Thursday, August 21, 2008

Right-Wing Front Group Rolls Out Smear Movie on Obama

David Bossie, the Washington Post reports, "was fired as an investigator for the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee after overseeing the release of recordings of Hillary Rodham Clinton's phone conversations with Whitewater figure Webster L. Hubbell. The tapes were edited to create the impression that Clinton was involved in billing irregularities at the Arkansas law firm where she and Hubbell worked."
By Bill Berkowitz, Media Transparency
August 15, 2008

It won't be a post-Labor Day blockbuster or win critical acclaim, but Bossie's Citizens United is rolling out 'Hype: The Obama Effect,' an anti-Obama documentary that aims to make waves.

Regnery has published a major anti-Obama book -- David Freddoso's "The Case Against Barack Obama: The Unlikely Rise and Unexamined Agenda of the Media's Favorite Candidate" -- and 2004 Swiftboater Jerome Corsi has written his -- "The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality." All sorts of folks are peddling anti-Obama t-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers and more. Now it's David Bossie's turn for a big politico/merchandizing play.

Although still a relatively young man, Bossie, the president of Citizens United, has been a political mudslinger for a nearly two decades. He gained some national notoriety in the 1990s when he was relentless in his pursuit of Bill and Hillary Clinton, and later that decade was fired from his position as an investigator for a House committee. Earlier this year, Bossie "took out classified newspaper ads in Columbia University's newspaper and the Chicago Tribune ... searching for [Obama's] ... term paper," supposedly a thesis on Soviet nuclear disarmament, Jim Popkin, NBC News Senior Investigative Producer, reported in late July. Although he could find it, he wrote in an e-mail to NBC News that "A thesis entitled Nuclear Disarmament, written at the height of The Cold War in 1983, might shed some light upon what Barack Obama thought about our most pressing foreign policy issue for 40-plus years (U.S.-Soviet Relations)."

Bossie's biggest play this election season is the production of an anti-Obama film: On the eve of the Democratic Party convention in Denver, Citizens United Productions will premiere its full-length documentary, "Hype: The Obama Effect." The film is unlikely to be a blockbuster, it thus far hasn't generated the buzz Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 911" did before its release, and will surely not be hitting the festival circuit. In fact, thus far, there are no movie houses listed under the "Theater" section of the website, scheduled to show the film.

However, according to Politico, Bossie, who co-produced the film, which was directed and written by Alan Peterson -- who also directed "Fahrenhype 9/11," a response to Moore's award-winning documentary -- "hopes the documentary will land in about a dozen theaters, but [recognizes that its] primary distribution will come via mail-order sales, with DVDs selling for approximately $25." Bossie pointed out that the film will be available for rental at Netflix and Blockbuster, and sold at Barnes & Noble, Borders and on, with possible downloads available online at iTunes and other sites.

Alan Peterson, according to Reidblog (The Reid Report Blog), is "a sometime actor/director/producer. ... IMDB Pro lists just three credits for him: an acting turn in the 2007 [film] ‘The Haunting of Marsten Manor,' ... ‘Fahrenhype 9/11' ... [which] was released straight to DVD ... and 1999's memorable ‘Fortune Cookie,' if you remember movies you've neither heard of nor seen."

Ever since Senator Hillary Clinton was defeated in the Democratic Party primaries by Senator Barack Obama -- thereby making Citizens United's film "Hillary: The Movie," which took 18 months and millions of dollars to produce, politically useless -- the organization has been concentrating on readying the Obama documentary for distribution. Bossie is also the author of the "Hillary: The Politics of Personal Destruction," a book released in early March of this year.

In late July, Citizens United (website), announced the launching of its "Hype: The Obama Effect" website (website). Ten days later, Bossie claimed that the site had received 250,000 hits since its launch.

The web site features a nearly five-minute trailer -- which includes Obama's appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" -- and a "30 Second Television Ad" which promotes "Hype" through sound-bites from such notable conservatives as Kenneth Blackwell, the former secretary of state of Ohio who after being defeated for Ohio's governor took up residence as Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment at Washington, D.C.'s Family Research Council -- "It's only when you begin to peel back the layers that you begin to see a disturbing pattern," Blackwell says of Obama in the ad; MSNBC's commentator Tucker Carlson, former Clinton aide, Fox News Channel contributor and best-selling author, Dick Morris, and the Rev. Joe Watkins, a frequent MSNBC commentator.

Citizens United maintains that through "interviews with political leaders, media experts, and social commentators," the film "provides ... "in-depth analysis": "HYPE goes to Illinois and interviews those who know the Senator's record as a state legislator ... [goes] on the road with the campaign and experience[s] the enthralled crowds as they are consumed by the HYPE ... [has] Washington insiders analyze Senator Obama's Senate record, his views on abortion, his statements on the second amendment, his plan for a troubled economy, and his foreign policy."

