I Debated the Honduras Coup With Lobbyist and Clinton Confidant Lanny Davis -- Here's How He Lied
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Last Friday, I debated lawyer-turned-lobbyist Lanny Davis, now working for the business backers of the recent Honduran coup, on Democracy Now.
It actually wasn't much of a debate -- in the way that word means an exchange of ideas -- as Davis was fast out of the box, pre-emptively trying to paint host Amy Goodman and me as "ideologues."
As Hillary Rodham Clinton's major fundraiser during last year's presidential primary, Davis is known for, among other things, leading the attack on Barack Obama for his association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. "Why didn't he speak up earlier?" Davis asked in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, demanding to know why Obama didn't distance himself from Wright's remarks.
Recently, Davis has been hired by corporations to derail the labor-backed Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for unions to organize. And all the while, he has touted himself as a "pro-labor liberal."
Davis was also the chief U.S. lobbyist for the military dictatorship in Pakistan in the late '90s and played an important role in strengthening relations between then President Bill Clinton and its de facto president Gen. Perez Musharraf.
Now Davis finds himself defending another de facto regime, in Honduras, that is engaging in "grave and systemic" political repression, suspending due process, harassing independent journalists, killing or disappearing at least 10 people and detaining hundreds as "constitutional."
And all the while he has touted himself as a (Honduran) constitutional expert.
The Honduras coup occurred on June 28, when soldiers working on behalf of a the small group of business and political elites who now control the country, kidnapped democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya and sent him into exile.
Since then, the military-backed regime of Roberto Micheletti has argued to the world that it was acting constitutionally, even though nearly every country in Latin America, along with the European Union, isn't buying it.
Only in the U.S. is there a debate as to whether the Micheletti government is legal -- largely thanks to the lobbying efforts of Davis.
Davis's argument is based on a disingenuous description of the legal and political maneuvers by Zelaya's opponents in the Supreme Court and Congress prior to the coup. He calls these power grabs constitutional.
Never mind that several clear violations of Honduras' constitution occurred on June 28, including the detention of Zelaya by the armed forces (in violation of Articles 293 and 272), his forced deportation (a violation of Article 102) and Congress' decision to destitute the president (this is not within its constitutional attributions).
But the best response to this position -- in addition to pointing out that Davis's description of events is so selective as to be false (see below for details) -- is that throughout Latin America's long history of coups, those who executed them usually counted on legal and political backing. Gen. Augusto Pinochet in Chile, for example, had both.
In retrospect, I should have made this point. But Davis was running through so many lies -- they were too focused and polished to be simple mistakes or errors of interpretation -- it was hard to catch up.
Through the program, host Amy Goodman demonstrated almost superhuman restraint, professionally refusing to respond to Davis's provocations.
His very first lie accused her of an ideological rant for simply reporting the truth -- for saying that Zelaya accepted a proposal to settle the crisis brokered by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.
This is demonstrably true -- Zelaya has repeatedly indicated a willingness to accept the compromise; Micheletti, on the other hand, is playing for time until November's regularly scheduled presidential elections -- yet Davis repeatedly insisted otherwise.