`We Said September 11 Was Going to Happen. I Was Angry with Myself for Not Doing More': Monday Interview: Gary Hart ; Former Senator and Twice-Failed Presidential Candidate
Buncombe, Andrew, The Independent (London, England)
GARY HART, the former senator and presidential candidate, has been around politics for a long time. That experience is telling him that John Kerry is going to win the US presidential election when America goes to the polls one week tomorrow.
"It's partly intuitive and partly based on several hidden votes that are not [shown in the polls]," he said. "The hidden votes are new registrants who are overwhelmingly Democratic, disaffected Republicans who won't admit to a pollster they are not going to vote for their party, and young voters who are rightly concerned about conscription if Bush is re-elected. And many of those [have only mobile phones pollsters are not permitted to call] and do not show up in the usual polling."
Contrary to what the polls suggest, he believes the outcome might not even be particularly close. "Possibly not; two points to 48 points sounds close, or if you want to put Ralph Nader in at one, 51- 48-1. But three percentage points in a massive electorate is quite a margin."
So much of politics is about the margin, about being on the correct, winning side or else finding oneself for whatever reason, on the other, a loser.
Gary Hart - intelligent, progressive and combative - is among those who came very close to being a winner, only to find himself defeated. That, of course, was back in 1987 when Mr Hart was the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president, well ahead of Michael Dukakis, who eventually secured it only to lose in the general election.
But for revelations about Mr Hart's extra-marital affair with a 29-year- old model, Donna Rice, who was photographed on his lap while on a boat called Monkey Business, he would likely have been the man who challenged George Bush Snr in the 1988 presidential election.
It is one of the great "what ifs" of American politics. What if Mr Hart had won? Would he have beaten Mr Bush? Would that have meant no Bill Clinton? Would that have meant no George Bush Jnr? Although Mr Hart may reflect on all this in his private moments, on what might have been and what he might have achieved, he says he no longer feels angry about it. He believes he was a victim of a media intent on sensationalism.
"It was just one of those things," he says, testily. "Nothing I could do about it. In the 1980s, [Rupert] Murdoch and others fundamentally changed the way the press is done in America, as in Great Britain. As it happened, I was at the station when the train wreck occurred. Do I regret the wreck? Of course I regret the wreck; so what? What can I do about it."
In the aftermath of his defeat, Mr Hart returned to his law practice in Colorado, wrote thoughtful books, including several novels, and continued to be moderately involved in public life. One of the things he agreed to do was serve on what became known as the Hart-Rudman Commission, established by President Clinton in 1998 to study homeland security. That commission warned, in late January, 2001, of the imminent and deadly danger the US homeland faced from foreign terrorists.
To Mr Hart's huge regret, no one paid much attention, not the press, not Congress and certainly not the then-new administration of George Bush. Mr Hart used his influence to lobby Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice but no one wanted to hear what he and his fellow commissioners had to say.
"One of the reasons we felt so strongly that terrorists were coming was because of people such as [former White House intelligence chief] Richard Clarke," he says. "We interviewed him ... and his hair was on fire and he set our hair on fire. It was, in a large point, because of meetings with people like him that we reached the conclusion we did. He said that when the new group arrived in the White House he started talking to Condi Rice and others, saying, `Terrorists are coming, terrorists are …
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Publication information: Article title: `We Said September 11 Was Going to Happen. I Was Angry with Myself for Not Doing More': Monday Interview: Gary Hart ; Former Senator and Twice-Failed Presidential Candidate. Contributors: Buncombe, Andrew - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: October 25, 2004. Page number: 29. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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