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Arthur Finkelstein Is Screwing Up America

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This is the second of the excerpts from my new book, 101 People Who Are REALLY Screwing America (and Bernard Goldberg is Only #73), a corrective to Goldberg's 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (and Al Franken is #37). Dedicated as he is to propagating the idea that it is liberals who dominate America and therefore are responsible for almost all of its ills, Goldberg's book included, by my count, 81 liberals, 7 minor conservatives, and 12 others. But not, just for example, one member of the Bush administration. Nor one Republican member of Congress, or lobbyist, or money-man. No one responsible for the Iraq disaster; the pre-9/11 "intelligence" failures; illegal spying on Americans; sanctioning secret detention and torture; trying to subvert the Constitution by turning Congress and the courts into branches of the executive branch and giving the president unlimited, quasi-dictatorial powers; gutting our environmental laws and giving free rein and fat subsidies to polluters, drillers, strip-miners, and other land-rapers; suppressing scientific information about global warming, AIDS prevention, and consumer safety; or working to replace science education with Christian-fundamentalist claptrap.

All that was ignored because, you see, it's actually Phil Donahue, Tim Robbins and Barbra Streisand who are screwing up America. People like that.

Although I have chosen some less well-known and some non-political figures to excerpt here (last week I posted my #100, Dan "Da Vinci Code" Brown), I assure you my list goes right up and includes our political evil-doers-in-chief. In fact, I deserve and expect your sympathy for having had to choose just a few of my 101 entries; there were approximately 101 that I felt were too important and terrific not to make the cut.

#82: Arthur "Element of Hypocrisy" Finkelstein

"GOP Consultant Weds His Male Partner" (New York Times, 4/9/2005). There's a headline you don't see every day. Not that there's anything wrong with it. It wouldn't be worth mentioning if the consultant hadn't, through most of the 40 years of that domestic partnership, worked on behalf of some of America's most rabidly homophobic politicians; if he wasn't "the architect of Jesse Helms's political rise"; if he wasn't acclaimed as "the guy who slandered the term 'liberal' in American politics"; if he hadn't worked for presidents Nixon and Reagan; helped elect the likes of George W. Bush, New York Governor George Pataki, Senator Alphonse D'Amato, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "To the Right of Attila Sharon" Netanyahu; advised Sharon; helped the Swift Boat Smearers for Bush smear John Kerry's military reputation; and announced that he would be spearheading the "Get Hillary" campaign to defeat Senator Clinton's reelection campaign in 2006.

All that, and more, is on Arthur Finkelstein's resume. If you haven't heard of him before, it's because he made sure you didn't. As CNN reported in 1996: "He is the stuff of Hollywood: A man who can topple even the most powerful foes, yet so secretive that few have ever seen him." Finkelstein has been compared to criminal mastermind Kaiser Sose in The Usual Suspects, who lay so low that some doubted he really existed. CNN captioned its photo, "Only known photo of Arthur Finkelstein." This after 20 years in big-time politics.

Finkelstein, a Massachusetts resident, helped direct Republican strategy in 33 Senate races in 1996 alone. Typical Finkelstein ad lines: "Call liberal Paul Wellstone. Tell him it's wrong..." "That's liberal. That's Jack Reed. That's wrong. Call liberal Jack Reed..." "That's the Finkelstein formula," Democratic consultant Mark Mellman told CNN: "Just brand somebody a liberal, use the word over and over again..." Clients called this "Finkel-think." Among Finkelstein's most outspokenly homophobic clients were Lauch Faircloth (R-NC), Jesse Helms (R-NC), Don Nickles (R-OK), and Bob Smith (R-NH) -- four senators whose opposition helped defeat a bill banning anti-gay job discrimination. "I think it's clear that there is an element of hypocrisy where [Finkelstein] lives this kind of sedate, gay lifestyle while making millions of dollars off of candidates who bash gays," Stephen Rodrick, who outed the Fink in a 1996 article in Boston Magazine, told CNN.

Nor did being Jewish stop Finkelstein from helping to constantly remind voters in a 1978 South Carolina Congressional race that the Democratic candidate, Max Heller, was Jewish. (A poll Finkelstein conducted for the Republican, Carroll Campbell, referred to Campbell as "a native South Carolinian" and Heller as "a Jewish immigrant." Five days before the election, an independent candidate jumped in -- allegedly at the Republicans' behest -- and attacked Heller for not "believ[ing] in Jesus Christ." Heller lost by less than 6,000 votes.)

A classic Finkel-think tactic was the "independent expenditure" campaign, which, by remaining technically unaffiliated with any candidate, "can avoid spending limits while pummeling Democrats with ads GOP candidates can later disavow," Time explained. The beauty of this arrangement, a Fink colleague once explained, is that "a group like ours [Finkelstein's National Conservative Political Action Committee] could lie through its teeth, and the candidate stays clean."

Finkelstein's wedding, which was disclosed by an associate, took place in December 2004. "None of Mr. Finkelstein's better-known political clients" attended, the Times noted.