Cherie’s turn

Tony Blair will warn of the risks to Britain of falling to Europe's margins.
Tony Blair

Thanks to author Tom Bower, whose new book, Broken Promises, is packed with devastating revelations about the post-political career of Tony Blair, we now have a rich, full portrait of a man who turned his generation’s most successful career in British politics into a formula for a massive money grab. We’ve spent the last week examining some of the more egregious examples of Blair’s stoogery.

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Cherie Blair

But let’s not forget that behind every avaricious man is an equally money-grubbing woman. Well, sometimes, anyway. So it’s appropriate that one of the Daily Mail‘s illuminating excerpts from Bower’s book is devoted to Cherie Blair’s international cash-collecting activities. Bower notes that when first accused of having dealings with the government of Qatar, Blair denied it, because he naturally didn’t want to be tied in anyone’s mind to “a corrupt dictatorship that supported extremist Muslim groups, suppressed freedom of the Press and was accused of offering bribes to win the FIFA football World Cup in 2022.”

It’s true. Strictly speaking, as far as Bower has been able to determine, Tony Blair has had no dealings with Qatar. But his wife did. Since his retirement, their careers have been in remarkable parallel. When he left No. 10, she quit her barrister job, too; while he founded two charities, she started two charities of her own, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and the Africa Justice Foundation. He established Tony Blair Associates; she created Omnia Strategy, through which she worked as a “consultant” to governments in the Middle East and Africa. 

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Hillary Clinton

In her capacity as doyenne of Omnia, Cherie Blair collected a handsome sum from the wife of a Qatari sheik who wished to meet with Hillary Clinton, who at the time was the U.S. Secretary of State. After Cherie had pummeled Clinton with 19 e-mails, the former First Lady agreed to meet with Cherie’s Qatari client. Ka-ching! Cherie also made money off of the Albanian government. And Rwanda, too. In the case of Rwanda, the Blairs operated as an efficient tag team. Bower tells this charming anecdote about it:

Cherie had been due to meet the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, who was widely accused of being a mass murderer, to discuss the creation of a justice ministry in his impoverished country.

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Paul Kagame

But she didn’t show up to their planned dinner in London. Instead she explained she had an “emergency.” “I can’t come,” she said, “but Tony says he’d happily join you.”

At the dinner, Blair set out his stall. “You are a man with a vision, a leader I’ve always admired,” he told Kagame. “Now you need advisers to show you how to run a government, and I’m your man.”

Kagame agreed to welcome Blair’s team. In return, he was also introduced to the international circuit of leaders’ conferences across America and in Davos, where Blair presented him as Africa’s “Mr Clean.”

No one mentioned the continuing massacre of Hutus in the neighbouring Congo by militia dispatched by Kagame….

Blair’s friend won the Rwanda election in 2010 – but the beheaded corpses of leaders of the small opposition party were found strewn about the countryside.

Blair ignored all this and hailed his protégé’s success.

Nor was Cherie out of the picture. Last year, when General Karenzi Karake, the head of Rwanda’s spy service, set foot on British soil, he was arrested on an international war-crimes warrant issued in Spain. Whom did he hire to fight extradition? Why, none other than Cherie, natch. With a straight face, she walked into a courtroom and described the repellent war criminal as a “hero.” Released on bail, he was let go on a legal technicality, whereupon he quickly flew back to Rwanda, and safety.

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Karenzi Karake

Cherie had earned her pay.

In a sentence that is a masterpiece of understatement, Bower sums up the former PM’s family business: “Today, with his tangled web of charity and private interests, Blair remains at the centre of a bewildering number of enterprises.” Yet amid all this bewilderment, there’s one fact that’s beyond doubt: almost a decade after Blair left office, he and his wife are truly rich. Bower reports that they’ve “spent more than £25 million on UK property alone.” Yet, like the Clintons, “Blair cannot resist seeking new deals.” More often than not, those deals involve ignominious Third World despots and hangers-on who amass fortunes on the backs of oppressed multitudes. Blair, who once promised to rid the planet of such leeches, is now getting his big, juicy cut of their purloined pies. Somewhere, Churchill is not smiling. 

Tony Blair’s web of cash

Yesterday we began looking at the post-prime ministerial life of Tony Blair, as chronicled in a new book  (recently excerpted in the Daily Mail) by British investigative journalist Tom Bower. We saw that Blair, like some of the slimiest stooges in Venezuela and elsewhere, has come up with ingenious ways to generate income and has established his own elaborate network of front companies to hide the loot.

