Gary Hart

Gary Hart

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Gary Hart (Hartpence) was born in Ottawa, Kansas, on 28th November, 1936. He graduated from Nazarene College (1958), Yale Divinity School (1961) before attending Yale University Law School.

Hart worked as an attorney for the United States Department of Justice from 1964 to 1965. He then became special assistant to the solicitor of the Department of the Interior (1965-1967). Hart then established his own law practice in Denver, Colorado.

A member of the Democratic Party he managed the campaign of George McGovern to become the party's presidential candidate in 1972. Hart also took charge of McGovern campaign to defeat Richard Nixon. Hart's strategy was disrupted by Nixon's Operation Sandwedge and Operation Gemstone. Hart was unable to convince the American public that the White House was involved in the Watergate break-in and McGovern only carried Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

Hart was elected to the Senate in 1972. In 1975, Frank Church became the chairman of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities. Members of this committee included Hart (Colorado), Walter Mondale (Minnesota), Richard Schweiker (Pennsylvania), Philip Hart (Michigan), Howard Baker (Tennessee) and Barry Goldwater (Arizona). This committee investigated alleged abuses of power by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Intelligence.

The committee looked at the case of Fred Hampton and discovered that William O'Neal, Hampton's bodyguard, was a FBI agent-provocateur who, days before the raid, had delivered an apartment floor-plan to the Bureau with an "X" marking Hampton's bed. Ballistic evidence showed that most bullets during the raid were aimed at Hampton's bedroom.

Church's committee also discovered that the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation had sent anonymous letters attacking the political beliefs of targets in order to induce their employers to fire them. Similar letters were sent to spouses in an effort to destroy marriages. The committee also documented criminal break-ins, the theft of membership lists and misinformation campaigns aimed at provoking violent attacks against targeted individuals.

One of those people targeted was Martin Luther King. The FBI mailed King a tape recording made from microphones hidden in hotel rooms. The tape was accompanied by a note suggesting that the recording would be released to the public unless King committed suicide.

In September, 1975, a sub-committee made up of Hart and Richard Schweiker was asked to review the performance of the intelligence agencies in the original John F. Kennedy assassination investigation. Hart and Schweiker became very concerned about what they found. On 1st May, 1976, Hart said: "I don't think you can see the things I have seen and sit on it."

When the Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations was published in 1976, Hart joined Walter Mondale and Philip Hart to publish an appendix to the report. The three men pointed out that "important portions of the Report had been excised or security grounds". However, they believed that the CIA had "used the classification stamp not for security, but to censor material that would be embarrassing, inconvenient, or likely to provoke an adverse public reaction to CIA activities."

The appendix went on to say: "Some of the so-called security objections of the CIA were so outlandish they were dismissed out of hand. The CIA wanted to delete reference to the Bay of Pigs as a paramilitary operation, they wanted to eliminate any reference to CIA activities in Laos, and they wanted the Committee to excise testimony given in public before the television cameras. But on other more complex issues, the Committee's necessary and proper concern for caution enabled the CIA to use the clearance process to alter the Report to the point where some of its most important implications are either lost, or obscured in vague language."

Hart called for a new Senate Committee to look into the events surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He said it was necessary to take a closer look at Lee Harvey Oswald and his relationship with the FBI and the CIA. In an interview he gave to the Denver Post Hart said the questions that needed answering included: "Who Oswald really was - who did he know? What affiliation did he have in the Cuban network? Was his public identification with the left-wing a cover for a connection with the anti-Castro right-wing?"

In the interview Hart went on to state that he believed Oswald was probably operating as a double-agent. He thought this was one of the reasons why the FBI and CIA had made "a conscious decision to withhold evidence from the Warren Commission."

In the summer of 1983 Hart announced his candidacy for the 1984 presidential election. Hart won several primaries, including those in New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio and California, but was eventually lost the nomination to Walter Mondale, who in turn, was defeated by Ronald Reagan.

In 1985 Hart and William S. Cohen, another member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, published the novel Double Man. According to Bob Woodward: "This is an expertly crafted thriller that is full of many uncomfortable plausibilities. Though clearly labeled fiction, it dances knowledgeably with many old and new ghosts, including the CIA, the KGB, the Kennedy assassination, terrorism, and a range of state secrets. The Double Man has to be taken, minimally, as a grim warning about the intelligence services in our own country and elsewhere."

Hart left the Senate in 1987 in order to concentrate on becoming president in 1988. He soon emerged as the Democratic Party front-runner. However, on 3rd May, 1987, the Miami Herald published a story that suggested that Hart was having a sexual relationship with Donna Rice. Hart's wife supported him claiming that his relationship with Rice was non-sexual. Two days later the Miami Herald obtained a photograph of Hart with Rice aboard the "Monkey Business". This photograph was subsequently published in The National Enquirer.

A Gallup Poll found that 64% of those surveyed thought the media treatment of Hart was "unfair" whereas 53% believed that marital infidelity had little to do with a president's ability to govern. Despite these views the stories about Rice had badly damaged his campaign. In the New Hampshire primary Hart won only 4% of the votes and soon after announced that he was withdrawing from the race.

Hart left national politics and became a lawyer in Denver. In 1998 he served on the Hart-Rudman Commission to study U.S. homeland security.

Books by Gary Hart include The Good Fight (1995), The Patriot: An Exhortation to Liberate America from the Barbarians (1996), America: Still Unprepared, Still in Danger (2003), The Fourth Power: A Grand Strategy for the United States in the Twenty-First Century (2004).

In a speech he made in Washington on 22nd November, 2005, Hart explained that in 1975, CIA director William Colby presented members of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities with details of the 600-page Inspector General report on Agency abuses. Hart added that only a few items from that report have ever been made public.

Who Oswald really was - who did he know? What affiliation did he have in the Cuban network? Was his public identification with the left-wing a cover for a connection with the anti-Castro right-wing?"

We fully support the analysis, findings, and recommendations of this Report. If implemented, the recommendations will go far toward providing our nation with an intelligence community that is more effective in protecting this country, more accountable to the American public, and more responsive to our Constitution and our laws. The key to effective implementation of these recommendations is a new intelligence oversight committee with legislative authority.

Committees of Congress have only two sources of power: control over the purse and public disclosure. The Select Committee had no authority of any kind over the purse strings of the intelligence community, only the power of disclosure. The preparation of this volume of the Final Report was a case study in the shortcomings of disclosure as the sole instrument of oversight. Our experience as a Committee graphically demonstrates why legislative authority-in particular the power to authorize appropriations-is essential if a new oversight committee is to handle classified intelligence matters securely and effectively.

In preparing the Report, the Select Committee bent over backwards to ensure that there were no intelligence sources, methods, or other classified material in the text. As a result, important portions of the Report have been excised or significantly abridged. In some cases the changes were clearly justified on security grounds. But in other cases, the CIA, in our view, used the classification stamp not for security, but to censor material that would be embarrassing, inconvenient, or likely to provoke an adverse public reaction to CIA activities.

Some of the so-called security objections of the CIA were so outlandish they were dismissed out of hand. But on other more complex issues, the Committee's necessary and proper concern for caution enabled the CIA to use the clearance process to alter the Report to the point where some of its most important implications are either lost, or obscured in vague language. We shall abide by the Committee's agreement on the facts which are to remain classified. We did what we had to do under the circumstances and the full texts are available to the Senate in classified form. Within those limits, however, we believe it is important to point out those areas in the Final Report which no longer fully reflect the work of the Committee.

For example:

(1) Because of editing for classification reasons, the italicized passages in the Findings and Recommendations obscure the JVO significant policy issues involved. The discussion of the role of U.S. academics in the CIA's clandestine activities has been so diluted that its scope and impact on the American academic institutions is no longer clear. The description of the CIA's clandestine activities within the United States, as well as the extent to which CIA uses its ostensibly overt Domestic Contact Division for such activities, has been modified to the point where the Committee's concern about the CIA's blurring of the line between overt and covert, foreign and domestic activities, has been lost.

(2) Important sections which deal with the problems of "cover" were eliminated. They made clear that for many years the CIA has known and been concerned about its poor cover abroad, and that the Agency's cover problems are not the result of recent congressional investigations of intelligence activities. The deletion of one important passage makes it impossible to explain why unwitting Senate collaboration may be necessary to make effective certain aspects of clandestine activities.

(3) The CIA insisted upon eliminating the actual name of the Vietnamese institute mentioned on page 454, thereby suppressing the extent to which the CIA was able to use that organization to manipulate public and congressional opinion in the United States to support the Viet Nam War.

(4) Although the Committee recommends a much higher standard for undertaking covert actions and a tighter control system, we are unable to report the facts from our indepth covert action case studies in depth which paint a picture of the high political costs and generally meager benefits of covert programs. The final cost of these secret operations is the inability of the American people to debate and decide on the future scope of covert action in a fully informed way.

