Headhunting, Character Assassination…and assorted nasty deeds
[from Hell Bottled Up: Chronicles of a Late Propaganda Minister (Far Gone Books, 2016)]
Wake up, sluggard, there is no time for rest.”
“Uh. Try later.”
“Get up. I’ve got two grand in ink just sitting here on my floor.”
“Jet lagged…tired…call later.”
“Move! Move! Move!”
Zane Smith is a U.S. Marines Drill Sergeant, the L.A. Raiders’ defensive trainer, and Sun Tzu, realized in one hulking, 380-pound shell. He has no room for idleness. The Committee for American Freedom and Enterprise, Inc., had been transformed from a rec-room operation into a realistic menace, thanks to Zane’s “pain=gain” philosophy. While I sucked lungsful of black Lebanese hash in London, Zane was busy making it into the Arizona papers, earning CAFE the exposure we would need for to pull off such a vicious campaign.
Sacrificing America: A Shocking Look at the Voting Record of Arizona Congressman John McCain was launched at a news conference of the Phoenix Press Club, to the stunned horror of the Party Establishment. Zane had approached it like any PR pro, and the results were impressive. The Arizona Republic — mouthpiece of the status quo that it is — dismissed us as being “outside the rank-and-file” and “with an axe to grind.” Which was true, in a sense, but irrelevant. The same dumb logic that might shrug off the Baeder-Meinhoff Gang or the Weathermen as “just another group of student-types.”
However, the Chandler Tribune pushed out a kindly article, entitled, “Fighting for the Right,” which did Zane and I the service of announcing our inevitable intention as future office-seekers. I felt that we should send that particular reporter a good bottle of scotch or something, but Zane disagreed.
“Back from the land of the dead,” he smiled, wriggling through my parents’ front door. “You need a haircut.”
Which was probably also true, but I didn’t see any real or compelling reason to start in with personal eccentricities — at least not until I’d had the chance to unwind, maybe get accustomed to American thinking again. Besides, I hadn’t had good luck with barbers lately.
“We just scored a coup,” Zane grinned.
“Uh-huh. Sam Steiger just finished the forward to the McCain booklet.”
“Big deal,” I said. “Probably lots of people will read it.”
“Huh-uh,” he smiled, even wider. “Writing it. I didn’t tell you, because I wanted it to be a surprise.”
And it was. Sam Steiger was once an All-Star power-hitter for the Right — a renegade Republican and self-described “New York Jew horse-trader,” who had left the House in 1976 to run for U.S. Senate. Steiger had entered the Arizona State Senate from a backroom Flagstaff bar — encouraged by drink, that he could somehow become “the people’s candidate,” despite a genetic ethnicity problem which might have otherwise gotten him chased out of town like so many money lenders, were it not for a rugged, common-man farmer sort-of-redneck appeal that earned him the role of favorite adopted son in Congressional District 3, stretching from north Scottsdale to the Utah border. But in 1976, in his second term, Steiger went brow-to-brow against another Congressional monolith, John Bertrand Conlan.
Conlan was Irish, to Steiger’s semitic roots. Born-again against Jew, and the race poured blood. Conlan championed “the Christian vote,” and irked Arizona’s secular establishment to the extent that they dumped him in favor of Steiger for the Republican nomination. Many of Conlan’s supporters, as the story goes, couldn’t bear to usher a Jew into office, and shifted enough of their weight to elect Democrat Dennis DeConcini, who held the office for many terms, despite early claims toward avoiding the tag of “career politician.”
Steiger saw trouble after the bitter defeat. His sons were busted on drug charges. Then he, himself, was arrested after some heavy tippling for killing two wild burros at his Flagstaff ranch. His defense was classic private ownership: “I can shoot a jackass on my property anytime I feel like it…the beasts were eating my flowers.” But the public turned on him when a veterinarian concluded that both animals had been shot from behind.
He ran for Governor as a Libertarian in 1982, after losing GOP Party support, and garnered a stunning 13% of the vote, with a platform that read something like: “If elected, I will not serve. I will not use taxpayer’s monies on such a bogus and wasteful system as this.”
I opened Sacrificing America to the forward, sat back and smiled deliriously…
“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 or 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 one’s 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
Steiger’s disillusionment with McCain was longstanding. Once, in an opinion piece to Northern Arizona Life, he wrote of McCain: “In my little war, Korea, if you got captured, it meant you had screwed up. If you stayed captured for any length of time, it meant you had not tried to escape and, therefore, you spent a great deal of time explaining why you did not escape.”
Victoria “Torie” Clarke, McCain’s press-chief, labeled Steiger’s comments, “a cheap shot.”
McCain himself flipped humorist Will Rogers’ famed quote, that, “I never met a man I didn’t like” on its head: “I guess Will Rogers never met Sam Steiger, either,” McCain grumbled.
I flipped through Sacrificing America and was humbled to see my own small contribution, in the form of a long-ago poem:
1776 — ?
If time can wash away
the foundation given us today;
If freedom should pass us by,
then we have failed — you and I.
“I cried when I read that, Todd,” Zane told me. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
We were on the map — our own map, admittedly, but Rand McNally started out small once, too. The task at hand for CAFE was to fan the fire further into the state Party structure, and let McCain set himself aflame with his own unstable blather. We weren’t asking for much — just that he sign Phil Crane’s (R-Illinois) House Resolution 97, curtailing all aid to and trade with communist nations and their satellites.
And I had a plan to help the good Congressman on his patriotic way. A friend in Tucson had shipped up some TRIM Bulletins (Tax Reform Immediately) — a Birch-front publication committed to “Lower Taxes Through Less Government.” TRIM’s quarterly analysis of Congressional voting records are the bugaboo of various and sundry spendaholics, having led to the defeat of such liberal standard-bearers as Senators Charles Percy (R-Illinois), Birch Bayh (D-IN) and George McGovern (D-SD), many of whom publicly curse the Birch pamphlets and their parent organization as being an impediment to their strain of socialism.
My strategy rested on the hope that John McCain’s newest Winter 1985 record would be in league with Democratic Rep. Morris Udall, the sixteen-term Tucson liberal. And, days later, the vision came to pass.
“Guess what?” I squealed, over the transom, “their votes are exactly the same.”
Zane stalled ominously. “So…let’s ride him like a zebra.”
As official resident of McCain’s district, Zane brought over a town meeting schedule, which outlined the local halls and civic centers Honorable John would haunt daily for two full weeks, in a series of meet-your-elected representative-style gatherings. Which fell in nicely with our plan of attack: specifically, to get in his hair like so many nits, frustrate him publicly until he collapsed in a harried fit, whereby we would take credit for his signage of H.R. 97, bask in the wonderful glow of success…ride the popular wave to a State Senate seat.
We arranged a meeting with his Tempe office, on Mill Avenue, across from the Old Spaghetti Company. His staffers — mostly young and eager collegiate job-seekers — waited, grinning.
“It’s the Birchers!” somebody mocked.
A stocky, rugby-looking prep popped out a backroom door and pulled up two chairs. “So?” William smiled. “What kind of trouble are we in for today?”
“No trouble, Bill,” Zane told him, sliding a photocopy across the desk. “Not as long as John signs this resolution.”
The aide shook his head. “No. The Congressman doesn’t like this. It’s bad policy.”
“Bad for whom?” I wondered.
“Bad for trade. It could mean the end of relations with China.”
“Good!” Zane shouted, drawing stares. “Fuck Red China.”
“No,” the aide insisted, parroting what he had read, probably in any number of Hudson Review or CFR Quarterly journal articles, “it’s not in our interests. It forces China closer to the Soviets.”
I stared at him, the way his tie wound around a steroid-neck, constricting blood-flow. “And I’ve got a parcel of beach-front property in Wikeyup…Bill, that’s the oldest lie in the book. If McCain believes that, he’s a bigger fool than we thought.”
William looked around for help, but found no one offering. “Look, all I know is what John told me. He won’t sign this.”
“Yes he will,” Zane said.
“What are you going to do?”
Zane got up, pushed in his chair. “Tell McCain that it’s in his best interest to get on this fucking issue like an American.”
