The Bush Family Dirty Tricks Play Book; Papa Bush 's modus operandi is clearly observable in all the dirty tricks we 've seen in this election. Who 's the scumbag?
An interview with Robert Parry, by ROB KALL
I was reading Robert Parry 's new book, SECRECY & PRIVILEGE, Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, and I realized that all the sleazy, dirty tricks I was seeing in the current 2004 election, perpetrated by Bush and his supporters were repetitions of the strategies of Bush 41, the elder. So I called Robert Parry, who I first heard about from Greg Palast, as one of the investigative reporters Palast most respected. Parry is perhaps best known as the former AP reporter who broke the Iran-Contra scandal that involved Oliver North and Ronald Reagan. This article is the edited transcription of the phone interview I did with Parry on Thursday, October 28th. My questions and comments are in italics.
Basically, I want to do an interview with you that talks about how Bush family history lends itself to what 's happening right now.
How do you see similarities. Today, I watched on the news as Bush attacked Kerry. What 's the history that goes into this?
For a number of years now, the conservatives, republicans have built up a very effective media machine which puts out often propaganda lines. And it 's become so powerful, it 's so pervasive, from Fox News to the Washington Times (owned by Reverend Sun Myung Moon) through a number of columnists and Rush Limbaugh 's radio shows and so forth that they can almost say anything and have a large number of people agreeing with them. It doesn 't even have to make sense, particularly. And right now we have this dispute about the 380 tos of high explosives that have gone missing in Iraq and the issue has sort of boiled down to when the munitions went missing. But the bigger point is now being missed, being missed not just on the campaign trail, but in the media, and the big question is if Bush decided to go to war to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of terrorists and whenever these munitions may have disappeared the problem is They may have ended up in the hands of terrorists.
So, framing this debate this debate about what day it was, or if people know all the details about when the munitions went missing is a red herring. The question really is, was it really worth invading Iraq to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous people like terrorists, when in fact invading Iraq may have helped put dangerous weapons in the hands of terrorists. But Bush has been able to reframe the debate.
Have you been watching the way Bush has been handling it in his stump speeches today? He 's basically attacking Kerry.
He 's attacking Kerry for not knowing all the facts when he has talked about the munitions going missing. It 's probably true. Kerry may not know all the facts. No-one knows all the facts. Bu the larger point is not in dispute that these kinds of weapons, which can have devastating consequences, when used by terrorists, were put into circulation because the Bush administration chose to go to war. Ironically, they chose to go to war to prevent the potential for dangerous weapons getting in the hands of terrorists.
The ability to sort of shift the debate to a point that isn 't that really that relevant --the details of exactly when something might have happened, and to attack somebody for not knowing those details, which at this point, are not know is a good example of this propaganda apparatus, which I write about in SECRECY & PRIVILEGE works.
I 'm very much aware of and have written articles on the "Echo Chamber " and the need for we on the left to develop our own group of policy advocacy think tanks like they have. I guess the other piece that I 'm looking for you to do --George 's father used the kind of strategy that George W. is using now. Could you describehow George Sr. has gone after trying to belittle and distract and take away the credibility of real news that comes out and hurts the republicans?
A good example is in 1992, in that election George Bush sr. was running for reelection, being challenged by Bill Clinton and Ross Perot was also in the race. It looked like Clinton was doing quite well. HE was pulling ahead. He had a very successful convention. There was that bus trip with Gore that was well received. His numbers were looking quite strong.
So Bush went around searching for what was called then, a silver bullet that would take Clinton down once and for all. And one of the plans was to spread a story about Clinton trying to renounce his US citizenship when he was in England at Oxford , when he was a Rhodes Scholar. ..... we now know from the documents that have come out that George Bush Sr. was adamant to his staff about getting something on this material That led, indirectly, to the whitehouse putting pressure on the state department and the state department sending a couple of operatives over to the national archive to search through Clinton 's Passport file, that was not supposed to be looked at this way. This was a political stunt, not something related to a legal situation.
They went through the file looking for the supposed letter renouncing his Citizenship. They didn 't find it. It didn 't exist. (this is like the Swift boat veterans, who revised history, in spite of no proof) They did notice that there was a tear in the corner of his passport application, likely for a check or a photograph or something like that. They used the excuse of the tear in the corner to put together a criminal referral to the FBI to suggest that Clinton may have had one of his friends go in and tamper with the file, I guess to supposedly remove this hypothetical letter renouncing his citizenship. That was then leaked to Newsweek and became an issue on the campaign trail. Now, George Bush Sr. jumps in with a number of public statements to bring attention to Bush 's patriotism and his loyalty. They made an issue out of Clinton making a trip to Moscow when he was a student (Dubya 's surrogates have made an issue of Kerry 's connection with " Hanoi Jane " Fonda.) and then later traveling to Prague Czechoslovakia to visit a friend from school. This became a big issue in the 1992 campaign and became something that the echo chamber used to damage Clinton 's chances of winning the Presidency.