The fact that the Committee cannot present its complete case to the public on these specific policy issues illustrates the dilemma secrecy poses for our democratic system of checks and balances. If the Select Committee, after due consideration, decided to disclose more information on these issues by itself, the ensuing public debate might well focus on that disclosure rather than on the Committee's recommendations. If the Select Committee asked the full Senate to endorse such disclosure, we would be unfairly asking our colleagues to make judgments on matters unfamiliar to them and which are the Committee's responsibility.

In the field of intelligence, secrecy has eroded the system of checks and balances on which our Constitutional government rests. In our view, the only way this system can be restored is by creating a legislative intelligence oversight committee with the power to authorize appropriations. The experience of this Committee has been that such authority is crucial if the new committee is to be able to find out what the intelligence agencies are doing, and to take action to stop things when necessary without public disclosure. It is the only way to protect legitimate intelligence secrets, yet effectively represent the public and the Congress in intelligence decisions affecting America's international reputation and basic values. A legislative oversight committee with the power to authorize appropriations for intelligence is essential if America is to govern its intelligence agencies with the system of checks and balances mandated by the Constitution.

I think that Gary Hart and Dick Schweiker did a great job, a monumental undertaking, and I think just as clearly that the new intelligence oversight committee ought to decide how to pursue the matter, it certainly should not be dropped. I:have no information that would indicate that the Warren Commission is wrong, or that Oswald was an agent, or did not act on his own. All I have is a basket of loose ends that Hart and I think they've got to be examined.

This is an expertly crafted thriller that is full of many uncomfortable plausibilities. Coming from a Republican and a Democrat who together have many years of experience on the Senate Intelligence Committee, The Double Man has to be taken, minimally, as a grim warning about the intelligence services in our own country and elsewhere.

Gary Hart (Democrat, Colorado) and William S. Cohen (Republican, Maine), regarded as two of the most articulate and imaginative members of the U.S. Senate, take us into the offices, committee rooms, and private meeting places of Congress and on through the underground tunnels of Washington's power grid into a world of espionage and superpower conspiracies.

When the family of the Secretary of State is brutally assassinated, Thomas Chandler, senior senator from Connecticut, is named to head an investigation into terrorism. His search for the truth takes him from Washington to Miami, Moscow, Amsterdam, and Venice, all the way back to that fateful November day in Dallas. His investigative companion is the enigmatic Elaine Dunham.

In this fast-moving thriller, we learn what happens when ideologues turn their country's secret-service operations to their own goals. Both the Director of the CIA and a KGB colonel fear that Tom Chandler is getting too close to the secrets that could destroy them. The Double Man offers nonstop action and intrigue with the bonus of guaranteed authenticity.

One of the most aggressive investigators on the Church Committee was the young, ambitious Democratic senator from Colorado, Gary Hart, who along with Republican colleague Richard Schweiker, began digging into the swampy murk of southern Florida in the early 1960s. Here was the steamy nursery for plots that drew together CIA saboteurs, Mafia cutthroats, anti-communist Cuban fanatics and the whole array of patriotic zealots who were determined to overthrow the government of Cuba -- the Iraq of its day. "The whole atmosphere at that time was so yeasty," says Hart today. "I don't think anybody, Helms or anybody, had control of the thing. There were people clandestinely meeting people, the Mafia connections, the friendships between the Mafia and CIA agents, and this crazy Cuban exile community. There were more and more layers, and it was honeycombed with bizarre people. I don't think anybody knew everything that was going on. And I think the Kennedys were kind of racing to keep up with it all."

Schweiker's mind was blown by what he and Hart were digging up - there is no other way to describe it. He was a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania and he would be chosen as a vice presidential running mate by Ronald Reagan in 1976 to bolster his challenge against President Jerry Ford. But Schweiker's faith in the American government seemed deeply shaken by his Kennedy probe, which convinced him "the fingerprints of intelligence" were all over Lee Harvey Oswald.

"Dick made a lot of statements inside the committee that were a lot more inflammatory than anything I ever said, in terms of his suspicions about who killed Kennedy," recalls Hart. "He would say, 'This is outrageous, we've got to reopen this.' He was a blowtorch."

Hart too concluded Kennedy was likely killed by a conspiracy, involving some feverish cabal from the swamps of anti-Castro zealotry. And when he ran for president in 1984, Hart says, whenever he was asked about the assassination, "My consistent response was, based on my Church Committee experience, there are sufficient doubts about the case to justify reopening the files of the CIA, particularly in its relationship to the Mafia." This was enough to blow other people's minds, says Hart, including remnants of the Mafia family of Florida godfather Santo Trafficante, who plays a key role in many JFK conspiracy theories. "(Journalist) Sy Hersh told me that he interviewed buddies of Trafficante, including his right-hand man who was still alive when Hersh wrote his book ('The Dark Side of Camelot'). He didn't put this in his book, but when my name came up, the guy laughed, he snorted and said, "We don't think he's any better than the Kennedys." Meaning they were keeping an eye on Hart? "At the very least. This was in the 1980s when I was running for president, saying I would reopen the (Kennedy) investigation. Anybody can draw their own conclusions."

Forty-two years ago, on Nov. 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas, Texas. In Bethesda, Maryland, this past weekend, a group of distinguished journalists, historians, scientists and others gathered to discuss and debate the evidence of conspiracy in the JFK case.

While the research community has often slammed the mainstream media for not covering the facts of the case, the blame must go both ways. The conference organizers offered no handouts, no summaries of what is new in the case this year, or any hook upon which a journalist might hang a story.

As one of the reporters said in a panel discussion, this is a story without an ending, and how satisfying is that?

But that is a tragedy, in light of the Downing Street Memo and other evidence that the Bush administration’s case for war in Iraq was built on a false platform. The common thread throughout the weekend was that secrecy and democracy cannot safely coexist, that the more we have of the former, the less we have of the latter.

The credentials of the speakers this year was more impressive than in previous conferences. Featured speakers included former presidential candidate Gary Hart, author James Bamford, journalists Jeff Morley and Salon founder David Talbot, and historians David Wrone and John Newman (who was a military intelligence analyst), and the former head of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, G. Robert Blakey.

Former Sen. Hart, a Colorado Democrat, recounted his experiences on the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, more popularly known as the “Church Committee” after its leader, Sen. Frank Church.

Hart began with a disclaimer saying he didn’t read the assassination books, hadn’t reviewed his Church Committee files, and warned that everything he said should be prefaced with, “as I recall.”

According to Hart, there was little interest among Committee members in seriously investigating the intelligence community. There had been little oversight of the CIA since its creation 28 years earlier. Reviewing the CIA’s operations seemed both a gargantuan and ultimately unnecessary task. The Vietnam War was in its last days, and there was the sense that poking around in Agency business might undermine morale.

The Committee members also realized that if there was even one leak, their work would be over. That’s one of the reasons there was so little oversight in the years up to that point. Simply put, the CIA did not trust Congress to keep its secrets. So they implemented strict security.

One day, CIA Director William Colby asked for even more security than ever before. He wanted the room swept for bugs before they began. Colby also insisted only members, not their staff, attended.

At that session, Colby presented Committee members with the 600-page Inspector General report on Agency abuses, a document popularly known as the “family jewels.” Included in that document were tales of drug experiments on both witting and unwitting subjects, the wholesale opening of mail, bugging operations, and plots to overthrow governments including - “with almost demented insistence,” Hart said - the attempts to kill Fidel Castro.

The Committee members were shocked. And significantly, Hart said that only a few items from that report have ever made it to the public, begging the question of what other abuses occurred. How can we measure the success of Congressional oversight if we don’t know if any of those other abuses were successfully handled?

Hart recounted an episode where he had the chance to meet one of the CIA’s top contract assassins, known only as QJ/WIN. After a long series of instructions, Hart arrived at the location, only to find QJ/WIN did not want to talk to him. Hart wrote about that episode in fictional form in the novel Double Man (co-written with William Cohen).

When Hart ran for president, he said he was frequently asked what he would do about the Kennedy assassination. He promised if elected, he would reopen the investigation. But then he was caught with Donna Rice on a boat in Florida. “If you’ve seen the movie ‘Bullworth,’ you know that now we can assassinate people with cameras,” he said.

Gary W. Hart

Gary Warren Hart was born on November 28, 1936, in Ottawa, Kansas, an agricultural community where his father farmed and sold farm equipment. The family moved to Colorado several years later. At college, he shortened his family name from Hartpence to Hart. He married the former Oletha (Lee) Ludwig in 1958. They had two children, Andrea (born in 1964) and John (born in 1966).

