The Consortium

The Presidency & Dirty Tricks

Americans always grouse about their choices for President. It's either a vote for the lesser evil or an uninspiring pick between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. But a presidential election is the one time, once every four years, when Americans come together in a national exercise of democracy. In that, it is a precious event at the heart of the American experience.

For that reason alone, schemes that interfere with the free exercise of that vote are an affront to the principles upon which the nation was founded. Sadly, however, dirty tricks have become a regular feature of modern presidential politics, used by both parties from time to time, but now almost the routine modus operandi of the Republicans.

Without doubt, Republicans felt they were the first victims in the modern era's tit-for-tat exchange of dirty politics. In 1960, Richard Nixon saw John Kennedy's narrow victory assured by vote tampering in Illinois and Texas. Nixon, himself no stranger to political hardball, would nurse that grudge for years.

So, to block a late surge by Vice President Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 race, Nixon operatives convinced South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu to boycott proposed Paris peace talks. Nixon's men feared that President Lyndon Johnson's convening of those negotiations would catapult Humphrey to victory. The Republican gambit worked. The peace talks collapsed, and Nixon hung on for a narrow victory. But the scheme also jeopardized the lives of a half million American soldiers then serving in Indochina.

In 1972, Nixon's paranoia spilled over again into the Watergate cesspool of dirty tricks and political espionage. An aggressive cover-up contained that scandal long enough for Nixon to win a resounding re-election victory. But the stonewall finally crumbled into one of the nation's worst crises, ending in Nixon's resignation in 1974.

In 1980, some of that old Nixon crowd, including William Casey, were fighting desperately to regain Republican power. As The Consortium has reported in its first eight issues, strong evidence now corroborates long-standing allegations that Casey and other Republicans did undermine President Carter's negotiations to free 52 American hostages then held in Iran. Carter's failure to win a last-minute hostage release sealed his political doom and guaranteed Ronald Reagan's election.

Republican fear of possible disclosure of that 1980 hostage scheme and George Bush's participation in the Iran-contra scandal led to more cover-ups heading into the elections of 1988 and 1992. Thanks mostly to Democratic timidity and the Washington media's ineptitude, the 1980 hostage story and the Iran-contra scandal were contained. Claiming to have been "out of the loop" on Iran-contra, Bush won the White House in 1988.

Then, in his bid for re-election in 1992, Bush looked frantically for a "silver bullet" that could take out Democrat Bill Clinton. As the first segment of The Consortium's new investigative series shows, Bush's cohorts played more dirty tricks. Without any evidence, Republican operatives portrayed Clinton as a near traitor who had tried to renounce his American citizenship. This ugly -- and baseless -- story was leaked through a gullible Washington press corps and almost erased Clinton's lead. This time, however, the gambit was exposed and Clinton won.

This troubling history of dirty tricks and dishonest cover-ups should alert American voters to be on the look-out when the next presidential election approaches in November.

Robert Parry, Editor of The Consortium

Return to Editorial Index Page Return to Main Archive Index

Return to Consortium Main Menu.