Monday 7 June 2004

Why Old Democrats Dread Clinton's Confessions

by Trowbridge H. Ford

While Democratic Party leaders claim that they are only worried that publication of former President Clinton's memoirs My Life on June 22nd will distract voters from campaigning for Senator John Kerry during the run-up to November's election, they are actually terrified about its content, and well they should be. Clinton has written an account of his quest for the White House, and his occupation of the Oval Office which leaves out almost all the dirty bits, understandably leading him to leave out the part played by his heart - the title of his mother Virginia's autobiography.

The problem for the Democrats will not be potential voters curled up on their favorite sofas, looking for all the spicy stories in the text when they should be out soliciting votes for the Massachusetts Senator, but how Clinton's account will confound and divide fellow Democrats while giving aid and comfort to the Republican incumbent and his neocons in the administration. The unprecedented first printing of 1,500,000 copies will hardly be read by more than one percent of America's potential voters - consigned to the proverbial coffee table by most recipients of the volume - but its most relevant claims and omissions will be discussed endlessly by talk show hosts, and commentators in the media. Slick Willie has prepared a seemingly most presidential tome - apparently above the current political fray - which will only play into the hands of George W. Bush.

Clinton has delayed finishing his White House confessions so that he can get the best feel of the current political landscape. As he has attempted to become just another senior statesman by chasing after real ones like Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela and the Pope, by concentrating upon collecting funds for the construction of his own presidential library, and by seeing that his presidential papers are deposited there, he has been able to distance himself from the most controversial aspects of his tenure of the White House - his sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky, the suicide of private attorney Vince Foster, the Clintons' dealings in Whitewater and at the White House which led to investigations by two special counsels and several congressional committees, and the President's growing obsession with WMD being in the hands of terrorists and rogue states, especially anthrax in the hands of Iraq's Saddam Hussein.

By waiting, the former President has seen NATO's and the UN's peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia and Kosovo attain some success after withdrawing American troops from the Somalia fiasco; the restoration of democracy in Haiti; his sanctions against Saddam's regime, UNSCOM inspections of its WMD capability, and no-fly-zones in Iraq reap some unexpected surprises; his efforts to achieve peace in Palestine and Northern Ireland at least start a process; the alleged Whitewater scandal conveniently fade in the distance, along with some other real ones; his social and economic policies achieve some domestic stability; the most controversial pardons of scofflaw Marc Rich and others even given some positive spin; and the Bush administration lose the terrorist threat by unseating Saddam's regime rather than eradicating Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda networks after 9/11.

The threat that Clinton represents to Kerry's capturing the White House in November is well illustrated in the team he has finally put together, and the policies he has adopted to accomplish the task. Originally, it looked as if Kerry was going to build a populist campaign against domestic injustice, based upon what director Jim Jordan was able to add to Al Gore's organization in the last presidential election. Once the campaign started to falter against Vermont Governor Howard Dean in the chase for the Democratic nomination, though, Kerry dismissed Jordan, replacing him with Ted Kennedy's former chief of staff Mary Beth Cahill who is just interested in making sure that potential Democratic voters support presidential-looking Kerry with their pocketbooks, and at the polls. It is a centrist campaign which only claims that Kerry is bound to be a better manager than Bush of the current world crisis - what Clinton only promises spin for by claiming that it is what he would have done for Gore if he had only been permitted.

In reading a list of the people advising Kerry - Clinton's former deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, State Department spokesman James Rubin, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, senior adviser Sidney Blumenthal, chief Balkans negotiator Richard Holbrooke, chief Palestinian negotiator Dennis Ross, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, and others - one would think that Clinton was running for an unconstitutional third term. The trouble with having all these people working for Kerry is that he is also taking on board their problems, along with those they helped create for the former President - what the electorate will recall when Clinton starts campaigning for Kerry. And what Clinton chooses to write about, and, more important, not write about only compounds Kerry's problems.

It seems apparent that the former President will not mention his evasion of the draft during the Vietnam War - what he accomplished by getting admitted to the ROTC unit at the University of Arkansas where he had registered to attend law school after college, only then to change his mind, and attend Yale Law School. It was its disclosure during the 1992 New Hampshire primary which induced Clinton to articulate his hatred of the press's "blood lust" to destroy presidential candidates, reminiscent of Nixon's reaction to the media when he failed to become Governor of California in 1962, and what achieved the same outcome. By Clinton avoiding his avoidance of the draft, Bush will obviously be given great liberty by the press in how he handled his duty with the Alabama Air National Guard - what will undercut Kerry's biggest credential to the White House, his war service in the Navy.

