Don’t judge Don Fowler by that video

nother thing my Dad mentioned to me yesterday from his watching of 24/7 TV "news" was that the Democratic Party chair had said something insensitive about the expected Gulf Coast hurricane, and then apologized. Dad couldn’t remember the chairman’s name, so I assumed it was Howard Dean. I said something about Howard’s an OK guy; he just gets carried away.

It wasn’t until a few minutes ago that I picked up on the fact that it was Don Fowler. You SEE how outside the spin cycle I live my life?

Anyway, Don and I have been known to exchange unpleasant words, but I feel for him on this one — and I think I can say, with some confidence of being supported by others who know him, that he’s a way better person than one might gather from the video clip. If someone had been following me with a hidden camera back in my newsroom days, you’d think I really was, as Don once suggested, a devil of some sort. Gallows humor goes with the territory. A defense mechanism, or whatever. I probably wouldn’t be aware of it, except I have been guilty of saying similar things in my wife’s presence, and SHE has made sure I know that she is appalled. And when I see it through her eyes, I am chastened, even ashamed.

There’s no explaining things like this afterwards; you just look bad, period. But I’ll say it again — I feel for Don on this. Yes, he’s a partisan, and that causes us to disagree sometimes, but he’s not a bad guy at all.

You know that column I did about the Capital City Club, and how it was started to allow blacks and Jews and women into the halls of power? Don was one of the people who started that club. And it is my impression that things like that are much more representative of who he is than an ironic wisecrack made to a friend in what he evidently supposed was a private moment.

19 thoughts on “Don’t judge Don Fowler by that video

  1. george32

    hopefully Fowler will follow the lead of Pat Robertson and his public forum intemperate and bigoted remarks and we will never hear from him again. oops, Pat is still around isn’t he?

  2. w s anderson

    Don Fowler is a professional and is truly dedicated to the State of South Carolina and the betterment of our country. He is a South Carolinian, who we all can be proud of, no matter what your political party is. Thank goodness we all do not have a hidden camera and recorder on our casual and private conversations! I doubt many of us could pass the test of an innocent private remark made in jest! How about the guy who was operating his cell phone and camera during flight? How about his invasion of Don’s privacy?? It seems that this person could be culpable for a legl action?? I am certain that Don will take the high road and let it go after he apologized for his private comments and just move on!! I am proud of Don Fowler!!

  3. John

    I would bet that I know Don Fowler better than 99% of the people who will read this story. Any person who really knows Don would admit that his recent statements are nothing unusual. It barely registers on his scale of outlandish comments. Brad, you know this is true. Be honest with your readers. There are many things I don’t know much about, but again, I KNOW Don Fowler. This is the way he typically talks when a microphone is not directly in his face. You know it, I know it, and anybody who has spent much time with him knows it.

  4. Lee Muller

    John is right – this is in character.
    This is the aame Don Fowler who was involved in many of the shady fundraising deals of the Clintons, for which many other top aides to Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and Al Gore plead guilty and for which over $10,000,000 in fines were paid, and $6,000,000 in federal matching funds returned.

  5. Dino

    My recollection conforms to Lee Muller’s. When Fowler got home after the Clinton fundraising disgrace it was without ‘local boy makes good’ fanfare.
    Fowler is certainly a professional. Unfortunately, his profession is known for its dedication to sharp practices and slimey clients.
    Otherwise, Brad is right. The video is merely evidence of a poor attempt to be humorous.

  6. Lee Muller

    This blog couldn’t handle a list of all those Clinton people convicted of fundraising violations, nor the Don Fowler testimony and statements in many of the cases.

  7. george32

    y’all just can’t stand it that the horrible Clintons left us with a 250 billion budget surplus which Bush may surpass Reagan by more than tripling in his 8 years. As McClain gets partially right, are you or the country better off than you were 8 years ago-unless you are private defense contractor a la Haliburton, Blackwater or big oil? It was kind of nice when the Treasury did not have to sell US debt to China to keep us afloat-now they have a mortgage on us.

