Who is “Torie” Clarke?: Strange decisions at the Pentagon – (Part I of 2)

Published 16 years ago -  - 16y ago 16


The major news media gleans its defense-related information through her; as Deputy Director for Public Affairs, the Pentagon, she was, according to Washington Post writer Howard Kurtz and D.C. insiders, a “White House pick,” who confessed to knowing “next to nothing” about defense matters, prior to being selected at the urging of Mary Matalin–counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney; like Ms. Matalin, who is married to Clinton aide James Carville, Clarke, too, married a Democrat, and is both “pro-choice” and deeply suspicious of the 2nd amendment. Her previous political experience was, chiefly, as John McCain’s press secretary, from 1983-1989 and, briefly, as a spokesperson within George Bush’s administration, 1992; a fixture at FreeRepublic.com, a government-issued demographic database at her fingertips, the pol regularlyhandicaps key political races, though she confesses to being “wrong as hell” in her assessment of failed Republican Richard Riordan, whom she supported in the GOP primaries over conservative Bill Simon; post-Riordan, and with characteristic boldness, she announces that she’ll vote for Democrat Governor Gray Davis in the general election. Scathing in her reviling of “right-wingers,” Ms. Clarke can be counted on to jump in, in the negative, naturally, whenever the John Birch Society is mentioned within FreeRepublic.com. She holds, by her own admission, liberal Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan and nominal Republican John McCain as her favorite all-time Senators, and in that order.

An odd pick, all-in-all, for a White House which is said to value loyalty above all, and especially for a Defense Department selection–and a hands’-on winner for the “Doh! What Were We Thinking?“-award, when all is said and done at the culmination of George W. Bush’s first, and perhaps only, term as President.

Not that Ms. Clarke is unique, as a liberal in a position of prominence in the Bush administration. Colin Powell was tapped as Secretary of State; Christie Todd Whitman as Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Democrat Norman Mineta as Transportation Secretary. Conservative former Senator Dan Coats (R-IN) was passed over for Secretary of Defense, for his opposition to homosexuals in the military, and in favor of Donald T. Rumsfeld, whose American Conservative Union ratings during his tenure in Congress hovered at a tepid 68%.

The roster of speakers at the Republican National Convention confirmed that George W. Bush would be doing no favors for the Constitution, with John McCain, Colin Powell and homosexual Congressman Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) edging out more ardently American voices. Left strictly on ideological grounds, most among the Right/libertarian axis (the GOP “base”) agree that this President Bush, like his father, has been and will likely continue to be a disappointment; the selection of a Torie Clarke–a political liberal and military novice–to a senior Defense Department position, is but another squandered opportunity to right this listing Ship of State.

But there are darker questions about “Torie” Clarke beyond that of “mere” ideology, and which deserve to be raised in the media and for public discernment. The first, and perhaps least important, hearkens back to John McCain’s two terms as a member of the House of Representatives (1982-1986), with Ms. Clarke at the helm of his public relations apparatus. I butted heads personally with Victoria Clarke during this period, as a staffer to former Congressman John Conlan (R-AZ; 96% lifetime ACU rating) and Governor Evan Mecham, whose John Birch Society sympathies and vigorous states’-rights stance doomed him with Establishment Republicans and in the state and national media. As Director of Public Relations for the Arizona Young Republican League and a conservative activist, I and a vocal group of Republicans sought to expose Mr. McCain on two sensitive fronts; chiefly:

1) As a military veteran, did then-Congressman McCain know of Arizona Republic newspaper publisher Darrow J. “Duke” Tully’s having lied for years about being a Korean war veteran; and did McCain’s curious entry into Arizona politics–where he had no roots and was initially deemed a carpetbagger–involve clandestine knowledge, even unto blackmail, of “Duke” Tully’s fraudulent claims to military service. And did Ms. Clarke, as his PR chief, stonewall investigators then, as, according to Insight magazine publisher Paul Rodriguez, she is doing now with the Pentagon’s bungled Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) disinfo agency and the troubled anthrax investigation?

Darrow Tully, who endorsed and championed candidate John McCain in the pages of the Arizona Republic in 1981, and who owned side-by-side condominiums in La Jolla, California with Mr. McCain, and who granted Mr. McCain the honor of being his daughter’s godfather, was exposed early in 1986 as a patent fraud, vis-a-vis his claims to have been a Korean war-era Air Force Colonel and fighter pilot. Tully had never spent a single day in military service, at any level, and had purchased his uniform from nearby Luke Air Force Base. Elements within his own newspaper, tipped off by veterans groups, forced Tully to hold a public press conference and resign immediately from all capacity with the Republic newspaper. In the days and weeks following the “Tully imbroglio,” John McCain came under blistering scrutiny in the state media and amongst conservative Republicans and veterans groups for his relationship with his political benefactor, and, to the minds and satisfaction of many Arizonans, never did come clean as to whether he knew of his friend’s lies. That McCain served in the Navy, with limited flight experience, and as his father and grandfather before him held the rank of Naval Admiral, it is still strongly suspected, here and elsewhere, that he had spotted a chink in “Duke” Tully’s armor, and capitalized on it ruthlessly.

