Friday, April 21, 2006

Terrorists in the White House. Really. No, REALLY!

It has often been remarked that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. The problem is that we need a precise definition of terrorist. Let’s start with the official State Department definition: a terrorist is someone who uses violence or the threat of violence against civilians for political aims.

That’s okay as far as it goes, but it doesn’t help to distinguish the terrorist from the freedom fighter. For instance, when the United States Air Force engages in a program of bombing in Baghdad to provoke “shock and awe,” only the most partisan person could call that terrorism. Therefore, I propose that we add to the State Department definition the following words: “to subvert democratic processes.”

Are we in agreement so far? Our definition of a terrorist – a person who uses violence or the threat of violence against civilians to subvert democratic processes for political aims – is narrower than the State Department definition, but no one can confuse a terrorist under our definition with a freedom fighter.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot today because of this rather disturbing fact. The President’s new Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy is a terrorist.

People have been rejoicing that Karl Rove got a slap on the wrist, and was relieved of his duties as Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy as if it were a good thing that he is going to be freed up to run a filthy, vile campaign to control congress for two more years. But not much attention has been paid to the fact that his replacement was part of a group of thugs hired to disrupt an election.

Here are the details. In 2000 the election was incredibly close, and it all came down to who won the State of Florida. On Nov. 22, 2000, Republican thugs stopped a vote recount in Miami -- and showed how far George W. Bush’s supporters were ready to go to put their man in the White House. They were prepared to commit acts of violence to prevent the counting of votes. There’s a name for that. It’s called terrorism.

It may seem over the top to call Republicans activists "thugs," but that’s the name I give anyone who would menace civilians to prevent them from counting votes. The fact that they were well dressed changes nothing, notwithstanding the fact that one of them was so concerned about his image that he coined the phrase, “Brooks Brothers riot.”

But who were the well-dressed thugs? No legal charges were filed against the Republicans, but documents released in the summer of 2002 show that Bush’s recount committee paid at least a half dozen of the publicly identified rioters.

The payments to the Republican activists are documented in hundreds of pages of Bush committee records – released grudgingly to the Internal Revenue Service on July 15, 2002, 19 months after the 36-day recount battle ended. Overall, the records provide a road map of how the Bush recount team brought its operatives across state lines to stop then-Vice President Al Gore’s recount efforts.

The documents show that the Bush organization put on the payroll about 250 staffers, spent about $1.2 million to fly operatives to Florida and elsewhere, and paid for hotel bills adding up to about $1 million. To add flexibility to the travel arrangements, a fleet of corporate jets was assembled, including planes owned by Enron Corp., then run by Bush backer Kenneth Lay, and Halliburton Co., where Dick Cheney had served as chairman and chief executive officer.

Only a handful of the Brooks Brothers rioters were publicly identified, some through photographs published in the Washington Post. Jake Tapper’s book on the recount battle, Down and Dirty, provides a list of 12 Republican operatives who took part in the Miami riot. Half of those individuals received payments from the Bush recount committee, according to the IRS records.

The Miami protesters who were paid by Bush recount committee were: Matt Schlapp, a Bush staffer who was based in Austin and received $4,276.09; Thomas Pyle, a staff aide to House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, $456; Michael Murphy, a DeLay fund-raiser, $935.12; Garry Malphrus, House majority chief counsel to the House Judiciary subcommittee on criminal justice, $330; Charles Royal, a legislative aide to Rep. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. $391.80; and Kevin Smith, a former GOP House staffer, $373.23. In the summer of 2002, the Miami Herald reported that three of the Miami protesters were then members of Bush’s White House staff.

They include Schlapp, a special assistant to the president; Malphrus, a deputy director of the president’s Domestic Policy Council; and Joel Kaplan, another special assistant to the president. [See Miami Herald, July 14, 2002]

The Brooks Brothers Riot – carried live on CNN and other networks – marked a turning point in the recount battle. At the time, Bush clung to a lead that had dwindled to several hundred votes and Gore was pressing for recounts. The riot in Miami and the prospects of spreading violence were among the arguments later cited by defenders of the 5-to-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Dec. 12, 2000, that stopped a statewide Florida recount and handed Bush the presidency.

The afore-mentioned Joel Kaplan was the man who coined the phrase “Brooks Brothers Riot” to describe the actions of him and his fellow thugs when they threatened precinct workers with violence to prevent the counting of votes.

Yesterday, he was appointed to replace Karl Rove as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy. Yes, there are terrorists in the White House, in service of King George W. What does that make W? Start with worst president ever, and go down from there.

To read a truly informative account of how Republicans tried to thwart majority rule in Florida, including the personal participation of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, look here. Here’s the bottom line: it worked.

After the Supreme Court prevented the counting of votes, an unofficial recount by news organizations found that if all legally cast ballots in Florida had been counted – regardless of which kinds of chads were accepted, whether punched-through, hanging or dimpled – Gore would have won Florida and thus the presidency. Gore also won the national popular vote, defeating Bush by more than a half million votes, making Bush the first popular-vote loser in more than a century to be installed in the White House. [See, "So Bush Did Steal the White House"]

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

boooo.... terrorist bad. democracy good.