Throughout his youth, Hart had considered the ministry as his life's vocation. He entered Bethany Nazarene College in Oklahoma and earned his B.A. degree in 1958. After graduation, he entered Yale Divinity School, where he planned an academic program in philosophy and religion. At Yale he discovered there were alternatives of service, and his career goals changed with his entry into the world of politics. Though his interest in a religious career changed, he stayed at Yale to receive a B.D. degree in 1961. Hart's new objective was to study law. He entered Yale's School of Law and earned his LL.B. degree in 1964.

Hart began his career in Washington, D.C., working as an attorney in the Department of Justice. Two years later he became a special assistant to Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall and specialized in oil shale issues in the Western states. He left government service and moved to Denver, Colorado, in 1967. There he practiced law and taught natural resources law at the University of Colorado School of Law in Boulder.

Hart got his first experience in politics when he was a student volunteer in the 1960 presidential campaign of Senator John F. Kennedy. He volunteered again in the 1968 presidential primaries to work for Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

Senator George S. McGovern persuaded Hart to coordinate his 1972 presidential bid. Hart agreed to help McGovern by organizing a campaign structure in the Western states. He soon undertook the task of national campaign director. He helped create a coalition of liberals and anti-Vietnam War believers to support McGovern. Hart's major achievement in that campaign was to create a grassroots organization—an army of volunteers—which relied heavily on door-to-door visits, neighborhood canvassing, and raising small, individual campaign donations. McGovern lost the election in a Richard Nixon landslide, winning only about 38 percent of the popular vote nationwide and obtaining electoral votes only in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

The time had arrived, Hart felt, to run for office himself. He entered the 1974 Senate race in Colorado. He began his campaign as an underdog against the incumbent two-term Republican senator Peter H. Dominick. Hart ran as a new voice in politics and relied on his grassroots network of supporters. He won with over 57 percent of the vote statewide. In 1980 Hart ran for a second term. He barely won the office with a majority of less than 20, 000 votes out of nearly 1.2 million cast.

In the Senate Hart liked to think, ask questions, shape ideas about long range strategies, and do his homework. He was considered an intellectual force and a loner rather than a persuader or wheeler-dealer. He served on the Environment and Public Works Committee, the Armed Services Committee, and the Budget Committee.

On environmental policy, Hart considered himself a conservationist rather than an environmentalist. He wanted natural resources to be guarded by the government, but believed that they should be developed. He supported the need for nuclear energy, but pushed for safety precautions and solutions to the problem of nuclear waste disposal. Hart also promoted the development of solar energy.

America's military policy became a special interest of Hart's. The senator wanted to redirect the country's defense strategy. Hart's emphasis was to shift conventional warfare to maneuver warfare. In naval operations, for example, Hart wanted a shift from huge aircraft carriers to a more mobile fleet of smaller, less costly ships. He supported a nuclear weapons freeze, nuclear test bans, and arms limitation.

Senator Hart founded the bipartisan Congressional Military Reform Caucus to develop reforms in military strategy. His interest in America's military defense can best be illustrated by a dramatic personal move. At the age of 44, never having served in the armed forces, he joined the Naval Reserve.

Hart sought the presidential nomination in the 1984 primaries. Again, he seemed the underdog, for 1983 polls showed him to be near the rear of a group of prospective candidates. Underfinanced, he relied on his traditional grassroot volunteers strategy.

The 1984 campaign slogan was "New Ideas, New Generation." Hart's new ideas were to avoid traditional means of treating problems. Instead of a choice between conservatism and liberalism, he wanted to create a third option and focused on trying to convince the public that the real choice is between the past and the future. He attempted to reinforce the Democratic Party's image of social concerns, while repudiating its emphasis on big government and governmental regulation of business. Hart spoke for individual rights and a respect for free enterprise and economic productivity. He claimed independence from party leaders and special interests. His appeals were directed to the emerging group of young, upwardly mobile professionals ("yumpies" or "yuppies, " as the terms were popularized at the time)—a new generation of educated men and women born after World War II.

Almost overnight his long-shot candidacy vaulted from the back of an eight-candidate race to the forefront after unexpected victories in the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa party caucuses. Riding a wave of momentum, he captured party delegates in New England and other states during February and March 1984. The fast pace of success could not keep up with the need for organization in many states. His momentum was lost to a well-organized campaign and support from labor and other interest groups for former Vice-President Walter F. Mondale. Hart floundered in the South and found little electoral support in the urban, industrialized areas. At the Democratic nominating convention, Hart lost to Mondale by 1, 200.5 delegate votes to 2, 191 votes.

In 1986 Hart did not seek a third term in the Senate. He continued to advance his issues and causes, and in 1987 he began another campaign for the presidency. Hart's campaign was hampered by rumors of his womanizing, so Hart openly challenged the press to follow him. Shortly thereafter, reporters from the Miami Herald "caught" Hart with 29-year-old model/actress Donna Rice. It was revealed that the pair had vactioned together, and Hart withdrew from the race.

The former senator resumed his law practice and hosted a radio talk show in his home state of Colorado. Many of his political supporters urged him to "get back into politics, " by running for his former senatorial seat.

30 Years Ago: Gary Hart's Monkey Business, and How a Candidate Got Caught

Thirty years ago this week, rumors began circulating about the supposed extramarital affairs of Sen. Gary Hart, the leading candidate for the 1988 Democratic nomination for President.

In response, Hart challenged the media. He told The New York Times in an interview published on May 3, 1987, that they should follow me around. . . . They’ll be very bored. As the NBC anchor John Chancellor explained a few days later, "We did. We weren’t."

Seldom if ever has a major presidential candidacy crashed and burned so quickly. On May 8, 1987, a mere five days after issuing his challenge, the Colorado senator withdrew as a candidate. He would reenter the race the following December, but he would then withdraw a second time after winning just 4 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary in February 1988. His political career was over.

The infamous photo of Hart and Rice. (National Enquirer/Getty Images)

Hart, the son of a farm-equipment salesman, was born in Ottawa, Kansas, in 1936, with the surname Hartpence (he legally changed it in 1965). He attended a local college and then went to both Yale Divinity School and Yale Law School. He practiced law for several years in Denver and then took on the task of running the very long-shot campaign of Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination.

It made his political reputation, for it turned out that the McGovern campaign had a secret weapon. After the 1968 Democratic Convention was marred by riots in the streets of Chicago outside and near chaos inside, the Democratic Party established a commission to reform the nominating process.

Its recommendations, adopted by the party, sharply curtailed the power of elected officials and party insiders to choose delegates, increased the importance of caucuses and primary elections, and mandated quotas for blacks, women, and youth. The chairman of the commission, Sen. George McGovern, understood far better than the other candidates how much the rules had changed the political landscape. Hart exploited that understanding to the hilt.

While McGovern took only one state and the District of Columbia against Richard Nixon, no one blamed this on Hart. Two years later, Hart captured a Colorado Senate seat in the Democratic landslide of 1974, and he was reelected easily in 1980. He ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984, and though he lost out to the more senior Walter Mondale, who had served as Jimmy Carter's Vice President, he established himself as a serious candidate who was young, attractive, articulate, and seemed to offer new ideas.

He declined to run for reelection to the Senate in 1986 in order to devote his full attention to winning the 1988 Democratic nomination for President. Against a lackluster field, polls soon showed him far ahead of his nearest rival, more than 20 points in some polls. But he had a major problem, a persistent buzz of rumor regarding his private life and being a womanizer. He and his wife, Lee, had been married for more than 25 years and had two children, but the marriage was apparently a troubled one. They had separated twice and reconciled twice.

A story in Newsweek around the time he formally announced his candidacy, on April 13, 1987, highlighted these rumors, and while it made no specific allegations, it quoted a former adviser as saying that Hart was going to be in trouble if he can't keep his pants on. This produced a barrage of stories in other newspapers and magazines but, again, nothing concrete.

Then, two weeks after Hart’s announcement, the executive editor of the Miami Herald, Tom Fiedler, got an anonymous phone call. The caller said she had proof that Hart was having an affair.

Fiedler was not, at first, impressed. Told that the caller had photographs of Hart and a friend of hers, an attractive blonde in the Miami area, Fiedler said that politicians had their photographs taken with strangers all the time it proved nothing. But then the caller told him about phone calls her friend had received from Hart from various places over the past few months, and the dates when those phone calls had been received.

Fiedler was easily able to check them against Hart’s schedule, and they coincided. If it was a crank call, someone had gone to a lot of trouble to make the tip appear genuine. But he was wary of a professional dirty trick. She then told him that her friend was flying up to Washington that Friday, May 1, to spend the weekend with Hart at his Washington, D.C., townhouse. Fiedler knew that Hart was scheduled to be in Iowa Friday and then in Lexington, Kentucky, on Saturday, which was Derby day. He also thought that Hart lived in Bethesda, Maryland, not in the District. But checking the next day, he learned that Hart had sold the house in Bethesda and had indeed moved to Washington, to a townhouse on Capitol Hill. He also learned that the Kentucky stop had been cancelled Hart was spending the weekend in the District of Columbia. Fiedler’s journalistic instincts told him he was on to something big.