Tony Blair
Tony Blair

But that’s not all. Get this: he’s also set up a number of institutions, some explicitly designated as businesses and others as charities, but all of them apparently intended to rake in money from deep-pocketed tyrants and shady business types around the world. One of those institutions is Tony Blair Associates, a consulting firm that is frankly in the business of — well, business. Another is the Faith Foundation, a purported charity whose stated objective is to contribute to the healing of religious divisions around the world. Another is the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), another self-declared charity which is supposedly dedicated to helping governments from the Suez to the Cape of Good Hope to formulate and carry out economic development plans.

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Tom Bower

Massive amounts of dough pass through these institutions. All that mazuma should, of course, be kept separate from Blair’s own personal stash. But as with Bill and Hillary Clinton’s notorious foundation, the reality of Blair’s finances turns out to be a good deal messier than the cover story. Also like the Clintons, Blair is in the habit of collecting outsized sums for, um, delivering speeches; Bower cites, for example, “an address in Orlando, Florida, to the International Sanitary Supply Association — manufacturers of lavatory cleaners.” Quite clearly, Blair doesn’t lie awake at night worrying that he might be doing things beneath the dignity of a former British PM.

There’s more. Just as Blair is insufficiently careful about separating his personal cash from his charities’ funds, he’s not too meticulous about drawing a line between his current role as private citizen and his former role as British head of government. This often leads to wildly inappropriate situations. For instance, while making scads of money dispensing advice to other countries’ governments — advice that isn’t necessarily consistent with the interests of his own country — Blair still expects the British Embassy in each capital he visits “to provide him with a comprehensive security briefing and occasionally even overnight accommodation,” as if he were still in office.

At times he pushes it even further. Visiting one African country, allegedly on behalf of AGI, Blair asked for a private audience with the head of state because he claimed to have been asked to give the top man “a personal message…from David Cameron.” But he had no such message to deliver; he was there for no other reason than to drum up business for Tony Blair Associates. The head of state, quite appropriately, took offense at this cheesy bait and switch. Later, when confronted with this incident and asked whether he’d been “mixing charity and business,” Blair lied outright: Tony Blair Associates, he insisted, doesn’t do business in Africa, only in the Middle East and Asia.

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David Cameron

On the contrary, Tony Blair Associates seems to be prepared to do business anywhere there is a euro, pound, buck, peso, or yen to be snagged. As Bower puts it, Blair has “concentrated on offering advice to sheikhs, presidents and dictators.” It seems plain enough from Bower’s accounts that Blair’s advice itself, to the extent that he actually bothers to proffer any, is next to worthless; if the world’s tinpot tyrants are nonetheless queuing up with wheelbarrows full of cash, it’s obvious that they’re greasing his palm in exchange for influence, for access. This is, after all, a guy who can get any head of state in the world, from President Obama on down, to come to the phone. So it was that the government of Kuwait paid him £20 million to “review the country’s economy.” The report he ultimately turned in was a piece of embarrassing, amateurish hackwork – a “lengthy repetition of Kuwait’s well- known problems, concluding with a series of impractical solutions,” that was “greeted with derision” and then buried by Kuwaiti authorities. 

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Nursultan Nazarbayev

But for the authorities to whom Blair peddles his influence, no “advice,” it appears, is too worthless. And for Blair, in return, no client is too sleazy. He accepted a sizable sum to help the corrupt U.I. Energy of South Korea secure an oil contract. He took a hefty salary from another nefarious outfit, PetroSaudi, to make deals on its behalf with Chinese authorities. In 2011, he even went to work for the rotten-to-the-core Kazakh dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev, whose abuses of his subjects’ human rights didn’t keep Blair from recording “an hour-long video about Nazarbayev” in which he “repeatedly eulogis[ed]” the creep. Not only that, Blair “arranged for his old crony Alastair Campbell and former Downing Street spokesman Tim Allan to promote the despot.” When Nazarbayev asked Blair how, in a speech at Cambridge, he should address his security forces’ cold-blooded murder of 14 civilians, Blair suggested he take the angle that the massacre, tragic though it was, “should not obscure the enormous progress that Kazakhstan has made.”

