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2006-03-28

Fmr. Democratic Senator and Presidential Candidate Gary Hart: "Both Houses of Congress Belong to the President’s Party"

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Gary Hart, the former Colorado senator and two-time democratic presidential candidate, joins us in our firehouse studio. He was the youngest member of the Church Committee that investigated illegal wiretapping, CIA assassination plots and other abuses of governmental power. He also met with Condoleezza Rice five days before 9/11 and warned her of a terrorist attack. [includes rush transcript]

The Canadian headlines read, "Hart predicts a terrorist attack"–that’s Gary Hart, the former Colorado senator and two-time democratic presidential candidate who co-chaired the U.S. Commission on National Security with former Republican senator Warren Rudman. Hart had given his speech in Montreal. Interestingly enough, he was addressing the Air Transportation Association.

He then flew to Washington and met with Condoleezza Rice in the White House. He issued the same warning. It was September 6, 2001. Rice said she’d talk to the Vice President. Five days later, four planes were hijacked. Three ripped into the Pentagon and world trade towers. 3,000 people died.

The crackdown that followed was familiar to Hart. A quarter of a century earlier in 1975, Gary Hart was the youngest member of the Church Committee–named for the late senator Frank Church–which investigated the Vietnam era crackdown on dissent, CIA assassination plots and other abuses of governmental power— The Nixon administration infiltrated peace groups. COINTELPRO targeted activists. Anti-war activists were monitored.

Newspapers were in on it too. For decades, newspapers were paid off, reporters used as cover for government spying.

Gary Hart was on the committee that investigated it all–which among other things led to laws against domestic spying and the establishment of the FISA courts-the foreign intelligence surveillance courts.

The former senator has written a new book. It’s called "The Shield and the Cloak." Gary Hart joins us today in our firehouse studio.

  • Gary Hart, former Colorado senator and two-time democratic presidential candidate.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Gary Hart joins us today in our Firehouse studio. We welcome you to Democracy Now!

GARY HART: Great pleasure. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s very good to have you with us. Well, let’s talk about your vantage point, from having served on the Church Committee. And for young people who are watching or listening right now, they may have never have heard of this committee.

GARY HART: Basically, what the country is going through now is a rerun of what happened during periods of the Vietnam War, in which largely the Nixon administration undertook illegal activities to place American citizens under surveillance and accuse them of unpatriotic conduct, and justifying support for the war — using support for the war as a justification for violation of constitutional rights and liberties. So, what’s happening now is a rerun of history, in effect.

AMY GOODMAN: And at that time, can you talk about some of the things that you uncovered? You’ve been writing about it, talking about deja vu all over again.

GARY HART: Well, I think the most startling discovery of our committee — and let me just put that committee in context. There had never been genuine congressional oversight of the intelligence community in the United States since the C.I.A. was formed in 1947. By and large, members of Congress did not want to know what was going on. When press leaks of unconstitutional behavior on the part of the administration occurred, there was public demand for some kind of investigation. That’s what led to our committee.

We had eleven members — six Democrats, five Republicans — including the late Barry Goldwater and others, and we began a unique undertaking which was to try to find out what the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. and N.S.A. and others were up to. And it was during that that the most startling revelations had to do with our efforts to assassinate foreign leaders, particularly Fidel Castro, over two or three administrations, and this massive scheme to surveil American citizens.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you elaborate on that, the attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro?

GARY HART: Well, it’s a long, long story, obviously. With almost demented insistence, we tried to kill him. What we spent our time doing, once we discovered these plots, was to find out who ordered it. And to this day, I don’t think anyone ever found out where the instructions came from or whether the officials in the C.I.A. and other agencies just simply decided on their own. There clearly was indication that President Kennedy and his brother wanted —

AMY GOODMAN: Robert Kennedy.

GARY HART: — Castro gone. Robert Kennedy. But they never, to our knowledge, they never said, 'Kill him.' It’s one thing to say we want somebody out of office, another thing to say assassination. And we found no record that an assassination order was ever given by the president.