It was really thwarted only because some really smart folks on the democratic side of capital hill realized how odd this was and they sent their own investigators to sort of follow the tracks of the state department investigators and found out that there really was no basis for this criminal referral --that it was a trumped up criminal referral --and that was exposed through a story in the Washington Post. So it boomeranged on George H. W. Bush. He was not able to make the headway he hoped in destroying Clinton 's reputation around the issue of whether Clinton was disloyal. But it does show how manipulative the process can get.
What happened when that boomerang happened? What did Bush do then? How did he handle that?
He actually tried to continue on with this line of inquiry. On the surface he said, well if there 's nothing to it, I guess there 's nothing to it. The FBI rejected the criminal referral as baseless, so it was somewhat dropped, But there was an effort still, we find out later. To get U.S. embassies abroad to search through their files about Clinton . that . .... There were also contacts made to the Czechoslovakian secret police to see if they could dig up damaging information on Clinton . The agencies in Czechoslovakia leaked a story to a Czech newspaper that tried to make Clinton look bad and that was picked up by the Washington Times as a way to sort of get it into the US media.
The attempts to destroy people, to damage their reputation and and in this casequestion their patriotism, shows how far this process can go. But it 's something that now we see almost routinely in campaigns involving the Bush family.
Frankly, I was reading your book yesterday, and watching Bush on TV today and George Bush is like following a Bush Family Play book. Do you have an idea in your head of how the Bush family attacks their enemies?
We 've seen repeatedly how their words are turned upside down, where Kerry said something about this global test, which, in the context, he clearly meant that if the United States is to engage in a preemptive war it needs to explain to the American people and the larger world community. It sounds like a routine, basic standard --that if you 're going to go to war you ought to be able to explain why you 're doing it --preemptive or otherwise. But that was turned around to mean the opposite of what Kerry had meant-- that we could only go to war if some global test were passed. That 's not what he meant and clearly not what he was saying. But by turning it around and repeating it and having it go through this (right winga) media machine, pretty soon, this false impression has been good.
Another strategy is to have surrogate groups damage people 's credibility and attack people 's reputation, much as we saw the Washington times running stories about Bill Clinton possibly being a KGB agent, or working with the Czech communists as a student --baseless charges, but things that could get into circulation. We saw with Kerry the swift boat veterans for truth, basically challenged his heroism and basically called him a liar, traitor and a coward. When the facts were later ascertained, it turns out that the original report that had been used to justify giving Kerry his medals, were supported by the facts. There was even an ABC, Nightline investigation that involved going to the Vietnamese village where the incidents occurred and they found the Vietnamese who were still there saying, "We didn 't know that Kerry was here but we did had this battle and there was a lot of shooting. "
You often see the use of themes the media put into play and that are then highly distorted, and attribute them to the enemy they are attacking. We saw that in the Gorec case, back in 2000. Some of the press allied with Bush. His comments were simply taken out of context, as well. Quotes were invented even. He never said he invented the internet. But that became a stock phrase to be used by his opponents. The stories about him and the Love Canal case were completely screwed up. That was a mistake made by the NY Times and the Washington Post. They got the quote wrong. They refused to correct it and by the time they grudgingly corrected it a week later, Gore had been damaged because this false quote had been spread by the republicans, by the Bush campaign and by their media allies all over the country. So people, when they went to the polls in 200, one of the major reasons they gave for voting against Al Gore was they thought he was a liar.
In your book you talk about how Bush Sr. was running defense for the Watergate situation. How did he do it there and how are there comparisons with now?
-Use Connections to Suppress unfavorable news.
Things were much more rudimentary in the 1970 's than they are today. They are much more sophisticated today than in the days of Watergate. What happened in the Watergate scandal is Richard Nixon turned to George H. W. Bush to have him be the Republican National Committee chairman. The idea then was that Bush, because he was so well connected both in the east coast wall street crowd and the Texas oil money crowd that he could pull strings and get people to back off from the Watergate scandal. And this was somewhat successful. Bush was able to work with Bob Strouse, who was the chairman of the Democratic committee in an effort to put the Watergate scandal behind the country, behind both parties and Strouse was willing to do it. They weren 't able to succeed because there were enough other elements --the press corps, some of the court, judges, that the story kept going forward and broke out. But you could see how this idea of using connections to suppress unfavorable news was already something they were pushing for and developing means to do it. We saw it again in '76 when Gerald for picked senior Bush to be the CIA director at a time when there was a lot of negative news coming out about the CIA. Bush was brought in to, as he put it, get the CIA off the front pages. At this point, Ford was trying to win the election in '76 and Bush was more successful there, even concealing a very devastating story about what the CIA knew of a terrorist incident in Washington in which the Chilean secret police had assassinated, blown up a dissident named Letellier and an American woman riding in his car named Moffat. The case should have more effectively brought to justice but Bush able to steer investigators away from the Chilean government by insisting that they had nothing to do with it and using the CIA 's intelligence to that effect, while it turns out that the truth was the opposite.