Disgraceful. But Nazarbayev isn’t the only autocrat with blood on his hands who’s helped fatten Blair’s bank account. Far from it. More tomorrow.

President Sanders?

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Bernie Sanders

In November we took a brief look at Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders – specifically, his admiration for Fidel Castro and the late, great USSR.  At the time, it was still possible to think of Sanders as an entertaining sideshow in the race for the Democratic nomination – a far-left clown who didn’t really stand a chance of winning. But since then things have changed quickly. His poll numbers have been rising while Hillary Clinton’s have been diving. Suddenly, it seems to be within the realm of possibility that this seventy-four-year-old socialist will make it all the way to the general election.

Sanders’s campaign is especially popular with younger voters – with millennials, that is, who cheer his promises to soak the rich and give everybody else lots of free stuff. To his young supporters, who know nothing about economics or about the history of ideologies that made such promises, Sanders’s program sounds like nothing other than common sense – goodness set into system.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Sanders has, of course, his share of older fans – old hippies, old Commies, people who’ve never given up on the utopian dream. Which brings us to our friends at The Nation, who on January 14 gave Sanders their endorsement. Applauding his call for “single-payer healthcare, tuition-free college, a $15-an-hour minimum wage, the breaking up of the big banks,” his vow to “wrest our democracy from the corrupt grip of Wall Street bankers and billionaires,” Katrina vanden Heuvel & co. averred that the “revolution” promised by Sanders “is not only possible but necessary.” In conclusion, “Bernie Sanders and his supporters are bending the arc of history toward justice. Theirs is an insurgency, a possibility, and a dream that we proudly endorse.”

And sensible observers are getting worried. One of them is Paul Sperry of the Hoover Institution, who on January 16 complained in the New York Post that the media were helping to “mainstream” Sanders. “If Sanders were vying for a Cabinet post,” maintained Sperry, “he’d never pass an FBI background check.”

Six months after the avowed socialist scored a surprise victory to become mayor of Burlington, Vermont's largest city, Bernard Sanders is discovering that having an office inside City Hall doesn't make him an insider, Sept. 15, 1981. (AP Photo/Donna Light)
Sanders in 1981, after being elected mayor of Burlington

Why? For one thing, in 1964, when he was a student at the University of Chicago, Sanders belonged to the youth wing of the Socialist Party USA. In the 1970s, he took part in the founding of a party that “called for the nationalization of all US banks and the public takeover of all private utility companies.” In 1979, as Yahoo News reported in a January 17 article, he called for government takeover of all commercial television stations. In the 1980s, as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, he “restricted property rights for landlords, set price controls and raised property taxes to pay for communal land trusts. Local small businesses distributed fliers complaining their new mayor ‘does not believe in free enterprise.’” At one event he told an audience of charity workers said he didn’t believe in private charity – government should take on all social needs.

sanders1He also became an international busybody, making “goodwill” visits to the USSR and Cuba. In 1985, he attended an “anti-U.S. rally” in Nicaragua at which participants chanted that “the Yankee will die” and President Daniel Ortega charged the U.S. with “state terrorism.” Sanders displayed a Soviet flag in his office and spoke to Communist front groups.

It’s predictable enough that the handful of marginal old Commies who edit, write, and read The Nation are marching arm in arm with Sanders into the bright, new socialist America that they’ve been dreaming about all their lives. But what is depressing is that Sanders’s ideas are admired by millions of young people who don’t understand that the programs advocated by their candidate have been tried before, in the previous century, and that they brought unprecedented calamity, disaster, and tragedy to hundreds of millions of people who’d been promised utopia.

 

 

Top ten useful stooges of 2015

We thought we’d wind up 2015 by revisiting some of the folks we’ve covered on this website during the last year. No, these definitely aren’t the ten worst human beings we’ve written about; they’re just some of the people whose activities during 2015 we found despicable in distinctive ways, and we thought that, as the year moves toward a close, they just might be worth looking at one more time.

brandRussell Brand  Last year, the holier-than-thou British comedian came out with an inane book, Revolution, in which he celebrated Castro and Che Guevara, whose transformation of Cuba he presented as a model for the 21st century. This year, his image took a big hit when it was discovered that his line of sweatshirts – which he’d represented as being manufactured in the UK – were, in fact, made by laborers in Bangladesh who worked up to eleven hours a day for 25p an hour. Also, while he’d claimed that the profits went entirely to charitable causes, it turned out that only £1.37 of the take on a £65 sweatshirt was going to charity – and the “charity” in question was a trendy London café Brand opened in March.

