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FTR #319 Bush League, Part III

Lis­ten: RealAu­dio [1] | MP3 [2]

This broad­cast high­lights a num­ber of aspects of the Bush admin­is­tra­tion, includ­ing infor­ma­tion about the elec­toral coup of 2000. (Note that this pro­gram was record­ed before 9/11.)

1. The pro­gram begins with dis­cus­sion of the skewed media pre­sen­ta­tion of the “legit­i­ma­cy” of Bush’s “win” in the Flori­da elec­toral vote count. An inves­ti­ga­tion by the New York Times found incon­sis­ten­cies in the way that absen­tee bal­lots were processed. “On the morn­ing after Elec­tion Day, George W. Bush held a lead of 1,784 votes in Flori­da, but to his cam­paign strate­gists, the mar­gin felt per­ilous­ly slim. They were right. With­in a week, recounts would erode Bush’s unof­fi­cial lead to just 300 votes. With the pres­i­den­cy hang­ing on the out­come in Flori­da, the Bush team quick­ly grasped that their best hope of vic­to­ry was the bal­lots still arriv­ing from Flori­da vot­ers liv­ing abroad. Over the next 18 days, the Repub­li­cans mount­ed a legal and pub­lic rela­tions cam­paign to per­suade can­vass­ing boards in Bush strong­holds to waive the state’s elec­tion laws when count­ing those bal­lots.” (“Absen­tee-Bal­lot Push Gave Bush Key: GOP Pres­sured Flori­da to Dis­re­gard Flaws, Study Shows” by David Barstow and Don Van Nat­ta Jr. [New York Times]; San Jose Mer­cury News; 7/15/2001; p. 15A.)

2. The GOP strat­e­gy was appar­ent­ly suc­cess­ful. “Their goal was sim­ple: to count the max­i­mum num­ber of over­seas bal­lots in coun­ties won by Bush, par­tic­u­lar­ly those with a high con­cen­tra­tion of mil­i­tary vot­ers, while seek­ing to dis­qual­i­fy over­seas bal­lots in coun­ties won by Vice Pres­i­dent Al Gore. A six-month inves­ti­ga­tion by The New York Times of this chap­ter in the clos­est U.S. elec­tion shows that the Repub­li­can effort had a major impact. Under pres­sure from Repub­li­cans, Flori­da offi­cials accept­ed hun­dreds of over­seas absen­tee bal­lots that failed to com­ply with state elec­tion laws. [Ital­ics are Mr. Emory’s]. In an analy­sis of the 2,490 bal­lots from Amer­i­cans liv­ing abroad that were count­ed as legal votes after Elec­tion Day, the Times found 680 ques­tion­able votes. Although it is not known for whom the flawed bal­lots were cast, four out of five were accept­ed in coun­ties car­ried by Bush, the Times found. Bush’s final mar­gin was 537 votes.” (Idem.)

3. The Times described some of the irreg­u­lar­i­ties. “The flawed votes includ­ed bal­lots with­out post­marks, bal­lots post­marked after the elec­tion, bal­lots with­out wit­ness sig­na­tures, bal­lots mailed from with­in the Unit­ed States and even bal­lots from peo­ple who vot­ed twice. All would have been dis­qual­i­fied had the elec­tion laws been strict­ly enforced. . . .” (Idem.)

4. “The Times found that these over­seas bal­lots-the only votes that could legal­ly by received and count­ed after Elec­tion Day-were judged by dif­fer­ent stan­dards, depend­ing on where they were count­ed. The unequal treat­ment is at odds with state­ments by Bush cam­paign lead­ers and by Flori­da Sec­re­tary of State Kather­ine Har­ris that rules should be applied uni­form­ly and not changed in the mid­dle of a con­test­ed elec­tion. It also appar­ent­ly con­flicts with the equal-pro­tec­tion guar­an­tee the U.S. Supreme Court invoked in Decem­ber when it halt­ed a statewide man­u­al recount and effec­tive­ly hand­ed Flori­da to Bush. [Ital­ics are Mr. Emory’s].” (Idem.)

5. Key files were appar­ent­ly erased in Flori­da, fur­ther obfus­cat­ing the inves­ti­ga­tion into what hap­pened. “Five months ago, elec­tions offi­cials in Palm Beach Coun­ty, Fla., turned their atten­tion from last year’s con­tro­ver­sial pres­i­den­tial bal­lot­ing to the spring elec­tion for dozens of munic­i­pal offices. As they pre­pared for the new elec­tion, they wiped out com­put­er files show­ing how each bal­lot was punched in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, remov­ing that infor­ma­tion from the pub­lic domain even as schol­ars and jour­nal­ists con­tin­ue to ana­lyze the results of Flori­da’s pres­i­den­tial vot­ing. The data is espe­cial­ly impor­tant because Palm Beach was one of the key coun­ties in the five-week recount process that ulti­mate­ly sent Pres­i­dent Bush to the White House.” (“Files Erased in Flori­da, Dam­ag­ing Elec­tion Review” by Geoff Dougher­ty; The Chica­go Tri­bune; 8/1/2001; accessed at www.chicagotribune.com/templates/misc/printstory.jsp?slug=chi%2DO108010285aug01 [3] .)

