U.N. officials choose wrong focus

JEFF CROUERE Ringside Politics | Posted: Sunday, November 4, 2012

…A collection of election monitors from Europe and Central Asia will be supervising the voting process in our presidential election. In all 22 teams of inspectors will be visiting 40 states in two phases that will culminate on Election Day. They will be monitoring selected polling places to determine whether there is any voter suppression of minorities or other disadvantaged groups.

The deployment of monitors was made after requests from the ACLU, the NAACP and the Leadership on Civil and Human Rights. These organizations claimed that conservative groups are working to “disenfranchise millions of Americans — particularly traditionally disenfranchised groups like minorities.”

These preposterous charges were made after several states passed more stringent voter identification laws. For this election, 11 states will require some form of voter identification and studies show that voter turnout has not diminished. Even Dr. Michael Kang of Emory University, an Obama campaign adviser, states that the “controversy may be overblown, and it’s not clear at all that it will have a significant effect on the election.”

Of course, liberal groups never let reality get in the way of a political issue they can exploit. As noted by Catherine Engelbrecht, President of True the Vote, “These activist groups sought assistance not from American sources, but from the United Nations….The United Nations has no jurisdiction over American elections.” Hopefully, U.N. officials will understand that there is a tremendous difference between voter suppression and voter identification.

Election officials in Texas and Iowa have already denied access to these international observers; however, Chris Whitmire, of the South Carolina Election Commission, told Fox News that his state will “welcome” the U.N. officials. Maybe Mr. Whitmire should spend some time examining the credentials of the monitors before rolling out the red carpet.

As noted by Christopher Adams of PJ Media, “Many of the observers come from authoritarian countries, including countries that torture their citizens and repress free speech and religion.” One of those countries is Albania, and Armand Shandro, an official representative of that nation, is a member of one of the U.N. teams. They will spend Election Day in Jackson, Mississippi monitoring voting activity.

It is ironic that Shandro is here to monitor our elections while his home country, Albania, is one of the most corrupt nations on earth. In a recent Albanian election, there were accusations of fraud, tampering with identification documents and outright violence. In 2009, an argument over campaign advertising resulted in a Democratic Party activist being killed by a Socialist Party official outside the city of Tirana. Earlier that year, a regional leader of the Christian Democratic Party was killed in a car bomb. In 2011, contested ballots from the national election were actually burned by the Prime Minister [Sali Berisha] who refused demands for a recount.

It seems that if Mr. Shandro were truly worried about real voter fraud, a good place to start would be Albania, not Mississippi.

This whole charade proves once again that the U.N. cares more about political correctness than in fighting real injustice and human suffering.

It is a tragedy to see an organization transform from representing the best hopes of mankind to coddling and supporting tyrants who represent the worst of mankind.

Jeff Crouere, a native of New Orleans and resident of Mandeville, is host of a Louisiana-based program. Northshore. For more information, visit his Web site at www.ringsidepolitics.com. E-mail him at jeff@ringsidepolitics.com.

The above item comes on the heels of an article in The New Republic, a nest of admittedly brilliant Dumb Jews who will be voting for Obama come hell or high water. This is the same New Republic that is on the record as supporting both our Bosnia and our Kosovo jihads, but don’t look for any sense of irony or mea culpas from them even as they point out the following (if only out of partisan interest):

Stuart Stevens’ Shady Past Clients, Revealed (Penn Bullock, Oct. 29)

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

“I have a very good team of extraordinarily experienced, highly successful consultants, a couple of people in particular who have done races around the world,” said Mitt Romney at the now-infamous private fundraiser in Boca Raton where he attacked the “47 percent.” While those comments seized the country’s attention, these strange remarks largely escaped notice: “These guys in the U.S. — the Karl Rove equivalents — they do races all over the world, in Armenia, in Africa, in Israel,” he said. “They do these races, and they see which ads work, and which processes work best, and we have ideas about what we do over the course of the campaign.”

“I’d tell them to you,” Romney joked, “but I’d have to shoot you.”

For Romney to brag behind closed doors that his consultants are using tactics honed in foreign elections is peculiar, to say the least. The well-traveled consultants he praised were almost certainly his chief strategist, Stuart Stevens, and Stevens’ longtime sidekick, Russ Schriefer. And before taking charge of Romney’s presidential campaign as its “Karl Rove equivalent,” Stevens helped lift at least two foreign strongmen into power, guiding them to victory in elections rife with irregularities and violence.

…An article last month in Politico that portrayed Stevens as the target of vicious sniping within the campaign mentioned in passing that he worked in Albania and the Congo. But it didn’t name the leaders whose campaigns he ran: Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha and Congolese President Joseph Kabila, authoritarian figures….

According to an insider from the 2005 Albanian campaign, Stevens was recommended to Berisha by a Bosnian middleman, Damir Fazlic, whom the U.S. State Department has described as “shady.” (State Department cables say Fazlic worked closely with Berisha on the campaign and received legal protection from his government. He has been followed in the Eastern European press by rumors of mafia ties. He did not reply to requests for comment.) Stevens was joined in Albania by a consort from Washington’s BGR Group, and the Americans had their work cut out for them: Berisha’s image needed serious rehab. His previous reign over Albania had ended in a surreal, almost apocalyptic catastrophe.