He and a senior editor decided that Jim McGee, an investigative reporter, should catch a Friday afternoon plane to Washington—the flight most likely to have the mystery woman—and stake out Hart’s house. McGee barely made the 5:30 flight. On it he noticed one particularly striking blonde. Could this be her?

Staking out Hart’s house that evening, McGee saw Hart’s front door open at about 9:30 and a man and woman emerge. It was Hart and the blonde on the plane.

The next morning Fiedler and a photographer arrived on the scene. They thought it crucial to have the sighting confirmed, and that evening they saw Senator Hart and the woman emerge from the back entrance of the townhouse. The couple went to Hart’s car, which was parked a short distance away, but then returned to the house through the front entrance. Hart seemed agitated, as if he sensed he was being followed. When he came back out the back entrance, the reporters decided to confront him.

He denied that the woman had spent the night at his house and gave several lawyer-like denials of any impropriety. The reporters, facing a rapidly approaching deadline, decided to go with the story, which appeared in the Sunday, May 3, edition of the paper, with the headline Miami Woman Is Linked to Hart. It caused a sensation.

It soon emerged that the woman’s name was Donna Rice, and she had met Hart at a New Years Eve party in Colorado. She had later accompanied him on an overnight trip from Miami to Bimini on an 83-foot luxury yacht with the you-cant-make-this-stuff-up name of Monkey Business. A picture soon appeared in the National Enquirer, and then in hundreds of newspapers, showing Donna Rice sitting in Hart’s lap, with Hart in a Monkey Business T-shirt.

At a press conference on May 6, the senator furiously denied doing anything wrong. If I had intended a relationship with this woman, he said, believe me . . . I wouldn’t have done it this way.

But contributions to his campaign were rapidly drying up, and his lead in an overnight poll in New Hampshire fell by half. The Washington Post informed the campaign that it had good information on another liaison of his. On Thursday he flew home to Colorado, and on Friday, May 8, he announced his withdrawal from the race.

Gary Hart’s political career began with the crucial insight that the rules of the game with regard to getting delegates to the Democratic convention had fundamentally changed, thanks to the debacle of the 1968 Chicago convention. His political career ended because he failed to realize that the rules of the game with regard to the private lives of politicians had also fundamentally changed, thanks to the debacle of Watergate.

Customer Reviews

The Two Ronnies of the Podcasting World

I am coming to the end of my marathon listening session of the podcast and have enjoyed every moment of it.Peter has his own unique style of presentation and is complimented very well by the long suffering Gary.And who could forget the redoubtable Fred who has put in a couple of appearances.Love the accents which adds an authentic feel to the narrative.The podcast has really opened my eyes about the terrible story of Gallipoli.So many thanks gentlemen for a great and much appreciated effort.

Ruined by put on accents

Peter and Gary make great use of contemporary accounts of the events they are covering. Almost unique amongst military history podcasts. Following the south notts hussars through their Second World War were ab particularly strong set of podcasts.

The accents put on though are borderline offensive and have got to the stage where the podcast is unlistenable. The schoolboy innuendo and humour is grating, and detracts from what is being discussed.

There is a lot of knowledge between Gary and Peter, and peter’s books are excellent, but the negatives on this podcast are increasingly hard to put up with.

Ill judged ‘funny’ voices

This has become a difficult listen. The ‘funny’ voices only detract from each podcast. The final straw for me was in the last South Notts episode where a quote from an officer about Belsen was read out in a silly posh accent. Why would you do that?

Gary Hart: The Perserverance of Idealism

As many people seem to be born either liberal or conservative, so many also seem naturally inclined toward either idealism or pragmatism. Overly simplified, the pragmatist says "tell me how the system works and I'll do my best within it," and the idealist says, "let's change the system."

Though this dichotomy doesn't seem to work very well in Republican party politics (where those claiming idealism invade foreign countries), it plays a striking role in the Democratic party. In modern times Democrats find themselves choosing between an idealistic candidate, usually younger, and a pragmatic candidate, usually more seasoned in Washington politics.

This year this pattern is compounded by the idealist being African-American and the pragmatist being a woman. This startling dual breakthrough has blurred the idealist-pragmatist choice to a large degree. But it is a powerful choice none the less.

Pragmatists rarely campaign as pragmatists because who can get excited about someone who says, "I know what the deal is and I am prepared to work within the deal"? Rather, a pragmatist candidate campaigns on themes of experience, toughness, and scars of battle. Idealistic candidates have a different, some would say dreamy or unrealistic, view. The idealist says, "we've tried the old ways and they are not working." The idealist campaigns on themes of new voices, new ideas, and new leadership, that is to say a break with the past, with tradition, with conventional wisdom, and with an old and often corrupted system.

There is a strong strain of idealism even in a 220 year-old nation. It is based on hope and longing for something better. But it is also based on practical (possibly pragmatic) reasons. Power corrupts. Those accustomed to working within a system soon find it increasingly easy to game the system, to favor friends, to place personal interest above the national interest. Hence, Jefferson's radical notion of generational revolution: saddling a person with the practices and policies of the past, he argued, is like asking a man to wear the coat he wore as a boy.

Though most people who start out as young idealists become more pragmatic with the weight of years, some of us do not. Some of us cling to the hope that America can do better, that public service can be noble, that equality and justice are achievable. We don't want to settle for past policy frameworks or for half measures. We would prefer to set a higher standard and to challenge the political and social systems to struggle upward. These feelings are not voluntary. They are part of one's very character.

I hope to live to see the first woman president. But I also hope she will be an idealist, not only a gender pioneer but a bold, brave, and innovative leader who is not part of a flawed Washington system. I want America to send a powerful signal to a watching world that we have now taken a giant step into the global culture by electing an African-American. But my hope and dream also is, and has been since the days of John and Robert Kennedy, that this president will call us to a nobler mission and a higher goal, that he will remind us always of our Constitutional principles and ideals, that he will place us back on our historic path to the establishment of a more perfect union and a principled republic.

Ever an idealist, I therefore place my hope in Barack Obama. It is time for the idealists, even the aging ones, to raise the flag again.

Gary Hart

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Gary Hart, in full Gary Warren Hartpence, (born November 28, 1936, Ottawa, Kansas, U.S.), American politician who served as a U.S. senator from Colorado (1975–87). He ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and again in 1988 he suspended the latter campaign soon after the Miami Herald newspaper reported that he was having an extramarital affair.

Hart earned degrees at Bethany (Oklahoma) Nazarene College and Yale Divinity School with the intention of going into the ministry. U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign, however, inspired him to change his goals from preaching and teaching to law and politics. Four years later he graduated from Yale Law School. Hart first made a name for himself as the campaign manager for U.S. Sen. George McGovern’s run for the presidency in 1972. His organizational and fund-raising strategies enabled the liberal McGovern to capture the Democratic nomination. Two years after his candidate lost the general election to Richard Nixon, Hart was elected by Colorado voters to the U.S. Senate. By the time he won reelection in 1980, he was considerably more conservative than the long-haired Hart of the McGovern days.

Hart ran a close race against U.S. Sen. Walter Mondale for the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination. Although Hart won 26 states to Mondale’s 19, Mondale’s superior organization netted him enough delegates for the victory. Hart had gained momentum in the campaign until Mondale ridiculed his “new ideas” with the barb, “Where’s the beef?” which came from a TV commercial criticizing hamburgers that were more bun than beef.

Hart made a bid for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination. In 1987, exasperated by rumours of infidelity, Hart invitedNew York Times reporters to follow him and see for themselves that he was not unfaithful to his wife. In May of that year, with his wife, Lee, away in Colorado, Miami Herald reporters staked out Hart’s home in Washington, D.C., and spotted him leaving it with the model Donna Rice, who, they alleged, had stayed there overnight. The front-page story was published at a time when Hart already faced public doubts about his character. For a week he continued campaigning, but when the Washington Post threatened to release details about an affair with yet another woman, Hart quit the race. In December, however, he once again made headlines by dramatically announcing that he was back in the running for president, but after a disappointing finish in the New Hampshire primary, he withdrew from the race for the second and final time.

After his retirement from the U.S. Senate and abrupt departure from national politics in 1988, Hart turned his attention to teaching and to national security issues. He served as cochair of the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century and was a visiting lecturer at such universities as Oxford, Yale, and the University of Colorado at Denver. He also worked as senior counsel for the international law firm Coudert Brothers. From 2014 to 2017 Hart served as U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland. He was the author of numerous books, including Right from the Start: A Chronicle of the McGovern Campaign (1973), Russia Shakes the World: The Second Russian Revolution (1991), Restoration of the Republic: The Jeffersonian Ideal in 21st Century America (2002), and Under the Eagle’s Wing: A National Security Strategy for the United States (2009). Hart also wrote novels, several of which were political thrillers published under the pseudonym John Blackthorn.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.