AMY GOODMAN: And the killing of Kennedy?

GARY HART: Well, it was outside our mandate to go back and reopen the Warren Commission. We had no authority to do that, but former senator Schweiker and myself undertook a kind of subcommittee effort to see if there was any connection between the efforts to kill Castro and President Kennedy’s subsequent death, and we found some evidence that was new, but nothing that was determinative. I think the real question that we were trying to get at was why would the C.I.A. employ senior Mafia figures in this effort? And that was rather startling discovery on our part.

AMY GOODMAN: Effort to kill Castro.

GARY HART: Castro, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And do you see any link with the J.F.K. assassination?

GARY HART: No direct link. It raised all kinds of suspicions, including in my own mind that a new set of people with a motive to get rid of Kennedy in retaliation, namely the Mafia, suddenly took on new life. That is to say, the reason the Mafia was cooperating was they wanted to get back into Cuba and into Havana to reopen their casinos and prostitution rings and so on. And once the decision had been made after the Cuban Missile Crisis to suspend the effort to overthrow Castro, clearly the Mafia was very angry about that.

AMY GOODMAN: Gary Hart, the domestic spying, the infiltration of groups, COINTELPRO, which was also beyond spying, counterintelligence programming, particularly targeting black activists and leading to the murder of a number of them.

GARY HART: Well, I don’t know about the last assertion. I don’t know how it — I mean, I have no evidence that it led to anybody’s killing.

AMY GOODMAN: I was thinking of Fred Hampton in Chicago in 1969.

GARY HART: Yes. But again, I don’t — well, anyway, we don’t need to debate whether COINTELPRO led to that or not. But in any case it was pretty massive, and it wasn’t just black Americans. It was an awful lot of antiwar activists of all kinds, who represented no threat to the security of this country. It was simply a paranoid administration trying to shut down dissent, basically.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what did you come up with? What did the Church Committee come up with to deal with this 30 years ago?

GARY HART: Well, as your introduction indicated, we enacted certain laws. We created special courts with judges who were cleared for top secret information to issue Fourth Amendment warrants, authorizing surveillance when it was appropriate to do so. And it was obviously that law that the President’s been violating for the past — we don’t know how long, at least two or three years. We also passed a law protecting the identity of intelligence officers undercover. That law was violated by the White House, somebody in the White House in the Valerie Plame instance. Other resolutions were adopted by presidents, having to do with restriction of intelligence activities of one kind or another. And virtually all of those laws and presidential resolutions have been disobeyed or violated by this administration.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Gary Hart. He’s a former Democratic senator from Colorado, two-time Democratic presidential candidate. And he’s written a new book. It’s called The Shield and the Cloak: The Security of the Commons.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: On the issue of the Church Committee, they also — I should say, you also — looked into journalists and the relationship with the C.I.A. The investigation was far reaching, but a lot was omitted in the final report. It seemed to be one of the most important issues that the C.I.A. wanted to cover up, a sign of how closely they considered this prize program. The C.I.A. was willing to divulge, as you were talking about, assassination plots, but it wouldn’t give up one of its most productive valued secret operations — their use of journalists. Now, you were quoted years ago by Carl Bernstein in the Rolling Stone magazine saying that "the Church Committee report on the media hardly reflects what we found. There was a prolonged and elaborate negotiation with the C.I.A. over what would be said." What did you learn about journalists, about their news organizations in the C.I.A.?

GARY HART: Well, I think it would be wrong to generalize too far. There were certain journalists and certain publications that were used as conduits for information that, not just the C.I.A., but the administration wanted to come out. I think it would be a mistake to focus all attention on the C.I.A. as the villain, because what we found and what I found over the years is an awful lot of what the C.I.A. does is ordered by the White House, in terms of covert operations and the rest.