stellaStella McCartney  In June, flibbertigibbet clothes designer (and daughter of the immortal Beatle) threw an exceedingly high-profile party with the theme “Cuba Libre.” In the garden of her Manhattan townhouse, such guests as Alicia Keys, Liv Tyler, and Maggie Gyllenhaal sipped rum-and-cokes, grooved to the rhythms of a salsa band, and mingled with two guys dressed up as – we kid you not – Fidel and Che. McCartney’s explanation for this obscene trivialization of totalitarianism: “I simply wanted to have a fun party, and I think Cubans know how to do that.” Almost unanimously, the fashion media applauded what Women’s Wear Daily described as McCartney’s “nod to Cuba.”

maxMax Blumenthal  The spawn of unsavory D.C. operator Sidney Blumenthal, young Max has made a career out of slandering Israel in particularly nasty ways while cheering on some of its most violent enemies. This year, in collaboration with Electronic Intifada and Al Jazeera contributor Rania Khalek, he co-wrote a long piece smearing several U.S. journalists for criticizing Putin – among them Liz Wahl, a reporter who’d recently quit her anchor job at the Kremlin-run TV “news” channel RT America because she was sick of serving up pro-Putin, anti-American propaganda. Writing in Commentary, Seth Mandel called Blumenthal’s attack job “a textbook example of character assassination.”

Lanny-pic-smLanny Davis  In 2015, regular viewers of cable news saw a great deal of this shifty creep, a longtime Clinton crony and spinmeister who, during the current presidential campaign, has spent a great deal of his expensive time trying to extinguish the many scandals that have been swirling around Hillary Clinton. (During a March appearance on Fox News, Chris Wallace asked Davis, “Do you ever get tired of cleaning up after the Clintons?”) When he’s not engaged in this unenviable task, Davis keeps busy shilling for some of the planet’s most corrupt and brutal despots, including Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea and Laurent Gbagbo of Cote D’Ivoire. 

gloria2Gloria Steinem  In May, the 81-year-old Ms. founder traveled to North Korea “to say we care by being physically present” because “conflicts are far more likely to be solved when people sit down together.” She then led a group of women on a “walk for peace” across the DMZ. The whole thing came off as a PR stunt to polish Pyongyang’s image. It didn’t help that the feminist icon stayed mum about the Kim regime’s treatment of women – and chose as her partner in this dubious undertaking one Christine Ahn, an open admirer of Juche ideology who routinely blames the U.S. and South Korea for North Korea’s problems.

We’ll get to the next five tomorrow. Happy New Year!

Strangers on a train

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Lanny Davis

A rather interesting piece by Betsy Woodruff appeared in the Daily Beast on October 9. That morning, she recounted, one of her colleagues, Guy Benson, had been a passenger on the 6:55 A.M. Amtrak train from Washington, D.C., to New York. Sitting right across the aisle from Benson, as it happened, was Lanny Davis, the longtime Clinton spinmeister whose sleazy career we surveyed back in July.

Benson overheard a few juicy tidbits, which Woodruff passed on to Daily Beast readers. Davis, who was engaged in an unguarded conversation with a couple of unidentified companions, referred to Senator Bernie Sanders, the presidential candidate from Vermont, as a “nut.” Said Davis: “There’s no way he can be nominated, ever.”

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With Hillary Clinton

Davis also declared that he was sure Vice President Biden would enter the presidential race – but he added that Biden’s bid would go absolutely nowhere. Why? Because, he explained, Biden is viewed in political circles as a “buffoon.”

There was more. Davis told his travel companions that candidate Carly Fiorina is “nasty” when she makes public statements about Hillary Clinton.

The chitchat wasn’t entirely about politics. Davis went on to express interest in watching the Showtime series Ray Donovan, leading one of his companions to say: “Oh yeah, it’s about a fixer.” The other companion added: “It’s like us if we had guns and baseball bats.” Fun crew.

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Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan

When the Daily Beast contacted Davis about his palaver on the 6:55, he walked his remarks back with his usual shamelessness – claiming, for example, to have “nothing but the highest respect for Bernie Sanders.”

