Sunday :: Sep 19, 2004

Anatomy of a Rove Dirty Trick


by Mary

Karl Rove is the man behind George W Bush's Presidency. According to William Slater, co-author of Bush's Brain, Rove realized back in 1990 that he could make Bush President, first by getting him elected governor. And so he has. Karl Rove would make his mentor, Lee Atwater, proud. Figuring out how to destroy your enemy while neutralizing his charge without leaving any traces is a Rove speciality. Yet, as all good detectives know, sometimes you find the criminal by matching the MO (modus operandi) of the crime.

Rove's MO is all over the Killian memo controversy that threatens to take down Dan Rather.

During Bush's first run against Ann Richards, Rove knew that he needed to immunize Bush against the charge of being too aggressive and unfair when going after Ann Richards. So what he did was to create an ad where Bush declared, "My opponent attacked me personally." But get this, the ad was made and distributed to TV stations around Texas before any such accusation was made. Then the campaign used numerous taunts, including a whispering campaign that asserted Ann Richards was gay or too gay friendly to encourage her to pop off against Bush. As soon as she did, the previously prepared ad was shown all over Texas and Bush was seen as the innocent victim of an unfair attack by his opponent.

Then in the 2000 election, Rove was behind the destruction of J.H. Hatfield, the author of the book, Fortunate Son, which reported about Bush's use of cocaine when he was younger. As Mike Burke reports, the method was to provide damaging information about Bush's past to someone who could be then discredited.

In 1999, St. Martin's Press published a critical biography of Bush titled "Fortunate Son". The book quoted an unnamed "high-ranking advisor to Bush," who revealed Bush's 1972 drug bust. The source told author J.H. Hatfield, Bush "was ordered by a Texas judge to perform community service in exchange for expunging his record showing illicit drug use."

Hatfield later revealed that his source was none other than Karl Rove. That might seem ridiculous, considering Rove's lifelong loyalty to the Bushes and the fact that he now has an office adjacent to Bush's in the White House. But leaking the story to Hatfield essentially discredited the story and sent it into the annals of conspiracy theory. Soon after the book was published and just as St. Martin's was preparing a high profile launching of the book, the "Dallas Morning News" ran a story revealing that Hatfield was a felon who had served time in jail. In response, St. Martin's pulled the book.

"When the media stumbled upon a story regarding George W. Bush's 1972 cocaine possession arrest, Rove had to find a way to kill the story. He did so by destroying the messenger," says Sander Hicks, the former publisher of Soft Skull, which re-published "Fortunate Son." "They knew the stories of Dubya's cocaine and drink busts would come out, so they made certain that it would come out of the mouth of a guy they could smear," said journalist Greg Palast, who wrote the forward to the final edition of the book.

If Rove was Hatfield's source, he certainly wasn't trying to expose Bush's drug use. Instead he was trying to discredit and ultimately kill the story. And it worked. Few reporters since have dared to touch the story.

So let's look at the latest controversy surrounding Dan Rather. Rather has been a thorn in Bush's side for a long time. Remember, it was Dan Rather who was provided the initial Abu Ghraib photos back in April. Even though they got the documents first, CBS Sixty Minutes II held off for two weeks because of a request from the Pentagon. After Seymour Hersh was given the photos and the Taguba report, his decision to report this story pushed CBS to report on it two days before the New Yorker published the Hersh story. Rather, the reporter that broke this story on TV was now a legitimate target in Rove's war to destroy any who hurt his man. If he succeeds in bringing down Rather, think of the object lesson for other powerful mainstream journalists of what could happen if they were to try to betray Bush.

With the controversy of Bush's National Guard records raised by the Swift Boat Veteran smears, Rove found a perfect opportunity for going after Dan Rather. CBS had planned to report on the Bush National Guard story. Then before they went with their story, new documents that put some extra oomp in the story fell into their hands. However, these new documents needed to be vetted before they could be used. As the LA Times reported,

It was 11 a.m. on Sept. 8 nine hours before "60 Minutes" was to air. But as news executives debated whether to broadcast a story on newly obtained paperwork offering fresh evidence about President Bush's National Guard service, a big question hung over CBS News' Westside headquarters: Were the photocopied documents real or fake?

Suddenly, the answer seemed to materialize, and from an unlikely source the White House itself.

John Roberts, the network's White House correspondent, called to report he'd just completed an on-camera interview with Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director. Bartlett, it appeared, had no quarrel with the authenticity of the documents.

That was the turning point.

"If we had gotten back from the White House any kind of red flag, raised eyebrow, anything that said, 'Are you sure about this stuff?' we would have gone back to square one," Josh Howard, the program's executive producer, told the Los Angeles Times in an interview Friday. "The White House said they were authentic, and that carried a lot of weight with us."

So Sixty Minutes II went with the story using these documents. The White House released a copy of those documents to the media and Scott McClellan affirmed that the White House believed in the authenticity of those documents.

Yet, only hours later, an anonymous blogger known as Buckhead posted at freerepublic.com that the documents were forgeries and said "this should be pursued aggressively". And so it was. And the right-wing pack of hounds was off baying for Dan Rather's blood.

Buckhead now known to be Atlanta lawyer, Harry W. MacDougald, was revealed to be a right-wing operative, who has been involved in any number of right-wing attacks, including the petition drafted in 1998 to suspend Bill Clinton's law license.

It was the first public allegation that CBS News used forged memos in its report questioning President Bush's National Guard service a highly technical explanation posted within hours of airtime citing proportional spacing and font styles.

But it did not come from an expert in typography or typewriter history as some first thought. Instead, it was the work of Harry W. MacDougald, an Atlanta lawyer with strong ties to conservative Republican causes who helped draft the petition urging the Arkansas Supreme Court to disbar President Clinton after the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the Times has found.

Mr. MacDougald also has had his dirty little fingers in the controversy over whether the electronic voting machines in Georgia are reliable (via Hullabaloo). As Digby said,

Using the new laws of journalism and truth, this is all that's needed as proof that this was a Rovian operation from the get-go. This guy is no expert on typography, and he's an extremely well connected Republican operative who has worked at the highest level of GOP legal circles. That's good enough for GOP government work.

This was a Republican dirty trick.

I agree with Digby. Just look at the MO.

Mary :: 2:12 AM :: Comments (50) :: Digg It!