Torie Clarke, for her part, did as she was paid to do, shielding her boss from the onslaught. Had she known whether, in fact, McCain possessed prior knowledge of Tully’s deception, she might well have ended McCain’s political career then and there. But with the trail having gone quite cold since 1986, it is doubtful that questions surrounding this event will ever be resolved.

2) During the same period, late-1985 to mid-1986, the same group of conservative activists and military veterans were pressing Mr. McCain to co-sponsor legislation offered by Illinois Congressman and one-time Presidential candidate Philip M. Crane; dubbed “House Resolution 97,” this legislation sought to end all Federally-funded trade with and aide to the then-Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact satellites, and to impose harsh penalties upon private corporations and individuals doing business with our Cold War nemesis.

Two simple phone calls to the offices of Congressmen Bob Stump (R-AZ) and the late Eldon Rudd (R-AZ) gained me–a political nobody–and a group of anti-communist activists entry and a personal meeting with those fine gentlemen. Within days, we were paid notice by their respective chiefs of staff, stating that, indeed, H.R. 97 was the right and true measure of action, and that the Congressmen would be signing Mr. Crane’s legislation. But it was not so with John McCain.

After many attempts at stonewalling our entry, we finally succeeded in meeting a very junior McCain aide, who informed us that he had spoken with his boss, and that the former POW‘s response was, “The success of H.R. 97 will push the USSR closer to China, and could well harm U.S. economic trade with China.” We offered that this was a Kissingerian fallacy, but were rebuffed utterly from within McCain HQ.

Toward bringing Mr. McCain’s views to light, at our own time and expense and under the rubric of a newly-formed organization dubbed “The Committee for American Freedom & Enterprise,” C.A.F.E. printed a booklet of Congressman McCain’s voting record, extracted from the Congressional Record and various conservative ratings organizations.

The forward to Sacrificing America was penned by former Arizona Congressman Sam Steiger, a fallen-darling of the Right, in which he chose, at considerable risk to his own standing in Arizona, to write:

“I have always been skeptical of legislative voting records made by special interest groups, in that the title of the legislation frequently has little bearing on the content of affect of that legislation.

What is most useful in this analysis of Mr. McCain’s voting patterns is the comparison with two identifiable Arizona conservatives: Congressmen Stump and Rudd. Clearly, there is a strong and significant difference in philosophy and understanding of the Arizona electorate between these gentlemen. Once again, Mr. McCain’s lack of identity with Arizona and its views is brought home. Perhaps most dramatic of all is the clear message that imprisonment by communist captors does not necessarily enhance ones’ knowledge of the dangers of communism.

Hopefully, the results of this effort by these younger Arizona conservatives will be to increase Mr. McCain’s understanding of the Arizona constituency he purports to represent.”

Sam Steiger–Former United States Congressman

As McCain’s spokeswoman, Torie Clarke would answer for her boss in the pages of the Arizona Republic, labeling Steiger’s comments, “a cheap shot,” but offered no refutation.

We then began attending Mr. McCain’s various Town Hall meetings and dusted each seat with a copy of Sacrificing America: A Shocking Look at the Voting Record of Arizona Congressman John McCain. At Scottsdale Civic Center, his staffers attempted to remove the literature, but opted to let it rest when a particularly forceful member of our organization collared local TV anchor Lyn Sue Shepard, who was in attendance, and began waxing eloquently of the troublesome thing that is our 1st amendment, and the fact that the Scottsdale Civic Center is “public property,” and McCain’s staff left us alone thereafter.

Later, at a similar Town Hall meeting, in a less-affluent area of South Phoenix, a group of retirees, many of them veterans, began peppering the Congressman as to his “aye” vote on the question of “Most Favored Nations'”-status for then-Communist Romania. McCain fumbled, lamely asserting that he had voted “nay” on the matter and that the Congressional Record must be in error, but the attendant group was unappeasable. And that is when I and my cohorts and everyone in attendance got a glance of the legendary “temper tantrums.”

