The change that turned our hard-hitting investigative journalists into weenie stenographers, government propagandists, and apologists for the administration (as long as it was a conservative Republican administration, that is) was driven neither by financial necessity nor some elemental and irresistible cosmic force. It was a deliberate conservative conspiracy that had definite origins, sponsors, centers, designers, and strategic planning. It’s time to take a look at who – and what – they were.
The American Enterprise Institute
In 1943, Lewis Harold Brown, the CEO of Johns-Manville, primary manufacturer of asbestos, decided that FDR was a Communist, that his programs were at best socialist, and that what the country needed was a think tank for the development and spreading of conservative ideas. He founded the American Enterprise Association and hired about a dozen of the country’s top conservatives to staff it and to figure out how to get conservatives into power positions with the aim of killing the New Deal and eliminating personal and corporate income taxes. Brown was one of a number of far-right industrial barons at the time who were enraged with FDR and wanted him impeached or otherwise put out of the way.
They weren’t just PO’d and they weren’t the kind to sit on their hands and let democracy take its course. They were the kind who hired strikebreakers to kill unionists and arranged for union leaders to be murdered or even framed for murders they didn’t commit. They were the kind who corrupted local police and bought & sold local and state politicians. They were the kind who, like Jerry MacGuire, a top Wall Street bond salesman and former Commander of the Connecticut American Legion, and William Doyle, Commander of the Massachusetts American Legion, fantasized about a fascist military coup that would remove Roosevelt by force and replace him with a pro-Wall Street dictator, and then went out and tried to engineer it.
Brown wasn’t quite that flamboyant – or that stupid. His approach was much quieter, much deeper, but it didn’t grow much fruit during his lifetime. Three years after he died in 1951, William Baroody took over the AEA and renamed it the American Enterprise Institute. Baroody was much more in line with the MacGuire/Doyle brand of thinking, if he wasn’t willing to take it quite as far as they did. He was a proponent of aggressive, take-no-prisoners conservative political action, and he was focused almost single-mindedly on infiltrating far-right-wing conservatives into the US government. He saw himself, as Rick Perlstein wrote in a profile two years ago, as “a conservative empire builder”.
William J. Baroody Sr., the son of an immigrant stonecutter from New Hampshire, I relate in my book on the rise of the conservative movement, “was cagey, Machiavellian, hungry – a conservative empire builder”: he turned a humble business lobby against wartime price controls, the American Enterprise Association, into a full-service conservative “think tank,” the American Enterprise Institute. What a hustler he was! He told reporters, “I really can’t say whether I am a liberal or a conservative.” He put up pictures of himself with Hubert Humphrey up on his office walls; thus was AEI’s status as “non-partisan,” suitable for tax-deductible donations, vouchsafed.
He also, when it came time for his man Barry Goldwater to run for president, made of himself a sort of money launderer.
In early 1965, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch studied the expenses of the American Enterprise Institute for the previous, presidential, year. He found that the budget of AEI had suddenly and inexplicably grown 22 percent. Baroody Sr. spent the year on “paid leave”—indeed, earning a more than 10 percent raise from the employer he did not work for that year; instead, he occupied the office next to Goldwater’s at campaign headquarters, running his research operations, with several AEI employees on staff beside him. The AEI offices might have mostly been empty. Nonetheless, the outfit’s biggest budget item for 1964 was, fishily, “overhead.” Plainly, people were sluicing money to the Goldwater campaign through AEI as contributions to a tax-exempt “educational” institution.
Baroody built AEI into a conservative powerhouse. By the 1970’s, Baroody had grown it exponentially, ” from a group of twelve resident ‘thinkers’ to a well-funded organization with 145 resident scholars, 80 adjunct scholars, and a large supporting staff. This period of growth was largely funded by the Howard Pew Freedom Trust.” According to SourceWatch, “The Howard Pew Freedom Trust is one of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Financed by the Sun Oil fortune, it played an important role in the 1970s in greatly expanding the budget of the American Enterprise Institute, giving the AEI a total of $6 million between 1976 and 1981.”
Baroody used the money to buy influence and, not surprisingly, succeeded. By the 80’s, the Reagan Administration was hip-deep in AEI Fellows and Members – Richard Perle, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Fred Kagan, Newt Gingrich (a first-term Representative at the time), Norm Ornstein, Dick Cheney, Michael Ledeen (who was a courier for Oliver North during the rogue arms-for-hostages op), “Fat Tony” Scalia, Michael Novak, and even one Cabinet Sec, George Schultz at State.
