Wednesday, July 07, 2004

It's time for the next installment in my seemingly sisyphian task of debunking Dave Kopel.

Part one (Deceits 1-2) is here.
Part two (Deceits 3-7) is here.
Part three (Deceits 8-16) is here.

Deceits 17-23

Moore mentions that Bush’s old National Guard buddy and personal friend James Bath had become the money manager for the bin Laden family, saying, [that after the bin Ladens invested in James Bath,] "James Bath himself in turn invested in George W. Bush." The implication is that Bath invested the bin Laden family’s money in Bush’s failed energy company, Arbusto. He doesn’t mention that Bath has said that he had invested his own money, not the bin Ladens’, in Bush’s company. -- Matt Labash, "Un-Moored from Reality," Weekly Standard, July 5, 2004. See also: Frank, Newsday; Michael Isikoff & Mark Hosenball, "More Distortions From Michael Moore. Some of the main points in ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ really aren’t very fair at all," MSNBC.com, June 30, 2004.

Kopel's cuts it so fine he slices off his own thumb here. Look at the Moore quote: "James Bath himself in turn invested in George W. Bush." If Moore wanted to say that Bath had invested bin Laden money in Arbusto, he would have.

More to the point, Kopel offers no reason or evidence to support Bath's side of the story. Nor, for that matter, does he offer an explanation for this:

"In conflicting statements, Bush at first denied ever knowing Bath, then acknowledged his stake in Arbusto and that he was aware Bath represented Saudi interests."

If it truly were Bath's own money, I don't think Bush would have flinched so noticably when asked about him.

Moore makes a big point about the name of James Bath being blacked out from Bush National Guard records which were released by the White House. The blackout might appear less sinister if Moore revealed that federal law required the Alabama National Guard to black out the names any Guardsmen whose medical information was on the same pages as the records which the Alabama Guard released regarding George Bush's health records. So what Moore presents as a sinister effort to conceal the identity of James Bath was in fact the legally-required compliance with federal law.

Really? If that's the case, then why wasn't Bath's name redacted (the correct term, Mr. Nitpicky Kopel) on Moore's copies? Is Kopel suggesting that Moore obtained them illegally?

The documents Moore shows on screen during the movie, of course, contain no medical information about Bath anyway.

Moore points out the distressingly close relationship between Saudi Arabia’s ambassador, Prince Bandar, and the Bush family. But Moore does not explain that Bandar has been a bipartisan Washington power broker for decades, and that Bill Clinton repeatedly relied on Bandar to advance Clinton’s own Middle East agenda. (Elsa Walsh, "The Prince. How the Saudi Ambassador became Washington’s indispensable operator," The New Yorker, Mar. 24, 2003.)

And the Clinton family nickname for Bandar was...? Oh.

President Clinton’s former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Wyche Fowler, has been earning a lucrative living as a Saudi apologist and serving as Chairman of the Middle East Institute—a research organization heavily funded by Saudi Arabia. (Joel Mowbray, "Feeding at the Saudi Trough," Townhall.com, Oct. 1, 2003.)

I am not suggesting that Mr. Fowler is in any way corrupt; I’m sure that he is sincere (although, in my view, mistaken) in his strongly pro-Saudi viewpoint. What is misleading is for Moore to look at the web of Saudi influence in Washington only in regard to the Republican Bushes, and to ignore the fact that Saudi influence and money are widespread in both parties.

Kopel would have a point, if Clinton -- or any other president -- had invaded a country other than Saudi Arabia after 15 Saudis attacked America. Or if Hillary had gone to work for the Carlyle Group instead of running for the Senate.

Actually now that I think about it, he wouldn't have a point, since Moore makes explicit (again -- there's that difference between what Moore's opponents try to read between the lines, and what the lines themselves say) that the Saudis own a sizable chunk of America, and that this isn't a recent development.

Bush once served on the Board of Directors of the Harken Energy Company. According to Fahrenheit:

Moore: Yes, it helps to be the President’s son. Especially when you’re being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

TV reporter: In 1990 when M. Bush was a director of Harken Energy he received this memo from company lawyers warning directors not to sell stock if they had unfavorable information about the company. One week later he sold $848,000 worth of Harken stock. Two months later, Harken announced losses of more than $23 million dollars.

Moore:...Bush beat the rap from the SEC...

What Moore left out: Bush sold the stock long after he checked with those same 'company lawyers' who had provided the cautionary memo, and they told him that the sale was all right. Almost all of the information that caused Harken’s large quarterly loss developed only after Bush had sold the stock.