"Will Senator Obama's actions match his eloquence in the toughest job in the world, or will his rapt and motivated crowds be left with little substance at the end of the day? ‘HYPE: The Obama Effect' lays out the truth." Amongst those interviewed for the film are: Blackwell; Carlson; Morris; Watkins; Michael Barone, a political analyst and journalist best known for being the principal author of "The Almanac of American Politics"; former United Nations ambassador John Bolton; Frank Gaffney, the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy; Jim Geraghty, a regular contributor to National Review Online and National Review; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; Rep. Duncan Hunter; former columnist Robert Novak; Illinois state Senator Patrick O'Malley and former state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger; author and columnist Shelby Steele; Armstrong Williams, longtime radio talk show host; and, Byron York, White House correspondent for National Review magazine and a columnist for The Hill.

Citizens United intends to release four documentaries this year on video: Newt Gingrich on the energy crisis; stories from Iraq veterans; a tribute to Ronald Reagan; and an examination of the controversial ABC-TV miniseries "The Path to 9/11," which was condemned by Clinton supporters and has yet to be released on home video by the network.

Bossie's business

In a July 20, 2004, Salon profile of Bossie -- with a pugnacious title and subtitle "You can't teach an old attack dog new tricks: Partisan hack David Bossie raised political sliming to an art form against Bill Clinton. Now he's out to smear John Kerry and Michael Moore. Why does anyone in the media still take him seriously?", Eric Boehlert called him "a political hit man by trade" and a "renowned Republican dirty trickster" who spent the 1990s "often at the epicenter of churning out stories about President Clinton, deftly feeding the press and Capitol Hill investigators outlandish -- and usually unsubstantiated -- assertions about White House wrongdoing."

According to a July 6, 2002, archived version of his Citizens United profile, SourceWatch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy pointed out, Bossie was "State Youth Director for Linda Chavez for U.S. Senate (MD) in 1986; and, the Maryland State Deputy Youth Director for Reagan/Bush re-elect in 1984." The same 2002 profile states: "From 1988 to 1990, Bossie was the Director of Programs for the Leadership Institute which trains young men and women in campaign technology, student publications and the operations of Congress."

In the late 1980s he worked as an aide to former Kansas Senator Bob Dole. Bossie hooked up with Floyd Brown's Citizens United in the early 1990s. One of his assignments was to go to Arkansas and dig out the dirt about the Clintons. In the May 6, 1998 edition of Salon, David Corn reported that "at one point, Bossie got into a fistfight in Arkansas with a private detective who claimed Bossie had welshed on a $10,000 payment for anti-Clinton material."

In 1992, Bossie harassed the family of a suicide victim. "An anonymous and untraceable letter" was faxed to some 30 news organizations "claiming Clinton had had an affair with a former law student who committed suicide 15 years ago," an "emotionally distraught young woman, seven-months pregnant" named Susan Coleman. Bossie repeatedly attempted to contact the family for "confirmation" of the affair. With help from former Washington DC police officer James Murphy, Bossie went so far as to follow Susan's mother to a hospital in Augusta, Georgia, where her husband was seriously ill and recovering from a stroke. They "burst into the sick man's room and began questioning the shaken mother about her daughter's suicide." (Source: CBS News, July 13, 1992, quoted at The Allodium web site)

"Not long into the Clinton Presidency, Citizens United produced the video 'Clinton Chronicles,' based largely on dirt Bossie had been digging in Arkansas," Dave Gonzo reported in American Politics Journal. "The video, filled with a plethora of factual errors and uncorroborated or dis-proven rumors, has been almost completely discredited."

Bossie came early to the idea of impeaching President Clinton: In August 1994, Bossie, Director of Government Relations and Communications for Citizens United, and Howard Phillips, a long-term conservative activist who headed the Conservative Caucus, held a press conference addressing the "Latest Whitewater Developments, Impeachment Possibility."

In 1998, Bossie was fired from his job as chief investigator for the US House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform and Oversight -- which was investigating alleged Clinton White House campaign finance abuses -- for releasing selectively edited transcripts of former Clinton administration official Webster Hubbell's prison conversations.

Well-loved by conservatives, Bossie was given the Ronald Reagan Award from the Conservative Political Action Conference in 1999. A few years ago, journalist Max Blumenthal reported that Bossie called himself an "accidental filmmaker." At the 2006 Liberty Film Festival in Hollywood, Bossie told Blumenthal that "We need to use all the political tools available to us. Whether it's a thirty-second TV spot or a full-length feature, we need offensive political tools."

There's no question Bossie has become a master of creating "offensive tools." It remains to be seen whether there will be an audience for "Hype: The Obama Effect" or whether Bossie will be preaching to the choir.

Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering right-wing groups and movements.

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