6. “The files were the only com­put­er­ized record of the way the coun­ty’s tab­u­lat­ing machines reg­is­tered each bal­lot last Novem­ber. The punch card bal­lots them­selves were not destroyed but can­not be accu­rate­ly recount­ed because they have been exten­sive­ly han­dled and pos­si­bly dam­aged since Elec­tion Day. The era­sure is an unex­pect­ed blow to advo­cates of elec­tion reform because of the data’s his­tor­i­cal val­ue. By wip­ing out the records, the elec­tions staff also may have vio­lat­ed Flori­da’s strict rules against destroy­ing pub­lic records.” (Idem.)

7. NBC has con­tributed to the efforts to obscure the true nature of the 2000 elec­tion. In the con­text of what fol­lows, the role of John Ellis, George Bush’s cousin, as the edi­tor of the polit­i­cal desk at Fox News. (See FTR#259.) “At issue in [NBC Pres­i­dent Andrew] Lack­’s case is sworn tes­ti­mo­ny at the Feb­ru­ary hear­ing into botched elec­tion night news cov­er­age. In his tes­ti­mo­ny, Lack offered to turn over a copy of tapes-if they exist­ed-that showed the news­room actions of his cor­po­rate boss, Gen­er­al Elec­tric Chair­man Jack Welch. The rumor, Wax­man told Lack was that Welch, a major con­trib­u­tor to the Repub­li­can Par­ty, had ‘inter­vened’ in the net­work’s deci­sion to call the race for George W. Bush. Wax­man said he had heard Welch ‘cheered’ for Bush, ‘hissed’ Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date Al Gore. At one point, Wax­man said Welch had alleged­ly asked some­one on the deci­sion desk: ‘What would I have to give you to call the race for Bush?’ ” (“NBC Balks at Shar­ing Elec­tion Night Tapes” by Megan Gar­vey; The Los Ange­les Times; 8/8/2001; p. A5.)

8. Much of the broad­cast deals with the Machi­avel­lian Karl Rove, the Bush aide cred­it­ed with much of W’s polit­i­cal suc­cess. In FTR#315, we exam­ined the untime­ly and sus­pi­cious death of J.H. Hat­field, the author of For­tu­nate Son-a Bush biog­ra­phy that high­light­ed W’s drug abuse and, more impor­tant­ly, the busi­ness con­nec­tions between Bush and the Bin Laden fam­i­ly. The afore­men­tioned FTR#248 is among the pro­grams that high­lights the Hat­field mate­r­i­al on the Bush/Bin Laden family/Arbusto Ener­gy con­nec­tion. Karl Rove was alleged by the pub­lish­er of the paper­back edi­tion of For­tu­nate Son to be a source who fun­neled dis­in­for­ma­tion to Hat­field to dis­cred­it him. “The Eufaula Con­nec­tion? That was Karl T. Rove. The oth­er top Bush advi­sor was Clay John­son. The Bush con­fi­dante source, was his min­is­ter, May­field. Now you know. Remem­ber, you’ve got to swear now. . . .” J.H. Hat­field had just iden­ti­fied Karl T. Rove, the Bush cam­paign’s senior advi­sor to me per­son­al­ly as the pri­ma­ry source for the G.W. Bush cocaine arrest cocaine sto­ry. It took me that whole year to under­stand why Rove would do such a thing.” (“George W. Bush’s Brain? How Karl T. Rove Used For­tu­nate Son to Stick George W. Bush in the White House” by Sander Hicks; Online Jour­nal; 5/23/2001; p. 3; accessed at www.onlinejournal.com/Media/Hicks052301/hicks052301.html [4]; sourced from Soft­skull Press www.softskull.com/catalog/hatfield/fs karlrove.html [5] .)