Despite Moore’s pejorative that Bush "beat the rap," no-one has ever found any evidence suggesting that he engaged in illegal insider trading.

Almost all? Meaning that there was some information related to the loss that Bush could have known before he sold off the stock?

Sounds like "beating the rap" to me...

Moore’s film suggests that Bush has close family ties to the bin Laden family—principally through Bush’s father’s relationship with the Carlyle Group, a private investment firm. The president’s father, George H.W. Bush, was a senior adviser to the Carlyle Group’s Asian affiliate until recently; members of the bin Laden family—who own one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest construction firms—had invested $2 million in a Carlyle Group fund. Bush Sr. and the bin Ladens have since severed ties with the Carlyle Group, which in any case has a bipartisan roster of partners, including Bill Clinton’s former SEC chairman Arthur Levitt. The movie quotes author Dan Briody claiming that the Carlyle Group "gained" from September 11 because it owned United Defense, a military contractor. Carlyle Group spokesman Chris Ullman notes that United Defense holds a special distinction among U.S. defense contractors that is not mentioned in Moore’s movie: the firm’s $11 billion Crusader artillery rocket system developed for the U.S. Army is one of the only weapons systems canceled by the Bush administration. -- Michael Isikoff, "Under the Hot Lights. Moore’s movie will make waves. But it’s a fine line between fact and fanaticism. Deconstructing ‘Fahrenheit 9/11.'" Newsweek, June 28, 2004.

Amazing how often Bill Clinton's name comes up in these deceits, isn't it?

Nice use of quotes around gained, too. Is Kopel suggesting that Carlyle lost money from United Defense's IPO?

Moore claims that refusing to mention the Crusader cancellation was alright because the cancellation came after the United Defense IPO. But the cancellation had a serious negative financial impact on Carlyle, since Carlyle still owns 47% of United Defense.

The day Rumsfeld cancelled Crusader, United was handed a contract by the DoD for an extremely similar project under a different name. So no, I doubt that the cancellation had much impact on Carlyle's bottom line at all.

Moore tells us that when Carlyle took United Defense public, they made a one-day profit of $237 million, but under all the public scrutiny, the bin Laden family eventually had to withdraw (Moore doesn’t tell us that they withdrew before the public offering, not after it). -- Labash, Weekly Standard.

I have to admit, this is as close as Kopel has come to making something stick, but given that we are 22 points in I'd prefer a little more detail before I concede the point. Kopel's track record ain't so good, so far. So what, and when, did the bin Ladens withdraw, exactly?

There is another famous investor in Carlyle whom Moore does not reveal: George Soros. (Oliver Burkeman & Julian Borger, “The Ex-Presidents’ Club,” The Guardian (London), Oct. 31, 2000.) But the fact that the anti-Bush billionaire has invested in Carlyle would detract from Moore’s simplistic conspiracy theory.

And there it is -- the first explicit reference to Moore's 'conspiracy theories', the ulitmate dismissal of a political opponent.

The problem is, there are no 'conspiracy theories' in F9/11, no matter how much Kopel would like there to be. Moore makes the point that the Bush family does too much business with the Saudis to be objective about them. If that qualifies as a 'conspiracy theory', then the phrase has lost all meaning.

Moore alleges that the Saudis have given 1.4 billion dollars to the Bushes and their associates.

Moore derives the $1.4 billion figure from journalist Craig Unger’s book, “House of Bush, House of Saud.” Nearly 90 percent of that amount, $1.18 billion, comes from just one source: contracts in the early to mid-1990’s that the Saudi Arabian government awarded to a U.S. defense contractor, BDM, for training the country’s military and National Guard. What’s the significance of BDM? The firm at the time was owned by the Carlyle Group, the powerhouse private-equity firm whose Asian-affiliate advisory board has included the president’s father, George H.W. Bush.

...The main problem with this figure, according to Carlyle spokesman Chris Ullman, is that former president Bush didn’t join the Carlyle advisory board until April, 1998—five months after Carlyle had already sold BDM to another defense firm. -- Isikoff & Hosenball, MSNBC.com.

Sadly for Kopel, James A. Baker was on Carlyle's board when BDM got that $1.18 billion deal. Oops.

Does it really matter, though? Kopel is desperately trying to discredit an 'I scratch your back, you don't invade my country' relationship between the Bushes and the Saudis, when Moore claimed no such relationship. It's purely an oil-soaked strawman.

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