With Harold Ickes being the Massachusetts Senator's senior policy advisor, one is reminded of the wheeling and dealing he engaged in back in 1991 as Clinton's New York campaign manager to get the seed money, more than $3,000,000, from the Labourers International Union of North America (LIUNA), the most Mafia-infested one in America, for Clinton's election, and, in return, union president Arthur Coia gave assurances that it would not be taken over by the Mafia - what stopped the federal government from taking over the union under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

When Mafia-promoted President Angelo Fosco started going into terminal decline in 1989, LIUNA secretary/treasurer Coia prevailed on the union's board not to promote Mob-boss John Serpico as his replacement. Fosco had been Serpico's front man, seeing that he was elected LIUNA President at its 1981 convention when a potential opponent, Dennis Ryan, was forced to withdraw his nomination after having been physically beaten on the convention floor. Fosco returned the favor by appointing Chicago Mafioso Al Pilotto and St. Louis boss Matthrew Trupiano its "special international representatives", positions without any functions or responsibilities which enabled them to just siphon off funds in the name of "administrative costs". Serpico made an avocation of achieving such appointments.

When Coia was selected union president, Serpico had to settle for a similar role in LIUNA's leadership, though its existence took some years to surface. In the meantime, Coia was able to enjoy the limelight because of his alleged efforts to clean up the union, thanks to his assurances to Ickes. Hillary Clinton addressed the LIUNA's 1994 convention, and its president was increasingly seen at the White House, spending about one night a month in one of its bedrooms. LIttle wonder that Coia saw that the union coughed up at least $20,000,000 for re-election of the Clinton-Gore ticket in 1996, and he was an organizer of the President's defense fund when charges of his womanizing started capturing headlines in the media.

As for the source of this Mob largesse, Governor Clinton's blind-eye towards its operations with the CIA and Reagan's National Security Council was part of the answer. Clinton, on a mission to the White House, was frantic by 1982 to make up for lost time when he unexpectly lost the governorship two years earlier. In order to ship weapons to the Contras who paid for them often in illegal drugs, there had to be transfer points in the States where the drugs were converted into money which then had to be laundered at home or abroad, especially in Switzerland and the Bahamas, and the International Regional Airport at Mena, Arkansas was one of the main ones. In fact, the plane carrying Eugene Hasenfus, a C-123 named the 'Fat Lady', and belonging to murdered Alder "Barry" Seal, which was shot down over Nicaragua in October 1986, and kicked off the Iran-Contra scandal had departed from Mena.

Lt. Col. Oliver North, it seems, had the most important operatives in the operation eliminated in order to prevent the impeachment, and possible removal from office of the just deceased Ronald Reagan, who had signed off on all the secret operations which were being conducted to bring down the communists and their supporters worldwide. North apparently had Amiram Nir, once he threatened to expose Vice President Bush's role in the process, killed in a plane crash. Nir had revived dealings with Iran after statsminister Olof Palme had stopped the infamous HAWK missile shipment through Sweden on November 17, 1985 - what led to his assassination. (For more on this, see my article about North in the archive.)

Seal, a Drug Enforcement Administration informant, was murdered nine days before by Fabio Ochoa, a leader of the Medellin cartel, outside the Baton Rouge Salvation Army Rehab Center, just across the border with Arkansas, where many of the actual transfers of drugs, arms, and money took place. Seal became so busy that he had expanded his Louisiana operations to an airstrip in southern Scott County, and to Rich Mountain Aviation at Mena, acting as a "broker" in airplane sales. He allegedly was regularly in contact with Clinton's head of security, Raymond "Buddy" Young. He was so successful in keeping the lid on all the Clintons' financial and sexual secrets, especially keeping his troopers in line, that he was named regional head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Denton, Texas, once they gained the White House.

More important, Seal was a leading player in the fake photos, showing the rebel Sandinstas
participating in arms for drugs operations - what was used to justify Reagan's War on Drugs. Obviously, getting rid of Seal was a big boost to Washington's secret operations, and the fact that Clinton never permitted the claims about Mena to get anywhere did not pass unnoticed by the Reagan administration. When Washington finally arranged Ochoa's extradition from Colombia merely for drug smuggling, it conveniently forgot about Seal's fate in the process.