  8. Mike Cakora

    Brad –
    Don Fowler is a quite amiable fellow who personifies the loyal party member who forgets specifics of meetings with questionable folks who later attract the attention of law enforcement. As DNC Chairman during part of the Clinton era he persisted in trying to get the CIA to clear a major contributor, Roger Tamraz, to meet with then-president Bill Clinton for $300,000 to tout a pipeline deal across Turkey. Poor Don could remember noting about such efforts or any meetings even though subpoenaed documents belatedly delivered contained notes of one such meeting:

    The new documents include [then-DNC finance director Richard] Sullivan’s handwritten notes that appear to relate to an Oct. 6, 1995, meeting Sullivan attended with Donald L. Fowler, then the DNC co-chairman, and Roger Tamraz, an international oil financier wanted by Interpol in connection with an alleged $200 million bank embezzlement scheme in Lebanon.
    Tamraz donated $177,000 to Democrats in 1995 and 1996, records show. He continued to receive invitations to attend events with President Clinton even after the National Security Council warned the DNC about his background. On March 27, 1996, Tamraz briefly met with Clinton and discussed his proposal to build an oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea region. Although Tamraz requested a review of his proposal, the Clinton administration says the review never took place.
    A December 1995 internal CIA memo says Fowler made several attempts to have the CIA provide the NSC with a favorable report on Tamraz.

    Fowler’s actions and subsequent amnesia were outrageous enough for a Senate investigating committee to consider a referral Fowler and others to the Attorney General for perjury.
    That did not happen, the Democrats argued that Republicans Party officials were also soliciting illegal foreign contributions, allowing Fowler to return to the Palmetto State and resume his role in local Dem politics.
    It seems to me that Fowler is a cynical guy that represents what’s wrong with politics in this nation, and that you’d be among the last to cut him much slack.

  9. Bob

    Oh no, don’t judge Dem hatchet man Fowler but rip the 17 year old daughter of VP candidate Palin. What a disgusting A hole you must be!

  10. Mike Cakora

    Contemporaneous accounts of the Tamraz / Fowler connection referenced a CIA contact simply as “Bob” from whom Fowler tried to get clearance for Tamraz to meet then-president Clinton. As it turns out “Bob” was Robert Baer, author of See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA’s War on Terrorism, a CIA case officer’s reminiscence and analysis of his career in the Middle East. It’s good — read it.
    As I recall from the book. Baer became quite bitter over the whole Tamraz clearance issue, particularly the pressure first from Fowler and then from others to recommend CIA approval for a Tamraz-Clinton meeting. He believed at the time that various administration officials — not specifically party folks like Fowler — were threatening his career. Later, during investigations, a whole lotta folks forgot or lost a whole lotta stuff:

    Mr. Tamraz’s lobbying efforts became public last March in the Congressional investigation into campaign finance abuses. In late 1995, Mr. Tamraz, an American financier, was barred by council staff members from attending White House events for major Democratic donors because of questions about his background.
    But Mr. Tamraz had a longstanding relationship with the C.I.A. He suggested to the Democratic National Committee that the agency might help overcome the council’s opposition. Mr. Fowler, eager to please a man who was giving $300,000 to the Democratic Party, telephoned Mr. Tamraz’s contact in the C.I.A. directorate of operations, the agency’s clandestine espionage arm, to ask for help.
    That contact was identified only as Bob, and his actions later became the subject of a Congressional investigation into the campaign finance scandal. The report cleared ‘Bob’ of any wrongdoing.
    The inspector general found that ‘Bob’ had been troubled by Mr. Fowler’s call and he immediately asked a lawyer in the directorate of operations for advice. The attorney told ‘Bob’ to keep a written record of what happened. Within days of Mr. Fowler’s call, the lawyer told his supervisor in the general counsel’s office. But the supervising lawyer failed to pass word of Mr. Fowler’s contacts to John M. Deutch, the Director of Central Intelligence at the time, or other senior officials, the report determined.
    In late 1995, ‘Bob’ wrote a lengthy memorandum that also disappeared. Mr. Deutch and other senior C.I.A. officials were not aware of Mr. Fowler’s efforts to use the agency for political purposes until just before it became public in early 1997.

    You can find a lot more if you Google around a bit.
    It’s clear that Fowler was trying to use the CIA for political purposes.

  11. James D McCallister

    Doesn’t sound quite as nefarious as trading drugs for guns for money for hostages, or whatever it was Reagan’s boys were up to back in the 80s.
    “Shipping powders back and forth/black goes south while white comes north.”
    -from “Throwing Stones” by the Grateful Dead (specifically written by lyricist John Perry Barlow, one of my heroes, and a staunch Republican, no less)

  12. Lee Muller

    Moderate Iranians arranged for the US to sell Iran pharmaceuticals (“drugs” in DNC parlance) and air defense weapons, with the CARTER ADMINISTRATION.
    Clinton left us with $1.5 TRILLION more national DEBT than when he took office, according to the US Treasury website. He never proposed a surplus budget, and fought efforts by Newt Gingrich to reduce the deficits below the $3.0 TRILLION which Democrats wanted.
    Halliburton does not do “no bid” work in Iraq. They manage the bidding for all the 250 contractors do the rebuilding of roads, utilities, oil production, etc. You can bid for them. Several SC companies have contracts right now.