And we left, and headed for the Spaghetti Company for a beer and to assemble a drawing crew of Birchers. We needed around twenty-five players. The tactic was straight out of the Red-playbook — the Diamond — placing core groups in clusters, front, back, and to either side, much as had the agitators before the House un-American Activities Committee…shades of Whitaker Chambers, Elizabeth Bentley, Bella Dodd…peppering McCain, one-by-one, building slowly at first, then picking up tempo, applauding each other’s questions, and goading the crowd to join in.
. . .
Just another Monday night in Scottsdale. More cars and traffic. More red lights…no freeways…more snow-birds from places like Omaha, Milwaukee and Ottumwa, IA, clogging the snowless surface streets with their Lincoln Continentals and inept driving. Invariably, more accidents and cursing and general discontent in the air around Christmas. The suicide rate was probably up, as well, but I had no time to check out such grim rumors. I was busy making phone calls.
If Zane was, indeed, the leader of our Movement — as I readily and happily acknowledged him to be — then I ran The Show. My daily schedule consisted of rising, doing the toilet nasty, dressing, drinking, eating and studying only as often as general metabolism and grades necessitated, drinking, and making phone calls. Drinking, however, had taken temporary abatement to the more respectable aspects of the power-drive to harass John McCain. Not out of choice, mind you, but that the folks frown upon the practice, and Marcus — my erstwhile California counterpart — had buckled in the late hours, opting instead to remain in the Golden State, where food and rent came free and where a sizeable fortune could be made selling clothes at At-Ease Menswear in Newport Beach, leaving us both to the mercy of our beleaguered parents for the semester.
From the Birch pool, I was able to tap eleven to come to McCain’s first Town Meeting, to be held at the Scottsdale Civic Center. Only, the TRIM Bulletins had not arrived, and I was forced to spend two hours driving from Tempe to Glendale in a frantic search for the Tucson Democrat’s latest Congressional scorecard. I succeeded, but it took the life out of me, and I was forced to abuse the Xerox machine at a local real estate firm, while an ally and Birch sympathizer stood guard at the door…
At the Civic Center, I found Zane, hovering over the throng, tape recorder handy. The News Media was there in the form of Lyn Sue Shepard, a foxy weekend-anchor, and so was our jeering gallery. We divvied up the Bulletins — McCain’s stapled atop Udall’s — and dispersed them amongst the several hundred seats. But as we laid them down, McCain’s cronies picked them back up. So, we called for reinforcements and followed the Congressman’s aides around, setting more Bulletins down, on more seats, only to see them being picked up again, until Zane finally burst a gasket:
“Look, you motherfuckers!” he bellowed, drawing stares from all directions. “We’ve paid for these pamphlets. This is a public meeting hall, and I’ll file a Federal lawsuit if those sheets aren’t replaced EXACTLY as you found them.”
McCain nodded, understanding instantly, looking balefully at Ms. Shepard, a notepad in her clutches, but nothing at all scribbled down, and his aides dropped the mass of Bulletins from where they stood.
A certain foulness had permeated the air by this time. A group of angry Vets picked up on McCain’s sponsorship of a bill granting Most Favored Nation’s status to Romania.
“I don’t know how they’ve distorted this bill,” McCain grumbled, audibly, “but I voted against Most Favored Nation’s status…”
“Mr. McCain,” Zane said, stentoriously, from the back of the auditorium. “The John Birch Society did not dream up these issues. Your voting record was pulled straight out of the Congressional Record. Blame it on your own conscience, for once, will you?”
Suddenly, everyone became frustrated. “More farm subsidies?” someone shouted. “A TWO BILLION-DOLLAR Day Care, pork-snorting…?”
Scrambling defense. Black-running clouds of sulfer dioxide.
Lyn Sue Shepard left the hall abruptly, without getting All the News That Fits…just didn’t fit into her schedule, I guess. Zane and I signalled to the crew and filed out, seconds before the end of McCain’s performance, leaving him to twist in the breeze.
I headed home and clicked on the car stereo maybe five blocks from the folks’ house, and heard something out of the speakers. At first I thought I was just tired…but then I heard the words “lies” and “bogus war-hero.” But probably I was just hallucinating for want of drink: Wishful thinking, taken to dangerous extremes.
“Zane?” I asked, picking up the phone as soon as I had made it into my bedroom. “Did I…?”
He broke into an unstable laugh. “Can you believe it?! What kind of wacko does something like that?”
“What?!” I said, squirming. “I only caught the tail-end.”
“Duke Tully isn’t a war-hero…he’s a lie! All lies,” he giggled. “He never served a day in the military.”
Darrow J. “Duke” Tully, publisher of the Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette, and just general man-about-town, had for years, since his induction into the newspaper business, claimed an impressive military record. He posed constantly for group photos and attended various veterans group banquets as Guest of Honor, at their invitation….until the deal went down.
Apparently, his own newspapers had been sitting on the story, which, of fear, was stifled, until some rogue independent stringer threatened to take it for himself: That “the Colonel” — survivor of dangerous air raids on the Enemy Territory of Korea — had purchased his uniform from a local Army surplus store.
The tip-off came with every new resume, the Duke moving up the ladder, from a lowly City Desk editor to eventual publisher of the Pulliam dynastic Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette. His military rank, likewise, swelled with each new job — first Major, then Lt. Colonel, and finally, as he came to accept his own lies, The Full Bird. And now, the blasphemous thing was out. The Duke is no more. He resigned five minutes after the news-break, humiliated, and took an editor’s job in South Dakota, where maybe they forgive such things…maybe he’s just kidding himself. Probably, he’ll be haunted forever and turn into an early suicide.
Which is neither here nor there. I never portended to give a bleeding fuck about some pathological liar-of-a-publisher. But out of the Shame, we figured to use Tully — turned pariah in news circles — as a trump card.
In the course of some desperate digging, Zane had found that the Duke was also John McCain’s baby daughter’s godfather. And that the two owned side-by-side condominiums in La Jolla, which they purchased as a sort of package. A buddy deal. Nothing illegal, mind you, but enough to establish close linkage between one self-styled “war hero”-of-a-Congressman and his good friend, the disgraced non-war Vet… Only it gets worse; or better — depending upon your vested interests.
When the news media found out about this link, a good three days after Zane and I had, McCain faced some heavy grilling as to his old buddy, “Duke” Tully,” and whether he, maybe, knew about the deception. McCain denied everything, claiming to have believed Tully at his word. Which is plausible, but not real likely — in that Congressman McCain’s grandfather and father were both U.S. Navy fleet admirals, and that McCain counted former Senator John Tower, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, as one of his closest political allies. Each knowledgeable enough about military affairs to be able to sniff out a common poseur like Darrow J. “Duke” Tully.
While Zane applied phone pressure to McCain’s interests, I sent off an Open Letter to the Arizona newspapers, and to McCain’s Tempe and Mesa offices:
December 22, 1985
AN OPEN LETTER TO JOHN McCAIN
Dear Mr. McCain,
By now I am certain of your awareness of the Committee for American Freedom and Enterprise, Inc. The purpose of this organization, which J. Zane Smith and I founded, is not to menace you, or any other public official for that matter, but to make aware the general public of legislative action v. rhetoric.
Our obvious complaint against you is your failure to fulfill the two basic and fundamental obligations of an elected representative: to uphold the U.S. Constitution and to act as a mouthpiece for the electorate you represent. When you took office, you swore to uphold and abide by our nation’s foundation document, including Article III, Section III, which states directly: “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”
Whether in peacetime or at war, your agreement to furnish loans, credit, extensions, etc., to the U.S.S.R and failure to co-sponsor Representative Phil Crane’s House Resolution 97 can only be defined as treasonous. Of course, you are not alone in this crime.
You must, therefore, cease supporting pro-communist legislation and co-sponsor H.R. 97, as it is your Constitutional duty to do so. Your only other alternative is to resign from office.
I await your personal reply,
Very truly yours,
Todd Brendan Fahey
National co-Chairman, Committee for American Freedom and Enterprise, Inc.