One of the key recommendations of our committee was that there had to be presidential findings to authorize major covert operations, that is to say, to make politicians accountable for these activities, because up until then the C.I.A. had gotten all the blame for conducting operations that various presidents and White Houses had had ordered them to do, and the politicians were getting off the hook by plausible deniability, just saying, 'We didn't know this was going on.’ So I’m not a defender of the C.I.A., but I think it’s only fair to say an awful lot of the stuff the C.I.A. was doing, they were ordered to do

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, it’s not just — the C.I.A. can’t do it unless they have willing accomplices.

GARY HART: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, you had the New York Times, you had the Louisville Courier-Journal, you had Time magazine, you had CBS, you had Newsweek, you had the Miami Herald, the Saturday Evening Post, you had a lot of publications and news outlets that were willing to work with the C.I.A.

GARY HART: Yes. I think that’s fair to say. It’s been so long that I can’t verify my own comment about not going into all of this in detail. Our final report was five volumes, and it contained enormous amount of information. I don’t, frankly —

AMY GOODMAN: And this, I think, was something like seven to nine pages of it, which, of course, you had much more information. But why did you all, if you remember, reach this agreement not to expose this, not to name names?

GARY HART: I can’t recall. In fact, I can’t recall any discussion about it. I’m a little startled by your quote, because I don’t even remember saying that. I don’t think —- my recollection is I don’t think there was any cover-up, if you will. Frank Church was very vociferous about pinning blame and, in fact, was criticized roundly for exposing secrets and so on. He called the C.I.A. a rogue elephant, and on and on and on. I think, in that respect, he was wrong, because I think, as I said before, a lot of what the C.I.A. was doing, and the F.B.I. to a degree, was ordered by the White House, various White Houses. But I’d have to go back and talk to some of the staff members and so on who were around to find out whether we sugarcoated the journalistic issue, and if so, why we did, because -—

AMY GOODMAN: Or just agreed not to talk about it very much.

GARY HART: Well, I don’t even remember that. But I’m getting a little old, so — I don’t recall any discussion in the committee or among committee members that we can’t go into this. I simply don’t recall that.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Gary Hart, former Democratic senator from Colorado, youngest member of the Church Committee. Who would you compare Frank Church to today, this man who ruffled a lot of feathers?

GARY HART: I don’t think there’s — yeah, I don’t think there’s anybody like him. That was quite a blue ribbon group of people, present company excepted. On the Republican side, it was Barry Goldwater, it was the late John Tower, Mac Mathias of Maryland, and so forth. On the Democratic side, the late Philip Hart of Michigan, Walter Mondale and a variety of others. It was a carefully hand-picked group of senators, and how I got on there, I don’t know, because that was my third week in the Senate, 1975.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about another senator of today, Democratic Senator Russ Feingold. Earlier this month the Wisconsin senator introduced a resolution to censure President Bush for authorizing the no warrant domestic surveillance program.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD: When the President of the United States breaks the law, he must be held accountable. That is why today I’m introducing a resolution to censure President George W. Bush. The President authorized an illegal program to spy on American citizens on American soil and then misled the Congress and the public about the existence and the legality of that program. It is up to this body to reaffirm the rule of law by condemning the President’s actions.

All of us in this body took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and bear true allegiance to the same. Fulfilling that oath requires us to speak clearly and forcefully when the President violates the law. This resolution allows us to send a clear message that the President’s conduct was wrong. And we must do that.

AMY GOODMAN: The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing for Friday on Feingold’s resolution to censure President Bush. So far, only two senators, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Barbara Boxer of California, have co-sponsored the resolution. Senator Gary Hart, your thoughts?

GARY HART: Well, I think in two very important respects Senator Feingold is right. One is the administration is not being held accountable, and that’s principally because both houses of Congress belong to the President’s party, and the leadership of those two houses assume that they took an oath to support the President, when, in fact, they took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. They simply are not doing their job, in terms of oversight of any of the activities of this administration. To my knowledge there’s not been one hour of hearings on the conduct of the Iraq war. That’s extraordinary, by itself.