Some of the funds from such transfers were deposited or invested in various Arkansas financial institutions, including the Woodruff County Savings and Loan Association, Madison Financial Corp.,
Madison Bank and Trust Co. of Kingston, Worthen Bank, and most importantly, the Arkansas Development Financial Authority, run by Clinton-appointee Margaret Davenport Eldridge, and whose legal representative was Hillary Clinton of the Rose Law Firm. The first two institutions were run by Arkansas wheeler-dealer Jim McDougal who ran them increasingly to suit Clinton's political ambitions. The Worthen Bank was owned by the powerful Stephens family, and it supplied money to help bail out the Clintons from their growing financial difficulties.

In 1982, McDougal took advantage of the new legislation, allowing savings and loan associations to become banks - the shortage and limitations of which had prevented the state's economy from taking off. Using the sorry state of the infamous Whitewater Development Company as cover, McDougal and the Clintons, with the help of the Governor's former security and savings and loan commissioner Harvey Bell, and Rose Law Firm associates Webster Hubbell and Vince Foster, soon had the S and L buying everything it could lay its hands on, providing unknown depositors in the Kingston bank, and the Worthen Bank with windfall profits but the banks themselves with red balance sheets.

After a year in business, the Kingston bank suffered a net loss of $100,000, and a blistering report about its absymal business practices - excessively poor-quality assets, excessive lending outside its trade area, improper transactions with affiliates, inadequate loan loss reserves, and insufficient capaital (For a limited, sanitzed version of its problems, see James B. Stewart, Blood Sport: The President and His Adversaries, pp.105-6.) - from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) which had to make good on the losses. Still McDougal was undeterred, changing the S and L's name to Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan, and vastly expanding its holdings, indebtedness, and total assets.

Soon Twin City Bank, and Susan McDougal's vague Master Marketing business joined Madison Guaranty in the hunt for new developments, especially the proposed Castle Grande one, requiring more and more legal work, and money transfers by Hillary Clinton and Foster at Rose. In due course, these transactions drew the ire of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, the S and L's equivalent of the FDIC, and Jim McDoughal suffered a heart attack because of the growing pressure, and complications. Hillary's relation with Foster in the Rose litigation department became so close because of so little regular business, allowing them to generate all kinds connections with the growing McDougal empire, that people began talking about their having an affair.

To ease the insufficiency of capital, the Clintons then persuaded Twin City to be the trustee of various bonds issued under the Arkansas Development Finance Authority Board for expanding businesses in the state - whose board member Margaret Davenport owed her appointment to the Governor, and was a best friend of Hillary's. To legitimize the whole process as best he could, Clinton secured passage of an act during a special session of the legislature, permitting countywide branch banking - what now permitted Twin City to do what Madison Guaranty had been doing surreptiously before.

Shortly thereafter, the whole bubble started breaking up, reminding Little Rock of Charles Keating's financial destruction of the Lincoln Savings and Loan. While those adversely effected tended to minimize the plundering by McDougal's financial empire, it had all the hallmarks of the Maifa operating in the 1980s. " 'They have gone the way of sophisticated corporate America,' " an FBI asgent told Robert McFadden of the New York Times at the time. "The Mafia's newest methods can involve Swiss bank accounts and all the other financial, legal and technical 'accouterments of a global business cartel.' But its expanding infiltration into legitimate business - everything from pizza restaurants to disposal of toxic wastes - is countered by increasing trouble with the law." Draining financial institutions of their assets by bleeding non-member employees, by so-called administrative costs, and by bankruptcy fraud had nonetheless become the preferred crimes of the decade, thanks to the loosening of restrictions on S and L's.

The organization near the top in these illegal activities was Laborers International, and its biggest practitioner was Mob-labor figure John Serpico - just the people who supplied Clinton with vast sums of money when he finally had the White House in his sights. LIUNA was the leading disposer of toxic wastes, and the welfare and pension funds of its New York local were thoroughly plundered. Serpico arranged a dental plan for LIUNA's Central States Joint Health Board which closed after 68 percent of the insurance premiums were consumed by "administrative costs", rakeoffs which even the Teamster counterparts found excessive. The President's Commission on Organized Crime that Reagan appointed only scratched the surface in describing the new ways the Mafia was developing for doing business.

This gap goes far to explain all the difficulties the Clintons had in explaining their transactions - their failure to keep and safeguard records, their unwillingness to produce financial statements when required, their pushing for business and fees, their filing inaccurate tax returns, their failure to remember actions when others did, and which did not reflect well on them, etc. For example, Hillary doctored notes of a meeting with Magaret Davenport to make it seem it concerned Whitewater and the branch banking issue when it actually concerned the issuance of bonds for projects like Castle Grande. Her wanting fees from McDougal for unexplained work which he refused to pay because he thought they were exorbitant. Husband Bill obviously pressured McDougal about projects, and work for Rose which he most unconvincingly denied. Then there were the subpoenaed billing records of Rose, belatedly found, which showed the First Lady had lied under oath about repeated meetings concerning Castle Grande projects which involved vast sums of money.

