We live in dangerous times—more dangerous than you might imagine. Terrorists have marked the president of the United States for death. Heart disease has similar designs on the vice president, who's already had four heart attacks and goes into the hospital for angioplasty as frequently as some people take their cars to Jiffy Lube for oil changes. If that isn't enough danger for you, here's more: If both Bush and Cheney were to suddenly drop dead, the law would transfer the presidential powers to a man who proved himself an absolute nut job on the Aug. 29 edition of Fox News Sunday: Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.
Hastert used the Fox appearance to blurt out a bizarre and baseless accusation about billionaire George Soros, a Democratic Party financier and donor to anti-Bush 527s. We enter the Fox News Sunday interview transcript just after host Chris Wallace introduces the subject of 527s, such as MoveOn.org and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Hastert starts complaining about the power flexed by non-political party groups:
HASTERT: Here in this campaign, quote, unquote, "reform," you take party power away from the party, you take the philosophical ideas away from the party, and give them to these independent groups.
You know, I don't know where George Soros gets his money. I don't know where—if it comes overseas or fromdrug groups or where it comes from. And I—
WALLACE (interrupting): Excuse me?
HASTERT: Well, that's what he's been for a number years—George Soros has been for legalizing drugs in this country. So, I mean, he's got a lot of ancillary interests out there.
WALLACE: You think he may be getting money from the drug cartel?
HASTERT: I'm saying I don't know where groups—could be people who support this type of thing. I'm saying we don't know. The fact is we don't know where this money comes from.
Before, transparency—and what we're talking about in transparency in election reform is you know where the money comes from. You get a $25 check or a $2,500 check or $25,000 check, put it up on the Internet. You know where it comes from, and there it is.
I didn't see the program, but reading the transcript, it's easy to visualize Chris Wallace vaulting forward from whiplash as he says, "Excuse me?" and then asks, "You think [Soros] may be getting money from the drug cartel?" Had Wallace had the presence of mind, he might have challenged Hastert about the "mysterious" source of Soros' money. Soros runs the Quantum Fund hedge fund and earned a reported $1 billion in 1992 betting against the British pound. According to the Christian Science Monitor, he's dropped $5 billion of his fortune on his various "open society" programs around the world. He's given $12.6 million to the anti-Bush 527s, chump change relative to the size of his fortune. In addition, Soros has been a very public advocate and funder of drug-law legalization and liberalization campaigns.
Soros denies the charge that he is in the pay of drug cartels in this Aug. 31 letter he sent to Speaker Hastert, demanding an apology. Soros spokesman Michael Vachon says there's been a "concerted effort to smear George Soros since he became an administration critic" and calls the Hastert comments the "usual conservative message-machine M.O.: Throw something out there and see if it sticks."
Hastert states in a Sept. 1 letterto Soros that he never referred to drug cartels on Fox News Sunday, that Chris Wallace did. The "drug groups" Hastert claims to have had in mind were the "Drug Policy Foundation, The Open Society, The Lendesmith [sic] Center, the Andean Council of Coca Leaf Producers, and several ballot initiatives across the country to decriminalize illegal drug use." On this score, Hastert's letter is completely disingenuous. These groups are beneficiaries of Soros wealth: He's given them money. In the program transcript, Hastert is clearly asking about the source of Soros' money for his political and social campaigns, and then he asks the leading question, is it from "overseas or from drug groups"?
Where did Hastert get the notion that Soros might be getting money from drug cartels? A good guess would be the organization headed by political fantasist, convicted felon, and perpetual presidential candidate Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. This campaign literature from the "LaRouche in 2004" Web site, dated Oct. 29, 2003, makes the drug charge directly:
Years of investigation by LaRouche's associates have answered that question in grisly detail: Soros's money comes from impoverishment of the poor countries against whose currencies he speculates, and from deadly mind-destroying, terrorism-funding drugs.
(Emphasis in the original.)
The LaRouchie slander of Soros dates back to the early '90s. Michael Lewis recorded an anti-Soros protest by LaRouche followers in a Jan. 10, 1994, profile in the New Republic. Since then, the drug charge has been a LaRouche literature mainstay. See, for example, this cached copy of a 2002 interview with LaRouche from his organization's Executive Intelligence Review.
Hastert may have also brushed up against the idea in a 1997 House hearing about needle exchanges that he chaired. David Jordan, the former U.S. ambassador to Peru, testified that Soros has backed drug legalization initiatives and owns a piece of a bank in Colombia. Connecting the imaginary dots, Jordan says, "And I think it would be very interesting for you to look to see and bring sometime [sic] who benefits from the legalization of narcotics."
Of course, if there were a shred of truth to the charge that Soros is mobbed up with the drug cartels, Hastert would contact the Drug Enforcement Administration or at the very least hold Hill hearings instead of broadly hinting about it on Fox News Sunday.Whatever the reason behind his eruption, Hastert has answered the question of who is screwy enough to run on this year's LaRouche ticket. "LaRouche-Hastert in 2004," anyone?
Or Hastert-LaRouche? Send your dream ticket speculation to firstname.lastname@example.org. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)