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Robert Parry: Why Are McCain Backers So Angry?

StoryOctober 13, 2008
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“From Republicans at political rallies to GOP lawmakers on TV talk shows, McCain-Palin supporters are angry, very angry — and they seem to think their anger justifies whatever they do: from calling Barack Obama a 'terrorist' to shouting 'kill him' and 'off with his head' — to getting huffy when their violent rhetoric is challenged,” writes investigative reporter Robert Parry, editor of [includes rush transcript]

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

AMY GOODMAN: The media watch group, Media Matters, notes the press mentioned Barack Obama’s ties to Bill Ayers 1,800 times last week. In our final segment, we look at some of John McCain’s own radical pals — from the radical right.

I’m joined now from Washington, D.C. by veteran investigative journalist Bob Parry, co-author of Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush. He edits the website, broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the ’80s for the Associated Press and Newsweek.

In his latest article, Bob Parry writes that in the ’80s, McCain had “listed himself as a supporter of the U.S. Council for World Freedom, which was affiliated with the World Anti-Communist League, a haven for neo-Nazis, racialists and ‘death squad’ operatives.”

Robert Parry, welcome to Democracy Now!

ROBERT PARRY: Thanks, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Why don’t you take it from there? Lay out John McCain’s relationships in the 1980s.

ROBERT PARRY: Well, John McCain, in the early 1980s, was an aspiring politician. He was — he ran for Congress in 1982, and he wanted to sort of get into the crowd that was part of that Reagan Revolution that he talks about so often. And that crowd included people who were pushing right-wing operations in Central America, in particular, at that time, both in support of right-wing governments in Guatemala and El Salvador, which were engaged in massive death squad operations, as well as the Contras, who were trying to overthrow the leftist government in Nicaragua.

So, McCain signed up with the US Council for World Freedom, which was run by General Jack Singlaub and was — it was the American affiliate for the World Anti-Communist League, and the World Anti-Communist League has had a long history of associating with some of the darkest elements of the world’s right-wing forces, including people who were neo-Nazis and even some old Nazis, as well as racialists. And most importantly, in the Central America area, the World Anti-Communist League provided an umbrella for some of the right-wing activities there. They provided assistance. They provided political connections and frameworks for some of the leaders of the death squads in Guatemala, El Salvador, and also a great deal of support for the Contras. And John McCain signed onto that with the idea, apparently, of building his credibility with the Reagan right.

AMY GOODMAN: How much did he understand these connections?

ROBERT PARRY: Well, it’s not clear. He was never as active as any other people. General Singlaub has talked about this more recently, and he assumes that McCain was mostly trying to position himself as someone who was a player in this but wasn’t all that active. McCain says that he became disillusioned with this — some of the activities by the mid-1980s and withdrew, although Singlaub disputes that and says he has no recollection of McCain raising concerns about the group.

AMY GOODMAN: You also, Bob Parry, write about McCain, Palin putting country last. And explain exactly what you mean and why you believe McCain backers are so angry.

ROBERT PARRY: Well, it’s always hard to know why some of the Republicans are as angry as they are. They have certainly controlled the White House for eight years, they’ve dominated the Congress since 1995 up to 2007. So they’ve been pretty much in charge, and yet they remain very angry about anyone who challenges them or presents some kind of threat.

In the case of the McCain-Palin campaign, there’s been an obvious effort to incite some of this, to raise doubts, to raise even fears about Obama — Palin’s constant remarks about Obama palling around with terrorists, in connection with William Ayers, who had been a member of the Weather Underground back in the late 1960s, but who, since the mid-1970s, has been a fairly constructive citizen in Chicago, involved in education issues and other reasonable activities. There’s been no continued effort to be the kind of violent radical he was in the late 1960s. So you have — so you have the use of this very provocative, prejudicial little factlet that Obama essentially crossed paths with this guy in the 1990s, and that is being used to whip up the fear and anger. And we’ve seen this now coming out in rather ugly ways at some of these rallies, where people are saying, “Off with his head,” referring to Obama, or “Kill him.” And the McCain-Palin campaign does not seem to want to accept the fact that some of their tactics and the use of some of these ads playing up the Ayers angle have encouraged this.

AMY GOODMAN: You write about John McCain’s history, Bob Parry, in your piece, “McCain-Palin Put ‘Country Last,’” going back to the Vietnam War, going back to his time as a POW.

ROBERT PARRY: Well, the piece also cites a very good article in Rolling Stone that looked at McCain’s history. And in a way, you can look at McCain in a fairly consistent way, that he’s always been, a bit like George W. Bush, someone who was a scion of a very powerful family. In the case of McCain, it was obviously in the military. His father was a four-star admiral, his grandfather was a four-star admiral. In the case of George W. Bush, his father was president, and his grandfather was a powerful senator.

So you have this — you have this person who wants to essentially compete with his father and grandfather and achieve something, but who is essentially not very effective. McCain did very poorly in school, much like Bush did, and was much of a screw-up when it came to his military career. He was involved in crashing planes. He was able to get out of trouble, much like Bush did, by having his father pull strings. So you have this very similar kind of personality.

And if you look at McCain as someone who is burning with ambition, and has been for quite awhile, trying to achieve this kind of success that even his father didn’t — in the case of Bush, it was two terms in the White House; in the case of McCain, it would be to be commander-in-chief, when his father was a four-star admiral — you have this idea that McCain, if you look at it that way, has always been a person driven by this ambition who puts his own political interests ahead of his country, not the image that he wants to project of some selfless person who came out of his experience in Vietnam and always put country first. He clearly has not done that, in many cases.

AMY GOODMAN: Of course, he did go to Vietnam, and George Bush did not.

ROBERT PARRY: That’s certainly true. He did go to Vietnam.

AMY GOODMAN: And was in prison there for four-and-a-half years.

ROBERT PARRY: Right. But he also — afterwards, his narrative is that he —- that after he got back from being a POW, that he had reformed, that he became a person who did put country first. But there are many examples, including the connections to some of this World Anti-Communist League activity, which suggests that he was really always looking to his political career [inaudible] -—

AMY GOODMAN: Bob Parry, we’re going to have to leave it there. I want to thank you for being with us.

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