In fact, Davis was remarkably lucky that the chitchat Benson overheard was as anodyne as it was. Imagine if he had been talking about other aspects of his career?

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Teodoro Obiang

This is, after all, a guy who, in exchange for a million bucks a year, led the morally bankrupt – indeed, downright chilling – effort to whitewash the repulsive Equatoguinean dictator Teodoro Obiang in the international media. According to World Policy Review, Obiang has “killed or expelled more than one third” of his own people, as a result of which his country is widely known as the “Auschwitz of Africa.” Then there’s Obiang’s wastrel son (and presumptive successor) Teodorin, who “spent more on luxury goods during 2004-2007 than the [Equatoguinean] government’s 2005 budget for education.”

Yet Davis didn’t hesitate to pocket Obiang’s money (or, rather, his people’s money) for performing the disgusting job of covering all that up. 

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Laurent Gbagbo

And let’s not forget another reprehensible African dictator and Davis client, Laurent Gbagbo of Cote D’Ivoire. After losing the 2010 presidential election, Gbagbo, instead of stepping down and allowing the winner to be inaugurated, did two things: he started murdering and “disappearing” his opponents – and hired Davis to go on CNN and other cable networks and tell the world that he was, in fact, a man of peace. Davis didn’t hesitate to front for this creep, either. 

That Amtrak exchange, then, was small potatoes. Very small potatoes. Davis should count himself exceedingly fortunate that Guy Benson overheard such remarkably innocuous stuff, given the utterly loathsome, morally bankrupt nature of Davis’s “work.” And Benson – and Woodruff – should be kicking themselves for not having lucked into the far meatier, more damning material with which Davis might have inadvertently provided them – and which might have brought him down at last, removing at least one ball of slime from the Beltway swamps.

The Rev. Jackson’s Cuba sojourns

June 26-27, 1984, Havana, Cuba --- Jesse Jackson smokes Cuban cigars with Fidel Castro during a controversial visit to Havana in June 1984. Jackson, a candidate for President of the United States, caused a stir in the U.S. government and press by visiting with the Communist leader. --- Image by © Jacques M. Chenet/CORBIS
The Rev. Jesse Jackson and Fidel Castro, June 1984

Jesse Jackson is such a patently unsavory creature – a shameless race hustler, an inveterate shakedown artist, a hardcore anti-Semite (remember “Hymietown”?), a sleazy player posing as a man of the cloth – that his coziness with the Castro government should hardly seem a surprise. Yet it’s important that this aspect of his slimy character not be lost in the mix.

27 Aug 1984, Havana, Cuba --- Original caption: Reverend Jesse Jackson (L) is seated next to Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro during negotiations for the release of a group of prisoners to Jackson. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
Jackson and Castro, August 1984

For one thing, unlike other useful Castro stooges, Jackson hasn’t just visited the island prison once or twice. Over the decades, he’s been there so many times – and met Castro so many times – that it’s hard to come up with an exact count. On a couple of these visits he attempted to secure the release of political prisoners, but any objective observer of his career would find it difficult to see these supposedly humanitarian efforts as anything other than cynical bids for attention, power, and positive PR. They were, in any event, clear breaches of the Logan Act of 1799, violation of which is a felony. (In addition to Cuba, Jackson was able to persuade the governments of Syria, Iraq, and Yugoslavia to release prisoners at various points in the 1980s and 90s – actions they presumably took because his involvement enabled them to receive very prominent and very positive press in the U.S. while making the U.S. government itself look impotent.)

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Jackson and Castro, 1993

Anyway, here’s a brief overview of Jackson’s Cuba adventures. In 1984, while he was running for President, he flew to Havana, where Fidel Castro welcomed him at the airport and, according to BBC correspondent Alastair Cooke, was treated “as if he were already president of the United States.” Giving a speech at the University of Havana, he shouted “Viva Fidel!” and “Viva Che Guevara!” He raised his fists: “Long live our cry of freedom!” During that trip, Castro praised Jackson as “brilliant” and “sincere,” a man full of “honesty” and free of “demagoguery.”

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Okay, he didn’t really say that, as far as we know. Jackson at the Hotel Nacional in Havana, 2013

Jackson didn’t return home alone: he took back with him to the U.S. sixteen American and seven Cuban political prisoners whom Castro had released as a sort of gift for the good reverend. (Castro himself said that he had made the gesture “as a result of Rev. Jackson’s visit. I did it for him and for the people of the United States.”) 