Second, one of America’s most prominent historians, Professor Joyce Appleby of UCLA, and I have co-authored an op-ed piece that’s circulating now to the effect that we’re headed for a constitutional crisis, simply because the White House and this administration insists the President has extra-constitutional powers. And that’s simply wrong. So in this regard, not just on the N.S.A. wiretap, but all the conduct of the Iraq war and all the attendant consequences of that, the administration is way outside the Constitution.

AMY GOODMAN: Yesterday, we did a segment on Democracy Now! interviewing Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe. And he’s the one who’s really exposing these so-called signing statements on torture and on the USA PATRIOT Act, where President Bush signs off on the bill but then quietly signs a signing statement that says, well, he doesn’t have to abide by the law if he doesn’t want to.

GARY HART: Right. Thomas Jefferson is rolling over in his grave. That’s simply outside the Constitution. The President has no authority to do that. Congress passes the laws of this country. The administration administers those laws. So, the President — again, for some reason they think they have the authority to simply put the Constitution aside, and tragically the Congress is letting him do that.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you about FISA, because one of the things that Church led to were the FISA courts, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act courts. The judiciary committee considering now two different bills concerning the warrantless surveillance program. One is Arlen Specter’s, the head of the judiciary committee, which would require a secretive foreign intelligence court to conduct regular reviews of the program’s constitutionality every 45 days and evaluate whether the government has followed previous authorizations that are issued. A rival approach by Ohio Senator Mike DeWine and three other Republicans would instead allow the government to conduct warrantless surveillance for up to 45 days before seeking court or congressional approval and would impose penalties of up to $1 million or 15 years in prison for unauthorized disclosure of classified information relating to such surveillance activity. Your response?

GARY HART: Neither of these measures is necessary. This is window dressing, trying in some obscure ways to justify what’s been going on. If the Supreme Court or the Congress insisted that the White House and the President obey the current law, that would be sufficient. There is no — the administration, Alberto Gonzales, or no one else, Vice President, has given a plausible explanation as to why the FISA court’s system, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act system, cannot or does not work. They can wiretap or surveil people for three days, 72 hours, before they even go to the court. And the court is overwhelming; I think in 98% or 99% of the cases granted warrants to conduct surveillance.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, in fact, wasn’t that the criticism of it for so long that it’s absolutely a rubber stamp? It wasn’t even a real independent review when the government asked to wiretap.

GARY HART: Well, it’s impossible to know, because you don’t know the details of the cases. I don’t think you can draw that conclusion necessarily from the fact that they issued the warrants. I assume judges who take an oath to support the Constitution are carrying out their constitutional duties. I don’t assume they’re rubber stamps. But it does require the Justice Department to make a showing of probable cause, which is the standard under the Fourth Amendment to do this. Now, if there are judges that are blithely disregarding their constitutional oaths, then we ought to know about it, but I have no evidence of that.

AMY GOODMAN: So, how did you come up with the FISA court?

GARY HART: Well, we were trying to, frankly, find a way to insert the judiciary into this process to carry — as I say, to protect the Fourth Amendment and to require a showing of probable cause by the prosecutors or potential prosecutors, the law enforcement agencies. But at the same time, we’re dealing with highly classified information, and so it was very difficult to — we had to find a way where judges in closed session could be pre-qualified to hear this highly secret information, in many cases. And so, this seemed to be the compromised solution.

AMY GOODMAN: Gary Hart, you investigated Three Mile Island. Today is the anniversary.

GARY HART: I’ve had an interesting life, as you can tell.

AMY GOODMAN: Today is the anniversary of the near meltdown. Can you talk about it?

GARY HART: Well, it was scary. I think it was — we were a lot closer to a major nuclear catastrophe than, I think, most people realized. I’m trying to reconstruct the timing of this. It seemed to me that the plant went critical on about a Thursday — Wednesday or Thursday. I got an Army helicopter to take me and the minority member, Alan Simpson of Wyoming, to fly over the plant and be briefed up there.