  13. Guero

    What a surprise! Someone who has never voted for a Democratic candidate for President, who has made campaign contribution only to Republicans (Hollywood Fred being the last one), and who has never voted for a Democratic candidate for SC Governor, US Senator, or US Representative……..digs out a 12 year old non-scandal to impugn a former DNC Chair.
    Wow, Mike Cakora, what a surprise from someone with your pedigree.
    But, you’re NOT a Republican, are you?
    I’ve always been a big fan of the “Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, poops like a duck” school of reality-based thinking”.
    Since you’re such an independent, can you point us to your writings condemning Haley Barbour for taking Ambrose Tung Young’s Chinese $? Get back to us, will you?
    Quack, Quack!

  14. Lee Muller

    Yes, this captured video is typical Warthen infatuation with fluff.
    The real scandals of Don Fowler included:
    * 17 Democrats sent to jail in SC for bribery in Operation Lost Trust
    * Roger Tamraz bribes, mentioned above
    * Maria Hsai and the Buddhist Temple money laundering of illegal contributions
    * $20,000,000 from Red China’s Norinco arms company to the Clinton campaign and DNC
    * $1.0 BILLION missing from children’s savings accounts at the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
    * Charlie Trie illegal contributions
    * Lying about donations in 1992 to receive $6,000,000 in matching federal funds.
    * much more…
    Would you like a complete list of the convictions, indictments, guilty pleas and fines?

  15. p.m.

    So you forgive Fowler for such an outrageous statement, but had Sanford said it, would you, Mr. Warthen?
    Of course not. Nor would the mainstream media, had a prominent Republican said such a thing.
    Meanwhile, the Democrat crazies are attacking people at the Republican convention.
    One party, one cloth, much embarrassment.

  16. Brad Warthen

    Actually, Mike C. — unlike some of you (and who on Earth is that “Bob” guy addressing?) — is somewhat on point when he says I would “be among the last to cut him much slack,” since Don is so passionately attached to his political party, and I am so vehemently opposed to that world view.
    I’m very conscious of that fact, Mike. And I try to make allowances for it. I try to remind myself that there ARE decent people out there — lots of them — who are attached to parties. So my mind goes through certain stages: I think, “This is just the sort of thing a party guy would do.” Then, I think, is that sufficient reason to think a person is without moral worth? And the answer is “No.” Then, I think about the fact that I have a visceral negative reaction to Judgment by YouTube. Hey, I love YouTube, and the fact that you can find video of practically anything that’s ever happened publicly there is a resource that I take great pleasure in mining. But I also know, from long experience, how the camera misleads the eye, and you must not read too much into what it reveals in a given moment.
    The example that always stands out in my mind was when I was in Memphis covering the simultaneous police and fire strikes of August 1978. It was a big national story. But one day, after having traveled all over the city and found things to be peaceful and normal, I witnessed a brief, extremely minor scuffle that attracted the attention of about a dozen television cameras, and was inspired to conduct an experiment. I looked at the fracas that I knew would look terribly dramatic on TV, then I slowly turned around. For about 355 degrees of that turn, all was calm. In five degrees or less was a bit of activity (and most of the energy was being expended by the cameramen jostling for position) that 30 seconds later would be over, and likely forgotten.
    Since then, I try to remember that what I see in the few seconds of a video clip should be seen within the context of all the hours and days and years before and after it.
    So, combine my reluctance to judge someone totally in terms of my own distaste for parties with my suspicion of attaching too much importance to a surreptitious video, and you get this blog post.

  17. John

    Don Fowler has grown rich teaching politicians and corporate heads how to manipulate the media. I have been the recipient of his teaching myself. I have heard his first-hand accounts of manipulating writers at The State (amongst others). My knowledge of Don goes back thirty years, to his days as a student at USC. He is Machavalian to the core. You are either one of his victims or friends for portraying him as some kind of softie.

  18. Robert

    I’m not going to question Fowler’s public service, but I am going to call him to the carpet for blurting out such an asinine statement, especially given the fact that hurricanes much larger than Katrina and Hugo have hit SC. What would happen should one of these storms currently in the Atlantic strike SC? Would Bush tell us to wait for Fowler to assist us? It would serve us right, wouldn’t it?

  19. Guero

    “hurricanes much larger than Katrina and Hugo have hit SC”
    Uh, Robert? Name one. The only possible hurricane larger than Katrina and Hugo to SC MIGHT have been the sea island one of the late 19th century that killed thousands along the coast.


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