In anti-Trump hit piece The Daily Beast didn’t disclose its own columnist — Stuart Stevens — and his ties to brutal dictatorships.
Betsy Woodruff, when she isn’t defending her friend and hoax artist Michelle Fields, was fed some great oppo on Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s deputy campaign manager and delegate wrangler.
Apparently Manafort worked for some bad, bad, naughty, naughty black African despots back in the Reagan days before either Betsy or I were born. Oh my!
Still, despite her shilling, Betsy is kind of fun despite plagiarizing a story of mine and claiming it as her own.
(Editor’s note: Frankly torturing and killing communists gets you a gold star in the Chuck C. Johnson book. I’m not saying I’d invite any of Manafort’s clients over for dinner but I wouldn’t turn down an invitation to the respective embassies to eat watermelons or fried chicken or whatever local culinary practices. Among the CIA’s best accomplishments was working to jail that communist Nelson Mandela. Alas the Cold War is over and the cultural Marxists won and run sites like BuzzFeed (at least until the venture cycle causes them to die out).)
You can watch Woodruff go on and on in a Valley girl voice about how terrible the communist killer Jonas Savimbi was in her diavlog with Politico’s Daniel Strauss.
But Woodruff didn’t disclose that Daily Beast columnist and former Romney consultant (and possible Obama ’08 supporter and future Hillary Clinton backer) Stuart Stevens worked for two dictators in the 2000s. Hey that’s when Betsy Woodruff was actually alive!
Here’s how the New Republic reported about Stevens’s love for the dictators of Albania and the Democratic Republic of Congo [sic].
Though [Albania dictator] Berisha has remained a close American ally under the Obama administration—and even joined NATO four years ago—a 2010 State Department cable written by the U.S. ambassador warned that Berisha was attempting to rebuild a secret police force and, along with the Socialist opposition, evinced “an authoritarian streak.” Since leaving his post in Albania, the ex-ambassador, John Withers, has become one of Berisha’s most vocal critics, accusing him of driving Albanian democracy into the ground since his return to power in 2005. His leadership has run “exactly contrary to democracy-building,” Withers said in an interview with Albanian media in March. His government “has routinely bullied the courts … striven to curtail media freedoms through restrictive and undemocratic laws,” manipulated the electoral process, and “shown an active, even obsessive interest in only one objective: the pursuit of power by any means at its disposal.”
After his triumph electing Berisha, Stevens went to work on a 2006 election in the Democratic Republic of Congo. By then, Kabila had been in power for four years, after assuming the presidency upon his father’s assassination. Though he ruled by diktat, he also held promise as a reformer, helping negotiate a partial end to an immense regional war and passing a liberal constitution.
In the run-up to the election, however, human rights groups began protesting a campaign of suppression waged by Kabila’s government against the opposition. A Human Rights Watch report detailed violent incidents. In one raid, “agents of the special police” stormed a Christian television station, arresting a pastor critical of the political process, beating technicians and destroying the broadcasting equipment. The government also imprisoned a journalist for “insulting the head of state,” and soldiers routinely shot protesters.
As The Economist put it at the time, Kabila was “making full use of his control of the security services and his monopoly of the state media” to secure the election. But, “leaving nothing to chance,” and lest his security forces and media monopoly prove insufficiently persuasive, he had hired the Stevens and Schriefer Group. “As Mr. Kabila starts campaigning at rallies, the Stevens and Schriefer Group’s slogans, television advertisements and mobile cinemas are being dispatched to every corner of Congo,” said the magazine.
Shortly before the election, the leading opposition figure, Etienne Tshisekedi, dropped out of the race, insisting it was rigged in advance. Kabila’s main challenger then became one of his own vice-presidents, a former warlord who would later be tried for war crimes in an international court. Kabila won the election by a wide margin. When the results were announced, however, there was tension and sporadic violence in the capital, with fears the country would fall into civil war. His challenger ultimately conceded, and despite irregularities the United Nations declared the election a success for a country that hadn’t seen a vote in decades.