AMY GOODMAN: You were head of the Senate Subcommittee on —

GARY HART: Senate Subcommittee on Nuclear Regulation. Yes, that was my authority. And we went up to the Three Mile Island plant, flew over it three or four times in the helicopter, right over the stacks. We didn’t know at the time it was radiating, so —

AMY GOODMAN: This is when Carter went in and was wearing a radiation suit?

GARY HART: I don’t remember that. But, in any case, we were briefed, and the plant operators and the corporate executives said, ’Everything’s fine. We’re under control.’ We get back to Washington and the nuclear regulatory authorities told us this plant was in very, very bad shape, very dangerous shape. And I know that there was a period of time, I think on that Saturday, when if the reactor had gotten out of its containment, it would have gotten into the water table just below the plant and sent up a huge cloud of radioactive steam that would have drifted across the city of New York. So it was a scary situation.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think of the efforts? Now, there hasn’t been a nuclear power plant built in this country in decades, but President Bush is pushing very hard to start again.

GARY HART: Well, there’s no way without massive public subsidies that plants are going to be built, simply because they’re not economically competitive. And I suppose if oil got to $100 a barrel, there would be a whole lot of orders placed for new reactors, including, by the way, a lot of green environmental organizations now believe that nuclear power is critical to getting off a petroleum-based economy. That’s a separate discussion. But it takes about ten or twelve years to build these plants. It’s a huge lead time. And they are still not economically competitive with other — with fossil fuels.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, Gary Hart, you were the co-chair of the U.S. Commission on National Security. Did nuclear power plants — is that something you looked at, as well?

GARY HART: I think we, the members of the committee, fourteen of us, and our professional staff considered as many scenarios as you can imagine, including nuclear power plants. But there is a limit. We sat for two-and-a-half years and did a very, very thorough job. But when you talk to terrorist experts, they can go on for hours about potential threats. So, in a way, yeah, I think we thought the vulnerability of nuclear power plants was a serious issue, but also seaports, railroad yards, and the list goes on.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s talk about that day, September 6, 2001, a few days, five days, before the September 11 attacks. How did you end up meeting with Condoleezza Rice in the White House? You knew her personally.

GARY HART: I had known her for quite a long time. In fact, she did her undergraduate and Ph.D. degree at the University of Denver. And when I was a candidate for national office in 1984, as a graduate student, she was a supporter of mine and helped with — on foreign policy issues having to do with U.S.-Soviet relations.

AMY GOODMAN: She says she switched to being a Republican in the 1980s, but you were the Democratic presidential candidate.

GARY HART: Yes. She’s been quoted, I think, as saying, or at least she’s told me that I was the last Democrat she supported. And then, I don’t remember the sequence of how by the late 1980s she had come under the tutelage of Brent Scowcroft and in effect became a Republican, but she’s done quite well since then.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about that meeting. The night before you were in Montreal, interestingly enough, speaking to — what? —- the Air -—

GARY HART: International Air Transportation Association, ironically.

AMY GOODMAN: Saying the terrorists are coming.

GARY HART: Yes. And I have to give some background here, because our 14-member commission unanimously believed that terrorism was the next big threat and that it was going happen. And we, in fact, said terrorists will strike the United States, and Americans will die on American soil possibly in large numbers. What we could not agree on was the timetable. I would say a majority of the committee did not want to say one year, three years, five years. So, we said — I think the consensus was some time in the next 25 years. But some of us, including myself particularly, to use Richard Clarke’s colorful phrase, had our hair on fire. And I believed it was going to happen sooner, rather than later.

So, the commission’s work ended that spring. We testified before Congress to create a Department of Homeland Security, and the White House shut that down. So it’s not only that the White House didn’t create a Department of Homeland Security, as we urged, they didn’t want Congress to do it either, so they are doubly culpable, I think, in that regard. But, in any case, I continued to travel and speak and issue warnings that this was going to happen, because people weren’t listening and the press wasn’t paying attention, in addition to that.

