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DONKEY CONSSex, Crime, and Corruption in the Democratic Party
By Lynn Vincent Robert Stacy McCain
NELSON CURRENTCopyright © 2007 Lynn Vincent and Robert Stacy McCain
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMODUS OPERANDI
"GUILTY AS HELL, FREE AS A BIRD"
"How long, O Catiline, will you abuse our patience? ... Do you not know that your plans have been detected? Do you not see that your conspiracy is understood by us all?" - Marcus Tullius Cicero
On September 11, 2001, The New York Times published a front-page feature about Billy Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, two former leaders of the Weather Underground. A violent offshoot of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the Weathermen took their name from a Bob Dylan song, "Subterranean Homesick Blues," which included the lyrics, "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." According to Dohrn, Ayers, and the other young radicals who formed the Weather Underground in 1969, the forecast was clear: student protests against the Vietnam War and other purported ills of "Amerikkka" were harbingers of violent Marxist revolution in the United States, and they intended to lead that revolution.
In 1970, Ayers described what that revolution would mean: "Kill all the rich people.... Bring the revolution home, kill your parents, that's where it's really at."
The WeatherUnderground claimed credit for a dozen bombings from San Francisco to New York. In 1971, they bombed the U.S. Capitol. A year later, they bombed the Pentagon. In December 1980, after living for years as fugitives, Dohrn and Ayers surrendered to the FBI. They were briefly jailed, but all charges against them were eventually dropped, prompting Ayers to brag later: "Guilty as hell. Free as a bird."
The New York Times feature story in 2001 was headlined "No Regrets for a Love of Explosives" and was intended to hype Ayers's new book about his underground experience, Fugitive Days. Ayers was unapologetic: "I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough." Just hours after that issue of the New York Times hit the street, Islamic terrorists hijacked four airplanes and committed one of the greatest terrorist acts in history, killing nearly three thousand people and destroying New York's World Trade Center. Suddenly, warm and fuzzy features about unapologetic bombers weren't so cute. Ayers apparently realized this and wrote a letter to the Times, attempting to disown his defense of criminal violence as a means to achieve political ends, saying his book was actually "a condemnation of terrorism in all its forms."
But terrorism is terrorism, whether committed by Islamic jihadists or affluent American college students (Ayers's father was chairman of a major utility corporation). What was telling about the New York Times' profile of Ayers was that it described him and his Weather Underground colleagues as "radicals" rather than terrorists. Editors of the Times understand that in media-speak, "terrorist" is a term that denotes bad guys: Bomb a clinic to protest abortion, and you're a terrorist. Bomb the Pentagon to protest a war, and you're a radical. Times editors could not bring themselves to apply the word "terrorist" to Marxist revolutionaries like Ayers and Dohrn, and adopted instead the euphemism favored by Ayers and his fellow travelers.
Ayers's subsequent disavowal notwithstanding, the Times's celebration of an unapologetic terrorist was a perfect expression of one of the most important ideas of the '60s student Left. In 1965, Brandeis University professor Herbert Marcuse expounded his doctrine of "progressive tolerance." Refuting traditional liberal ideas of tolerance elaborated by John Stuart Mill and others, Marcuse said that progressive values required the "suppression" of right-wing or "regressive" movements: "Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right, and toleration of movements from the Left." This ideology has had the effect, observed by economist Thomas Sowell, of dividing the population into "mascots" (minorities, women, labor unions, etc.) and "targets" (the military, corporate executives, fundamentalist Christians, etc.).
So it was that the most prestigious and influential newspaper in America lent its pages to a scarcely disguised advertisement for a book by a self-confessed bomber. Why? The Vietnam War is long over, Ayers is not a celebrity, and it would be easy enough to ignore him as an obscure criminal kook. (When was the last time you saw a major news story or book about Charles Manson or the Unabomber?) The answer is that Ayers represents an idea, an era, and a movement that profoundly shaped the modern Democratic Party. To promote Ayers and celebrate the "radical" cause he represented is to promote and celebrate the Democrats who shared that cause-and still share it today.