As an apparatchik in the country’s former Stalinist dictatorship, Berisha rode a democratic uprising to the presidency in the early 1990s and imposed a right-wing, one-party regime. While secret police kept order, monumental pyramid schemes grew to consume much of the GDP. When they crashed in 1997, Albania plunged into violent anarchy. Girding for civil war, Berisha surrounded himself with a paramilitary gang as his party handed out guns at campaign offices. In late 1997, he resigned under intense international and American pressure. The violence killed an estimated 2,000 people.

[And of course the weapons arsenals were raided and ended up in Kosovo for the Tirana-supported Slav-killing which this magazine continues to applaud.]

When Stevens was hired to resell Berisha’s leadership to the Albanian populace in 2005, Berisha’s image at home and abroad was that of a washed-up despot. Audaciously, Stevens and the BGR specialists set about crafting a platform based almost entirely on a pledge to reduce corruption. Thus, one of Eastern Europe’s most unsavory ex-rulers was resurrected as a crusading reformer.

Stevens framed Berisha as an agent of grand, visionary change. In a presentation at Albania’s Sheraton Hotel that was reported by a local newspaper, he insisted that Berisha embodied American values just like George W. Bush did.

[More egregious, however, was Joe Biden comparing Kosovo’s chief organ-stealer and summary-executioner, “Prime Minister” Hashim Thaci, to George Washington. But no objection by The New Republic on that score.]

Berisha himself stepped forward to say something nice about Stevens. Stevens, said the candidate, was his campaign’s “magician,” and he and Stevens worked together like “Siamese twins.”

An opposition figure in Albania, Erion Veliaj, who leads a small left-wing party and a youth activist group that has received American funding, said in a telephone interview that Stevens played dirty during the campaign. Shortly before the election, Veliaj told reporters that he received a threatening phone call from one of Berisha’s consultants. At the time, he did not identify the caller. Today, he says it was Stevens. Veliaj says Stevens “went berserk,” demanding he withhold the results of a poll commissioned with help from the British and Dutch embassies and conducted by Gallup International (which is unrelated to America’s Gallup organization). The poll showed an uncomfortably close race for Berisha. According to Veliaj, Stevens said he would use his influence in Washington to cut off future U.S. visas for Veliaj if he didn’t scrap the poll. Veliaj released it.

“He struck me as a cheap bluffer,” Veliaj says.

Gary Kokalari, an Albanian-American activist (and Romney supporter), says Veliaj told him about the confrontation at the time. Kokalari says he called Stevens to tell him to “back off.”

Berisha won the election in July 2005 by a five-percent margin, but monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe called the election a “disappointment,” saying it failed to comply with international standards because of “serious irregularities,” intimidation, vote-buying and “violence committed by extremists on both sides.”

Since the election, the Economist Intelligence Unit in London, which tracks world governments, has continued to classify Albania as a hybrid of authoritarianism and democracy, and Berisha’s government has birthed lurid scandals. In 2008, on a secretly recorded phone call, an American arms dealer complained that his scheme to sell illegal ammo from Albanian junkyards to the U.S. Army had become entangled in an Albanian “mafia” involving Berisha and his son. When protesters were shot dead outside Albania’s parliament last year, Berisha claimed they were trying to launch a coup with guns disguised as umbrellas and pens and called the independent prosecutor investigating their deaths a “boulevard whore.” And when the newspaper that reported on Stevens’ loving speech at the Sheraton Hotel ran afoul of Berisha after the 2005 election, it was briefly shut down by police, and its publisher’s car firebombed, in an incident condemned by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Though Berisha has remained a close American ally under the Obama administration — and even joined NATO four years ago — a 2010 State Department cable written by the U.S. ambassador warned that Berisha was attempting to rebuild a secret police force and, along with the Socialist opposition, evinced “an authoritarian streak.” [And still, nothing strange to TNR about the same-page-for-Left-and-Right phenomenon concerning all things Albanian — the consistency, fluidity, immutability, imperturbability of it all.]

Since leaving his post in Albania, the ex-ambassador, John Withers, has become one of Berisha’s most vocal critics, accusing him of driving Albanian democracy into the ground since his return to power in 2005. His leadership has run “exactly contrary to democracy-building,” Withers said in an interview with Albanian media in March. His government “has routinely bullied the courts … striven to curtail media freedoms through restrictive and undemocratic laws,” manipulated the electoral process, and “shown an active, even obsessive interest in only one objective: the pursuit of power by any means at its disposal.”

The Romney campaign did not respond to questions for this article, and neither did Stevens. Among the questions the campaign didn’t answer are whether Stevens still regards Berisha and Kabila as the worthy, upstanding leaders he sold them as to tens of millions of people, and whether he was aware of abuses during their campaigns or took action to stop them. But in what is perhaps a tell, Albania and the Congo used to be on his consulting’s firm website, listed among clients the firm says it’s “proud to have worked with.” At some point this year, they were removed.

My, my, but how much TNR suddenly knows about Albanian fishiness in an election year, and how much attention it suddenly warrants.