The reason why these alarming actions, and discrepancies didn't come to haunt the Clintons sooner was because of more pressing problems by more important people surfacing simultaneously, giving them time to prepare a defense in depth for their wrongdoing. The disclosures of Iran-Contra put the White House, the Pentagon, and the CIA under such threat during the investigations by the Tower Commission, congressional committees, and special counsel Lawrence Walsh that there was little left for the Clintons to worry about. The original, false explanation of the conspiracy - that it was simply a case of trading arms for hostages held by Iran - was only slowly expanded to include drug dealing, resupplying the Contras with arms, and special operations by right-wing paramilitaries across the globe..

This expansion was limited by John Kerry's Senate sub-committee examining the Reagan administration's connivance in drug trafficking, and by Walsh's examining the war on drugs so that the Governor of Arkansas had nothing to answer for until he was on the verge of entering the White House. While the sub-committee investigation was in progress, its chief counsel Jack Blum told reporter Michael Haddigan of The Arkansas Gazette: "We've heard quite a bit about Mena recently. It seems to be a very lively place." It activities, unfortunately, found no place in the Kerry Report, and the special counsel somehow managed to do even worse - though his function was to prosecute those who committed crimes - failing to make mention of Seal, much less his fate.

The first thing that Clinton did when he became President was to replace DCI Thomas Gates by right-winger R. James Woolsey in order to have the intelligence community concentrate on fixing things for a better future - for example, tasking the Agency to help convict criminals likes Ochoa - rather than digging up things which had gone wrong in the past. Gates knew where all the bodies were, having given operational support to Reagan's claims about the "evil empire", and then having lied about it.

Woolsey's efforts were soon sidetracked, though, by the discovery that Aldrich "Rick" Ames had been spying for the past eight years for the Soviets, thanks to the hostility between the FBI and CIA, and the substance of his disclosures could well backfire upon Clinton. Before Ames was even arrested, he fired FBI Director William Sessions for not having solved the Felix Bloch spying case - what might well have flushed out Ames before he became President, and Woolsey only compounded problems by making a hash out of the Agency's failure to discover Ames earlier.

Then Ickes did everything he could to prevent Clinton's affairs, especially with Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones, from denying him the White House, and spoiling his tenure of the Oval Office. No sooner had the Star tabloid advertised Flowers' 12-year-old affair with Clinton during the New Hampshire primary - what even The New York Times was obliged to repeat, and Clinton was obliged to deny in his wife's presence on 60 Minutes - than Ickes directed the NYT's probing reporter Jeff Gerth, looking for a case of state influence-peddling, to contact Susan Thomases, the Clintons' private lawyer, about their dealings with Arkansas wheeler-dealer JIm McDougal, especially about Whitewater. About the unprecedented assistance, Stewart asked: "What could be so important that the Clintons would hire a lawyer to handle his questions?" (p. 199)

Then Hillary called Thomases, who was regularly seeing Ickes about political matters, to make sure that her alleged vague recollection of the losing venture was protected by attorney-client privilege while she tried to make Gerth drop the whole matter, and go after Neil Bush's problems with his S and L in Colorado instead. (p. 203) While Thomases tried to get on top of Whitewater, and keep track of what Gerth was doing, she was prevented by Hillary from supplying him with any real answers he wanted. The Times did publish a rather confusing story by Gerth about the Clintons' problems, but editors prevented any further stories appearing for fear of being seen as going after the Democratic front-runner . In the end, Gerth followed Thomases' advice, and went after the questionable dealings of President Bush's brothers, and sons.

While the Clintons were soon safely ensconced in the White House, their problems did not go away - they only increased because of deputy counsel Vince Foster's growing worries and duties as the Clintons' bagman, now that their criminal associates had direct access to the Oval Office. Foster, like Mrs. Clinton, was so concerned that their nefarious undertakings would somehow be uncovered that he was opposed to Hubbell being nominated as Deputy Attorney General because of the expected congressional scrutiny, and persuaded the Clintons to declare a capital loss as a gain to make sure of avoiding an IRS audit of their 1992 tax return. The pressure got so bad that he delivered this apology in his commencement address at the University of Arkansas School of Law that spring: "There is no victory, no advantage, no fee, no favor, which is worth even a blemish on your reputation for intelligect and integrity." (Quoted from pp. 255-6.)

