During solemn hearings on the floor of the U.S. Senate investigating drugs and terrorism a swarthy Hispanic who landed on U.S. shores with the clothes on his back and was graciously put on the path to U.S. citizenship repeatedly insulted a U.S. Senator who was also a highly decorated war veteran, an Ivy League graduate and a scion of a wealthy and politically-connected American family. The smartmouthed Latino was accused of drug-running and money-laundering to finance terrorists. He was testifying under oath –sneeringly and with a heavy Spanish accent-- upon a subpoena by lawmakers of the nation that had shown him unlimited generosity.
Mere minutes into the confrontation the swarthy Latino’s arrogance, testy rebuttals and steely stare had reduced the lanky New England millionaire-aristocrat to nervous stuttering between shifty glances.
Just the thing to get those Teabillies and Red-State yahoos to briefly drop their guns and Bibles grab their tar, feathers, torches, pitchforks and rope, right? Then bawl for the uppity Latino’s head! Right?
Just the thing to warm the hearts of America’s “party of diversity,” right? Just the thing to delight those enemies of the “one-percenter” and “champion of Hispanics” right?
Here was “Yes we can!” (Si se Puede!) with bells on! Right?
HAH! Think again. The accused “Latino”, you see, was Cuban-American freedom-fighter, Che Guevara captor (and Republican) Felix Rodriguez. The accuser was Senator John Kerry. The setting was the 1987 "Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics, and International Operations," shortly known as “The Kerry Committee” which became the opening act for what shortly came to be known as the “Iran-Contra Hearings.”
So the reactions were exactly reversed. The liberal lynch–mob (Democrats/Media) hailed the New England (inherited) millionaire and bawled for the uppity “Latino“ refugee to be (figuratively) strung up-- and burned afterwards for good measure. Only the liberals’ torches and pitchforks were missing. Some background:
On the day he gained his U.S. citizenship in 1969 Felix Rodriguez celebrated the honor by volunteering for armed action in Viet-Nam. He flew over 300 helicopter combat missions in Viet-Nam, and was shot down five times. He won the coveted Intelligence Star for Valor from the CIA and nine Crosses for Gallantry from the Republic of South Vietnam. Later he battled Communists in El Salvador using a helicopter "mobile strike unit" scheme he developed in Viet-Nam. He flew over 100 combat missions in Central America, captured the FMLF's top commander and helped crush those Communist- terrorists decisively. All this was volunteer work. Earlier as a CIA operative, Rodriguez played a key role in tracking down and capturing Che Guevara in Bolivia.
Rodriguez was flying combat missions in El Salvador the summer of 1987 when his wife called to say his name was splashed all over the Miami Herald as a cocaine smuggler for the Nicaraguan Contras-- and one who reports to Vice President Bush!
"Forget it," he laughed. "Who's gonna believe such garbage?" But as always with Liberal slanders, they have a life of their own. The smear spread through the Beltway media like wildfire.
A subpoena from the Kerry Committee shortly hit the Rodriguez’ Miami doorstep. "Great!" whooped Felix while flying back from the Central American war. "I'll be happy to tell a Congressional Committee everything--but I insist on open hearings.”
The slanders then taking Rodriguez away from the field against Communists to attempt to clear his name and honor originated at the Kerry Committee's last "closed" hearing. Here a convicted drug smuggler sentenced to 46 years in Federal prison (and who later flunked several polygraph tests) made the outrageous charges against Rodriguez and Vice President Bush. Next day they were all over the Beltway media. Rodriguez noticed that the Miami Herald mentioned, "unnamed congressional sources," for its slanders. Kerry Committee leaks anyone?
Also note the date, summer of 1987. Shortly George Bush would wage an electoral campaign against Kerry's friend and political ally, Michael Dukakis (Kerry had served as Lieutenant Governor for this famous tank commander.)
Miami area lawyers, knowing Rodriguez' honorable reputation, tripped over themselves clamoring to represent him pro-bono during the Kerry Committee hearings. "I don't want any lawyers!" Felix responded. "If I need a lawyer to help me explain why I've been defending this country for the past 27 years--then I'm in the wrong country! I want my testimony in front of the American people!"
More alarmingly (to Democrats) Rodriguez refused what weasel types call "immunity."
You can imagine Kerry's forehead furrowing and a few nervous coughs behind the hand at the news. Nothing so unnerves a big-haired, blow-dried Congressional Committee like spunk, courage, honesty, straight talk.
So naturally Kerry denied Rodriguez' request for an open hearing. If Rodriguez cleared his name, if he shot down his Committee's cockamamie accusations--by God, Kerry certainly didn't want it getting any circulation! The Kerry Committee--and The Kerry Committee alone-- using leaks to their press cronies, would decide exactly what got in the newspapers and evening news.
"Senator, my name was leaked by your Committee as being involved with drug smuggling," Rodriguez started his testimony. "I take that very seriously. It affects my family and my reputation."
Kerry furrowed his (now) famous forehead and affected a stern look "You're making serious accusations here...."
"Senator this slander was in every g*dd*mmed newspaper after your committee's last closed hearing." Rodriguez shot back, "saying I solicited drug money for the Contras. That, Senator Kerry, is a d*amned lie!"
Kerry's forehead furrowed further. He stuttered. He started rambling well off the subject, asking Rodriguez about Che Guevara’s capture and why he hadn't fought harder to save his life, etc. (what this had to do with the hearings has never been explained.)
"SENATOR!" an exasperated Rodriguez finally shot back. "It's difficult for me to answer questions from a man I DO NOT RESPECT!"
Kerry gaped. A northeastern liberal Democrat he'd always been a media darling, soft-soaped and soft- balled by the media. Now some Cuban refugee had him seriously rattled. But Rodriguez didn't miss a beat --naming dates and witnesses, citing documents--he proceeded to demolish every accusation against him.
"I have nothing to hide," Rodriguez said repeatedly. "I'm not ashamed of anything I've done. I've battled communism since I was 17. I help the Contras, the Salvadoran government. I do so as a volunteer, legally and openly. And if you're sincere, senator," he finished up. "You'll put out a statement to the press about what I said here today. I insist that the American people know about my testimony!"
No such statement ever issued from Kerry's Committee. So two months later Rodriguez called a press conference in Miami to tell his side.
A full year after leaking the slanders against Rodriguez and after the treacherous, lying swine who made them failed three polygraph tests, The Kerry Committee finally saw fit to allow Rodriguez' year-long request for an open hearing. They scheduled him as the fifth witness at 5 in the afternoon when the Senate chamber was devoid of reporters and TV cameras. In the near-empty room, Kerry finally mumbled a half-hearted apology.
But as Rodriguez writes "whether by design or coincidence, allegations about me and drug smuggling and Vice President Bush kept popping up in the press right up until election day 1988." And the Miami Herald kept mentioning those "unnamed Congressional sources."
Humberto Fontova holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University and is the author of four books including his latest, The Longest Romance; The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro. For more information and for video clips of his Television and college speaking appearances please visit www.hfontova.com.