I had seen the National Security Advisor, Dr. Rice, here in New York that spring, and she said, 'Drop around to the White House and say hello.' And so, the only — the first chance I got was early September. And I did come down here from feeling a real sense of urgency, and it was purely intuitive. And I said, "Please get going on Homeland Security." She said, "I’ll talk to the Vice President about it," and it went nowhere

AMY GOODMAN: She’ll talk Dick Cheney about it?

GARY HART: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Just a month before that, August 6. That’s the famous memo that we’ve heard Condoleezza Rice testify about, where she was handed that warning that said actually planes would be used.

GARY HART: Right. And tall buildings. They didn’t pay attention. Richard Clarke, in his book, says that from day one with the new administration — he, of course, carried over as a civil servant into the new administration. And he would stop key members of the administration, Paul Wolfowitz and others, in the hallways of the White House, saying, 'al-Qaeda, bin Laden, they're coming. We’ve got to do something.’ And every time he said that, they would respond by saying, 'Saddam Hussein.' So they were obsessed by Saddam Hussein well before 9/11 and simply didn’t take the terrorist threat seriously.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask about Iraq. Also, this ties into the senators who are supporting Feingold, a number of them, two; most of them scurrying away as fast as they can. One of the people named is a leading presidential contender, Democrat Hillary Clinton, never voiced opposition to the war.

GARY HART: No. In fact, I think her latest position, as I understand it, is to send more troops in.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response?

GARY HART: Well, the Democratic Party — I’m unhappy with my own party. I had talked to several, including Senator Kerry, in the fall of 2002 and urged them not to vote for the war resolution. I thought we could have — the Democrats could have introduced their own resolution of containment. And I gather Senator Biden, perhaps, did something like that, and understanding that it wasn’t going to pass, but at least gave a plausible position to occupy short of war.

But further, because the Republicans weren’t asking any questions, the Democrats’ job, where Secretary Rumsfeld was concerned and others in the administration, was to ask four questions. Who’s going with us? Not some phony coalition force, but real troops. And aside from a British — couple of brigades, there wasn’t anybody. It’s nonsense to talk about coalition forces. Second, how long will we be there? And, of course, the administration just said, 'Well, we'll wrap this up quickly and leave.’ Not true. Third, how much will it cost? And they would not, of course, have said $400 billion at that time. And fourth, what are the casualty estimates? Because they had casualty estimates. And my forecast was if the Iraqis decide to fight in the cities, American casualties will be 5,000 to 10,000. They are now 25,000. So, the Democrats didn’t do their job.

AMY GOODMAN: And you were also an advisor to Kerry when he ran for president.

GARY HART: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what happened? How was it that —

GARY HART: What happened?

AMY GOODMAN: No. Why, even through this period right through to now, are the Democrats not standing up against war? Even Jack Murtha, who is hardly a pacifist, who is basically channeling the generals in the Pentagon, they ran away from.

GARY HART: Some have. The Democratic Party in the House and the Senate were almost equally divided for and against. About half voted for, including some so-called leading Democrats or national Democrats, many of them. And in the case of Senator Clinton, Senator Biden, Senator Lieberman, I think their position, although they haven’t said much that has gotten into the public, has been to support the war. And two-thirds to three-quarters of the American people now are against it. They want out. So I can’t — you know, when people ask me why do politicians do what they do, I can’t answer that. They all have to be held accountable.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think we need a third party?

GARY HART: Well, I think we need a courageous second party, is what we need.

AMY GOODMAN: On the issue of global warming, this is an issue you take on. Gary Hart, author of The Shield and the Cloak: The Security of the Commons, you talk about military security, but you also talk about other ways to increase security.