“Excellent,” Zane admired. “I’ve dug up some other stuff on McCain. When he left the Navy, after the fall of Saigon, he told everyone he would marry the richest woman in Arizona…that is, after he had already scouted out Florida and Texas for a House seat. Can you believe that?” he laughed. “He couldn’t even win in Texas! Even with John Tower’s help. So, then, as the story goes, he gets hooked up with the Council on Foreign Relations/Trilateral-types and finds out that John Rhodes is retiring as House Majority Leader, which leaves a seat open in Arizona. And also, that Goldwater is history after the 1986 Senate election. See it?”
“And that Duke Tully had skeletons in three or eleven closets, and gave McCain the endorsement he needed in District 1 to push him past the rest of the pack, so he’d keep the phony war record secret,” I continued. “Sonofabitch. He called himself a ‘carpetbagger,’ but I didn’t take it seriously…I didn’t think he was that smart.”
“Smart enough to marry Cindy Lou Hensley,” Zane said. “She’s heiress to a bunch of the Budweiser fortune.”
. . .
The folks were taking a second honeymoon on the California coast, and I was left to take care of their home and a tiny, bright-eyed Dachshund, too good-humored to know that her back looked like a Singer test-pattern, but painfully aware of the sores that had opened up on the tops of her feet, from being dragged limply on the patio Astro-turf. A fenestration — the course of last resort for a furry, four year-old lap dog with a paralytic spine. Dad and Mom had spared no expense on the operation, but refused to cancel their vacation plans.
So, I was holed up for two weeks in a four-bedroom house in the Tatum & Shea region of Scottsdale/Paradise Valley. I knew of worse places.
I awoke early and walked through the house, and over to the makeshift nursery. Daffy winked at me and yawned, her tongue curling. I grabbed at it lightly. “You’re going to walk today, beast.”
Taking her carefully with both hands, I laid her on the livingroom floor. She rolled over automatically, to have her tummy rubbed, which made things easy. The muscles in her haunches had atrophied for lack of use, so I brought the hind legs up toward her chest, pushing down slowly, trying to keep her from squirming around. I needed to feel resistance. She had to fight me…but she couldn’t. Or didn’t.
“Rodent!” I yelled.
She kicked one of her feet spasmodically.
“That’s better,” I smiled, stroking her long, soft fur. Then she became antsy, so I changed the exercise. I filled up the bathtub with lukewarm water and lowered her halfway, supporting her middle. Paddling was the goal. “All four, mutt. Come on. I didn’t like it either when I was your age.” Her front legs kicked in the water, but the back two dangled and she started to whine. I dried her off and rubbed some antibiotic gel into the sores on her hind paws, and then put her outside on the patio, to roll around and get warm.
Winter in Scottsdale would be early Spring in most other places. The Arizona desert has about two seasons — hot and perfect…with minor variations, such as the August monsoons or an occasional snow flurry that doesn’t stick. Don’t look for any turning-of-the-leaves romance in Arizona. I’ve never seen a cactus spine grow orange on its own, or sagebrush drop much of its body-volume in the Fall. Thankfully, though, for the injured little dog, the air was warm and windless.
I walked to the mailbox and found a letter from Marcus, which I read and immediately answered:
Count your blessings. Not all girls are that generous; or reliable. Sure, I’d like to be able to tell time by the rhythmic bobbing of an Oriental mouth on my crimson harpoon, who wouldn’t? (And I did for nine months, remember?) You’re a lucky man, to be sure. Enjoy it while it lasts.
…because it rarely does. But before you start arguing with me, I think you should hear my theory, which, besides being true, is likely to become famous one day: There are two types of women (before they become Wives and Moms): cool chicks and dumb holes. That’s all. The painful nut of this theory is, that a good nine of ten gals are of the Dumb Hole variety. It’s not their fault, exactly…they just seem to have been born that way. Of the other ten percent, half will snap without warning and never mend, leaving most of us to whichever hand we’ve grown accustomed to over the years.
Dismal isn’t it?
Anyway, this goddamned beautiful Indian summer has me dreaming of cold-running keg parties and mindless depravity, and togas and sand and…now we have AIDS. I keep forgetting. Someone pulled the bad end of the wishbone, mine friend.
For now, the rules are clear: Run amok, don’t get caught, and avoid anything known to cause Parkinson’s or screaming-black chancres on the jimmy.
Good luck on your new job,
. . .
Due to circumstances of unforseen dour, or maybe just personal laziness, Zane and I were left to our own Gestapo tactics. Our Birch pool was receding…something about “careers” and “employability,” and other such hysterics. Alright, so maybe John McCain is capable of inspiring such fears. He is a man of deep insecurities, and rightfully so. The Hanoi Hilton does these things to men much stronger than he. And by the time the U.S. Fleet pulled him out of Vietnam, he was left in a crippled sort of way — busted appendages and a psychological mish-mash, which had more than a few pols wondering if he were fit even for county dog-catcher.
Zane and I played on his war wounds, and the results were unpredictable. The rumor mill had it that McCain was on the verge of some knotted mental breakup…that he was haggard and looking very much like your average backyard scarecrow.
We pulled into the parking lot of some low-rent social-work center, in the 7th Street and Jefferson section of poor, black Phoenix…a high point on McCain’s Town Meeting list, no doubt. A pair of aides smuggled him from his white Lincoln Towncar and into the building — but not before he spotted Zane and me and turned around, sweeping back a shock of white hair from his forehead.
“What the fuck are you doing here!?” he sweated, veins pulsing from underneath a tourniquet Hathaway collar, which made him look like a big, angry chipmunk.
“You’re our favorite public official, John,” I said. “I thought you knew that.”
“Get out of here! Leave me alone!”
Zane grinned mischievously. “Not until you sign H.R. 97.”
“Fuck you! You don’t tell me what to do!” he screamed, from across the parking lot. “Who the fuck do you think you are?”
His aides pulled on his jacket, and he recovered momentarily and trotted into the building, the two of us on his heels.
We dusted the flimsy metal chairs with TRIM voting sheets, then sat at the rear of the room, out of reach, should the Congressman open up with some heavy carbine, hidden underneath his jacket.
He took the offensive, eyeing us much like he might have the North Vietnamese scum who had given him a permanent limp. “Well, he said, “I guess the John Birch Society did its homework on me. Yep, that’s right…you can fool some of the people some of the time…”
“I thought that group would’a liked you,” said a black retiree.
“I used to also,” McCain said, grinning, his confidence returning. “I don’t know what it is.”
“You know exactly what it is,” Zane barked. “We’re sick of your lies. Why don’t you just sign H.R. 97, John? Huh? Live up to your patriotic reputation and sign the damned thing.”
“That true, Mr. McCain?” drawled some farmer. “Why, you’re a Vet. What ha’you got for the Commies?”
Then John McCain did the unthinkable. In public, he snapped. Out and out unraveled, running to the back of the room, screaming at the top of his lungs: “Lookyoufuckingidiots, I’m tired of being followed around! You’ve been doing this to me for two weeks…I want you out! Both of you, get out!”
And then I flipped, but I barely remember it: total blackout/adrenaline frenzy. I recall slamming a chair to the ground and screaming: “No, you look,” I raged, in such a violent turn that Zane jumped reflexively. “I don’t know what kind of deal you made with those slanty little fuckers, but we own you now.”
And it got more arrogant and more delusional, until Zane finally had to put his hand on my shoulder and sit me down. McCain backed away from the table, as though I might be carrying typhus, and the meeting ended abruptly, neither side having the strength to carry on.
. . .
The Arizona Breakfast Club is not the place John McCain really wanted to be on this third Sunday in December, 1985. He could have slept in, chopped wood, just about anything…scraped bird droppings off the veranda. But when you’re out honing the granite edge — chewing on razor blades for conservative support, in a state filled with mongoose and cobra — The Breakfast Club is the only place to be.
I misjudged the man. And for that, I deserved whatever dropped down, like so many loads of Bandini. But our path had no alternate route posted. No forks…no Road Less Traveled, as it were. Zane and I were trekking uncharted ground.
Zane’s dad woke us up at 5:45a.m., on his way to make another million dollars. “Give ‘im hell, boys,” he sniggered, unwrapping a breakfast cigar. “The Good Lord knows I’d like to.”