It's not just '60s radicals who get a pass. It seems almost any crime can be excused or ignored if the perpetrator is a Democrat. A married Democratic mayor can be caught smoking crack cocaine with a prostitute and, even after he is convicted and sentenced to prison, manage to return to public office. A married Democratic senator who leaves a party with a single young woman and gets into a drunk-driving accident that kills her does not merely avoid jail time, but retains his Senate seat and indeed goes on to become one of the most powerful politicians in his party. Wholesale corruption, election fraud, kickbacks, bribery, espionage, treason-if you're a Democrat, such acts apparently are never major scandals, and certainly are never portrayed by the major media as evidence that you or your party are untrustworthy.
At times, being a Democrat is like holding the "get out of jail free" card in a Monopoly game-almost. Plenty of Democrats do manage to find their way into prison. Yet no one seems to have noticed the pattern in this criminal behavior.
When we conceived the idea for this book, we researched the topic and were surprised to find that no book like it had ever been written. There were plenty of ideological attacks on this or that aspect of liberalism, and lots of books about this or that wrongdoing of the Clinton administration. But no one had ever tried to fit all the scandals of the Democratic Party into a single book. Once we started doing it, we quickly discovered why. The problem wasn't a shortage of Democratic cheats and crooks, but an astounding abundance of them-a veritable cornucopia of corruption, a direct line of scandal all the way back to the 1700s. After just a few days of digging up Democratic scoundrels, it began to appear that the main difference between the Democrats and the Gambino mob is that Democrats qualify for federal matching funds-and at least the Gambinos have never pretended to advance the cause of "social justice."
Here are a few of the amazing stories we discovered:
The forgotten role of the killer and traitor Aaron Burr in founding the Democratic Party and turning a New York social club into the most powerful and enduring political machine in American history, Tammany Hall. (Chapter Three) How gangsters wielded influence over the Democratic Party for much of the twentieth century. Lucky Luciano bragged that his mob pals delivered the 1932 Democratic presidential nomination to Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Harry Truman was the protégé of the Mafia-backed political machine that made Kansas City "a seething cauldron of crime"; and Joseph Kennedy sought assistance from Chicago's Giancana mob to help his son John win the crucial state of Illinois in the 1960 presidential election. (Chapter Four) The astonishing corruption and criminality of some Big Labor bosses-including those with mob ties-who fleece their unions' rank-and-file and then deliver big bucks to Democrats' campaign coffers. (Chapter Five) Treason and espionage by top Democrats like Soviet spy Alger Hiss, a trusted FDR aide, and support given to America's enemies by Democrats like the congressman who went to Baghdad at the height of prewar tensions and declared that Saddam could be trusted, while asserting that the White House was likely lying. (Chapter Six) Democrats who ignore the suffering of victims and take the side of criminals, including rapists, robbers, and cop-killers, even going so far as pushing to allow convicted felons to vote-based on academic research showing that nearly 70 percent of the criminal class would vote for Democrats, if given the chance. (Chapter Seven) The brazen corruption of big-city Democrats-from Chicago to Atlanta to Philadelphia to New Orleans to Detroit-who preside over empires of graft and fraud while their policies bring nightmares of crime and squalor to the inner-city poor who are among the Democratic Party's most loyal supporters. (Chapter Eight) And, finally, the eight-year carnival of sleaze and unprecedented scandal that was the Clinton administration-arguably the logical culmination of every corrupt tendency of the Democratic Party. (Chapter Eleven)
Two Americas, Two Standards
If the Democratic Party is such a corrupt organization, one may ask, why does it endure? In a free country, why would this party be supported by a large percentage of Americans? The first and most obvious reason is that Democrats generally have the good fortune of running against Republicans (whom John Stuart Mill may or may not have had in mind when he referred to conservatives as "the stupid party"). Republicans have committed their own share of criminal wrongdoing and political sleaze-the Whiskey Ring scandal during the Grant administration, Teapot Dome during the presidency of Warren Harding, and of course, Watergate during the Nixon years.
Some liberal author might want to write a book detailing every GOP scoundrel ever caught with his ethics down. But this is not that book. Besides, an accounting of crimes and corruption involving individual politicians of either party could go on forever-especially if we drilled down to the state and local level-and prove nothing. What is important here is a pattern of behavior by the Democratic Party. That pattern extends beyond the fact that the best available catalogs of corrupt U.S. politicians, though admittedly incomplete, show Democrats substantially outnumbering Republicans among those convicted of serious crimes (see Chapter Two).
