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By Steve Weinstein
Dad's Aides, Past Deals Haunt Texas Governor
Capitol Hill scouts for Texas governor George W. Bush are fending off tired retainers from his father's administration in the wake of young George's emergence as Republican presidential front-runner. People like George Shultz, Reagan's secretary of state, and Jim Baker, secretary of state under George W. 's father, want to get in on the early action as polls show Bush clobbering Al Gore in 2000.
What Bush's backers really dread is the appearance of Roger Stone and Charles Black, seasoned GOP hired guns who would likely scare away the true-blue right-wingers needed for combat duty in the early primaries. To calm this rank and file, Bush has been hosting right-wingers like Andy Messing of the National Defense Council Foundation, who advised the governor to use foreign-policy issues like defense, drug interdiction, Muslim extremism to bridge divisions between social conservatives and free-market supporters. In addition, Bush reportedly has retained Ralph Reed as an adviser. (A Reed aide said he had no "formal role" in the Bush campaign, adding, "They've known each other as friends, but that's the extent of their relationship.")
Meanwhile, beyond overtures to Latino voters, Bush has been trying out moves to attract a wider following. Just before the election, he sided with environmentalists to kill a proposed nuclear waste dump near the Mexican border in West Texas. But just as people began to think he might not be so bad on the environment after all, the media revealed that sending that dump to the trash heap helped make an alternative site to the northeast more appealing. It is partially owned by a key Bush supporter, Harold Simmons.
In fact, Bush's trail to political stardom has been marked by one creepy deal after another:
Critics claim the governor mentioned his famous father to help a company with which he was involved get exclusive offshore drilling rights from Bahrain. The Wall Street Journal reported that Bush's firm had "never drilled a single well overseas or in water." (Bush vehemently denied his using his father's influence.)
During Bush's first term as governor, the Houston Chronicle questioned deals that benefited Richard Rainwater, a Fort Worth billionaire and prominent Bush backer, including state buildings sold at prices alleged to be below marked value to Rainwater's company.
"I didn't I swear I didn't get into politics to feather my nest or feather my friends' nests," Bush insisted. "Any insinuation that I have used my office to help my friends is simply not true."
The U.S.'s Secret Affair With the Evil Dictator
Even as war clouds come and go over Baghdad, the Bush family including George W., who cut his teeth in the oil business in the Gulf understands all too well that the U.S. really needs Saddam Hussein.
Over the last two decades, the U.S. has used Saddam to counter radical Shiite Muslims in Iran. Without Saddam, Iraq could fall apart, with the Kurds in the north moving decisively to form their own country, thereby destabilizing Turkey, an important U.S. ally. The Shiites in the south could easily link up with Iran. Such changes would threaten the U.S.'s Mideast oil supply.
bbb During the 1980s, Washington financed Saddam throughout Iraq's war with Iran, sending arms to the evil dictator through third parties. His demise would still spell disaster for the U.S., which explains why this country never has seriously tried to kill him instead putting out stories about scouring the country in search of his bunker. Now the administration is floating the prospect of a U.S. ground force separating Kuwait and Iraq.
The best way for the U.S. to show continuing support for Saddam is through continued sanctions which is exactly what Clinton promised last November when Saddam broke off inspections.
"What he has just done is to ensure that the sanctions will be there until the end of time, or as long as he lasts," Clinton declared at the time.
Chattanooga Chum Eyed in Justice Probe
Monica notwithstanding, both Clinton and Al Gore face serious problems if the Justice Department goes ahead with an inquiry into 1996 campaign-finance irregularities. A decision is due early next month. Meanwhile, a federal grand jury has indicted Chattanooga land developer and Gore bud Franklin L. Haney on charges he illegally funneled $79,500 into Clinton -Gore campaigns in 1992 and 1996, and $20,000 into the 1994 races of two other Tennessee Democrats.
The 42-count indictment charges that Haney paid dozens of people, including employees, to write $1000 checks to Clinton-Gore as well as for the reelection of Jim Sasser (now ambassador to China), and the Senate race of former congressman (now stockbroker) Jim Cooper, who ran unsuccessfully for Gore's old Senate seat. According to the complaint, Haney then reimbursed them. Haney denied any wrongdoing. The Justice Department said none of the candidates who got money were aware of the allegedly illegal contributions.
The department claims Haney was asked for $50,000 in 1995 for the Clinton-Gore campaign. At the time, he was trying to get a lease deal with the government for his Portals office complex in southwest Washington. Justice is investigating the Portals project and Haney's role in that deal.
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