Ignorance of History, and Its Price

"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it," is usually attributed to George Santayana. Harry Truman's version was: "The only new thing in the world is the history we have not learned." And, in the House of Commons in 1935, Winston Churchill observed: ". that long, dismal catalogue of the fruitlessness of experience and the confirmed unteachability of mankind. Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong-these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history."

All this is brought to mind by the recent book Lawrence in Arabia, by Scott Anderson, a startling narrative of the events of the World War I in the Middle East that produced political chickens now coming to roost a hundred years later. It is a tragic tale of late colonial overreach by Britain and France, the worst kind of treachery, deceit, and diplomatic betrayal, and fateful political decisions based on misinformation, wishful thinking, and almost total ignorance of Arab culture and history.

All of it now rests on America's doorstep, a nation late to enter the World War I jungle of old 19th century European intrigue and guided only by a dreamy Wilsonian idealistic hope for the end of bloodshed and a liberated world safe for democracy. Even as they were secretly carving up the Middle East, his British and French allies scoffed at his naiveté.

It says much that one of the few Americans on the scene in Cairo and elsewhere was a young employee of the Standard Oil Company named William Yale who was taken on board as an adviser to the secretary of state simply because he had spent time in the region locking up oil concessions for his company. This is a predictor of the future of U.S. interests in the Middle East if there ever was one.

For, from 1941 onward, U.S. policy in the region was to keep Arabian, Persian, and Iraqi oil out of the hands of the Nazis and then the Soviets. It was, after all, our oil. We overthrew a democratic prime minister of Iran according to that logic and guess what that got us. U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia has been dominated by oil. And don't think for a minute that the invasion of Iraq wasn't guided in major part by access to oil reserves, though the clever invasion plotters somehow never found it convenient to admit it. (Their charade went like this: "Oil? Gee whiz, is there oil there?")

"All that is history" is the casual way of dismissing uncomfortable truths -- that is, until those truths come back to haunt us. It is a pity George W. Bush had not studied more history. But the lessons of history are best learned before, not after, becoming president.

Why did Santayana say "cannot" instead of "will not"? Will not is a failure of choice. Cannot is a failure of ability. Are Americans incapable of learning history? If so, our nation's future is not a pretty one. A mark of statesmanship is the ability to learn from history and apply its lessons to current conflicts and to skillful avoidance of future crises. But genuine statesmanship is in short supply. According to reviewers, a memoir by a recent secretary of state contains few lessons learned.

In part, we cannot learn from history because we are a pragmatic people. We make it up as we go along. Each new day offers a new experience and a new chance to try something different. It is refreshing, but it is also innocent and child-like. But there is little that is truly new and different and the circularity of human experience gives fate the opportunity to come back and bite us.

Had we known Vietnamese history, we would have known the guiding principle to its conflict was nationalism not communist ideology. Had we known Iranian history, we would have known the people wanted self-determination not an oligarchical shah. Had we known Russian history, we would have known the critical importance of Crimea's ports to Russia's access to the sea. Had we known Middle Eastern history, we would have known the deep territorial and theological divide between Sunni and Shia for more than 13 centuries.

Are there lessons in Chinese history that might guide us in understanding its offshore territorial ambitions? Are there further Russian history lessons that might help anticipate its maritime interests in the Arctic? Should we study Hindu-Muslim relations in the Indian subcontinent to prevent war between Pakistan and India?

Eventually, British duplicity undid the Arab revolt and denied Arab ambitions for self-determination in the region. But, T. E. Lawrence had studied Arabic and Arab history before riding his camel into the desert and eventually helping to kindle a semblance of unity among disparate Arab tribes to overthrow Ottoman domination and inspire Arab hopes. Based on his studies of history, he believed and helped inspire the Arab dream.

But what could he know? He was only 29 years old when his nation's senior statesmen and politicians betrayed him and the Arabs and left us with the bitter outcome a century later.

How Gary Hart’s Downfall Forever Changed American Politics

On a scalding July day five years ago, I found myself hiking in Red Rocks Park, just outside Denver, with Gary Hart. The copper cliffs were brilliantly lit in the midday sun, which burned our uncovered heads as we trudged up a steep incline toward the amphitheater that Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration ingeniously carved into the boulders.

We had come because Hart wanted to show me something, and as we made our way uphill, I was soon breathing heavily in the mile-high air. But I was more aware of Hart, who, at 72, labored audibly despite his legendary ruggedness. (The most famous picture from Hart’s first presidential campaign, where he came from nowhere in 1984 to stalemate Walter Mondale and overturn the aging Democratic establishment in the process, was one from New Hampshire, in which the flannel-clad Hart had just managed to bury an ax in a tree from a distance, legend had it, of 40 feet.) He had developed a paunch and was slightly stooped, his arms swinging crookedly at his sides. He wore black pants and a black Nike polo shirt, from which tufts of chest hair sprouted near the unbuttoned collar. His famous mane, still intact but now white and unruly, framed a sunburned, square-jawed face.

“When I announced for president in 1987, we did it right up there,” Hart said, pointing toward a rock formation at the top of the hill.

I tried to imagine the lectern set against the red rocks and blue sky, the crush of cameras and the palpable sense of history. Hart’s aides had wanted him to do something more conventional, with a ballroom and streamers and all of that, but he insisted on standing against the mountainous backdrop, near the amphitheater he called “a symbol of what a benevolent government can do.”

Back then, Hart was as close to a lock for the nomination — and likely the presidency — as any challenger of the modern era. According to Gallup, Hart had a double-digit lead over the rest of the potential Democratic field among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. In a preview of the general election against the presumed Republican nominee, Vice President George H. W. Bush, Hart was polling over 50 percent among registered voters and beating Bush by 13 points, with only 11 percent saying they were undecided. He would have been very hard to stop.

“Must have been a hell of a backdrop,” I said. Hart didn’t respond, and after an awkward moment, I let it drop.

As anyone alive during the 1980s knows, Hart, the first serious presidential contender of the 1960s generation, was taken down and eternally humiliated by a scandal, a suspected affair with a beautiful blonde whose name, Donna Rice, had entered the cultural lexicon, along with the yacht — Monkey Business — near which she had been photographed on his lap. When they talked about him now in Washington, Hart was invariably described as a brilliant and serious man, perhaps the most visionary political mind of his generation, an old-school statesman of the kind Washington had lost its capacity to produce. He warned of the rise of stateless terrorism and spoke of the need to convert the industrial economy into an information-and-technology-based one, at a time when few politicians in either party had given much thought to anything beyond communism and steel. But such recollections were generally punctuated by a smirk or a sad shake of the head. Hardly a modern scandal passed, whether it involved a politician or an athlete or an entertainer, that didn’t evoke inevitable comparisons to Hart among reflective commentators. In popular culture, Gary Hart would forever be that archetypal antihero of presidential politics: the iconic adulterer.

The rest of the world was finished with Gary Hart, but I couldn’t get his story out of my mind, which was why I ended up standing alongside him at Red Rocks on that summer day, like an archaeologist searching for shards of a lost political age. I had come to believe that we couldn’t really understand the dispiriting state of our politics — and of our political journalism — without first understanding what transpired during that surreal and frenetic week in April nearly 30 years ago.

The Hart episode is almost universally remembered as a tale of classic hubris. A Kennedy-like figure on a fast track to the presidency defies the media to find anything nonexemplary in his personal life, even as he carries on an affair with a woman half his age and poses for pictures with her, and naturally he gets caught and humiliated. How could he not have known this would happen? How could such a smart guy have been that stupid?

Of course, you could reasonably have asked that same question of the three most important political figures of Hart’s lifetime, all Democratic presidents thought of as towering successes. Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were adulterers, before and during their presidencies, and we can safely assume they had plenty of company. In his 1978 memoir, Theodore White, the most prolific and influential chronicler of presidential politics in the last half of the 20th century, wrote that he was “reasonably sure” that of all the candidates he had covered, only three — Harry Truman, George Romney and Jimmy Carter — hadn’t enjoyed the pleasure of “casual partners.” He and his colleagues considered those affairs irrelevant.

By the late 1980s, however, a series of powerful, external forces in the society were colliding, creating a dangerous vortex on the edge of our politics. Hart didn’t create that vortex. He was, rather, the first to wander into its path.

The nation was still feeling the residual effects of Watergate, which 13 years earlier led to the first resignation of a sitting president. Richard Nixon’s fall was shocking, not least because it was more personal than political, a result of instability and pettiness rather than pure ideology. And for this reason Watergate, along with the deception over what was really happening in Vietnam, had injected into presidential politics a new focus on private morality.

