Sailing buddies

A flotilla of new reports shows that the Swift Boat Veterans group is helmed by longtime cronies of the Bush family.

Topics:

Revelations during the past week about the forces behind Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the allegedly independent outfit sponsoring unfounded attacks on John Kerry’s military record, strongly suggest that the group is guided by Republicans at the commanding heights of the conservative movement.

Those partisan operatives and lawyers, in turn, have longstanding connections with the Bush family, although the White House and the president continue to insist they bear no responsibility for the assault on the Democratic nominee’s Vietnam service.

Previous investigative reports in Salon have established that major Texas Republican donors Bob Perry Jr. and Harlan Crow provided nearly all of the initial financing for the Swift Boat group — and that professional public relations and research experts affiliated with the GOP were instrumental in launching the group. This week, media reports focused on the president’s chief outside campaign counsel, Benjamin Ginsburg, who has given legal advice to the Swift Boat group. That sudden exposure prompted Ginsburg’s resignation from the Bush-Cheney campaign.

The network of Republican operatives involved in the Kerry-bashing campaign can be traced still further to a pair of the most influential national conservative organizations, Empower America and Citizens for a Sound Economy, which officially merged last July under the banner of a new entity called FreedomWorks.

That merger brought together such right-wing luminaries as former House Republican leader Dick Armey of Texas, former Bush White House counsel C. Boyden Gray (who also served on the Bush-Cheney transition team in 2000), former Republican vice-presidential candidate Jack Kemp and author and foundation official William J. Bennett. Empower America and Citizens for a Sound Economy boast a combined “volunteer army” of more than 600,000 activists across the country, with many organized into state chapters. Their new combined Web site features an endorsement from George W. Bush: “Folks, you’ve got to get to know this organization. … They have been doing a great job all over the country educating people.”



While Empower America, Citizens for a Sound Economy and their successor FreedomWorks describe themselves in high-minded prose as nonpartisan crusaders for liberty and American values, their aims are almost always ideological and often highly partisan.

This year, in a transparent effort to assist the Bush-Cheney campaign, Citizens for a Sound Economy and its state chapters have mobilized their members to help place Ralph Nader on the ballot in several battleground states. In 2000, ironically enough, the Nader-founded Government Accountability Project denounced CSE as a “rent-a-mouthpiece” and “mercenary” for corporate special interests.

And now, it seems clear that a FreedomWorks employee is directly employed in another direct thrust at Kerry through the Swift Boat veterans.

The Times provided the first clue to the FreedomWorks connection by tracing the post office box registered to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to Susan Arceneaux, a Fairfax, Va., resident named as the contact person for the mail drop. As the Times noted, Arceneaux is a veteran conservative activist who has worked for various Republican campaigns and organizations over the years. She is listed as the treasurer of the Majority Leader’s Fund, a Republican political action committee founded by Armey.

Both Arceneaux and a spokesman for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth declined to explain to the Times who had introduced her to them.

The Armey PAC’s most generous donors include Bob J. Perry, contributor of $200,000 to the Swift Boat Vets group, and Sam and Charles Wyly, the Texas business executives who secretly financed attack ads against John McCain during the 2000 primaries.

While Armey’s Fund has been less active in 2004 than during previous election cycles, the former majority leader and his conservative colleagues are pursuing their political agenda under the new rubric of FreedomWorks. Like many other think tanks and activist groups, FreedomWorks also maintains a political action committee. The PAC’s first quarterly report last April was signed by its treasurer, Susan Arceneaux — not long before she showed up to work for the Swift Boat Vets group.

Perhaps the surfacing of so many major contributors and operatives from the Bush/Texas Republican machine and the Washington conservative network in the “Swift Boat” controversy is all innocent coincidence. Yet by this stage, the myriad coincidences and connections heavily outweigh the strained credibility of White House denials.

Just for history’s sake, consider yet another coincidental connection between the FreedomWorks nexus and the Swift Boat group.

Back in 1996, an attorney named Harold “Tex” Lezar was appointed chairman of Empower America after running unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor of Texas on the same ticket with George W. Bush, who won the governor’s race. When Lezar died last January, the mourners included his wife, Dallas public relations executive Merrie Spaeth, and his law partner, John E. O’Neill. By April, Spaeth and O’Neill were meeting to plan the launch of O’Neill’s new political venture — the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

The vast right-wing conspiracy truly is a small world after all.

Joe Conason is the editor in chief of NationalMemo.com. To find out more about Joe Conason, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>