Scandals generally have a devastating effect on the careers of Republicans, and partisan loyalty doesn't seem to prevent Republicans from sending their fellow Republicans to jail. Many Americans know Bob Barr as the former Georgia congressman who helped lead the team of House Republicans who impeached Bill Clinton in 1998. (Barr had actually called for Clinton's impeachment before the Monica Lewinsky affair.) But folks in Georgia remember Barr as the Reagan-era federal prosecutor responsible for sending to prison a fellow Republican (a Christian conservative congressman with the unfortunate-sounding name of Swindall) convicted of perjury. When Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham was convicted in November 2005 of accepting $2.4 million in bribes from a defense contractor, there were no Republicans claiming that the California congressman was the victim of a "partisan witch hunt" since Cunningham was brought down by a team of federal prosecutors led by Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney Carol Chien-Hua Lam.
Democrats seem to routinely survive scandals that might have a career-ending impact for Republicans. Many in the GOP defended Nixon during the Watergate scandal, but in the end it was Republican leaders, including conservative icon Barry Goldwater, who convinced Nixon to resign rather than put the country through an impeachment ordeal. When it was revealed that House Speaker Bob Livingston had carried on an adulterous affair, he resigned in disgrace. When South Dakota Rep. Bill Janklow was convicted of manslaughter in an auto accident, he resigned in disgrace. Implicated in similar scandals, Democrats like Bill Clinton, Barney Frank, and Ted Kennedy were vigorously defended by their fellow Democrats and remained in office.
Why this double standard? We'll let former Sen. John Edwards explain. While campaigning for his party's 2004 presidential nomination, the North Carolina Democrat told an Iowa audience that the Bush administration had divided the nation into "two Americas":
One America that does the work, another America that reaps the reward. One America that pays the taxes, another America that gets the tax breaks. One America that will do anything to leave its children a better life, another America that never has to do a thing because its children are already set for life. One America-middle-class America-whose needs Washington has long forgotten, another America-narrow-interest America-whose every wish is Washington's command. One America that is struggling to get by, another America that can buy anything it wants, even a Congress and a President.
Edwards was lying-in Chapter Nine we'll see which is the real "party of the rich"-but that's not the point. The point is that millions of Democratic voters evidently believe this kind of class-warfare rhetoric. They sincerely seem to think, as Al Gore proclaimed, that Democrats fight "for the people, not the powerful."
It is tempting to dismiss Democrats like Gore and Edwards (both rather wealthy men, by the way) as cynical, dishonest demagogues. But consider a far more frightening possibility: What if they really believe it? What if Democrats really believe that they are protecting America from the depredations of those whom a New York Times columnist called "crony capitalists," "corporate insiders," and "malefactors of great wealth"?17 Democrats' belief that they are fighting against such powerful evils-and if Democratic politicians don't really believe this, their millions of loyal voters obviously do-draws them into the Marcusean conceit of "progressive tolerance." The ends justify the means. What's a little graft, a little corruption, a drowned campaign worker, or a scandal that's "just about sex" to a party doing battle against the rapacious forces of greed and oppression?
So it is that sincere and idealistic Americans can support the Democrats and ignore even irrefutable evidence of corruption. And those who believe their cause is worth dying for will sometimes also think their cause is worth killing for.
"Such a Great Adventure"
When radicals like Ayers and Dohrn called for war against the "Establishment," their radicalism was echoed by many others, including one student who was recognized as a voice of her generation. In her 1969 Wellesley College commencement address, she touched on issues of peace and war, poverty, and civil rights. She blended philosophical ruminations with notes of narcissistic Baby Boomer self-celebration: "We're searching for a more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating mode of living," she said. But the Wellesley grad also talked about "a lot of New Left, collegiate protests" which she described as "a very unique American experience" and "such a great adventure." Employing the terminology then trendy among young campus radicals, she talked about liberation: "A liberation enabling each of us to fulfill our capacity so as to be free to create within and around ourselves."
Gibberish? Of course, but just the sort of gibberish that was taken very seriously in 1969. She got a seven-minute ovation, and the Wellesley speech landed her in the pages of Life magazine. She was thus something of a celebrity when she arrived in New Haven, Connecticut, as a Yale University law student in the fall of 1969, and leapt into a controversy that forever linked campus radicals with one of the most violent criminal gangs in American history.
Excerpted from DONKEY CONS by Lynn Vincent Robert Stacy McCain Copyright © 2007 by Lynn Vincent and Robert Stacy McCain. Excerpted by permission.
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