Zane drove his Cherokee to the Beefeater Restaurant on Camelback Avenue. After perusing a few bumper stickers in the parking lot, I began to loosen up. It’s not every day that you can pull up to a breakfast joint and see “I’m Not Fonda Jane” and “Communist Broadcasting Service,” much less something like, “Save America — Shoot a Trilateralist.”
A line of Baptist-style greeters, with the aged lobotomy smile, wanted to shake my hand and know just what a “handsome young man would be doing up this early…and here, of all places?” A question for which I had no ready answer…at least not one that I could condense in seconds. Besides, Zane kept reminding me to keep close counsel.
Most of the Breakfast Clubbers had been warned, directly or otherwise. Word travels fast in the geriatric political scene. There is not much to do when one’s hair turns blue or is gone altogether, except gab on the phone and make sure the wife or the new nurse hasn’t forgotten to jot down that ten-pack of pitless prunes.
I had not been in a great mood: driving around for a solid two weeks with no rational aim, other than to badger a public official into some antiquated Cold War thinking, tends to leave one a tad spent. John McCain didn’t seem real happy to see us, either; but there was a certain feral glint in his eye, as he took a seat at the head table, near the podium…and it told me that the screw was about to turn.
A man named Ted Abbott took the headmaster’s place at our particular table, as Zane began piling stacks of Sacrificing America: A Shocking Look at the Voting Record of John McCain in the middle of the room, under a portable sign he’d brought which read: “Limited Supply: ON SALE NOW.”
“Whatcha got there?” Abbott chuckled, lighting a long Kool menthol.
I told him to shell out three bucks and read it for himself. Which he did.
“Heh-heh,” he cackled, “I always knew the man was a little soft.”
I felt a hand on my shoulder and jerked around, almost caving in Mae Riley’s ribcage.
“Oh, dear boy,” she laughed, “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“Sorry,” I said. “Too much coffee, I guess.”
“I wanted to hear all about your trip to London. Todd, here, is a fine young patriot,” she yelled, at Ted Abbott, being both a bit deaf. “Now, were you able to see any of my old friends at the British League of Rights?”
I froze for a moment. Yes. It was coming back to me now. “…it’s the Jews, I’m telling you…end of civilization…Philistines…” “Uh, yeah, I wanted to ask you about that,” I stuttered. “There was one man…an Eric Butler — “
“Oh, my! How was he? He’s such a dear man.”
“Uh…I guess he was alright. Physically, anyway.” How to tell her? “He said a few things over there and, well, I didn’t know what to make of it.”
“Oh, yes. Probably the Jewish thing,” she smiled, delicately. “He’s been into that lately. Bob Welch finally had to ask him to make a decision when it got so bad. And he did resign. But he’s really just an old softie. Such a sweet man.”
“Yeah,” I nodded. “I picked that up right away.”
Ted Abbott leaned over and exhaled a cloud of exhaust in my face. “I bet you like Spengler,” he chuckled.
“Decline of the West,” I nodded. “Good book.”
“All right!” pounding his fist on the table, causing Zane to drop a stack of booklets. “The boy knows Spengler.”
I excused myself and went to help Zane, who couldn’t keep up with demand, people crowding the table in a stream, like fire ants, buying our humble wares at a pace so fast and frenzied that Zane became nervous.
“We’re going to run out,” he said.
McCain was looking at us, smiling in a way that I didn’t understand.
Then Harry Everingham, aged founder of the Arizona Breakfast Club, approached the podium. “Good morning, patriots,” he said, croaking dryly, like William Burroughs. “We have a special guest here today. Congressman John McCain…let’s hope he can fill the shoes of Barry Goldwater.”
“No chance,” Abbott hissed.
McCain stepped up to the microphone, lay down a copy of Sacrificing America, and bowed his head, as the Rev. Wes Darby, a Cotton Mather-style preacher, paused to thank God for a country at least partially free of Socialism. “Members and guests of the Arizona Breakfast Club,” McCain intoned, “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 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,” he whined, staring out at the three (3) copies left of Sacrificing America, of an original hundred-fifty. “So I brought a letter along with me…from Bill Miller.”
“Good God,” Zane muttered, his face a mask of fear and confusion.
“Who’s that?” I wondered.
“You’ll know in a minute. Just,” he whispered, “don’t make a scene this time. OK?”
“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.”
I hung my head, McCain reading from Miller’s letter, in measured bursts. I felt guilty. Shamed. Unappreciative of McCain’s fine service to Our Country. How “two men I can’t bring myself to call journalists” have sought to indict “a true war hero” on “his very honor.”
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.
Zane and I looked for the back door, but it was too late. People were grumbling openly. Some milky-eyed woman threw down the booklet at our feet, yelling, “My son was killed in Vietnman. Have you no respect for the dead?” I knew she was crazy as seven chickens, but was powerless to say anything. They stone people for less.
We had been thoroughly outmaneuvered before our very own. Sacrificing America sold as many copies after the speech as a signed 1st of The Gulag Archipelago, offered up Solzhenitzen himself, at a meeting of the Supreme Soviet.
“Well, fuck,” I said. “Who’s Bill Miller, anyway?”
“Not now,” Zane said, shaking his head. “It’s too ugly. I’m just not up to explaining it.”
Wayne Watson, a JBS head honcho, ran over to McCain, who was leaving the hall. “Thank you, John,” he smiled. “Just answer me one question: Why? Why did you change your mind?”
McCain grinned. “I talked with my advisors…”
“Bullshit,” Watson winked. “It was that little booklet, wasn’t it? Those boys scared the hell out of you, didn’t they?”
“Gotta run, Wayne,” he smiled, more broadly now, and drove away in his lily-white Lincoln.
I headed to the bar of the Beefeater, at about 9:30a.m, waving Zane on, saying goodbye to politics, and pondering life as a security guard at the Scottsdale Conference Resort, wallowing dejectedly in cheap Port.
Mom saw that I was drunk, and in no mood to discuss it. “Zane’s been calling,” she said. “He says it’s important.”
I walked out to the patio and petted the dachshunds. Daffy was standing at her food dish, then collapsed. “How’re you doing, little girl? Are you gonna make it?” I walked into the rec-room, aside the pool, picked up the phone and dialed Docwood Farms. “What?” I barked.
“Guy Roberts called Bill Miller,” Zane said, really shrieking.
“So what? Leave me alone.”
“You’re not going to believe this — “
“I’ve had enough,” I muttered. “I quit.”
“Listen! Guy got Miller on the phone. At first he didn’t want to talk. Miller pretended to be somebody else,” Zane laughed. “But Guy knew the voice. He told Miller about the letter, Todd! Miller never knew McCain would be reading his name!”
I took the phone from my ear, gazed out at Mummy Mountain, at the palm trees, and wondered if I wouldn’t like Phoenix just a little more if I weren’t embroiled in all this unnatural shit all the time.
“Who’s Bill Miller!”
Zane sighed. “Bill Miller used to be a big-time East Valley newspaper publisher about ten years ago. He was a Bircher,” he said, “but he freaked out and joined the White Patriot Party. Miller broke down, Todd! He started bawling like a child. He told Guy that McCain’s chief of staff came to his home and arranged some kind of deal with him, in exchange for a letter discrediting you and me.”
“What kind of deal?” I wondered, not really believing any of it.
“Miller was injured in Korea, but never got compensation. McCain’s office said they’d work out a Veterans disability benefit in return — “
“For the letter! Unfuckbelievable,” I mumbled.
“And I’ve got it on tape,” Zane whispered.
“You taped Guy Roberts?”
Many seconds of blank silence. “It was the only way. I’m calling Wayne Watson now; he’s supposed to have a pipeline into the Veterans Administration. …oh, by the way: Do you still have that tape I sent you in London?” he wondered, meagerly.
“Yeah, somewhere around here. But nevermind that, just call me back!”
I took a few brisk laps in the pool, to sort out what had happened: A United States Congressman bribes a certified wacko white-supremacist publisher, in exchange for a letter discrediting two no-name punks in front of an equally crazed gang of rightist loonies… McCain had fallen out of a Sequoia from the top limb.