I hinted before that in the coming discussion about what to do now that the Democrat party is waving its true conservative colors around like a tattered battle flag that’s seen more defeats than Oprah has seen stretch marks, I was going to note before we rushed into deciding which Third Party to support that there was a case to be made for taking it back from the conservative minority that is currently strangling it. This is what I was talking about.
Earlier this week, I wrote about the State Secrets Protection Act of 2008, which was co-sponsored by numerous key Senators [including Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Chair (Pat Leahy) and ranking member (Arlen Specter)], and which was approved by the Judiciary Committee last year with all Democrats voting in favor. That bill, in essence, sought to ban the exact abuse of the State Secrets privilege which the Bush administration repeatedly invoked and which, now, the Obama administration has embraced: namely, as a weapon to conceal and immunize government lawbreaking (by compelling the dismissal of entire lawsuits in advance) rather than a limited, document-by-document evidentiary privilege.
Yesterday — as an obvious response to the Obama DOJ’s support for the Bush view of the privilege — Leahy and Specter, along with Russ Feingold, Claire McCaskill, Sheldon Whitehouse and Ted Kennedy, re-introduced that bill in the Senate. When doing so, Leahy made clear that the bill was more needed than ever in light of the actions of the Obama administration.
Sen. Feingold explicitly criticized the Obama administration earlier this week for its endorsement of exactly these abusive theories. Several hours before the Senate bill was introduced, several key House Democrats introduced a similar bill in the House. The ACLU promptly endorsed the bill.
The traditional Democrats are there, busting their humps and ready to take the party back to the center-Left, which is where most of the country is at this point. They’re standing up to Obama, they’re defending the Constitution, and they’re doing it without notice from the press when hardly anybody knows they’re doing it. (Check the links in Greenwald’s story: NONE of them goes to a newspaper report about this bill, and I couldn’t find a single news story about it in any major news venue – not the Times, the Post, or the AP.) What if we do it? What if we support them, take over their issues and play them up? What if we work to defeat conservative Democrats who stymie them?
For the last year or so I’ve been saying, to much abuse (when I could get anybody to listen at all) that there was nothing accidental about the Democrats’ giving in to Bush, that it had nothing to do with cowardice or political expediency or appeasement. Back last June, late in the process, I wrote this after the FISA betrayal:
Call it a prediction if you like. I knew the leadership would get FISA passed despite the numbers of ordinary Democrats who were against it because the leadership are all in the DLC/BD Alliance and the Alliance believes in modern conservative ideals like the restoration of a monarchy – or at least monarchic powers – in America…. [T]his was no accident. It was deliberate. It was design.
The Democrats aren’t pretending to be like the Pubs to get elected. They are like the Pubs. They’re under the thumb of a minority of conservative Dems who are, like the Likkud in Israel, warping the party to suit themselves and their conservative agenda. Like conservatives everywhere, they don’t care what the people want, they don’t care what the polls say, and they don’t give a rat’s ass what the majority in their own party thinks. Like Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi, they’re going to do what they damn well please and if the membership doesn’t like it, fuck em.
And like the Pubs, these are no longer people liberals and progressives can compromise with. The FISA bill proves it. They will simply adopt the Republican trick of claiming a compromise when what they’ve really done is craft the right-wing conservative agreement the conservative minority demands.
That prediction has been borne out as well. We have just seen that trick played out over the stim pack, and the proof of the Democrat party’s monarchic tendencies came yesterday when, given an opportunity to return to the rule of law, Obama refused to rescind one of Bush’s primary “unitary president” moves toward giving presidents the power of kings. (more…)
Can it be any plainer? After all the noise, all the Beltway hoopla, all the insistence that the bill had to be, just had to be, weakened to get GOP votes for passage, it passed. Without them. The only three Republican votes the Senate version got were those belonging to the three “centrists” who were involved in brokering the compromise.
The Senate approved its bill most along party lines, by a vote of 61 to 37, with three Republicans joining 56 Democrats and two independents in favor.
This is why we gave up transportation money? Jobs? Food stamp increases? Extended unemployment protection? For the votes of three people who wouldn’t have changed the outcome? Three people?!
No no,b’s & g’s. We didn’t give all that up for GOP votes. That’s patently obvious. We didn’t need them.
We gave it up for conservative Democrat votes.
We surrendered the health and safety of the nation in a dozen different ways IN ORDER TO ENTICE CONSERVATIVE DEMOCRATS TO VOTE FOR THE BILL.
A bad bill, mind you. A bill that had most of the provisions that would have made a difference ripped out of it to make numbnuts right-winger Dems like John Barrow happy.
Can it be any plainer? Dump the Damn Dems!