Then Hillary panicked Foster and other insiders from Arkansas into dismissing the White House travel office on grounds of serious corruption, being replaced by Little Rock's World Wide Travel, but actually for fear that it could not be trusted in keeping secret burgeoning travel arrangements, especially by the deputy counsel. According to Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of The Daily Telegraph, he logged over 500,000 frequent flier miles before he died, 197,853 miles on Delta alone. At the end of 1991 and 1992 when making the necessary financial arrangements for illicit funds was becoming increasingly hectic, he booked trips to Switzerland. Evans-Pritchard thinks that because Foster got government official discounts for some of this travel, this made him a US agent. Rather it shows that he was part of the 'secret team' which had been conducting such operations since Vietnam. (For more, see "The Secret Team" in Jonathan Vankin and John Whelan, The 60 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time, pp. 310-4.)

The firing and its fallout apparently pushed Foster over the edge, resulting in his committing suicide two months later. Constantly pressured by the Clintons to clean up their past, and to help lead them to a better future at his expense and that of his family, Foster, scheduled to go to Switzerland yet again in three weeks, finally snapped on July 20, 1993. While conspiracy theorists, especially Evans-Pritchard, have claimed that Vince was murdered, no one has established who had the motive, and means for doing so. While there were all kinds of contradictions and rumors about the real death site, and the actual killing, the claims of it having been a murder were only seriously entertained after the Oval Office had encountered more problems - where Clinton is bound to pick up the story in his book after having said as little as possible about the previous decade.

Filegate is next, and it is obviously the most exaggerated story of all about the Clinton White House. Its originator seems to have been Linda Tripp, a General Services Administration worker, and Foster's secretary, who was so embittered by his death that she wanted to get back at the President any way possible. Ms.Tripp too was a best friend of Monica Lewinsky's. Linda first claimed anonymously that Foster had been murdered, and the White House Personnel Security Office (PSO), which had fallen woefully behind in giving security checks to all people who had access to it, was given the additional task of finding out who among the Republican holdovers might be making such claims.

Craig Livingstone had seen his office's effort slowed by the retirement of Reaganite holdover Nancy Gemmall in August, and former US Army CID investigator Anthony Marceca had been hired to expedite Project Update - the providing of security clearances to the 2,000 holdovers from the Bush administration, and the 1,000 Clinton had seen fit to hire. Hardly had Marceca gotten well into the job than the press, especially The Washington Post's George Lardner, started clamoring that the President was behaving like Nixon, preparing an "Enemies List" of those Republicans he wanted to fix. While the claims of FBI files on Republicans Marceca was said to have improperly seen skyrocketed, reaching allegedly around 1,000, he had only seen around five or six, and they were important Republicans who still might be dropping by.

With Filegate, though, the confrontations between the Clintons and right-wing Republicans became dirtier and dirtier. Ms. Tripp may well have given Monica the mission of sexually entrapping the President in the Oval Office, and Mrs. Clinton certainly adopted various counter measures to contain the trouble. For the trouble the PSO caused her, Ms. Tripp ultimately gave a deposition to Independent Counsel Ken Starr, stating that " was her visit to Foster's office she noticed a filed labeled 'Dale' - what connected the firing of the travel office's Billy Dale to Filegate. Tripp went on to claim that Lewinsky was afraid that she too would be killed, like Foster, Jim McDougal, former Democratic Party Chairman Ron Brown, Clinton's security chief Luther 'Jerry' Parkes, Paula Jones, and others.

Mrs. Clinton responded by having Susan Thomases secure the services of journalist James B. Stewart to write a book, telling their side of the story with complete independence - only for them to be as uncooperative with him, once he started writing it, as they had been with Jeff Gerth. By the time Stewart had finished, he was highly disillusioned with them: "Still, nothing in the Clintons' past, on its face, seems to explain the pattern of evasions, half-truths, and misstatements that have characterized the Clintons' handling of the story, both during the campaign and in the White House." (p. 446)

The former President's book seems only bound to continue the process during the Kerry campaign - one which seems doomed to fail despite appearances. Coupled with the firing of DCI George Tenet, the hoopla over the death of Ronald Reagan, issuance of the 9/11 commmission report, the national party conventions, and some unexpected surprises, the Clinton legacy will only leave the door open for Hillary in 2008.