Zane phoned again. “I told Wayne everything,” he laughed. “He said Bill Miller’s been out of his mind for years. The guy’s a crackpot.”
“Yeah, but is he telling the truth?”
“Guy thinks so, all the way. He phoned Miller again, just to get it straight. Same story. Miller was down on his knees, begging for mercy. He told Guy, `I’m so sorry. I love the John Birch Society, but I haven’t been well lately. I needed the help. Guy, if I had known that John McCain was going to read my name, I would never have written that letter.’”
“Chickenshit,” I grumbled.
“Guy just scorned him, no forgiveness.”
I sat back for a moment. “Will Guy come through? Do you think he has the stomach for it?”
Zane started to say something, but his voice gave way — like he’d been whacked in the larynx by a tree-branch. “I really don’t know.”
* * *
I received a letter in the folks’ maildrop, addressed to CAFE, Inc., c/o Todd Brendan Fahey. Probably just another plea for my nonexistent funds, I reasoned. Some people get stuff from Maryknoll and Save the Children and Jimmy Roosevelt’s various tax-dodges; I see all the right-wing junk mail, along with hard-driving tear-jerkers from Jimmy Swaggart and the Oral Roberts Ministries. But I opened it anyway, because of some innate warm-spot I have for all things Red, White & Blue associated with Our Nation’s Military.
It was some semi-personalized invitation to a reception for one General John K. Singlaub, chairman of something called United States Council for World Freedom (USCWF) and World anti-Communist League (WACL)…the kind of thing a young and eager junior propaganda minister just doesn’t decline. I stuffed it into my wallet and headed off to Arizona State University, in dead-of-winter traffic, to deal with a matter of supreme urgency.
My grades from London had come back — a disappointing 3.25. Professor Schwartz had blemished my second-straight run for the Dean’s List with my only “C” thus far…but that wasn’t the real problem. The College of Justice Studies had decided to dangle the specter of a “mathematics requirement” over my head, and I could feel the poison drippings in my sleep. No hope of relief until I made some adjustments.
A trusted department advisor, my personal lifesaver on many an occasion, told me that the Standards Committee was getting familiar with my name; and that my transcript looked like ‘a cheap set of Legos.’
“Jesus,” I complained, “what do they expect? This program is just too broad.”
I had subverted research guidelines, created independent study courses out of the vapid blue, dropped classes a full eight weeks after the official “Drop/Add” deadline…and was now asking the Department of Criminal Justice to sanction bare laziness. I simply did not want to take undergraduate algebra. Nevermind the nightmares, or repeated attempts in high school to deal with the X and Y axis, much less understanding what a mastery of equations would ever do to enhance my stature as a genuinely hazardous political entity in the state of Arizona. Such arguments are prima facia absurd to the Standards Committee.
My advisor went through every argument with me, odds and all, and the prospect of graduation was looking dim when, suddenly, I shoved some secretary off her stool and commandeered a typewriter: Yes! Logic! Be logical, Todd. Math equals logic. Logic be not limited to numbers…
Members of the Standards Committee:
Since, as it seems to this petitioner, the newly-installed mathematics requirement for students of the College of Criminal Justice serves for the expressed purpose of seeing that one gains a knowledge of logical processes; and, as there are many ways for to learn the principles of logic, in a matter not manifested entirely in numerics: It is asked of the Committee to allow this petitioner to substitute Philosophy 301, Symbolic Logic, in place of the existing requirement, which is, currently, junior-year algebra.
Todd Brendan Fahey
And that was about all they needed to see — like a fastball low and away off Reggie Jackson’s bat, sometime in early October. By the spastic twitch of the advisor’s eyelid, I knew the petition would go through…trouble was, it would have to happen at UC-Santa Barbara. Nothing you need to fully understand — only that, from detailed research as to ASU by-laws, I knew I could take the course there without having it transfer onto my current GPA.
I drove to CAFE HQ, to show Zane the invitation to Gen. Singlaub’s reception and plot the downfall of a War Hero-turned-Shameless Abuser of the Public Trust. Zane’s dad had picked up a plantation house in Chandler, during the buy-all-you-can mortgage frenzy of the late-1970s, and his eldest scion would not have to work for three lifetimes, pop’s Docwood Farms sitting on seventy acres of cotton fields and quarter-horse stables in the fastest-growing sector of the American southwest.
J. Rance Smith, a Paul Bunyan clone, sat in the kitchen, eating on a thick breakfast steak, puffing at a green cigar the size of my wrist, and otherwise dabbing meat-juice from his Fu Manchu mustache. He was ribbing his son about something. “Zaane,” in his usual drawl, “I think all this civic work you’re doing is right proudy of y’. Believe me, ah do…but there comes a time when you’ve got t’ ask these politician friends of yours to start slickin’ yer palm with some of that long green, know what I’m sayin’? Yeah. Todd, here, knows what I’m sayin’.
I did; but I was laughing too hard to agree.
“I heard you boys just flew up ol’ John McCain’s backside — and that he doesn’t like the vibration. You just keep it up. And if you need some help,” he grinned, slapping the wallet pocket, “come talk to the Boss.”
Thanks to Mr. Smith, we had resources that frankly scared McCain and his Establishment controllers. Had the state pols hopping. No fucking idea what we were getting out the deal. Why would two assumedly intelligent young men harrass a multi-popular public official with a distinguished war record? Fame? Lord knows I loved it. And Zane, to my knowledge, never shied away from a microphone. Prestige? Well, CAFE, Inc., thanks to Zane’s tireless phone efforts and my propaganda screeds, had assembled some fantastic clout in a National Advisory Board, which read like a Who’s Who of the American Right:
Congressmen Ron Paul (R-TX) and Jim Jeffries (R-KS) and Albert Smith (R-AL); such military generals as Andrew J. Gatsis, Daniel O. Graham, John K. Singlaub, George S. Patton III…far-right luminaries Cleon Skousen, the Rev. Bob Jones III, Howard Phillips, and fifteen others that made the mind fearful.
Were we in it for the money? No. Definitely not the money.
…which brings one to examine a thing called Power. Richard Speck had fame. Nelson Rockefeller had money. We wanted power. Vast control. Personal immortality. …or at least I did.
“I really appreciate what you’ve done for us, Mr. Smith,” I said.
“Bullshit,” he snorted. “I don’t want appreciation, just make me proud, boys! If I had the time, I’d be right out there with y’all…but I’m too busy making money, or tryin’ to keep it before the damned IRS gets it all. So, just treat McCain like Belle would any gopher, and keep makin’ the papers…it’s the only way I can keep tabs on y’.”
Hearing its name, a roly-poly white-speckled brute-of-a-dog came waddling into the kitchen.
“That’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen,” I said, as Mr. Smith slapped her on the rump and rolled her over.
We walked into Zane’s cavernous bedroom, the size of a goodly recording studio. “I’m going to call the District Attorney’s office,” I said, shutting the door.
“Be careful,” he groaned. “All we need is some DA loading up with McCain. We’d be fucked for life. They’ll follow us around and have us audited every five months.”
“Don’t worry, I’m majoring in this bullshit. They teach me things like this…uh, yes, hello? I’d like to speak with the District Attorney. No, I can’t give you my name. What!? But my name is irrelevant…” I mashed the phone down into its groove. “Bitch! I hate receptionists.”
“Which one did you call?” Zane wondered.
I stared at the phone. “The state office.”
“Probably just as well,” he reasoned. “They’re pretty tight with McCain. Call the other one.”
I tried the U.S. District Attorney this time. “I can’t give you my name,” I began, but…that’s okay? Good. Yes, I have a tricky problem. Would it be legal for a federal official to use his influence in obtaining a medical benefit for someone who wouldn’t ordinarily been eligible to receive it? Yes, the official received something in return…not money, but something he needed. Uh huh. Yeah, I have tape recordings made of the person who received the benefit. He acknowledged everything, yes…” I paused, and looked up at Zane, who was tapping his foot nervously. “A Veterans Disability benefit…”
“Todd!” Zane screamed, “be careful!”
