Center for American Progress (CAP)
Launched July 7, 2003
The Center for American Progress (CAP) is widely understood to be what one inside source called, “the official Hillary Clinton think tank” – a platform designed to highlight Hillary’s policies and to enhance her prestige as a potential presidential candidate.
Robert Dreyfuss reports in the March 1, 2004 edition of The Nation: “The idea for the Center began with discussions in 2002 between [Morton] Halperin and George Soros, the billionaire investor. … Halperin, who heads the office of Soros’ Open Society Institute, brought [former Clinton chief of staff John] Podesta into the discussion, and beginning in late 2002 Halperin and Podesta circulated a series of papers to funders.”
Soros and Halperin then recruited Harold Ickes – chief fundraiser and former deputy chief of staff for the Clinton White House – to help organize the Center. It was launched on July 7, 2003 as the American Majority Institute, but has operated under the name Center for American Progress (CAP) since September 1, 2003.
The official purpose of the Center was to provide the left with something it supposedly lacked – a think tank of its own. Where was the left’s Heritage Foundation, asked Soros and Halperin? Of course, the left had plenty of think tanks, including the Brookings Institution, the Urban Institute, the Economic Policy Institute, the Center on Budget and Policy, the Institute for Policy Studies, and the Progressive Policy Institute – not to mention the Kennedy School for Government at Harvard and numerous similar academic institutions firmly under leftist control. But Shadow Party leaders seemed to be looking for something different – something that no existing institution on the left offered.
Regarding the alleged need for CAP, Hillary Clinton told Matt Bai of The New York Times Magazine on October 12, 2003, “We need some new intellectual capital. There has to be some thought given as to how we build the 21st-century policies that reflect the Democratic Party’s values.” Expanding on this theme, Hillary subsequently told The Nation’s Dreyfuss, “We’ve had the challenge of filling a void on our side of the ledger for a long time, while the other side created an infrastructure that has come to dominate political discourse. The center is a welcome effort to fill that void.”
Soros and Hillary seemed to understand the need for the new Center, even if they did not always succeed in explaining it to others. They found fault with every existing leftwing think tank. Even Bill Clinton’s personal favorite, the Progressive Policy Institute, was too moderate, too middle-of-the-road for their purpose. But what was their purpose?
Hillary Clinton tries to minimize the depth of her involvement with CAP – as indeed she does habitually in all matters concerning the Shadow Party. Beltway insiders are not fooled, however. Persistent press leaks confirm that Hillary calls the shots at CAP – not John Podesta. “It’s the official Hillary Clinton think tank,” an inside source confided to Christian Bourge of United Press International.
Many ideological purists on the Left dismiss the Center as a platform for Hillary’s presidential ambitions. No doubt, they are right. Dreyfuss notes the abundance of Clintonites on the Center’s staff, among them Clinton’s national security speechwriter Robert Boorstin; Democratic Leadership Council staffer and former head of Clinton’s National Economic Council Gene Sperling; former senior advisor to Clinton’s Office of Management and Budget Matt Miller; and so on. Dreyfuss writes: “[T]he center’s kickoff conference on national security in October , co-organized with The American Prospect and the Century Foundation, looked like a Clinton reunion, featuring Robert Rubin, Clinton’s Treasury Secretary; William Perry, his Defense Secretary; Sandy Berger, his National Security Adviser; Richard Holbrooke and Susan Rice, both Clinton-era Assistant Secretaries of State; Rodney Slater, his Transportation Secretary; and Carol Browner, his EPA administrator, who serves on the center’s board of directors.” Hillary Clinton also attended the event, notes Dreyfuss.
“In looking at Podesta’s center,” Dreyfuss muses, “there’s no escaping the imprint of the Clintons. It’s not completely wrong to see it as a shadow government, a kind of Clinton White-House-in-exile – or a White House staff in readiness for President Hillary Clinton.”
Another of CAP’s missions is to carry out “rapid response” to what it calls conservative “attacks” in the media. CAP’s Web site promises that it will soon be capable of “responding effectively and rapidly to conservative proposals and rhetoric with a thoughtful critique and clear alternatives.” To this end, CAP offers a stable of talking heads – coiffed, credentialed and fully briefed – ready to appear at a moment’s notice on national talk shows to interrupt, side track, browbeat and otherwise prevent conservative commentators from getting their message out. Notable among CAP’s line-up of talking heads are The Nation’s Eric Alterman – who claims expertise on the subjects of media and democracy – and Morton H. Halperin, who offers to speak on national security.
CAP helped launch Media Matters for America, a 501(c)(03) public charity better known for its Web site MediaMatters.org, which opened for business on May 3, 2004. Inasmuch as Media Matters aspires to serve as a media watchdog, monitoring “rightwing” journalists for errors and ethical violations, it is odd, to say the least, that David Brock has been appointed its President and CEO. Brock is a former conservative journalist who defected to the Left amidst an outpouring of dramatic public apologies and confessions that he had built his career on lies, writing political hit pieces filled with flimsy evidence and outright fabrications. Even so, whatever Brock lacks in credibility, he more than makes up for in the quality of his schmoozing. Brock told The New York Times that he conferred with Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Tom Daschle and former Vice President Al Gore before launching his Web site.
The New York Times, which generously provided a 1,041-word feature article to announce Brock’s grand opening, reports that, “Mr. Brock's project was developed with help from the newly formed Center for American Progress…. [CAP president John] Podesta has loaned office space in the past to Mr. Brock and introduced him to potential donors.” Brock received $2 million for the start-up. His donors include friend-of-Hillary Susie Tompkins Buell, co-founder of the fashion company Esprit; former cable TV mogul Leo Hindery Jr.; and San Francisco philanthropist James C. Hormel, an enthusiastic promoter of the “gay lifestyle” whom Clinton appointed ambassador to Luxembourg in the 1990s.
In its short life, Media Matters has already acquired a reputation for zombie-like partisanship and reckless disregard for the truth. Brock and his team seem to sleepwalk through their work, rubberstamping, with mind-numbing monotony, virtually every conservative utterance that finds its way into major media as a “lie,” a “smear,” a “slander,” or a factual “error.”
War on Rush Limbaugh
Among Brock’s high-priority projects is a campaign to pressure Congress and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to ban Rush Limbaugh from American Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) – thus depriving our troops in Iraq of one of the few radio programs they are allowed to hear that wholeheartedly supports them and the cause for which they fight. Only one hour of Limbaugh’s three-hour show is broadcast on one of AFRTS’s thirteen radio channels, five days per week – constituting less than one percent of the network’s total weekly programming. Nevertheless, that is one percent too many for the Shadow Party and its operatives.
Shortly after Media Matters began its campaign, Democrat Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa obligingly proposed an amendment to the 2005 Defense Authorization Act mandating “political balance” on AFRTS. The Senate approved Harkin’s amendment unanimously on June 16. It stops short of banning Limbaugh outright, but the amendment effectively requires AFRTS to balance Limbaugh with more leftwing commentary. Given the fact that one of the network’s two news channels currently airs National Public Radio 24 hours per day, seven days per week, it is hard to imagine how AFRTS can broadcast more leftwing commentary than it already does. Even so, Senator Harkin complained in a June 17 Senate speech, “[T]here is no commentary on the service that would even begin to balance the extreme right-wing views that Rush Limbaugh routinely expresses on his program.”
In the interests of full disclosure, it should be mentioned that both co-authors of this article have been targets of stunningly mendacious hatchet jobs on Mr. Brock’s Web site.
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