Social mores were changing, too. For most of the 20th century, adultery as a practice — at least for men — was rarely discussed but widely accepted. Kennedy and Johnson governed during the era that “Mad Men” would later portray, when the powerful man’s meaningless tryst with a secretary was no less common than the three-martini lunch. Twenty years later, however, social forces unleashed by the tumult of the 1960s were rising up to contest this view. Feminism and the “women’s lib” movement had transformed expectations for a woman’s role in marriage, just as the civil rights movement had changed prevailing attitudes toward African-Americans.

As America continued to debate the Equal Rights Amendment for women into the 1980s, younger liberals — the same permissive generation that ushered in the sexual revolution and free love — were suddenly apt to see adultery as a kind of political betrayal, and one that needed to be exposed. “This is the last time a candidate will be able to treat women as bimbos,” is how the feminist Betty Friedan put it after Hart’s withdrawal. (If only she’d known.)

Perhaps most salient, though, the nation’s news media were changing in profound ways. When giants like White came up through the news business in the postwar years, the surest path to success was to gain the trust of politicians and infiltrate their world. Proximity to power and the information and insight derived from having it was the currency of the trade. By the 1980s, however, Watergate and television had combined to awaken an entirely new kind of career ambition. If you were an aspiring journalist born in the 1950s, when the baby boom was in full swing, then you entered the business at almost exactly the moment when Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post — portrayed by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in the cinematic version of their first book, “All the President’s Men” — were becoming not just the most celebrated reporters of their day but very likely the wealthiest and most famous journalists in American history (with the possible exception of Walter Cronkite). And what made Woodward and Bernstein so iconic wasn’t proximity, but scandal. They had actually managed to take down a mendacious American president, and in doing so they came to symbolize the hope and heroism of a new generation.

It would be hard to overstate the impact this had, especially on younger reporters. If you were one of the new breed of middle-class, Ivy League-educated baby boomers who had decided to change the world through journalism, then there was simply no one you could want to become more than Woodward or Bernstein, which is to say, there was no greater calling than to expose the lies of a politician, no matter how inconsequential those lies might turn out to be or in how dark a place they might be lurking.


It was around 8 p.m. on Monday, April 27, 1987, when the phone rang on Tom Fiedler’s desk at The Miami Herald. A woman he did not know was on the line. Ever since Hart’s official announcement at Red Rocks two weeks before, reporters had been speculating among themselves about the state of Hart’s marriage and rumors of affairs, and some of that speculation had begun to leak into the press. Fiedler, a prominent political reporter for The Herald, thought it beneath the media to traffic in such innuendo without any proof, and he published a front-page article that day saying as much. The woman on the phone had apparently just read it.

“You know, you said in the paper that there were rumors that Gary Hart is a womanizer,” she told him. “Those aren’t rumors.” And then a question: “How much do you guys pay for pictures?”

In a subsequent conversation, the anonymous caller told Fiedler that a friend of hers had seen Hart aboard a chartered yacht at Turnberry Isle near Miami, and the two had started an affair on an overnight pleasure cruise to Bimini. Her friend had pictures of her and Hart on the boat that she had shown the caller. The caller never used the name Donna Rice, the 29-year-old commercial actress and pharmaceutical rep who would soon become the first woman dragged through the humiliation of a sex scandal during a presidential campaign.

The caller said there were phone calls between Hart and Rice. Somehow, she knew they had been placed from phones in Georgia, Alabama and Kansas, and precisely when. She claimed that Hart had invited her friend to visit him in Washington, and her friend was going to stay with him that Friday night. “Maybe you could fly to Washington and get the seat next to her,” the anonymous caller suggested.

For decades after that call, just about everyone close to the events of that week, and everyone who wrote about them later, assumed that the caller was Lynn Armandt, the friend Rice brought along on the Monkey Business during the cruise to Bimini. This was a logical deduction, because Armandt would later profit from selling photos she took on that trip. When I asked Fiedler about it last year, though, he told me that although he would continue to protect the identity of his source as he had for 26 years, he was willing to say flatly that it was not Armandt. Fiedler volunteered that he thought Rice knew who the tipster really was.

When I spoke to Rice a few months later, during the first of two long conversations, she told me that she had never figured out with any certainty who set all of this in motion in 1987. But she had come to believe that Armandt was in cahoots with another friend of theirs in Miami — a woman named Dana Weems — who was on the boat for a party but didn’t join them on the cruise to Bimini and thus escaped notice in contemporary accounts of the scandal. Rice had talked to Weems about her dalliance with Hart and showed her the photos from the cruise.

Dana Weems wasn’t especially hard to find, it turned out. A clothing designer who did some costume work on movies in the early 1990s, she sold funky raincoats and gowns on a website called, based in Hollywood, Fla. When she answered the phone after a couple of rings, I told her I was writing about Gary Hart and the events of 1987.

“Oh, my God,” she said. There followed a long pause.

“Did you make that call to The Herald?” I asked her.

“Yeah,” Weems said with a sigh. “That was me.”

She then proceeded to tell me her story, in a way that probably revealed more about her motives than she realized. In 1987, Armandt sold some of Weems’s designs at her bikini boutique under a cabana on Turnberry Isle. Like Rice, Weems had worked as a model, though she told me Rice wasn’t nearly as successful as she was. Rice was an artificial beauty who was “O.K. for commercials, I guess.”

Weems recalled going aboard Monkey Business on the last weekend of March for the same impromptu party at which Hart and his pal Billy Broadhurst, a Louisiana lawyer and lobbyist, met up with Rice, but in her version of events, Hart was hitting on her, not on Rice, and he was soused and pathetic, and she wanted nothing to do with him, but still he followed her around the boat, hopelessly enthralled. . . .

But Donna — she had no standards, Weems told me. Weems figured Donna wanted to be the next Marilyn Monroe, sleeping her way into the inner sanctum of the White House, and that’s why she agreed to go on the cruise to Bimini. After that weekend, Donna wouldn’t shut up about Hart or give the pictures a rest. It all made Weems sick to her stomach, especially this idea of Hart’s getting away with it and becoming president. “What an idiot you are!” Weems said, as if talking to Hart through the years. “You’re gonna want to run the country? You moron!”

And so when Weems read Fiedler’s story in The Herald, she decided to call him, while Armandt stood by, listening to every word. “I didn’t realize it was going to turn into this whole firecracker thing,” she told me. It was Armandt’s idea, Weems said, to try to get cash by selling the photos, and that’s why she asked Fiedler if he might pay for them (though she couldn’t actually remember much about that part of the conversation). Weems said she hadn’t talked to either woman — Rice or Armandt — since shortly after the scandal. She lived alone and used a wheelchair because of multiple sclerosis. She was surprised her secret had lasted until now.

“I’m sorry to ruin his life,” she told me, offhandedly, near the end of our conversation. “I was young. I didn’t know it would be that way.”

Fiedler never had any doubt that Hart’s marital infidelity, if it could be substantiated, was a story. Nor, it seems, did anyone else at The Herald, where the question of newsworthiness was raised but quickly dispatched. In the reconstruction of how the story unfolded that Fiedler and his colleagues at the paper later published, there is no mention of any debate about whether a candidate’s private life merited investigation.

On Friday, the day when Hart was supposed to meet with Rice at his Capitol Hill townhouse, The Herald dispatched Jim McGee, its top investigative reporter, to Washington. McGee, who at 34 could fairly be called one of the finest investigative reporters in all of American journalism, spent the flight to Washington stalking his fellow passengers, walking up and down the aisle in search of women who looked as if they could plausibly be on their way to sleep with a presidential candidate. “He wondered how he would decide which woman to follow,” The Herald’s reporters later wrote, without a hint of realizing how creepy that sounded.

On the ground in Washington, McGee caught a taxi to Hart’s home and took up a position on a park bench that afforded a clear view of the front door. It was 9:30 p.m. when he saw Hart leave the townhouse with a “stunning” blonde he recognized from the ticket counter in Miami. Hart and the young woman promptly drove off, and McGee rushed to a pay phone across the street. He called his editors and Fiedler to ask for backup the story was unfolding rapidly, and he needed more bodies to help with surveillance. McGee was still stationed on the street when, about two hours later, Hart and Rice returned from dinner and re-entered the townhouse. He never saw her leave and assumed she spent the night, although Hart’s aides later said that Rice left through the rear door.

Fiedler awoke Saturday morning and hopped the first flight to Washington. He brought with him McGee’s editor, James Savage, and a photographer, Brian Smith. When you added in Doug Clifton, a reporter helping out the Washington bureau who had joined McGee for part of the stakeout Friday night, The Herald’s undercover team now numbered five, along with at least two rental cars, on a block where maybe one or two residents could be spotted on the sidewalk at any given time in the afternoon. The odds of this kind of surveillance going undetected were not especially high.

