Political Capital For Sale to the World’s “Scuzziest Dictators”

(9 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Cross Posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Rachel Maddow describes several political operatives who have squandered their political clout by representing nefarious overseas actors like Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, Jean-Paul “Baby Doc” Duvalier, dictators in places like the Ivory Coast and Equatorial Guinea and the governments of Indonesia and Saudi Arabia that fund organizations that plot terrorist attacks against the United States and its citizens.

Both Bob Barr and Rudy Guiliani have indicated that they are interested in running for president in 2012.

In a lame defense of Mark Penn, the PR firm, Burson Marsteller, said it was unfair “to tie the company’s current leader to former clients that predated him. Penn joined Burson Marsteller in 2005, years after the junta, Indonesia and Saudia Arabian clients contacted the firm.”

Shortly after the Tuscon shootings, Mr. Penn let loose with this little “bomb” on November 4, 2010 when he told Chris Matthews that what Obama really needs to reconnect to the American electorate is an “Oklahoma City moment”. Both sides are guilty of this kind of political rhetoric but at least the left acknowledges that it has to stop and there is a need for a change in tone.  

Rough transcript:

MADDOW:  By every measurable factor, Americans have a great appetite for news about our own politics.  And by all the same quantitative measures, we have a fairly small appetite for news about politics or really anything else going on in the rest of the world.

But there is a place where American politics and the stuff going on in far corners of the world we don’t really like to think about come together.

There is a place where American politicos turn up in the 20th paragraph of mostly otherwise unread international news stories about scary things happening in faraway places.

I’ve always thought of it as the skuzzy dictator portfolio.  It’s a frequently recurring creepy thing about being an American reading up on bad things happening in other parts of the world like say you’re reading up on the 1976 Argentinean military junta or that super-creepy Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

You’re reading up on these guys for some reason and then you come across the fact that they had an American PR firm working for them.

Burson-Marsteller – remember Burson-Marsteller, the pr firm run by Hillary Clinton’s pollster from 2008, Mark Penn, who continues to pop up as a talking head.  Burson-Marsteller represented those guys.

They also represented Indonesia when they were putting down the uprising in East Timor.  And three days after 9/11, Saudi Arabia hired Burson-Marsteller.  I wonder why.

There is this class of American politicos who build up their rolodex and their reputation and D.C. contacts and their political capital by participating in American politics.

But then they sell it abroad.  They sell all that clout they build up here to the world’s skuzziest dictators around the world.

Today, we have a new one of those.  In the past week, one of the strangest, skuzzy dictators in the news emerged, when Baby Doc went back to Haiti.  This is the man who was handed the dictatorship of his country by his father when he was 19 years old.

He is most remembered for looting his country of hundreds of millions of dollars and for the horror movie tactics of the death squads he employed against his own people.

What could be more cartoonishly horrible than a death squad teen dictator whose name was Baby-something, right?  Well, perhaps learning that a former Republican Congressman and libertarian presidential candidate is trying to sell said dictator to the world.

Bob Barr, remember him?  He is an uber-right wing Congressman from Georgia for eight years.  He then sort of kind of remade his image and ran for president in ’08 on the libertarian party ticket.

He even did an interview on this show at that time.  But now, his new gig is cashing in on his own skuzzy dictator portfolio.

Check this out, from Bob Barr’s Web site, “Haiti’s former president brings message of hope to people.”  And by Haiti’s former president he means Haiti’s former 19-year-old dictator who was run out of the country on a rail 25 years ago.

Skuzzy dictators selling their own message of hope is one thing.  American politicos helping skuzzy dictators sell their message of hope is a whole new level of – ah.

But it’s not just Mark Penn and Bob Barr.  This is a big industry.  This is a big, secretive, back-alley cottage industry for American politicos.

Lanny Davis, for example – he was White House counsel during the Clinton administration.  He’s known mostly now as a talking head who will say nastier things than most other talking heads will say about other Democrats, going after candidate Obama in 2008, for example, on the basis of his church membership.

And when Mr. Obama, during the campaign, said the U.S. should reach out to countries with whom it has disagreements, Lanny Davis accused Obama of kowtowing to dictators.  

How does Lanny Davis make his money?  He works for dictators having counseled the dictators in lovely places like the Ivory Coast and Equatorial Guinea, having represented the military in Honduras when the military ousted the president there.

After Pervez Musharraf took over the government from Pakistan in a military coup, who was his lobbyist?  The lovely and talented Lanny Davis.

Right after 9/11, you might remember that then-mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, made national headlines by getting up on a soap box and refusing to accept a $10 million check from a Saudi prince.

He gave it back because the prince had been critical of the U.S.  government’s foreign policy in the Middle East.  That did not stop Mr.  Giuliani’s company, Bracewell and Giuliani, from later going to work as lobbyists for the Saudi government, the same government Mr. Giuliani made such a show of rejecting that money from.

American audiences have a much bigger appetite for news about America than we do for news that is about people who are not Americans.  And so, American politicos who work for skuzzy dictators around the world – they are counting on that only making the international news so as to insulate them from any domestic political fallout here.

But if you’re Bob Barr and you want to go work for Baby Doc or you’re Rudy Giuliani and you want to cash in on how much you hate Saudi Arabia and then go work for Saudi Arabia, if you’re Mark Penn or Lanny Davis, if you’re an American politico who builds up political capital in this country and spends it for skuzzy dictators in other countries, that’s fine.

You have the right to work for whom ever you would like.  But know that when you spend your hard-earned political capital on skuzzy dictators, you are also spending your political credibility as well.

I always sort of wondered what would happen to Bob Barr after he took that interesting turn of rejecting his own cultural conservative ideas and becoming a libertarian.  I wondered if he had a brighter future ahead of him.

He might in Haiti.  Here, it is not going to happen.  The skuzzy dictator stink, Rudy, Bob, all you guys – it follows you home.


    • TMC on January 28, 2011 at 22:01
    • Edger on January 28, 2011 at 23:31

    by the world’s “Scummiest Operators”?

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