GARY HART: I think we have to broaden our understanding of what it means to be secure in the 21st century. The 20th century clearly was a century of ideology. We defeated imperialism, we defeated fascism. We stood off communism. And that ended in 1991. And now, we’re not clear on — I mean, war on terrorism replaced containment of communism as our central organizing principle. But if you’ve lost your job, you’re not secure. If your children are contaminated by pollutants, you’re not secure. If your son or daughter loses their lives — their life in Gulf War III, IV or V, so your neighbor can drive his Humvee, you’re not secure. So we have to broaden our understanding of what security means to include the environment, to include energy, to include economic livelihood. And I don’t know anyone else that’s making this argument.

And second, the idea of national security is simply eroding, because America can’t be secure if the rest of the world is insecure. So rather than go it alone, as we are right now, we desperately need international alliances and friends and partners, both to deal with terrorism, but also to address issues like global warming. The challenges of the 21st century include mass migration south to north — the Europeans and we are suffering — I mean, are experiencing this; climate change and global warming; weapons of mass destruction; and the list goes on. Those do not lend themselves to military solutions, nor can any single nation solve any of those problems.

AMY GOODMAN: You investigated Richard Nixon extensively in the Church Committee. It’s 30 years later. Would you, though, say that Nixon perhaps would be to the left of many Democrats who are serving in the Senate and Congress today?

GARY HART: I think that’s a complicated formula, depending on how you gauge left and right. I’m always confused by that linear kind of distinction, because I think politics is played out on many dimensions. He was much more progressive on environmental issues and some social issues than modern day Republicans and some conservative Democrats.

AMY GOODMAN: And a chief attack on him, criticism of him was being — conducting the illegal war, that so many of the Democrats are supporting this one.

GARY HART: Right. Well, —

AMY GOODMAN: And so, all told —

GARY HART: I don’t know that anybody has alleged that Vietnam was illegal. It was certainly unwise. But there was a war resolution.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, the bombing of Cambodia, Laos —

GARY HART: Well, yeah, sure. Yes. In that respect, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: So, all the deception that went on there. But here you have the bulk of the Democrats not speaking out against, in any meaningful way, that would actually work as a counterforce to a president that’s extremely weak right now, I mean, if you look at public opinion. What are they afraid of?

GARY HART: I don’t know. I can’t account for it. I purposely don’t live in Washington. I live in Colorado. And so, I’m not in the inner circle. Some people say, 'Why are the Democrats doing this, or why are the Democrats doing that?' I don’t know. I mean, they all have to explain themselves. They ought to be held to account, and they’re not. I mean, the press isn’t doing its job.

AMY GOODMAN: You were a senator. You were a Democratic senator. What most made you listen?

GARY HART: Well, I’m a natural listener. I didn’t have to be told to listen. That’s the only way you learn, is keep your mouth shut, or except ask questions, and learn. I’m not a skeptic. I’m not a conspiracist, but over a lifetime of investigations and so on, it makes you wonder about how powers is used in Washington. I mean, there are now these stories coming out about tens of billions of dollars going to the oil industry, you know, with no debate and no discussion. I don’t know why my party isn’t doing its job. I don’t know why. It drives me mad. I have a book out in September called The Courage of our Convictions," which addresses this question: what’s wrong with the Democrats? And I name names.

AMY GOODMAN: Who?

GARY HART: Well, I’m critical. I use the Iraq war, not as the centerpiece of all life, but as a metaphor for the lack of courage and conviction. And I ask the question, why senior figures in my party are not addressing the issues they ought to be addressing.

AMY GOODMAN: And who, in particular?

GARY HART: Well, I mention Senator Clinton, I mention Senator Biden, I mention Senator Lieberman, and others. But I also compliment Senator Feingold and Senator Kennedy. I mean, it’s not an unmixed situation. You have some courageous Democrats.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you planning to run?

GARY HART: Oh, of course, not. No, no, no, no, no. Too old and too poor. No, the costs of campaigns. I mean, talk about scandals. The way we finance our politics is massively corrupt.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us.

GARY HART: Great pleasure. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Gary Hart, former Democratic senator from Colorado, two-time presidential candidate. He has written a new book. It’s called The Shield and the Cloak: The Security of the Commons.

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