The Congressman began to charge to the back of the hall, where I and associates sat, shook off one of his aides, losing his jacket in the process, and SCREAMED: “You f*cking idiots! You’ve been following me around for weeks! Get outta here! Get out! I’m sick and tired of being followed around. Get the f*ck out of this hall!

He was shaking and sweating, sheet-white, and unable to continue the meeting, which ended amidst general embarrassment. Still, he was unwilling to co-sponsor Phil Crane’s House Resolution 97, and this was where life got weird.

Seeking Barry Goldwater’s soon-to-be-vacated Senator’s seat, McCain was slated to speak before the very rightist Arizona Breakfast Club–a legendary forum comprised mostly of members of the John Birch Society and ardently anti-communist veterans and activist leaders. The Congressman’s support there was shaky, and, tipped off to our attendance and the offering of Sacrificing America on that Saturday morning, the climate was going to be very nasty for him.

By the end of his speech, though, it was I and my colleagues who had been lambasted and thoroughly outmaneuvered before our own, and which demonstrated McCain’s cunning.

After opening remarks, McCain laid down his prepared speech and announced, “Members and guests of the Arizona Breakfast Club, I’m glad to be here this morning. I don’t know how many times I’ve spoken here…ten, fourteen. And I just want to tell you that I can’t put a value on the support you’ve given me since I took John Rhodes’s House seat in 1982… Which makes this very difficult. I’m saddened it has to be this way. But there are two young men here this morning who seek to defame my reputation. They don’t see the honor of my military service; they wish to impugn my patriotism,” he continued. “I wish there were some other way, but these two young men insist on spreading rumor and innuendo. And so I have brought with me this morning a letter…from Bill Miller.”

“You all know Bill Miller. He’s been a friend of ours for years. He’s a Bircher,” McCain said, offhandedly, expertly. “And he wrote this because he couldn’t stand to see these two young men malign a conservative Congressman.”

McCain started out slowly, building, whipping the crowd up with the appeal of Johnny Cash at the Radio City Music Hall. And then, with the calculated precision of the PR pro he really is, declared, “And so…after consulting with my advisors, and with prayer, I have decided to sign House Resolution 97, ending aid and trade to the Soviet Union. It is a good and patriotic piece of legislation. God bless you all,” he saluted, and walked away.

It was true that William Miller, then a prominent East Valley newspaper publisher and conservative activist, had been a member of the John Birch Society; but his membership in the JBS had been terminated after he became a founding member of David Duke’s “National Association for the Advancement of White People.” McCain’s selection of Bill Miller for a letter, such as was read before the Arizona Breakfast Club, was a master-stroke. He had single-handedly announced his support for H.R. 97, before a most influential right-wing forum, and, simultaneously, crippled C.A.F.E.’s fledgling efforts to ride him out of Congress. But it wasthe way in which he obtained the letter from Mr. Miller that demonstrated his grasp of Machiavellian maneuvers.

Hours following the Breakfast Club debacle, John Birch Society state coordinator Guy Roberts phoned the home of William Miller, a tape recorder running. Roberts asked him “how?” and “why?”, and immediately Mr. Miller broke, and said that McCain’s chief of staff Grant Woods had come to his home, with a deal he couldn’t refuse. Bill Miller had been injured in the Korean war and, for whatever reason, denied Veterans department disability benefits. In exchange for a letter discrediting myself and my colleagues, Congressman John McCain guaranteed that Miller would receive those benefits. Miller would say, on tape, thatSacrificing America had “done more good than a bucketful of bullets.”

Among the listeners of this tape were myself, my then-political colleague J. Zane Smith and former JBS National Council member J. Wayne Watson. I wrote of these events a decade ago, in a political autobiography, and which, during the 2000 GOP primaries, were culled nearly wholesale by New York Times writer Michael Franz.

I wonder if “Torie” Clarke would like to reminisce on these events, for the public record. I doubt it, but I welcome the exchange.

Toward next week’s second and final installment of this piece, which will deal with Ms. Clarke herself and not of her former boss, and especially wherein is concerned the anthrax “investigation” and (what I will label now) coverup, via the Pentagon’s fledgling (and by now, merely rerouted/renamed) Office of Strategic Influence, know that–as with FBI “Special Agent” Bradley J. Garrett, who obfuscated and covered for the Clintons in both the Vince Foster and intern Mary Caitrin Mahoney/Starbucks coffeehouse slaying, then rose to “Lead Investigator” status in none other than the Gary Condit/Chandra Levy “investigation”–the value of a senior government staffer lies not in how effective one is, nor in ones adherence to the Constitution, but in knowing what not to say, and often.


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