deep thoughts are enshrined in urns and placed in niches in the walls, each with a little brass plaque. The only problem is, it is dead, dead, dead. Nothing interests you but your own certainty any more. I'm sorry. I can't deal with it. My weakness. Go figure.
-- Little Nipper (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 13, 2002.
Personally, I find it something larger than ironic that your final response to Flint is, in fact, an ad hominem. :)
But let's leave that aside.
Flint basically said what I would have. (I've been in NC for the past few days; haven't been checking in.) The only amplification that I'd add follows.
Members of BOTH the Democratic and Republican parties are guilty of corruption.
BOTH parties are guilty of accepting "donations" (read: bribes) in return for political favors.
When you only focus on one party to the exclusion of another, that is bias. By definition, that is political spin. I have no use for it.
I will repeat -- for the nth time -- an example that I've stated here before, and which NONE of the Bush/Republican bashers has thus far been willing to touch.
In fact, more than once, it has apparently been an outright thread-killer.
Ready? Here goes.
In the weeks after 9-11, Congress decided to "bail out" the airline industry. Predictably, several posts appeared here from the usual Bush and Republican bashers about what a heinous and terrible thing this was.
Then it was pointed out that Tom Daschle -- Democrat -- was the ringleaders for this "bail out," primarily because his wife is a paid lobbyist for the airline industry.
Funny. The posts disappeared. The threads died.
And to this day, NONE of the Bush/Republican bashers here will touch that one.
-- Stephen (email@example.com), May 13, 2002.
Stephen, I am too tired to quarrel with you. My last post was simply a reflection of this weariness. I do not know how to even begin to answer a man who says with an apparently straight face: "I'm surprised your exquisite sense of irony misses this -- much like the feminists saw no sexism worth commenting on with Clinton's behavior, but had apoplexy at the allegation (still unproved) that Clarence Thomas might once have told a dirty joke."
I do not accept the truth of what he said, or of how he said it. Even to start to address the flaws in such a statement would require many paragraphs. And this just represents one of his many, many paragraphs of similar caricatures of the truth. It is beyond me. I cannot see a point in it. My own experience with Flint teaches me that it would be foolhardy to try. Flint needs nothing from me. He has his own version of the truth which is never in doubt.
Stephen, if what I wrote was an ad hominem, it would conclude that Flint was wrong because he is Flint. My meaning was very different. I just conclude that I can't deal with him and his ways. It is not his argument I can't stand, it is his style.
Flint sees me (as he does Cherri) purely as an adversary, and eventually this makes any continuance of the conversation futile. There is no admixture of curiosity, of humor, of friendly rivalry, of humility, or chivalry. He may possess all these qualities in full measure, but not for his adversaries. If these qualities appear in his reply to an adversary, they are wielded as a weapon.
His style is admirable in a way, in that it is pure and singleminded and the weapons are handled with precision. For those who agree with him, Flint is a formidable hero for the side. But he is a Jesuit through and through. For him the truth is a settled matter. I should know better than to stand in the same room with him.
-- Little Nipper (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 14, 2002.
Flint, I remember you said (and I believe honestly) on the other thread that you found enjoyment in discussing other views with the posters. (At the time we were talking about the 'joys' of Y2K.) I admired your response to me but thought maybe you missed my point. Here, LN exemplifies the case I tried to generalize. He would not could not eat green eggs and ham... Sorry wrong story.. He doesn't want to see the other side and will not, not for you, not for me, not for any other poster trying to open his eyes. So for me, at one time it was some kind of sick tormented reason to 'prove them wrong', nothing in moving topics to a higher level. So, as Cherri searches for more evidence of the ties between Enron and Bush, I believe that you are still in it for discussion's sake but you've just hit a brick wall.
-- Maria (email@example.com), May 14, 2002.
When I was a kid, my mom watched a daily soap-opera. I think the name was "As the World Turns". Rarely [maybe once/year], I was sick enough to stay home from school. There it was in front of me: As the World Turns, and I can honestly say that I didn't notice any changes in the plot from the year before.
I guess the certainty of what would come each day on that soap-opera provided some sort of comfort to my mom, just as the certainty *I* had that I could view the show after a year's absence and still be able to understand. I feel the same way about this forum.
-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), May 14, 2002.
Anita, why don't you join in then, and kick some butt as only you can.
About ad hom: I don't think it's ad hom to observe that Cherri seems incapable of rejecting any argument whatsoever against George W.
And I am not just talking about the absence of any praise for Bush. Let me give an example involving myself and Tom DeLay. If I were to post a series of comments about DeLay, they would all be negative. I don't know of anything positive to say about his career in the House. As a Congressman, I say he eats shit 24/7.
But I'm not going to swallow allegations that he ran a dope ring back in his home state (one charge against Clinton, with forged documents on the Internet to "prove" it). I'm not going to swallow a rumor that he had someone killed in an apartment owned by his wife, the body then being dumped elsewhere as an apparent suicide.
Now some of Cherri's posts are quite good, in my opinion. A recent one about Phil Gramm is a case in point. But when it comes to Bush- Afghanistan-oil (and I don't care if they build ten pipelines in that country) she is content to join hands intellectually with LL for a dance down loony lane.
-- Peter Errington (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 14, 2002.
Just for the record, Phil Gramm has always made me nervous, too. Something about the man is exceedingly oily (pun intended[g]). Trent Lott is another one.
I don't know enough about Dennis Hastert to judge the man (he seems just to be a Standard Mark 3 Party Hack), but I can't claim to have read up on him, either.
I'm sure some liberals cringe at what their self-appointed "leaders" say and do sometimes. I can assure you that the same is true of us conservatives. :)
In my perfect world, all of them would hush and we'd just let ordinary folks run the government. But I'm dreaming now.
-- Stephen (email@example.com), May 14, 2002.