9. Hicks dis­cuss­es the back­ground to the sti­fled press about W’s drug abuse. “When the media stum­bled upon the sto­ry that George W. Bush was arrest­ed for cocaine pos­ses­sion in 1972, it was through an anony­mous tip report­ed by a colum­nist at Salon.com (“Bush Up To His Arse In Alle­ga­tions! Sharp-Toothed E‑Mail, Killer Bees and Bags of Worms. Will This Hound Hunt?” by Amy Reit­er.) Hat­field­’s book was in final proof­ing stages when this hot sto­ry broke on August 25, 1999. The piece was the first to state that Bush had been arrest­ed in the ear­ly ‘70’s, and that he ‘was ordered by a Texas judge to per­form com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice in exchange for expung­ing his record show­ing illic­it drug use,’ accord­ing to the source. To make mat­ters worse, that August, Bush went out on his own on the cam­paign trail and impro­vised on cam­era about his drug past. With his han­dlers out of town ghost-writ­ing his ‘auto­bi­og­ra­phy,’ he blurt­ed out at a press con­fer­ence that he had­n’t done drugs since 1974. The media crowed at the spec­ta­cle. For instance, USA Today gushed, ‘Bush has admit­ted some­thing, but he refus­es to say what.’ ” (Idem.)

10. Enter J.H. Hat­field and Karl Rove. “Hat­field, who long sus­pect­ed some­thing was awry in young Bush’s play­boy days, went back to his Texas sources to cor­rob­o­rate this sto­ry through Clay John­son and Karl Rove, his reg­u­lar sources of infor­ma­tion. Accord­ing to Hat­field, Rove and John­son explained the cocaine arrest on the phone, under con­di­tion of anonymi­ty. Rove had ear­li­er tak­en Hat­field on a fish­ing trip to Lake Eufaula, OK, to dis­cuss Bush, so his pseu­do­nym in the ‘After­word’ became the cloak-and-dag­geresque ‘The Eufaula Con­nec­tion.” (Idem.)

11. Hicks dis­cuss­es Rove’s rea­sons for select­ing Hat­field. “Why choose Jim Hat­field? Hat­field had com­mit­ted his 1987 crime in Dal­las, where long­time Bush school­mate and friend Clay John­son was an asso­ciate. John­son was friends with Hat­field­’s employ­ers Lar­ry Burke and Kay Bur­row. He would have heard about the vio­lent work­place con­spir­a­cy that stemmed from an illic­it affair Burke was hav­ing with Bur­row. Bur­row had tried to black­mail Burke, and Hat­field took the fall for the attempt he arranged on Bur­row’s life at his boss Burke’s request.” (Idem.)

12. Next, Hicks high­lights the alleged feed­ing of dis­in­for­ma­tion to Hat­field in order to fur­ther the dis­cred­i­ta­tion project. “Rove and John­son fur­ther ensured they could dis­cred­it Hat­field by feed­ing him flawed infor­ma­tion. They altered key facts in the cocaine arrest sto­ry, and thus raised the bur­den of proof for future reporters. At one point, Hat­field was told that the arrest­ing judge was a Repub­li­can, a false­hood which, although eas­i­ly detect­ed, served to dam­age Hat­field­’s cred­i­bil­i­ty. After St. Mar­t­in’s rushed the cocaine arrest sto­ry into the book as an ‘After­word,’ sud­den­ly the Dal­las Morn­ing News received the pri­vate, crim­i­nal record of J.H. Hat­field­’s felony in Texas. The News pub­lished an arti­cle about Hat­field­’s felo­nious past and it was all over for the Bush cocaine arrest sto­ry.” (Ibid.; pp. 3–4.)

13. “All in a day’s work” might very well sum up Hicks’ assess­ment of Rove’s machi­na­tions. What is to be pon­dered in this con­text is the fact of Hat­field­’s untime­ly death. Like the late Sen­a­tor Paul Well­stone, Hat­field had been tar­get­ed by Rove. As to whether Rove had any­thing to do with their deaths is any­body’s guess. “This style of dis­in­for­ma­tion fol­lows the pat­tern set by all mas­ters of pub­lic opin­ion of the 20th Cen­tu­ry. Karl T. Rove is an avid his­to­ry buff, and applies what he reads. In just two short months he sur­gi­cal­ly removed the medi­a’s talk of the Bush drug arrest by feed­ing it to a biog­ra­ph­er he knew had a felony con­vic­tion in his past. Hat­field broke the sto­ry, and then Rove broke Hat­field. The Bush Cam­paign’s friends at the Dal­las Morn­ing News broke a sala­cious, mes­mer­iz­ing sto­ry about a car-bomb, a hit man, a boss, a felony con­vic­tion, and the mass medi­a’s atten­tion is focused en masse on Hat­field, who can’t take the heat, denies the alle­ga­tions and flees town. St. Mar­t­in’s does­n’t know what’s going on, but sud­den­ly they are get­ting threat­ened by Bush cam­paign lawyers who are ‘look­ing into’ suing them. St. Mar­t­in’s behav­ior becomes para­noid, they announce that they are pulling 88,000 copies of the book from stores. So much for Amer­i­ca, so much for the Bill of Rights.” (Ibid.; p. 4.)