Saturday, January 9, 2010

I'm Having a Lot of Trouble With This Whole Ari Fleischer Thing

The Canadian Manifesto: How the American Neoconservatives Stole My Country

Days before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the attack on the World Trade Center, the Jewish Policy Center hosted a special event in New York City: 9/11 a Decade Later: Lessons Learned and Future Challenges.  Featured speakers were former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, ex-Attorney General Michael Mukasey, and George W. Bush’s press spokesman Ari Fleischer.

The Jewish Policy Centre is a Republican think tank, tied to the Republican Jewish Coalition, who oppose any kind of peace settlements in the Middle East.  Their fellows have included neoconservative leader, Irving Kristol, and Canada's David Frum, a former speech writer for George W. Bush.

The speeches that night were not unlike those heard as justification for the War on Iraq.   "They hate our democracy” ...  “war on terror” ... " radical, fundamentalists".  Questions had to be written on index cards and then vetted by the Center.  "Ushers" made sure that there were no "liberal" thinkers in the crowd, and if you even hinted that the Bush Administration was wrong, you were promptly ejected.

One police officer who was ordered to remove a young woman who stood up in protest at the way the event was being handled, was heard to say “I just don’t understand how you could have sat there for as long as you did!” (1)

Clearly the Republicans have learned nothing from their disastrous foreign policy, and neither has Stephen Harper, who said in an interview that 'Islamicism' was the biggest threat to Canada. (2)  Not radical Islamists, but the actual religion.  It may have been a Freudian slip, or more speaking in code, but Islamophobia is alive and well and living in the Harper government.

The Jewish Policy Centre posted a glowing piece on Harper and his devotion to Israel.
Is Canada replacing the United States' role as Israel's number one supporter? It might be. During last week's G8 summit in France, Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper blocked a G8 statement that would specifically call for Israeli-Palestinian talks to begin with negotiations based on an Israeli return to its 1967 borders with mutually agreed land swaps.

Since the White House appears content to follow its allies, Washington should follow Canada's lead under Prime Minister Harper. Aside from Harper's ability to stand strong against pressure when it comes to Israel, his decision to refrain from pledging more money to the "Arab Spring" countries is fiscally wise. (3)
Most Canadians support the "Arab Springs".

You Going to Believe What You See or What I Tell You?

Ari Fleischer  first made headlines in 1999, when he was working on Bush's presidential campaign.  On October 9, Bush had been interviewed by the Council for National Policy,  a pro-military religious organization, whose members* include; conservative political operatives, elected officials, military leaders, conservative broadcasters, corporate executives and financiers.  The brains and bucks of the New Right.

Said Jerry Falwell, who is a member: "Ronald Reagan, both George Bushes, senators and cabinet members—you name it, almost anyone of consequence has been to speak before the Council ... It is a group of four or five hundred of the biggest conservative guns in the country. It is the group that draws the battle lines."(4)

Extraordinary precautions had been taken to ensure that Bush's speech did not leak to the press.  His team had copies of it on tape, but according to Morton Blackwell, executive director of the CNP, "the Bush campaign declined to release them". Art Fleischer also declined to even characterize the speech.  He told the New York Times "When we go to meetings that are private, they remain private"

He had proven his loyalty and when Bush won the election, he named Fleischer his Press Secretary, and it was he who had to sell the American people on going to war in Iraq.  He handled it beautifully.

Before resigning his position in the summer of 2003, Fleischer would be involved in another controversy.

Joseph Wilson, a former United States diplomat, was sent to Niger in 2002, to investigate allegations that Saddam Hussein was attempting to purchase yellowcake uranium.  The British were the first to make the claim, and in Bush's State of the Union address, he said  "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." They even had documentation, though the documents would turn out to be forgeries.

When Joe Wilson returned from his fact finding mission, he filed his report and then wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times: What I Didn't Find in Africa.

Since this contradicted the message that the Bush administration was presenting to the American public, a meeting was held with Dick Cheney, his advisor, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Newt Gingrich and other senior Republicans, to produce a workup on Wilson to discredit him.

With the help of Fleischer, Karl Rove and others, columnist Robert Novak was given a tip that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a covert CIA operative.  Novak "outed" her in the Washington Post, which was devastating to Plame, given that her family and friends had no idea.  It also cost her, her job.  They couldn't get anything on Wilson, but according to what Rove told Novak  "Wilson's wife is fair game."

Only Libby was ever convicted.

Freedom's Watch

By 2007, George Bush's popularity was at an all time low, and Americans had lost the taste for war.  Sensing that the Republications could take a huge hit in the upcoming election, a group of high-profile conservatives decided to do something about it.  So they created an AstroTurf group called Freedom's Watch, which began running ads on television stations, focusing on the sacrifices of soldiers and their families.

Ari Fleisher was on their board of directors.

Freedom's Watch worked in conjunction with the Republican Jewish Coalition and their partner, the Jewish Policy Center, where Fleisher spoke on the anniversary of 9/11.  They also worked closely with the American Enterprise Institute.

According to American Counter Punch:
While Americans and Iraqis suffer ... a new conservative organization has appeared on the scene. Called, ironically, 'Freedom's Watch,' with former White House press secretary Ari Fleisher as spokesman, this group is spending 15,000,000 on advertising to urge members of Congress to support the war. Said Mr. Fleisher: "We want to get the message to both Democrats and Republicans: Don't cut and run, fully fund the troops, and victory is the only objective." (5)
Their messages were misleading since they linked Iraq to the attacks on the World Trade Center, which we know is false.  The group would also run ads during the 2008 election, in support of several Republican candidates, before disbanding.