Though there were “an awful lot of irregularities,” Tom Turner, an expert on the Congo with Amnesty International, said he believed Kabila was probably the lesser of two evils in the election—emphasizing that it was the withdrawal of the most credible opposition candidate that left voters with no palatable alternative. Turner also suggested Stevens overlooked human rights abuses in view of his contractual obligation to win.
“If you’re doing propaganda—if I can use that term as neutrally as possible—and some human rights abuses are directed at journalists, political parties and human rights organizations, you have kind of a conflict of interest,” he said.
Though Stevens’ firm produced a campaign film promising the Congolese people a brighter future under Kabila’s leadership, almost immediately after the election Kabila unleashed a wave of slaughter and mass arrest that prompted Foreign Policy magazine to label him the “new Mobutu,” referring to the infamous megalomaniac who ruled Congo for the latter part of the 20th century. Since the election, the magazine said, “Kabila’s regime has amassed one of the world’s worst human rights records.”
A Human Rights Watch dossier in 2008 alleged that Kabila’s government killed “an estimated 500 people and detained about 1,000 more, many of whom have been tortured, in the two years since elections that were meant to bring democracy … Some were kept chained for days or weeks and many were forced to sign confessions saying they had been involved in coup plots against Kabila.” When Kabila was reelected late last year, the State Department dismissed the vote as “seriously flawed” and a “disappointment,” and a UN fact-finding mission shortly afterward confirmed his government has tortured and disappeared political opponents.
To be sure, Stevens is far from alone is selling his know-how to candidates abroad. Among top-flight consultants, such work is almost a rite of passage. For example, one of President Obama’s senior admen, Jim Margolis, directed campaigns on four continents, though the only foreign client his firm names on its website is Nelson Mandela. (Stevens’ counterpart in the Obama campaign, David Axelrod, doesn’t appear to have run international campaigns, aside from one in Ontario, but it’s difficult to know for sure: consultants aren’t required to disclose their clients as long as they refrain from lobbying officials in the United States.)
Stevens’ ability to run campaigns for foreign despots and now for the potential next president of the United States typifies the global omnipresence of America’s consultants, but it also calls into question the extent to which he believes what he peddles. In Albania, Stevens ran Berisha on an anti-corruption platform; his government has since been implicated in horrendous corruption scandals. In the Congo, Stevens sold Kabila as a great hope; today, political opponents vanish into his regime’s dungeons. But to Stevens, now at the height of his career and at a comfortable remove from Albania and the Congo, those promises are likely of little significance. In Big Enchilada, his account of working in Bush’s inner-circle on the 2000 election, Stevens wrote of his “astonishment” at discovering that campaign officials believed Bush would keep his promises once elected. Their attitude, he wrote, was “highly admirable and terribly unnecessary.”
No one expected candidates to keep their promises, he explained.
Where is Tim Mak and Betsy Woodruff’s outrage over this track record of supporting dictatorships? He is, after all, a colleague.
Now I don’t mind Stuart Stevens, in a sort of nihilistic way in which these regimes built on lies collapse. He’s the sort of dilettante that doesn’t really want to work that I somewhat admire if only because I like the hustle. At one point we emailed back and forth about working together on some research projects and frankly I wouldn’t be totally against doing the research against some leftist or whatever that Stevens is pretending to dislike for his paymasters.
I didn’t like when Stevens was planting fake research against me in Business Insider or the Washington Examiner or National Review or wherever but hey at least it gave me the ability to map all the GOP establishment press connections.
I’d prefer Stevens actually win an election in America (like the one where he worked for Romney and beyond working to steal the Mississippi GOP primary) but what can you do. I’d prefer he spend his time doing something more productive like writing movie scripts or books that no one reads.
Isn’t it interesting how many of the same people who were down with toppling dictators and promoting democracy abroad aren’t so keen on it in America?
What bothers me more is the moral posturing of journalists who act all shocked when they learn that yes, in some years, some campaign managers or consultants work for foreign governments.
Actually it’s about ethics in political journalism.
Oh, and another thing, Betsy, if you’re going to be lecturing someone about brutal dictatorships, maybe don’t take the selfie at the Cuban embassy?
I get having to cover Cuba and all but the selfie? Really?
Neither Mak nor Woodruff nor Stevens replied to a request for comment.