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
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
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