WASHINGTON -- I see that my chum Terry McAuliffe will be in Virginia's June 9 Democratic primary competing for his party's gubernatorial nomination. He is up against two party stalwarts, Brian Moran and R. Creigh Deeds. Already his supporters are huffing and puffing about any unfavorable treatment he gets in the press. Just the other day one of his indignados appeared in the correspondence page of the Washington Post complaining that the newspaper had printed a news story detailing the dubious methods by which my old pal amassed his fortune. The story also noted McAuliffe's propensity for exaggeration.
Frankly there was nothing particularly surprising or controversial in the story. All the Post did was report well-known highlights of McAuliffe's celebrated career. For years his friend Hillary Clinton has been chided for her "Cattle Futures Deal," the one that saw her investment of $1,000 metastasize into nearly $100,000 in but ten months. That is nothing compared to McAuliffe's magic touch.
As the Post reported, he entered into a deal with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers' pension fund in the early 1990s. The fund put in about $40 million. McAuliffe put in just $100. Several years later he who would be governor of Virginia walked off with a profit of nearly $40 million, which was actually more than the union's profit. Good show, Terry! Then there is his famous investment in the now-defunct Global Crossing run by his friend Gary Winnick. He who would be governor of Virginia invested $100,000 and walked off with a cool $8 million just before his friend's jerry-built conglomeration went belly-up.
In its report, the Post chides McAuliffe for his tendency to exaggerate. It points to his claim that a construction company controlled by him constructed 1,300 homes, a claim that had to be scaled back to "closer to 800" after the newspaper apparently contacted the company. As for McAuliffe's boast that he started "five businesses" in Virginia, creating jobs for large numbers of Virginians, the Post reports, "It turned out that all five are investment partnerships, with no employees, registered to his home address in McLean," a posh Virginia suburb.
The only uncharitable reference to McAuliffe that I saw in the Post piece was its reference to him as a "huckster." Yet that is precisely what McAuliffe calls himself in his bizarre memoir What a Party! My Life Among Democrats: Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators and Other Wild Animals. The Post was merely quoting him. It is a surprising quote, but McAuliffe's identification of himself as a huckster is one of the book's rare accurate statements.
The book was the occasion for me to enter into a four-month correspondence with him back in 2007. I guess you would say that we became pen pals, hence my earlier mention of him as a "chum." The book abounds with false claims, false charges, and errors, most of which are easily demonstrable. It is a perfect example of his penchant for exaggeration and, dare I say it, mendacity. Our correspondence displays his utter refusal to face fact. Are the Virginia Democrats going to put their money on him?
My favorite exaggeration is, as you will understand, his assertion on page 58 that in The American Spectator, "…they [my editors and writers] cooked up the nonsense they put out against Clinton, alleging that he'd ordered the murder of political opponents…." That is a serious charge, and I wrote him as soon as I was aware of it: "I have not been able to find such articles. Could you give me citations?" He failed to respond. Shortly thereafter, when I encountered him in the green room at MSNBC, he was evasive about my inquiry. Thus began our correspondence. Again I asked him to supply the citations for the articles wherein we claimed President Bill Clinton had ordered murders. He ducked. He weaved. He never came up with the evidence, which is not surprising. The American Spectator never published such charges. Yet he kept responding to my letters with his stubborn deceits -- weird!
He never backed down. He never admitted to his calumny, though he could provide no evidence, and if there were evidence he could have easily proved that he had not lied to his readers. There are two items here that Virginia Democrats might consider. My friend Terry is brazen. To make up such a charge against a magazine is also reckless, that is the second item. Another example of his recklessness is his repeated correspondence with me. A prudent politician would never have responded. Terry did, and we published the whole correspondence in our "Current Wisdom," a section of the magazine reserved for nonsense from notables.
As with his patrons, the Clintons, McAuliffe gets into trouble for no particularly good reason. Do the Virginia Democrats really want to put up a candidate with a penchant for self-inflicted wounds? I leave it to them on June 9.
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