If you require more evidence that the United States is a dysfunctional society, observe American elections. Election season is slander season. Each party’s attack teams focus on misrepresenting, defaming, and ridiculing the opposing party’s candidates. Attack ads have replaced debates and any discussion of what the issues are, or should be, and how candidates perceive the public’s interest. Each attack team tells lies designed to enrage various voters about the other team’s candidate.
Whoever is elected is indebted not to voters but to the special interests that provided the campaign money. Once elected the official serves the private interest groups that put the official in office. In America the government can be bought and sold just like everything else. In its Citizens United ruling, a Republican Supreme Court put its stamp of approval on the right of corporations to purchase the US government.
Each state has its own dominant interest groups that win every election. In Florida real estate developers routinely defeat the environment and local communities. Developers have even been known to form organizations that pose as conservation supporters in order to misrepresent and defeat conservation measures.
Yet, despite their long string of losses to special interests, voters still participate in elections. I once read a theory that elections are a form of entertainment. President Clinton’s encounter with the young woman on MTV—“boxers or briefs”—is one indication of the lack of seriousness that Americans bring to politics.
Perhaps the lighter moment of a young woman’s interest in the president’s underwear should be cherished. The Clinton years will be remembered as scandal after scandal with dark events unresolved and covered up. The Clinton years were transformative. For those who don’t remember and those too young at the time to be aware, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard’s book, The Secret Life of Bill Clinton: The Unreported Stories (1997), will be an eye-opener. Perhaps the Democrats should read the book before nominating Hillary as the party’s presidential candidate.
Evans-Pritchard was Washington bureau chief for the Sunday Telegraph, one of the main British newspapers. He was stunned by how the American media ceased to function during the Clinton years. The Clinton years gave us such events as the federal government’s murder of the Branch Davidians in their Waco compound and subsequent coverup, the Oklahoma City bombing and coverup, and the coverup of the apparent murder of White House counsel Vincent Foster.
Almost everyone who paid attention saw coverups, not investigations, of these extraordinary events. Evans-Pritchard was one who paid attention, and what he saw did not pass muster. Yet, there was no press asking questions.
For example, the official story was that Tim McVeigh was the “lone nut” responsible for blowing up the Murrah Federal Office Building with a truck bomb. Yet, at McVeigh’s trial the prosecution did not call a single witness who could place McVeigh in Oklahoma City on the day of the bombing. “This is a rather astonishing fact,” writes Evans-Pritchard, and indeed it is. The reason the prosecution could not provide a witness to place McVeigh at the scene of the crime is that the many witnesses all reported seeing McVeigh in the company of other men, and the prearranged official story was that McVeigh was alone. The FBI and the prosecution had to make this case, not conduct a real investigation and discover what really happened.
Experts who have examined the Oklahoma City bombing have concluded that the truck bomb was cover for explosives set inside the building. For example, US Air Force munitions expert General Benton K. Partin provided an extensive and detailed study and wrote to the US Senate: “The attached report contains conclusive proof that the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was not caused solely by the truck bomb. Evidence shows that the massive destruction was primarily the result of four demolition charges placed at critical structural points at the third floor level.”
Miquel Rodriguez, the associate independent counsel assigned the investigation of Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster’s mysterious death resigned after four months convinced that he was dealing with a FBI coverup and that his investigation was being sabotaged by personnel within his own office. The FBI’s official story differed completely from the story of the witness who discovered Foster’s body. Again, as in Oklahoma, the FBI’s case required the creation of a make-believe scenario at odds with the evidence. With no interference from a silent press, the FBI created the story that was needed. Evans-Pritchard wrote that the Foster case was “taboo for American journalists. In private, many concede that the official story is unbelievable, but they will not broach it in print.”
When Americans think of Clinton era scandals, they recall “Whitewater” and Clinton’s sexual escapades with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Evans-Pritchard writes that these two scandals were small potatoes compared to the Waco, Oklahoma City, and Vincent Foster coverups. Evans-Pritchard concludes that these minor events were used by the press to distract the public and perhaps Congress from inquiring into FBI coverups of criminal acts.
I remember asking my Wall Street Journal colleague Robert Bartley why he put so much energy and editorial ink into Whitewater, a minor scandal involving some real estate payoffs to the Clintons that did not pan out. Serious events were ignored while Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky became a matter of impeachment.
From Clinton to George W. Bush and Obama was another transformative change. The crimes of the Clinton regime were not acknowledged and covered up. The crimes of the Bush and Obama regimes are openly acknowledged by the presidents themselves and by their attorneys general who assert that the “war on terror” is a war during whose course presidents are freed from the Constitution and from domestic and international statutory law. Thus, we have indefinite detention, torture and loss of protection against self-incrimination, destruction of privacy, and execution of US citizens without due process of law.
Almost overnight the US government became unaccountable, released from constitutional and legal constraints. Elections serve only to validate the unaccountability of government.