I waved him off, and continued with the D.A., who was starting to get interested. “I see. And the actual violations? Yes, of course: a ballpark figure…I understand. Well, thank you, sir. Thank you for your time, and I’ll be in touch.”
Zane stared at me, balefully. “I hope you didn’t blow it.”
“No way. I could have been talking about a judge, or any of the Congressmen.”
“Well?” he wondered. “What’s it look like?”
“Four years in the Safford minimum pen: Misappropriation of Public Funds; Abuse of the Public Trust; Abusing Federal Funds for Personal Gain; Federal Embezzlement…and maybe racketeering under the RICO statute,” I reasoned. “That thing they use on the Mob, when they can’t get them on murder, or even public ugliness.”
Zane smiled like a housewife on Valium. “And then we’ll sue him in civil court for defamation of character and slander,” he whinnied. “It’s soooo beautiful.”
I spent the night at Zane’s ranch and woke up early to attend some Republican early-bird breakfast for the three candidates running for Eldon Rudd’s seat in Congressional District 4. Rudd, although a good, solid No-man — denying the public’s access to his wallet for almost anything at all — was losing his touch on the finer reality dials. The inner murmurings that tell one that Alzheimer’s is on its way…time to get that extra insurance.
We put on a pair of name tags and shelled out six bucks for a cup of OJ and a gluey Danish. In truth, Zane paid. He always paid. It got so frequent that I left my wallet behind. J. Rance Smith just kept paying off the Visa card, thanking the Good Lord that we were neither homosexual nor stuffing needles between the toes. I did kick in three hundred dollars just after Christmas, to cover my small part in CAFE’s mammoth printing costs, but that left me broke, and I had to be floated along once again.
Zane grabbled up two “Conlan for Congress” buttons, and jabbed one into my lapel. “Here,” he said, “this is who we want.”
I nodded. The basic language of the morning papers told me that the other two candidates were hacks and junior-nothings. And that Arizona’s delicate political balance could ill afford a Congressman needing on-the-job-training.
Barry Goldwater was stepping down after losing some of his marbles to the bourbon, and mebbe a few too many aluminum pins in the hips, which left only McCain in line for the venerable Senate seat. McCain’s House seat was up for grabs, just in time for Jay Rhodes, son of former House Majority Leader Jay Rhodes, to claim it out of delayed nepotism, if nothing else…assuming Ray Russell, the staunch conservative/Mormon veterinarian, didn’t pull off a freak coup, as he almost had against McCain in 1982.
The other three House seats belonged to Republicans Jim Kolbe — swinging-gay, liberal, and proud of it — stalwart Bob Stump, and the aged Mo Udall, none of whom were going anywhere soon. The smart money had it that the balance could go to Rhodes or Russell in McCain’s old District 1, to Conlan or Jon Kyl in Rudd’s, and to Burton Barr for the Governor’s seat, being vacated by the bumbling Bruce Babbitt.
“I’m going to move back to Santa Barbara if this state falls to shit,” I grumbled. “We’re through if Rhodes and Kyl and Barr all get in. They’ll put people like us in camps.”
Zane nodded slowly, understanding. “Yeah. I might move to Maine. Get away…work for a PR firm or something.”
John Conlan — a good-looking man, in the Tony Randall tradition, dapper and suave, when he wasn’t sweating — darted toward the back of the room. He recognized us, I guessed, from a Breakfast Club speech, or maybe the Valley Cathedral, where he had introduced Pat Robertson around Christmas. “Here!” he whispered wildly, thrusting a stack of paraphernalia into our hands, like something out of Mission: Impossible. “Pass these out, guys.”
I looked at Zane.
“Just do it,” he said. “The guy needs help.”
So, we walked around the forum, laying campaign brochures and assorted propaganda on place-settings. The meeting was abuzz with Everyone-Who-Is-Anyone types and Rising Young Turks, including Young Republican state chairman Craig Doyle and his trusty stooge Robert Wexler. We finished just as Jon Kyl and his entourage came on the scene.
Kyl — a moderate Money/Country Club type, son of a former Iowa Congressman-turned-Vice President of Armand Hammer’s Occidental Petroleum — zig-zagged around the room to pump flesh. “Hi, guys!” he smiled at Doyle and Wexler, Zane and myself. “Well, I’d ask for your support, but it looks like you’re already pledged.” Doyle and Wexler had on Mark Dioguardi pins — some consensus Activist/Yuppie, who would do nothing, I reasoned, other than to draw votes away from Conlan.
Actually, Kyl wasn’t a bad guy…sort of a Gerald Ford on steroids. Someone I couldn’t really work myself into a serious hate over. So, we wished each other good luck, and that was that. After the debate, Doyle and Wexler came over to agree to disagree. Conlan calmed down a little and thanked us for the help.
“Am I getting the YR vote?” he wondered.
Zane told him that it looked like a 40/40 split, with the dregs going to Dioguardi. Which was fairly irrelevant, in that the entire Young Republican makeup represented, at most, a thousand head. Not even enough for the Swing Vote.
“Yeah, it’s always been that way,” he said, glumly, recalling his days with the Young GOP in the late-Sixties. “It’s mostly been a dating club.”
Zane chuckled. “Yeah, but don’t let them hear you saying that. They take this seriously.” Then he gave me a doleful stare. I shrugged. “John,” he wondered, “how would you like to run for Senate? Give the House seat to Kyl, and run against McCain?”
Conlan stared at us like we were on acid. “You’ve got to be out of your minds! What would I want to do that for?”
Which was a tough thing to explain, but not impossible. And he heard a goodly bit.
“Sacrificing America. Jiminy Cricket,” he gasped, “he must have really flipped out.” Conlan seemed to understand. “Well, I don’t know,” he said. “No, forget it. McCain’s untouchable,” shouting now. “It’s just too much.”
We tried to reach him, but it was no use. Then Zane asked him if he would join CAFE’s national advisory board, which he declined, citing Bad Press and Personal Misgivings over Tactics, etc….and held us at bay for months with a Book of Excuses and a medium-volt Taser.
. . .
Two weeks of pressurized phone calls had proved futile. Wayne Watson was pulling back, his anonymous “mole” in Washington having burrowed even deeper. And Guy Roberts told Zane that he had accidentally erased the Bill Miller tapes.
“Yeah,” Zane admitted, “we’re in a bind. We could file something with the D.A., but if Guy says the tapes are gone; and if Miller lies — “
“Don’t lecture me!” I thundered. “I can go to class for that. Guy lies, Miller lies, and all we have is a bunch of hearsay. Even the tapes you made of Guy are worthless.” I slumped in Zane’s office chair. “So, what now?”
“Well, Robert Wexler wants to meet with us. He’s running for Doyle’s state chairman spot.”
“No way,” I hissed. “Never. I will never support that joker. He’s vermin.”
“Yeah,” Zane chuckled, “he might be. But he’s spineless enough that we can deal with him. Come on, what do we have to lose?”
When put in that context, I saw Zane’s point. But it was just such a negative-framework that was keeping us from taking the YR structure for our very own.
We met Wexler at the now-defunct Lunt Avenue Marble Club, across from Arizona State, and wheedled and dealed, and generally scared the mortal jism out of him, until he agreed to compromise: Zane over liberal, former Young Democrat (!) Ron Cornelius for the National Committeeman spot, and me as the League’s Editor, something I had been doing unofficially since returning from London.
And they weren’t too happy about it, either. In three months as Acting-Editor, I had accused the entire YR brigade of treason, of having Potomac Fever, and a litany of things only a few could understand…not that it was so addled or obtuse, but that my so-called “colleagues” were firmly entrenched in the Mode: the cocktail parties, the occasional fund-raisers…the Barry Goldwater Award Dinner, which, in early 1985, honored one of the most corrupt demagogues in U.S. political history, one Burton Barr, State House Majority Leader for something like 20 years, whose leaded-fist-in-velvet-glove governance of all who opposed him smelt of Mayor Daley and Huey Long.
