The Consortium

By Robert Parry & Sam Parry

WASHINGTON -- The national media has heckled Bob Dole these past few weeks over his intemperate outbursts when he was questioned about tobacco's addictiveness and about his snubbing of the NAACP convention.

The media seems amazed that Dole would snarl at NBC's smiling Katie Couric over a tobacco question, or imply that former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop had been "brainwashed," or growl that the NAACP's invitation was a plot to "set me up."

A few of these press articles have reminded readers of Dole's hatchet man role as President Ford's vice presidential running-mate in 1976, when Dole memorably labeled all the nation's 20th Century wars, including World War II, as "Democrat wars." But the national media continues to promote the conventional wisdom that Bob Dole is a man of genuine decency and true character, even though he may be running a lousy campaign.

Overwhelmingly, journalists buy the portrait of the honorable Bob Dole that was painted a few years ago by biographer Richard Ben Cramer in What It Takes. Much of that respect springs from Dole suffering severe wounds as a young lieutenant fighting the Germans on the Italian peninsula in World War II. Without doubt, Dole demonstrated personal toughness in battling back from his injuries which required years of surgery and left his right arm paralyzed.

So the media "take" is that Dole is a good man who has served his nation admirably, but has suddenly surpassed the movie characters played by Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau to become the "grumpiest old man." In one such New York Times column, Frank Rich postulated three explanations for Dole's new nasty behavior: 1, he's returning to the "dark Dole" of 1976 fame; 2, he's hopelessly addicted to his tobacco contributions; or 3, he's completely out-of-date even with the tobacco industry's latest spin on what's hazardous to your health.

Grumpy or Corrupt?

While there may be some truth to all of Rich's theories, there is a fourth alternative that the national media seems unwilling to contemplate: that Bob Dole has been a corrupt political fixer for almost his entire career, that his image as a man of decency and character is a myth.

There's little note, for instance, that the Kansas senator first rose to national prominence as a bare-knuckled defender of Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. Dole idolized Nixon, who also rose from humble origins to the heights of national power.

Dole loved the way Nixon would bait anti-war demonstrators with a mocking wave of the "peace sign." And when senators from both parties questioned Nixon's "Vietnamization" program in the late 1960s, Dole "would chase departing senators off the floor and into the cloakroom or hallway, where he would yell at them for opposing Nixon," Dole's former aide Stanley G. Hilton reported in his 1995 book, Senator for Sale.

Dole grew so contentious in the Senate and developed such a reputation as "Nixon's Doberman pinscher" that Ohio's Republican Sen. William Saxbe once remarked that "Dole is so unpopular here that he couldn't even sell beer on a troop ship."

But Nixon, who knew the value of loyal hatchet men, elevated Dole to chairman of the Republican National Committee, an institution which soon was wounded by the Watergate activities of Nixon's Committee to Re-elect the President, CREEP. One of the Watergate burglars, James McCord, received part of his pay from Dole's RNC.

Some of the CREEP slush funds also went to Dole to pay for a 1971 trip that the senator made to Vietnam to report back favorably on Nixon's policies. Dole was implicated, too, in the ITT scandal and the pay-offs to Republicans from milk producers who wanted higher milk subsidies.

But one of Dole's most notorious political dirty tricks came in 1974 when his links to Nixon and Watergate were threatening his re-election. Dole faced a popular Democratic congressman named William Roy, a doctor who had performed 10 abortions during his career. On the Sunday before the election, Catholic churchgoers in Kansas found their car windows plastered with leaflets showing dead fetuses in garbage cans and praising Dole's strong anti-abortion position.

Two days later, Dole edged Roy by a single percentage point. Roy's campaign manager Bob Brock then traced the money for the fetus leaflets back to the Dole campaign, though Dole denied authorizing the ads. Brock believes his success in that investigation earned him a spot on Nixon's famed "enemies list" and harassment from the Internal Revenue Service.

