Here's What a Real Political Cover-up Looks Like -- Orchestrated by the Right-Wingers Who Know It Best
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Entitled “October Surprise – The Ubiquitous Spencer Oliver,” the memo said Republicans had “been told repeatedly that Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman [Dante] Fascell does not want his Chief Counsel, Spencer Oliver, to participate in the ‘October Surprise’ probe. Yet, we continue to get reports that he’s as active as ever. For example, the GAO [General Accounting Office], in congressional testimony last year  indicated that he attended an October Surprise meeting with Senator Terry Sanford.”
Keeping Oliver off the October Surprise investigation became a high priority for the Republicans. At a midway point in the inquiry when some Democratic Task Force members asked the knowledgeable Oliver to represent them as a staff investigator, Republicans threatened a boycott unless Oliver was barred.
In a gesture of bipartisanship, Rep. Hamilton gave the Republicans the power to veto Oliver’s participation. Denied one of the few Democratic investigators with both the savvy and courage to pursue a serious investigation, the Democratic members of the Task Force retreated further into passivity.
Meanwhile, Bush’s White House kept up the pressure, restricting congressional access to key documents pertinent to the investigation. In a “top secret” memo dated June 26, 1992, to the State Department about cooperation with the October Surprise probe, National Security Council executive secretary William F. Sittmann demanded “special treatment” for NSC documents related to presidential deliberations.
Regarding the House Task Force, Sittmann recommended that only Republican counsel Richard Leon and Democratic counsel Barcella be “permitted to read relevant portions of the documents and to take notes, but that the State Department retain custody of the documents and the notes at all times.”
Though Republicans kept insisting that the October Surprise allegations were a myth, the Bush administration was going to extraordinary lengths to control the evidence.
Questioning the Cost
As early as November 1991 at White House counsel Gray’s inter-agency meeting, Gray instructed administration officials to keep track of the costs for document searches so the inquiry could be challenged as a waste of money. Again and again, the documents reveal a near obsession with the estimated costs of the probe as well as the close collaboration between Rehnquist’s office and Republican congressional staff, especially John Mackey, the minority staff director on the October Surprise Task Force.
When another Bush legal adviser, Lee Liberman, helped coordinate a P.R. attack on the cost of the October Surprise investigation, Mackey sent his business card with the note, “Lee: FYI How to hit back! Best, John”
Bush’s White House also kept close track of press stories, especially those attacking the credibility of anyone who made October Surprise allegations. That was especially true about Carter’s former NSC aide Gary Sick, whose New York Times op-ed in April 1991 had given important impetus to the long-held suspicions regarding a GOP-Iranian deal in 1980.
On May 21, 1991, President Bush dashed off a personal note to conservative columnist William Rusher, thanking him for “rallying ‘round in that article challenging Gary Sick to apologize.”
However, at least one White House official privately held a different view of Sick’s book, October Surprise. On June 23, 1992, after reading it, Ash Jain wrote a memo to Janet Rehnquist, noting that “Sick presents a seemingly compelling account of [William] Casey’s participation in secret meetings with the Iranian Government.”
In the end, the Republican “delay/filibuster strategy” proved successful. The impact of the October Surprise scandal on Campaign 1992 was minimized, although Bush still failed to win reelection. It wasn’t until December 1992 – a month after Bush lost to Bill Clinton – that the floodgates on October Surprise evidence finally began to open.