“Craig Doyle’s so stupid,” Zane laughed, the meeting finally over. “I was done bargaining…everything we wanted, just handed to us; and then he puts me in as Chairman of the Resolutions Committee.” Zane was laughing so hard I thought he might choke on a loose piece of throat-gristle. “Do you know what that means?”
I did. It meant that Zane would load the Committee, I would draft all of the resolutions, and that the Right would have its way with the Arizona Young Republican League at the March 1986 Convention.
. . .
Early that month, I became a party to another sort of gathering. The La Mancha Resort and Athletic Club was a very different sort of scene from England’s Blackpool Convention Center, mostly in that I was welcome this time, left alone…accepted, even. No puddin’-headed Britishers to harass me and throw me out of town on some fourth-class coach, like a common vagrant. For this reason, I left any notion of smuggling in a notepad or a Dictaphone. It wouldn’t do to have security catch me scribbling down my own strange view of the proceedings, the U.S. Council for World Freedom/World anti-Communist League going so completely out of its way to avoid advanced press.
A small, handsome man, resembling early Hollywood matinee idol Adolf Menjou, stood waiting for me in the hotel lobby. He introduced himself as retired Army Colonel Larry Tifverman, executive director of Gen. John K. Singlaub’s various civic organizations. “We’ve been expecting you,” he smiled, thinly.
I shook his hand and looked around the lobby. “Expecting trouble?” I wondered.
“No. Not expecting,” he said, signaling to a large man, with a set of wires dangling from his ears and down into a blazer-pocket, “but, well, you know. A lot of people don’t exactly agree with the General.”
“I think I understand,” I nodded. And even if I didn’t, nobody exactly gave a damn. My part in the drama was not integral, per se. I was there to crank up my own ego, meet a few interesting people, and the rest would be gravy. Col. Tifverman, Larry, walked me around the resort, through the lavish gym, the bar, the pro-shop…sun-deck, twin swimming pools, and told me to get comfortable. “We have the run of the place,” he grinned.
Just then, a squatty man, looking very much like a German short-hair I once saw shaking the guts out of a road-opposum, stepped from out the lobby elevator and immediately started yelling. “What the hell’s going on?!” he screamed.
Tifverman stiffened, as if touched by a live cable. “Is something wrong, sir?”
“Damn right!” the man barked. “I want to see some men on the roof. There’s no protection here!”
The Colonel jerked a radio from a clip on his belt. “Ron, Jim…get some men on the roof. On the double. And keep an eye on the street.”
“That’s better,” the man muttered, darkly. “The Deputy Defense Minister from Taiwan is supposed to be here any minute. All we need is some deranged sniper taking potshots at his caravan…I want no press, got it, Larry!?”
“Yes, sir!” he saluted, as the man charged down the hall. “The General gets a little edgy at these things,” Larry winked.
“That’s…?” I mumbled, losing my grip.
“Right. Jack Singlaub,” Larry said. “He never gets real friendly at these things, but he doesn’t mean anything by it. Here, I want to introduce you to somebody.”
We walked through the dining area and into the bar, where a little, white-haired man sat, sipping from a gin and tonic and puffing on a filterless cigarette. He looked up and smiled brightly through a cloud of smoke. Putting on a pair of silver-rimmed specs, he chuckled. “Hi, Larry. Got Jack calmed down yet?”
Col. Tifverman nodded. “Danny, I’d like you to meet Todd Fahey. He’s going to be helping us out. Todd’s with the Young Republicans and the JBS. He’s one of us.”
The little man extended his hand. “Of course he is. Hi, son, name’s Danny Graham.”
I staggered backward. “The Daniel Graham. Daniel O. Graham?”
“Well,” he shuffled, after abandoning his bar stool, “I guess that depends on what time of the month it is…ha ha ha.”
Lt. General Daniel O. Graham created the High Frontier Project, which became Reagan’s pet Strategic Defense Initiative, dubbed “Star Wars” by the left-leaning Media. He was deputy director of the CIA in the mid-70s and became Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) as he advanced in his sphere of influence. He is alternately regarded as a maverick genius visionary or a horse’s ass, depending on who you talk to.
“Glad to meet you, sir,” I fumbled. “I, I used a quote of yours in a political science paper once: `The stench of pacifism, appeasement and self-flagellation hang heavy over our land.’”
“Oh, yeah,” he grinned. “That was a good one. Not too far off, was it?”
“No, sir,” I said.
“Bullshit,” he coughed. “Call me Danny, that’s my name.”
A fat man wearing no tie and another short fellow, in Kissinger-style black frames, walked into the bar. The large man was Johnny Johnson, publisher of Daily News Digest, some Birch-bent bi-weekly, and treasurer of Singlaub’s US Council for World Freedom. The other man was a Polish emigre named Walter Chopiewski (pronounced: Chop-if-ski, I was soon corrected), Singlaub’s chief Phoenix functionary and secretary-general of the Captive Nations Memorial. They were getting worked up over something, when Singlaub walked in with Ted Abbott, the chain-smoking Breakfast Clubber.
“The goddamn plane is delayed at La Guardia,” Singlaub moaned. “We’ll never get this thing going.”
I pictured it in my head: the whole of Taiwan’s defense team puffing venomously on American cigarettes in some terminal bar, guzzling Chivas Regal and screaming at the New York Giants on the wide-screen, having just run over Mark Gastineau, crushing him like a bee, while thirty or seventy-seven airport cops stare at each other, hamstrung to the foul realities of Diplomatic Immunity.
Larry told Singlaub that they would all be safe. The General relaxed for a second, and ordered a Pepsi. “Jesus,” he complained, staring down at fellow General Graham’s hand. “You sure do smoke a lot. Those things will kill you.”
“Yeah,” Graham laughed. “Like we’re in the life-saving business, Jack.”
Ted Abbott stared at Singlaub and suddenly blurted, “Uh, sir, do you have anyone to tape those meetings yet?”
Singlaub took a step back. “Well…why do you care?”
Abbott’s red-faced reaction told me he was not part of any Inner Circle. “Ah…” he stalled, “Todd, here, might like a try at it. He likes Spengler!”
Singlaub recovered momentarily, patting Ted on the arm. “OK, Ted. That’s good. He likes Spenger…but…who…the hell…invited him!?”
All eyes centered on me. I felt like some ACLU organizer. “Todd’s with the Young Republicans, General,” Larry Tifverman said, suddenly fearing for his own neck. “Does some fine writing. He’s close to the Birch Society, aren’t you, Todd?”
I had to get my bearings. Such heavy, out-front, on-the-spot situations don’t happen often…at least, not if you’re lucky. They might cut my tongue out, or just send me home without dinner. “Yes, sir,” I smiled, lamely. “And I especially like your work, General.”
Singlaub stared down at Graham’s cigarette. “Well…do you know a mixer from an egg-beater?”
I nodded. “I have friends in the recording industry.” Which was partially true. I had a friend who recorded some demo tape in Oakland, once; and I sat in on the session, three hours before watching Crosby, Stills, Nash in concert at Candlestick Park and getting stoned right straight through to the medulla in front of a San Francisco sheriff, while listening to David Crosby belt out “Almost Cut My Hair.” But the sound engineer wasn’t what I would term a political conservative, and the music borrowed heavily from the Grateful Dead, and, somehow, I just didn’t see how it would improve my position to elaborate on the breed of company I once kept.
And it turned out I didn’t have to. Ten minutes later, I was sitting at some huge grapevine-of-a-soundsystem, slapping buttons, twisting dials, yanking on levers, until every mic setting around the conference table came in at a perfect +/- Odb.
Danny Graham lit up a cigarette and blew a stale fog across the room.
“Goddamnit, Dan,” Singlaub shrieked. “You know how much I hate that.”
Graham continued puffing, as another General, one J. Milner Roberts, of the Committee for a Free Afghanistan, broke up laughing. Singlaub picked up his writing pad and shook it at the air. “Somebody order a fan next time,” he barked. “That’s so rude.”
“Jack, are we going to talk about my smoking habit all day, or can we get down to business?”
Well…they did. I think. Not that I was ever briefed on their original Goals and Objectives, as it were. They talked a lot. Argued, mostly; about things I wasn’t supposed to know but have no trouble relating here, as the stuff to which I was privy couldn’t possibly have been the true Nut/Meat. Or could it?