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Alastair Cooke

Upon their arrival at Dulles Airport, one of the released Cuban prisoners, Andres Vargas Gomez, an anti-Castro activist who’d been incarcerated for 21 years, spoke to reporters. He didn’t have kind words for either Castro or Jackson. “To go to Cuba to join in a moral offensive with Fidel Castro,” he said, referring to Jackson, “is more than morally offensive, it is a moral offense.” Cooke called the prisoner release “a very small price that Castro has to pay for helping to advertise among his people, and other Central American peoples, the fact that here is an actual candidate for the presidency of the United States, who is as much against the Central American policies of the detested Reagan as they are.” Jackson, pronounced Cooke, had been “used”; he was “a patsy” who’d made it “all the harder” for the U.S. government to improve relations with Cuba.

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Jackson at a religious service in Havana, September 2013

Oh, and let’s not forget that this patsy, this serial violator of the Logan Act, this man who shouted “Viva Fidel!” at the University of Havana in 1984 became, in the 1990s, the Clinton Administration’s house preacher. During the Lewinsky crisis, he reportedly prayed with Hillary and gave Bill “emotional solace and political advice” (not necessarily in that order). In 2000, President Clinton actually presented this champion of Castro’s dictatorship – who as recently as 1993 had vacationed in Havana and hung with Castro – with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The award citation stated that Jackson “has preached a gospel of hope, unity and responsibility and has helped establish common ground across lines of race, class, gender, nationality and faith.”

U.S. civil rights activist Jesse Jackson (C) walks at the National hotel in Havana September 27, 2013. REUTERS/Enrique de la Osa
Back at the Hotel Nacional, 2013

In September 2013, Jackson went to Cuba yet again. He wanted, he declared, to try to secure the freedom of Alan Gross, an American who’d been imprisoned there since 2009.  This time, however, Castro didn’t deign to meet with him; perhaps he’d decided that Jackson’s star was on the wane and his Logan Act violations were no longer the front-page news they’d once been. (Gross was finally released last December.) But Jackson’s time wasn’t wasted: during the same visit, he met with leaders of FARC, the far-left Colombian terrorist group, and gave a talk advocating actions against the U.S. economic blockade. 

Jackson claims to be delighted at the restoration of full diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba. But is he? When every American can legally travel to Cuba, who’s going to care anymore when he makes the trip?

Following Lanny Davis’s slime trail

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Lanny Davis

Yesterday we started following the slime trail of lowlife Lanny Davis, whose longtime role as shameless spinmeister to the Clinton family, it turns out, is the less unsavory of his two main jobs. The other: shilling for some of the world’s most nefarious despots.

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Teodoro Obiang

Among Davis’s clients: Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbsogo, dictator of Equatorial Guinea. In April 2010, Obiang, who has ruled Equatorial Guinea with an iron fist since a 1979 coup, hired him for a million bucks a year (plus expenses) – allegedly to help formulate and introduce human-rights reforms but really, it soon became clear, to help whitewash the Obiang regime in the international media. Justin Elliott, who has done a yeoman’s job of covering – and exposing – Davis in Salon, wrote in January 2011 that Davis had made a “direct promise” to “a reporter” (presumably Elliott himself) “that political prisoners in Equatorial Guinea would be released”; Elliott noted that no such release had yet taken place.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama pose for a photo during a reception at the Metropolitan Museum in New York with, H.E. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea and his wife, Mrs. Constancia Mangue de Obiang, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, or promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.
Obiang and wife with the Obamas

What kind of government does Obiang run? Well, according to a 2010 report by the U.S. State Department, Obiang’s regime was guilty of “unlawful killings…torture of detainees and prisoners…life-threatening conditions in prisons…arbitrary arrest, detention and incommunicado detention…restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly…violence and discrimination against women,” among many other offenses.

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Teodorin Obiang

Elliott, citing this litany of transgressions, additionally pointed out that according to Human Rights Watch, Obiang’s son Teodorin had actually “spent more on luxury goods during 2004-2007 than the government’s 2005 budget for education.” In 2012, a World Policy Review article reported that Obiang had “killed or expelled more than one third” of his country’s population; that under him and his immediate predecessor – who was also his uncle, and whom he eventually overthrew and executed – the country “became known as the ‘Auschwitz of Africa,’” in which more people were killed by them, proportionally speaking, than were killed by the Nazis in all of Europe; and that under Obiang’s family of “kleptocrats,” who’ve “devoted three decades to siphoning off Equatorial Guinea’s wealth into their pockets,” the great majority of the nation’s people have not only been terrorized but impoverished.