About 8:40 p.m. Saturday, Hart and Rice left the house and emerged into the adjacent alleyway, heading for the senator’s car. The idea, apparently, had been to meet Broadhurst and Armandt for dinner. It was then that Hart noticed things were amiss. The first reporter he spotted in the side alley was McGee, a 200-pound man who for some reason had decided to make himself inconspicuous by donning sunglasses and a hooded parka. At night. In May.

McGee, sensing he had been made, turned on his heels and ran, bumping into Fiedler, who, being the only reporter on the scene whom Hart actually knew from the campaign plane, had disguised himself in a tracksuit and was pretending to jog around every so often. “He’s right behind me,” McGee whispered urgently. Fiedler immediately changed direction and jogged across the street, like a disoriented sprinter.

Alarmed, Hart abandoned the dinner plan and led Rice back inside. He was certain he was being watched but mystified as to who might be watching. He peered out of his second-floor kitchen window and surveyed Sixth Street, S.E. Hart was by no means an expert in counterintelligence, but he had traveled behind the Iron Curtain, where Americans were routinely tracked by government agents, and he had spent considerable time in the protection of Secret Service agents who were always scanning the periphery for threats. All of this was more than enough training for Hart to recognize the clownish stakeout that had all but taken over his street. He saw the five participants milling around, pretending to be strangers but then talking to one another, ducking into cars or — at least in Hart’s telling, though The Herald team would dispute his account — disappearing behind the bushes. His bushes. He thought perhaps they were reporters, but how could he be sure? Maybe they worked for another campaign or for the Republicans.

Hart decided, at first anyway, to hunker down and wait. He called Broadhurst, at whose nearby townhouse Rice and Armandt were supposed to be staying that weekend, and Broadhurst came over with Armandt and some barbecued chicken. After dinner, Hart instructed Broadhurst to gather up the women and leave via the back door. He would never see Donna Rice again.

Like a character in one of the spy novels he loved to read and write, Hart decided to outwit his surveillants and flush them into the open. It’s not clear how he thought this was going to end, other than badly, but a cornered man does not think clearly. Hart put on a white sweatshirt and pulled the hood up over his thick hair. At first, he got into his car and merged into Capitol Hill traffic. He expected to be followed, and he was — Smith, the photographer, was tailing close behind. Satisfied with this maneuver, Hart pulled over after a few blocks, emerged from the car and started walking back in the general direction of the townhouse. He detoured down a side street and walked twice around the block. Next Hart walked past the rental car in the front where McGee and Savage thought they were safely incognito.

According to the writer Richard Ben Cramer, who chronicled these events in his classic campaign book, “What It Takes,” Hart made a show of writing down the license-plate number in full view of the two reporters The Herald didn’t mention this detail, but it did report that Hart seemed “agitated” and appeared to yell over his shoulder at someone on the other side of the street as he walked away. Probably both accounts are true. In any event, McGee and Savage deduced from Hart’s behavior that their undercover stakeout had been compromised. They could not write an article without at least trying to get his response. So after quickly conferring, they exited the car, followed Hart’s path back up the alley alongside his row of townhouses and turned a corner. McGee, according to The Herald account, “flinched in surprise.” There was Gary Hart, the presumed nominee of the Democratic Party, leaning against a brick wall in his hoodie. He was waiting for them.

There were no press aides or handlers, no security agents or protocols to be followed. There was no precedent for any reporter accosting a presidential candidate outside his home, demanding the details of what he was doing inside it. It was just Hart and his accusers, or at least two of them for the moment, facing off in an oil-stained alley, all of them trying to find their footing on the suddenly shifting ground of American politics.

Eight days later, The Herald published a front-page reconstruction of the events leading up to and including that Saturday night. Written by McGee, Fiedler and Savage, the 7,000-plus-word article — Moby-Dick-like proportions by the standards of daily journalism — is remarkable reading. First, it’s striking how much The Herald’s account of its investigation consciously imitates, in its clinical voice and staccato cadence, Woodward and Bernstein’s “All the President’s Men.” (“McGee rushed toward a pay telephone a block away to call editors in Miami. It was 9:33 p.m.”) Clearly, the reporters and editors at The Herald thought themselves to be reconstructing a scandal of similar proportions, the kind of thing that would lead to Pulitzers and movie deals. The solemn tone of the piece suggests that Fiedler and his colleagues imagined themselves to be the only ones standing between America and another menacing, immoral president reading it, you might think Hart had been caught bludgeoning a beautiful young woman to death, rather than taking her to dinner.

The other fascinating thing about The Herald’s reconstruction is that it captures, in agonizing detail, the very moment when the walls between the public and private lives of candidates, between politics and celebrity, came tumbling down forever. Even in the dispassionate tone of The Herald’s narrative, you can hear how chaotic and combative it was, how charged with emotion and pounding hearts.

“Good evening, senator,” McGee began, recovering from his shock at seeing Hart standing in front of him. “I’m a reporter from The Miami Herald. We’d like to talk to you.” As The Herald relayed it: “Hart said nothing. He held his arms around his midsection and leaned forward slightly with his back against the brick wall.” McGee said they wanted to ask him about the young woman staying in his house.

“No one is staying in my house,” Hart replied.

Hart may have surprised the reporters by choosing the time and place for their confrontation, but it’s not as if they weren’t ready. They had conferred on a list of questions intended to back Hart up against a wall — which was now literally the situation. McGee reminded Hart that he and the woman had walked right past McGee earlier that evening on the way to his car. “You passed me on the street,” McGee said.

“I may or may not have,” Hart replied.

McGee asked him what his relationship was with the woman.

“I’m not involved in any relationship,” Hart said carefully.

So why had they just seen Hart and the woman enter the townhouse together a few minutes earlier?

“The obvious reason is I’m being set up,” Hart said, his voice quivering.

McGee wanted to know if the woman was in Hart’s house at that very moment. “She may or may not be,” is how Hart answered, evading again. Savage then asked to meet her, and Hart said no.

McGee offered to explain the situation, as if Hart had just woken up in a hospital or an asylum and might not have any idea what was happening. He said that the house had been under surveillance and that he had observed Hart with the woman the night before, in Hart’s car. Where were they going?

“I was on my way to take her to a place where she was staying,” Hart said, referring to Broadhurst’s townhouse nearby.

Savage cut in and asked how long Hart had known the woman — “several months” was the response — and what her name was.

“I would suppose you would find that out,” Hart said.

His voice was steadier now, and the reporters noticed that his composure had returned. As would happen several times throughout the ordeal of the next week, and for long afterward, Hart was lurching between conflicting instincts. There were moments when he thought that if he said just enough, if he issued enough of a denial to explain himself, then his tormentors would see the absurdity in what they were doing. But then he would grow defiant. The hell with them, he would think. They were not entitled to know.

Fiedler made his way into the alley and joined his colleagues, making it three on one (or actually four on one, since Smith, the photographer, was there, too). Looking back years later, Fiedler would recall Hart’s besieged posture, the way he leaned back defensively, as if expecting to be punched.

As Fiedler watched, McGee hit Hart with questions about the phone calls he had made to Rice, which they knew about from the tipster (even though they still hadn’t figured out her identity). Hart, whose suspicions about being set up must have now seemed well founded, didn’t dare deny the calls, but he characterized them as “casual” and “political” and “general conversation.” Then Fiedler jumped in. He asked Hart if he had taken this woman on a yachting trip in Florida.

“I don’t remember,” Hart said, dubiously. You can imagine the vertigo he must have been experiencing as the details of his private life, things he had not disclosed even to his closest aides, just kept coming, one after the other. It probably dawned on him, right about then, that he should never have been in the alley, any more than he should have been on the yacht.

Fiedler reminded Hart that he had been at Red Rocks and had personally heard the speech. He quoted Hart’s own words back to him, where Hart, alluding to the Iran-contra scandal rocking the Reagan administration, talked about running a campaign based on integrity and ethics and a higher standard. If that were so, Fiedler wanted to know, then why was Fiedler having to stand in this alley, at this moment, doing something so beneath him? He pleaded with Hart to be more forthcoming.

“I’ve been very forthcoming,” Hart said.

When McGee pressed him again about the yacht and whether he was denying having met Rice there, Hart grew visibly irritated. “I’m not denying anything,” he said. They were missing the point. He wasn’t going to confirm or deny knowing Rice or having been on a chartered boat. Hart’s stance was that none of it was anybody’s business but his. When the reporters asked Hart to “produce” the woman or this friend who was supposedly hosting her, Hart said other people had a right to privacy, too.

“I don’t have to produce anyone,” he told them.

McGee pulled out his last question, the one you save for the moment when there is nothing to be lost by asking it. He put the question point-blank to Hart: Had the senator had sex with the woman in the townhouse?

“The answer is no,” Hart said, more definitively than he had answered other questions. As Hart walked away, shaken and alone, and started back up the alley, Smith, the photographer, started clicking away. Hart whirled around. This yielded the shots of him rumpled and recoiling, hiding in a hoodie like some perp who was about to have his head forcibly lowered into the back seat of a cruiser.

