AP / Manuel Balce Ceneta
Last week The New York Times carried a report on the tawdry lobbying practice of Lanny J. Davis, who first came to public attention with his strident defense of Bill Clinton following the stained blue dress incident. As The Times reported, Davis now spins the truth for political leaders with much more horrendous acts to hide:
"Since leaving the White House, Mr. Davis has built a client list that now includes coup supporters in Honduras, a dictator in Equatorial Guinea -- the Ivory Coast strongman whose claims to that country's presidency have been condemned by the international community and may even set off a civil war."
Quite an embarrassment for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has been a close chum of Davis going back to the days when she and Bill were classmates of his at Yale. This is a generation of '60s-bred political leaders who rose from the Ivy League elite obsessed with the conceit that they could do well -- meaning get enormously powerful and/or filthy rich -- while doing good.
Doing good, as in professing a concern for the downtrodden, turned out to be nothing more than a cover for acquiring immense personal political and economic power. The value of the Davis example, as with the parade of Wall Street hustlers so prominent among the Clintonistas, is that his greed has broken his cover. A day before The New York Times story was published, Davis ended his $100,000-a-month contract to advance the cause of Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo. But as reporters Ginger Thompson and Eric Lipton noted, "Still, his role in West Africa has stoked growing criticism that Mr. Davis has become a kind of front man for the dark side, willing to take on some of the world's least noble companies and causes."
Davis' influence peddling, which implies great access to Hillary and other top Democratic politicians, has provided an enormous embarrassment for the State Department Clinton heads. State Department spokesman Phillip J. Crowley responded to The Times by stating: "Lanny is a relentless and effective interlocutor, but he cannot change the basic facts and interests that guide our foreign policy," and referring to Davis' clients in the Ivory Coast and Equatorial Guinea, respectively, Crowley added, "President Gbagbo scheduled an election that he lost fair and square. That's a fact. [Equatorial Guinea's] President Obiang had an abysmal human rights record. That's a fact."
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