None of which, apparently, deterred Davis from taking money from this creep to help polish his international image.

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Laurent Gbagbo

Then there’s Laurent Gbagbo, President of Cote D’Ivoire since the year 2000. After losing his bid for re-election in late 2010, the brutally dictatorial Gbagbo refused to leave office; instead, to quote Elliott, he “mount[ed] a campaign of organized violence against the opposition.” Gbagbo did something else, too: he hired Lanny Davis. So while this autocrat’s henchmen were busy murdering some members of the opposition and “disappearing” others (who were presumably dispatched by death squads), Davis got to work “assuring the American press that his client, Gbagbo, opposed violence.” And while the UN was formally accusing Gbagbo of committing “massive” human-rights violations, Davis was on CNN insisting that Gbagbo, innocent as a lamb, was calling on the legitimate winner of the election, Alassane Ouattara, “to join him on [sic] putting the arms down” and holding talks.

davis3Alas for Davis, the Gbagbo gig didn’t last long: his paymaster was soon deposed, arrested, and charged by the International Criminal Court with murder, rape, persecution, and “other inhuman acts.” All told, Davis’s job with Gbagbo lasted only 12 days: he registered as a foreign agent for Ivory Coast on December 17, 2010, and resigned on December 29.

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Lanny Davis, Hillary Clinton

The lesson, we suppose, being that even the most unprincipled and hardest-working hustler can’t win ’em all. But you’ve got to hand it to Davis: he never allows himself to be discouraged by adversity. Or, for that matter, by shame, or conscience, or remorse. By all indications, these concepts aren’t even on his radar. No, he’s always ready, it seems, to go out there in the media one more time and get to work defending the indefensible. 

Well, these days he’s hard at work defending the Clintons. Given the alternative, that’s probably a cause for celebration.

The dictators’ D.C. spinmeister

Do you ever get tired of cleaning up after the Clintons?” Fox News host Chris Wallace asked Lanny Davis back in March after the latter – a longtime spinmeister for Bill and Hillary – had spent over nine minutes on Wallace’s show, Fox News Sunday, trying to work his slippery magic on their behalf yet again, this time in regard to the matter of Ms. Clinton’s private e-mail server.

Davis, who worked as a “special counsel” in the Clinton White House, went on afterwards to become a familiar name and face in the media, writing for places like the Huffington Post and appearing frequently as a talking head on the cable news networks. But since the beginning of this year he’s been even more visible than usual, rushing from one TV interview to another to practice his shifty craft. The topic at hand, on each occasion, was supposedly Hillary’s e-mails, but Davis spent the bulk of his camera time skillfully changing the subject, talking out the clock, singing the Clintons’ praises, casting aspersions on his interviewers, and insisting over and over, in direct contravention of the obvious facts, that “you’re not letting me finish.” For all his patently strenuous efforts, he cannot have convinced a single soul: even Salon, a website that tends to be reflexively sympathetic to Democratic politicians, dismissed him a “well-known spinster…whom no one trusts” and who “endear[s] precisely zero people to Hillary Clinton.”

But get a load of this: the shrewd, wily character who went on TV day and night to serve up transparent prevarications on behalf of Ms. Clinton is only one side of Lanny Davis. In point of fact, he’s a highly multifaceted personality; the slimy spinmeister, the Artful Dodger, is only one side of him.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, it’s the more attractive side.

davis
Lanny Davis

For when he’s not being elusive and duplicitous on behalf of the Juan and Eva Perón of Chappaqua, Davis works as an inside-the-Beltway lobbyist for a list of foreign clients so unsavory that the whole thing reads like some kind of bad joke. In a May 2012 piece in the Atlantic, Jon Lovett called him “a pitchman for warlords” who “carr[ied] the Devil’s water in Washington,” and said that he “represents all that is wrong with politics today.” “The last time we heard from Lanny Davis,” began an August 2013 item in the New Republic by Isaac Chotiner, “he was doing what he does best: representing a dictator.

Details tomorrow.