Gloomy View

Back in the Senate, Dole's dark side often revealed itself to his helpless staff. In Senator for Sale, Dole speechwriter George Gilder described Dole as a cynical tyrant who would fly into rages and humiliate the people who worked for him. Dole had a "gloomy view of the world," Gilder said, and a "hostility to ideas and affirmative visions."

Throughout his long Senate career, Dole intervened for rich corporations that had contributed to his campaigns and causes. For instance, when billionaire oilmen Charles and David Koch were confronting Senate allegations that their company stole more than $30 million in oil from Indian reservations, Dole disrupted the investigation with diversionary attacks against witnesses. After that, the Kochs became major contributors to Dole and the Republican Party.

In the late 1980s, "Doberman pinscher" Dole returned to tear at Republican special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, who was investigating the Iran-contra crimes of the Reagan-Bush administration. Dole repeatedly frustrated Walsh's work by hectoring him over petty issues, such as whether Walsh should have paid his local taxes in Washington, D.C., rather than his home state of Oklahoma.

Senator Cover-up

On Christmas Eve 1992, lame-duck President George Bush killed the Iran-contra case by pardoning former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and five other Iran-contra defendants. Two months later at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Dole openly boasted about his efforts to derail Walsh's criminal investigation.

"Over the years, I've taken to the Senate floor on countless occasions to detail the dismal record of Lawrence Walsh," Dole declared in a hard-edged Kansas twang. "I've discussed his record of courtroom embarrassments, ...his violation of Washington D.C. tax laws, ...his first-class air fares, the lavish office space. He has a hotel room at the Watergate which he never uses and I've suggested that he provide it to the homeless." The room erupted with laughter.

"I've talked about his breakfasts, his paid-for room service and dinners provided by the American taxpayers," Dole continued. "I've even discussed term limits for special prosecutors. (Guffaws and applause) I've discussed his blatant interference into the American political process, ...his frequent violations of national security regulations. Besides all that, I don't have many complaints about Lawrence Walsh." (More laughter)

Though Walsh was a lifelong Republican, Dole said he sniffed some questionable political loyalties among Walsh's deputies. "We checked out a lot of the staff," the senator announced, with a hint of conspiracy in his voice. "We found out their political leanings and we checked on their political contributions. Nobody here got any. (Laughter) So it seems to me it's time for Lawrence Walsh to move on to some other line of work." (Applause)

Like his hero Nixon, Dole saw nothing wrong with compiling an "enemies list." One could imagine the furor today if Democratic Senate Leader Tom Daschle conducted an investigation into the "political leanings" of the staff surrounding Whitewater special prosecutor Kenneth Starr.

Yet, since the easily bored Washington media was tired of Walsh and the Iran-contra scandal by 1993 and generally admired Dole as a pragmatist, no journalist demanded to know who paid for the investigation into the "political leanings" of Walsh's staff or how that information was used. Stories attacking Walsh's staff prosecutors had appeared on the Wall Street Journal editorial page and in other conservative publications.

Obstruction of Justice

It also passed largely unnoticed that Dole's speech contested none of Walsh's factual findings. Late in his investigation, Walsh had discovered that nearly every senior official in the Reagan-Bush national security hierarchy had lied under oath as part of the Iran-contra cover-up. Walsh had uncovered what looked like a six-year obstruction of justice masterminded inside the Oval Office by the nation's highest executive officials.

With the Christmas Eve pardons, Bush had protected himself and his "out-of-the-loop" lie as well as a host of other senior Republicans from being held accountable for their crimes. From the Senate floor, Dole had provided important political cover for the cover-up. Dole had perfected the role that he had understudied during Nixon's Watergate scandal.

In so doing, Dole proved himself an able accessory to the pattern of secret illegal government actions that have distorted and dominated the American political process in recent years. There is no reason to believe that a Dole Presidency would not mean more of the same.

(c) Copyright 1996 -- Please Do Not Re-Post

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