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Paint It Black

Following the resignations of two McCain campaign officials who'd lobbied for the Burma junta, there's been some increased scrutiny of campaign chairman Charlie Black, whose lobbying over the years has included work for such dictators as Ferdinand Marcos, Mobutu Sese Seko, Nigeria's Ibrahim Babangida, and Somalia's Mohamed Siad Barre, as well as Angola's would-be dictator Jonas Savimbi. Black's response?:

Black said he never took on work for foreign figures "without first talking to the State Department and the White House and clearing with them that the work would be in the interest of U.S. foreign policy." For instance, he said, the U.S. considered Marcos an ally when his firm took on work for his government, and "when the White House pulled the plug on Marcos, we resigned the account the same day," Black said.

That may well be the case. The problem is that one of the services--and arguably the central one--Black's firm provided Marcos (and, one assumes most if not all of the other dictators on its clients list) was trying to persuade the White House and Congress that supporting Marcos would be in the interest of U.S. foreign policy. Obsidian Wings's Hilzoy cites an email originally posted by Steve Clemons:

During the final years of the Marcos regime, Black Manafort had the Marcos lobbying account.... US policy was undergoing a dramatic shift at the time. Secretary of State George Shultz had quietly persuaded Ronald Reagan that it was time to ditch the Marcos family -- and the Black Manafort retainer from the Marcos family had been hugely increased in an effort to turn this around.

(Hilzoy has long posts on the repellent figures for whom Black happily lobbied here and here.) The point is, claiming that you only worked for dictators the U.S. government liked is not much of a defense when a central part of your job was convincing the U.S. government to like them. It's a little like saying, yes, I made a ton of money defending a series of murderous mafiosi--but remember, I always quit working for them once they were convicted.

--Christopher Orr