Twice, I was asked to turn the machine off, and Singlaub looked over to see if, in fact, it was. The first time, they were talking about the helicopter they had just bought for the Contras, and how the Pinks at the State Department were sandwiching Singlaub in red tape. No conclusions were reached, no bombing accords discussed, or otherwise inflammatory plans developed for the helicopter.
The second interruption was more insightful. A book on the World anti-Communist League, called Inside the League, was hot off the press and had Singlaub spitting-mad. It asserted that WACL was an incarnate off-breed, cloned from the original Nuremberg huns; that, within its ranks were several “avowed Nazis”; that WACL, and Singlaub pointedly, were usurping U.S. Government Channels in their support for anti-totalitarian forces worldwide, and other such revelations. Again, nothing was done to solve the dilemma. They discussed “spiking” the book, or buying it out en masse from the publisher, but decided against it, as it was already on the open shelf and had just been reviewed by all the major newspapers.
Other than that, Singlaub stomped all over some civil-engineer named Stan, having been hired by The League to deliver findings in re: merging the U.S. Council for World Freedom and WACL consul headquarters and moving them from Phoenix to anywhere else. Stan recommended Dallas. His statistics: e.g., cost-per-square-foot office space; standard of living-to-wage scale; utility costs by kilowatt hour and metric gallons, all made sense.
Singlaub stood up, throwing his notebook at the man. “What made you think I wanted to go to Dallas? Good God.”
“Well,” Stan drawled, “you gave me a region, and told me to find a place where you could cut your costs…and that’s Dallas.”
Singlaub looked like he was about to swing for the man’s skull, when Danny Graham broke in.
“I think we all need some air. Give Stan a break, Jack. He did what you told him to do.”
I drank heavily at the bar with Stan, talking about Singlaub’s roving temper, and just how long it might be before he committed unconscious battery on any irritating person who just happened to be get caught broadside — or whether he might break an important bloodvessel first, landing him in a Bethesda coma ward. Stan wasn’t quite sure, and neither was I, so we left it at that and I went to check out the security suite — a double-bedroom-of-a-surveillance operation, filled with Vietnam vets with long hair and tattoos, all testing out the latest radio equipment and cleaning their pistol-grip Uzis.
“So, guys,” I clapped, “where’s the hash?”
Nobody laughed. “Who are you?”, a man with a handlebar moustache demanded, lifting away a flap from his cream-colored linen/cotton suit, reaching for a long Colt .45 in a shoulder holster. I backed up.
“He’s alright,” Larry smiled, stepping into the suite. “Todd’s doing our recording.”
The Vets then laughed, knowing, or at least thinking, it was just a joke. Maybe there were all hash-heads, afraid that the General had found them out. Could be they were the only clean squad in Vietnam — a sort of Sam Rutigliano-bent bunch of Christ-centered killers, come back from the brink to spread the Good Word.
But I didn’t care enough to stick around and find out. Too many weapons laying idle…just a matter of time before one of them suffered a rigid flashback and shot up the room for no reason at all. And I wouldn’t be there when that happened. Besides, it was getting dark and Zane was supposed to be showing up soon.
Retiring Congressman Eldon Rudd stood talking with General Singlaub next to the outdoor pool. The air was warm, the lights of Camelback Mountain glittering in the dusk. And the food…more goddamned food than I’ve ever seen at one time. And, believe, I’ve had occasion to see some chow: Try an Arkansas family reunion sometime.
A lovely WACL aide named Joyce Downey, erstwhile lady-friend of talk-show host Larry King, tapped me on the shoulder. “Dig in,” she smiled. Somehow, though, I knew we weren’t talking about the same thing. “Have we met?”
“I don’t think so. My name’s Todd Fahey.”
“Oh,” she giggled. “You’re one of the ones giving McCain such a hard time.”
I nodded, and explained to her the whole hateful rubric, tiring of the orgasmless frenzy that Zane and I had been churning up for the better part of a year. Turns out the U.S. Council for World Freedom had asked McCain to resign from its board for the same reasons Zane and I were on his back: he was failing the right-wing Litmus Test, and the buzzards were coming home to feast.
Zane lumbered up behind me. “Well, did you learn anything?”
“No,” I said. “Not a fucking thing. Total waste of money for them.”
He understood. “That’s how all these big Executive-style meetings are,” he sniffed, surveying the surroundings. “I bet they spent a couple grand on this food.”
“Ten thousand,” Ms. Downey interrupted. “I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
“Well, Todd,” Zane moaned, “bad news. I think we’re gonna have to bail on McCain.”
I nodded. “What’s happened now?”
He shrugged, and pulled at the collar of a custom-fitted dress shirt, his neck nearly the size of my waist. “Wayne Watson went into hiding…won’t answer the phone, or return any of my calls,” he said. “I called Phil Crane’s American Conservative Union. We were starting to get some heavy pressure from people I like, so I called the ACU, and they couldn’t believe what we were doing. Not that they love McCain so much, but this is an election year. And the Senate balance is hanging by a thread.”
“So? What’s the bottom line?”
“Bottom line is, the Demos have less seats up for grabs than the Republicans. If we tipped the scales,” Zane shuddered, “if we were the two people in the whole country to hand the Senate to the Democrats…”
“We’d have to leave the country,” I nodded. “They’d hunt us down like elk.”
Joyce nodded. “That’s too bad. McCain needs a good, sharp dose of humility.”
But then Zane brightened. “There is one thing we could do. Come here,” he motioned, walking toward Jack Singlaub. “General, could we have a word with you?”
Singlaub smiled, for the first time all day. “Certainly. And I wanted to tell you thanks, for the job you did back there, Todd. The tapes came out perfectly. Not a hitch.”
Zane whispered something into my ear, and I began to laugh. He walked to the edge of the pool and focused his camera, while I slung an arm around Singlaub’s shoulder and leaned over and said, “Sir, can you see the dark-haired man in the blue blazer? Right there…yes…next to the shrimp?”
“Isn’t that Jon Kyl?” he wondered. “He’s running for Congress, isn’t he?”
“He is,” I nodded, as Zane snapped the photo. “Here, Zane will tell you the rest.”
I grabbed the camera and positioned myself for the shot, and paused as Zane said something to him, the General’s face going slack, as if he’d just learned that he lost his mother to a brutal Mongolian cluster-fuck.
“So what’s he doing here!” Singlaub screamed, and charged off to talk with security.
“What did you tell him?” I wondered.
“Just that Kyl’s father is an agent of Armand Hammer, and that Jon plans to have Hammer out here quite a bit when he wins Congress…kind of a desert Camp David.”
* * *
Total denouement spiral…the McCain chase had proven futile, at least in practical terms. He was neither tried nor investigated, brought to charge, or anything else besides being publicly harangued by two frothing ideologues. But in more general terms, the spectacle raised a sort of grassroots awareness — not just about one Congressman’s voting record, but on a broader scale. Activism brought down to an individualist approach.
And this is getting very hazy, so concentrate, goddamnit. Arizona was ready for just that kind of whiplash treatment of a favorite son — or anyone at all, for that matter. The mood of the state was so litigious and vengeful, that it actually begged for more: a never-ending vacuum of merciless punishment, beginning with the Darrow J. “Duke” Tully sham, then a subsequent investigation into County Prosecutor Tom Collins’s handling of that case — a certified 100% smokescreen to usher Tully to his new editor’s job in South Dakota before the dogs could hunt him down.
Adding to this was a manic notion that Zane and I could simply pluck John McCain out of the sky, like some errant, luckless feather — a genuinely dangerous idea, given his mental stability or lack thereof — and the fact that I was now the duly-elected Editor of the Arizona Young Republican league and Zane its National Committeeman, for no good or discernible reason, other than we were just so noisy about it the whole time. The YRs decided to throw us two bones to see if we would behave.
Never in hell. No, I had Bigger and Better things in mind. Such heady stuff, like all the really good drugs, tends to warrant more (and don’t kid yourself). And I felt like the Belle of the Ball. The Be-All and End-All. Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite…King Shit.