The Willingness to Twist or Hide Information from inside the government --to hide information that the that the Public Should have if it will redound against your political position and manufacture information at times, or try to pretend that something is there that will help you.
What do you mean redound?
Redound-- to your advantage, that it would bounce to, would work to your advantage. And that 's what we saw with the Letellier investigation, that it was being stonewalled in 1976, right before the election. And we 've seen that in other cases, like the case of Clinton 's passport file being searched. Information is thrown out, even if it is not entirely accurate.
How about recently, with Kerry and George W.?
The whole issue of Kerry 's war record in Vietnam is a good example of people trying to put out information that is harmful to the opponent that turns out not to be correct. And Bush, while pretended he wasn 't involved, he certainly did not specifically attack that information. He took it as an advantage and allowed it and allowed to spread and his media assets, his allies, helped spread it. So it was something that worked to his advantage quite a bit.
Also containing information. Some of the information of Bush 's own Viet Nam era experiences have come out in little dribs and drabs in such a way that they have not really had much impact. And plus there hasn 't been the kind of amplification of Bush 's national guard problems where he either didn 't show up or failed and didn 't take a physical, was suspended from flying and then wrote a letter when he was in Massachusetts, saying he didn 't have adequate time to continue on and wanted out and was allowed to leave.
Things have not been focused on with nearly the intensity that we saw around Kerry 's war record, where Kerry, the only question was how many bullets were flying around while he was engaged in trying to pull people out of the river.
There 's an article in the Philadelphia Daily news reporting that several of the workers at the WTC site were witness to the recovery of three of the four black boxes from the jetliners that hit the World Trade Center, and the FBI reports that there were never any found. They found one of the terrorist passports. It survived, but none of the black boxes from the jetliners the terrorists hijacked survived. This, which just hit the paper, seems to be a major piece of news that I haven 't seen on any of the networks yet.
We do know that there have been efforts to hold back the findings of government reports of who was responsible for some of the failures of intelligence that occurred around the Iraq war. That information is out there. It 's just not going to be released until after the election. It 's probably embarrassing for the administration. We 've known for a while that there 's a second report that has been held up until after the election 's over.
What do you expect in the next couple days. Any predictions or observations on how their end game is going to go, given how they 've done things in the past?
Any prediction of how t heir endgame is going to go given their history
Most Troubling is how they will suppress the vote clearly the polls have tightened. The internal polls of the campaigns have showed that they 've tightened. We 've seen more efforts by republicans to try to hold down the vote, especially in African American and minority community communities -- Ohio in particular --sending in teams of republican activists to challenge individual voters as they 're trying to vote, which will have two effects. One, it will intimidate those voters, but it will also gum up the system so you 'd have longer and longer lines. As you know, many Americans want to vote but they also have to get to work, or get home and get the kids some dinner or pick them kid up at daycare and they may not be able to stay in line for two hours. So this idea of trying to hold down the vote by those kinds of means is certainly a troubling picture that most Americans are not proud of.
The queston has become, really, if there can be an election that will allow the people to pick the president. We 've some of this in the past, so organized at this stage, where there was even open discussion of this. It is not hidden. It is a plan to take these action especially into battleground states, like Ohio and Florida, where there are efforts to challenge voters, especially new voters and to make sure if they show up at the wrong polling place they don 't get a chance to vote --to hold down the vote as much as possible.
What about Bush ...any media strategies or October suprises that he might pull?
The key thing for the Bush campaign is to maintain as much as they can the image of some success in Iraq . We 've seen this digging in the heels, insisting that there 's more good news than bad news, that the US authorities have been painting some schools and trying to focus on those kinds of points rather than the killing and destruction that 's going on for close to two years, since the war was launched.
The key is, can that image hold. In SECRECY and PRIVILEGE a big part of the book is to show how an apparatus was created, following Watergate, following those calamities for the republicans, an apparatus was created to put out favorable stories and to get them to the American people in a consistent way. And what we 've seen from that growth of this infrastructure, from the seventies, through the eighties and nineties until now is a tremendous success. Literally hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into these operations, so there is kind of a propaganda machine, if you will,that is able to sustain images even when the facts don 't support them. And that 's going to be key. Will the American people become more skeptical in questioning those points, they don 't want to continue down the road they are on, sort of the exit ramp question. Or, will they say, no things are going OK. We have to stay with it and push ahead, and that 's what Bush is hoping and that 's what his campaign is hoping.
The Best way to order Robert Parry 's book the book SECRECY & PRIVILEGE, Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, is to go to the website www.secrecyandprivilege.com It is also available through amazon.com Parry also publishes the website www.consortiumnews.com It 's definitely worth bookmarking.