Passports Required for Witch Hunts

According to Ari Fleischer's personal bio, he is among other things, "an international media consultant to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper".  When the story of his hire made the news in Canada, in 2009,  MacLean's Scott Feschuk quipped:  "I guess if there’s an upside, it’s that members of our own press gallery now understand what it takes to get a question answered by our Prime Minister – an American passport and Ari Fleischer’s cell number." (6)

In January of 2010, the Canadian Press revealed:
Follow-up information on the original G20 contract, provided by Fleischer in his filings to the Justice Department, sheds new light on his activities on behalf of Canada's prime minister.  Canadian news consumers, who this week are seeing their first limited interviews with Harper about his Christmas holiday decision to suspend Parliament, might aspire to the access provided for conservative American opinion-leaders - eight of whom enjoyed dinner with Harper in Washington last Mar. 29 at the invitation of Fleischer. The guest list included newspaper columnists Charles Krauthammer, David Frum, Peggy Noonan, David Brooks and Anne Applebaum, senior editors Fred Barnes and William Kristol, and conservative syndicated talk-radio host Laura Ingraham. (7)
It would appear that Fleischer may have assisted in Canada getting its Fox News North (Sun TV) station.

However, as a media consultant, he may have played an even more important role for the Canadian Conservatives.  When President Obama first announced that he would be releasing the Bush memos, the American neocons went into a spin.
Liz and Dick Cheney, Bill Bennett, Ari Fleischer, and countless other commentators have saturated the public airwaves of late ever since the Obama Administration decided to make public the Bush torture memos. "I think the decision is disgusting," Ari Fleischer, President George W. Bush's first press secretary, told the Huffington Post. "It's amazing to me that the people who kept us safe may now become the people our government prosecutes. There are plenty of real criminals out there -- it would be nice if the Justice Department went after them ... this is a witch hunt."  (8)
Feeling that it was quite OK to attack a diplomat if he contradicted the government's line, or lies, Harper and crew attacked Richard Colvin with a vengeance, after he exposed the abuse of Afghan Detainees.  But read Peter MacKay's response:

“I am very proud of the fact that we have dedicated soldiers, civil servants, individuals who are working closely with the government of Afghanistan, as challenging as that is, to see that we improve its capacity. We will continue to do so. That is the real work that is being done. This is a witch hunt.” (9)

It's hard not to imagine that Fleischer had  a hand in choreographing the way that the Harper government handled Afghan Detainee abuse allegations.  He's earning his $25,000 a pop fee.


* Best selling author, Craig Unger, was able to obtain a partial list of CNP members in 1996. They included Richard V. Allen, former national security adviser under Reagan; Gary Bauer, former Republican presidential candidate and head of the Family Research Council; Morton Blackwell, president of The Leadership Institute; Richard Bott, of the Bott Broadcasting Company; Brent Bozell, chairman of the Media Research Institute; Larry Burkett of the Campus Crusade for Christ and Christian Financial Concepts; Congressman Dan Burton (R-Ind.); Holland Coors and Jeffrey Coors, of the Colorado beer family; Congressman William Dannemeyer (R-Calif.); James Dobson, president of Focus on the Family; Congressman Robert Dornan (R-Calif.); Jerry Falwell, Liberty University; Edwin Feulner Jr., the Heritage Foundation; George Gilder, supply-side economist; Donald Hodel, former secretary of energy and secretary of the interior; Texas billionaire Nelson Bunker Hunt; Reed Irvine, chairman of Accuracy in Media; Bob Jones III, president of Bob Jones University; David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union; Congressman Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.); Dr. D. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church; Congressman Alan Keyes (R-Md.); Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.); Beverly LaHaye; Tim LaHaye; Marlin Maddoux, president, USA Radio Network; Ed McAteer, president, The Religious Roundtable; former attorney general Ed Meese; conservative activist Grover Norquist; Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, North American Enterprises; Howard Phillips, chairman, The Conservative Caucus; Ralph Reed, the Christian Coalition; Pat Robertson, Christian Broadcasting Network and Regent University; Phyllis Schlafly, president, Eagle Forum; Richard Viguerie, conservative political strategist; Doug Wead; Paul Weyrich; and Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association. (4)


1. Bird-Dogging Torturers in NYC, Consortium News, September 9, 2011

2. Harper says 'Islamicism' biggest threat to Canada, CBC News, September 6, 2011

3. Canada Takes a Stand at G8 Summit, by Samara Greenberg, Jewish Policy Center blog, June 1, 2011

4. The Fall of the House of Bush: The Untold Story of How a Band of True Believers Seied the Executive branch, Started the Iraq War, and Still Imperils America's Future, By Craig Unger, Scribner, 2007, ISBN: 13: 978-0-7432-8075-4, p. 171-172

5. Ari Fleischer, Freedom's Watch and the Pro-War Lobbyists, American Counter Punch, August 2007

6. Harper hires Americans to help him "brand" Canada, presumably as a nation incapable of branding itself, by Scott Feschuk, MacLeans, April 16, 2009

7. Canadian Press, January 6, 2010

8. Torture:  "It's perfectly Leagal -- But We Don't Do It",  By Joseph A. Palermo Associate Professor, American History, California State University, Sacramento, Huffington Post, April 25, 2009

9. The Commons: Eighteen attempts to explain the same story, By Aaron Wherry, MacLeans, November 19, 2009

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