“We don’t need any of that,” were Hart’s parting words.

The next morning, on May 3, The Herald reporters published a front-page article about Hart’s purported affair. At the end, they referred to a statement in which Hart challenged reporters interested in his personal life to follow him. Hart couldn’t have known it at the time, but his words — “follow me around” — would shadow him for the rest of his days. They would bury everything else he had ever said in public life.

In the history of Washington scandal, only a few quotes — “I am not a crook,” “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” — have become as synonymous with a politician. In truth, though, Hart never issued any challenge to The Miami Herald’s reporters, or to anybody else, really. The words were spoken weeks earlier to E. J. Dionne Jr., who was then the top political reporter for The New York Times and was writing a profile for this magazine. Dionne discussed a broad range of topics with Hart and then reluctantly turned to the rumors of affairs. Hart was exasperated and he finally told Dionne: “Follow me around. I don’t care. I’m serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They’d be very bored.”

Hart said this in an annoyed and sarcastic sort of way, in an obvious attempt to make a point. He was “serious” about the sentiment, all right, but only to the extent that a man who had been twice separated from his wife and dated other women over the years — with the full knowledge of his friends in the press corps and without having seen a single word written about it at the time — could have been serious about such a thing. Hart might as well have been suggesting that Martians beam down and run his campaign, for all the chance he thought there was that any reporter would actually resort to stalking him. Dionne certainly didn’t take the comment literally, though he suspected others might. “He did not think of it as a challenge,” Dionne would recall many years later. “And at the time, I did not think of it as a challenge.”

As it happened, Dionne’s cover story was set to appear Sunday, May 3, the same day the Herald published its front-page exposé. No one at The Herald had a clue that Hart had issued any “challenge” on the previous Monday when Fiedler heard from his anonymous tipster or when he continued to chase the story during the week. All of this they did on their own, without any prodding from Hart.

In those days before the Internet, however, The Times circulated printed copies of its magazine to other news media a few days early, so editors and producers could pick out anything that might be newsworthy and publicize it in their own weekend editions or Sunday shows. When Fiedler boarded his flight to Washington Saturday morning, eager to join the stakeout, he brought with him the advance copy of Dionne’s story, which had been sent to The Herald. Somewhere above the Atlantic seaboard, anyone sitting next to Fiedler would probably have seen him jolt upward in his seat as if suddenly receiving an electric shock. There it was, staring up at him from the page — Hart explicitly inviting him and his colleagues to do exactly the kind of surveillance they had undertaken the night before.

The discovery of Hart’s supposed challenge, which the Herald reporters took from the advance copy of The Times Magazine on Saturday night and inserted at the end of their Sunday blockbuster — so that the two articles, referring to the same quote, appeared on newsstands simultaneously — probably eased any reservations the editors in Miami might have had about pushing the story into print before they had a chance to identify Rice and try to talk to her. Soon enough, as The Herald would put it in their longer reconstruction a week later, Gary Hart would be seen as “the gifted hero who had taunted the press to ‘follow me around.’ ” Everyone would know that Hart had goaded the press into hiding outside his townhouse and tracking his movements. Hart’s quote appeared to justify The Herald’s extraordinary investigation, and that’s all that mattered.

The difference here is far more than a technicality. Even when insiders and historians recall the Hart episode now, they recall it the same way: Hart issued his infamous challenge to reporters, telling them to follow him around if they didn’t believe him, and then The Herald took him up on it. Inexplicably, people believe, Hart set his own trap and then allowed himself to become ensnared in it. (When I spoke to Dana Weems, she repeatedly insisted to me that she had only called The Herald after reading Hart’s “follow me around” quote, which was obviously impossible.)

And this version of events conveniently enabled The Herald’s reporters and editors to completely sidestep some important and uncomfortable questions. As long as it was Hart, and not The Herald, who set the whole thing in motion, then it was he and not they who suddenly moved the boundaries between private and political lives. They never had to grapple with the complex issues of why Hart was subject to a kind of invasive, personal scrutiny no major candidate before him had endured, or to consider where that shift in the political culture had led us. Hart had, after all, given the media no choice in the matter.

I had a chance to talk to Fiedler about this over lunch one day in the spring of 2013. We ate at a French restaurant near the campus of Boston University, where Fiedler, who went on to run The Herald before his retirement, was now installed as dean of the College of Communication.

Fiedler explained to me that while he knew no political reporter had ever undertaken this kind of surveillance on a presidential candidate or written an article about a possible extramarital affair, he had never doubted that Hart’s liaison with Rice, if it could be proved, was a legitimate story. Fielder’s view — a view shared by a lot of his younger colleagues and informed, no doubt, by the lingering ghosts of Nixon — was that it wasn’t a reporter’s job to decide which aspects of a candidate’s character were germane to the campaign and which weren’t. It was the job of reporters to vet potential presidents by offering up as detailed a dossier about that person as they could assemble, and it was the voters’ job to rule on relevance, one way or the other.

Fiedler readily acknowledged that the order of events pertaining to the “follow me around” quote had since become jumbled in the public mind, and his expression was genuinely regretful. He mostly blamed the way the TV news programs that weekend juxtaposed The Herald’s reporting with the quote from The Times Magazine, as if one had led to the other. That had really been the beginning of the myth, he said, and from that time on, people were confused about which came first — “follow me around” or The Herald investigation. When I asked why he had never tried to correct the record, Fiedler shrugged sadly. “I don’t know what I would need to do,” he said.

Then I mentioned to Fiedler that I had done a web search on his name recently and been sent to his biographical page on the B.U. website. And this is what it said: “In 1987, after presidential hopeful Gary Hart told journalists asking about marital infidelity to follow him around, Fiedler and other Herald reporters took him up on the challenge and exposed Hart’s campaign-killing affair with a Miami model.” Why did his own web page explicitly repeat something he knew to be untrue?

Fiedler recoiled in his seat and winced. He looked mortified. “You know what?” he said. “I didn’t know that. Honestly. I’m serious.” He stared at me for another beat, stunned. “Wow.” I knew he meant it. I was surprised to find that for more than a year afterward — until just last month — Fiedler hadn’t changed a word.

In the days after the Herald story, Hart continued on to New Hampshire, where photographers and political reporters, who until then had always observed some sense of decorum, shoved one another aside and leapt over shrubs in an effort to get near the wounded candidate. It was there, at a carnival-like news conference on Wednesday, May 6, that Paul Taylor, a star reporter for The Washington Post, publicly asked Hart the question that no presidential candidate in America to that point had ever been asked, let alone from one of the country’s most admired newspapers: “Have you ever committed adultery?”

Hart stumbled to answer and ultimately said he shouldn’t have to. What he didn’t know then was that Taylor’s colleagues at The Post — acting at the direction of the paper’s legendary editor and Watergate hero, Ben Bradlee — were already unearthing evidence of a relationship with another woman. By Thursday, Hart was back in Colorado, news helicopters buzzing over his house like something out of Vietnam, and his campaign was through.

The most enduring image of that time, of course, is the infamous photo of Rice sitting on Hart’s lap, which Armandt snapped on a crowded dock in Bimini during that overnight cruise and later sold to The National Enquirer. In it, Rice is wearing a short white dress Hart is wearing a “Monkey Business crew” T-shirt, along with a startled, crooked grin. Most people who lived through the event, and some who covered it, will tell you that the photo is what provided irrefutable evidence of the affair and drove Hart from the race. But the photo didn’t surface until nearly three weeks after Hart suspended his candidacy. It was a final indignity, to be sure, but it had nothing to do with his decision to quit.

If Nixon’s resignation created the character culture in American politics, then Hart’s undoing marked the moment when political reporters ceased to care about almost anything else. By the 1990s, the cardinal objective of all political journalism had shifted from a focus on agendas to a focus on narrow notions of character, from illuminating worldviews to exposing falsehoods. If post-Hart political journalism had a motto, it would be: “We know you’re a fraud somehow. Our job is to prove it.”

As an industry, we aspired chiefly to show politicians for the impossibly flawed human beings they are: a single-minded pursuit that reduced complex careers to isolated transgressions. As the former senator Bob Kerrey, who has acknowledged participating in an atrocity as a Navy Seal in Vietnam, told me once, “We’re not the worst thing we’ve ever done in our lives, and there’s a tendency to think that we are.” That quote, I thought, should have been posted on the wall of every newsroom in the country, just to remind us that it was true.

Predictably, politicians responded to all this with a determination to give us nothing that might aid in the hunt to expose them, even if it meant obscuring the convictions and contradictions that made them actual human beings. Each side retreated to its respective camp, where they strategized about how to outwit and outflank the other, occasionally to their own benefit but rarely to the voters’. Maybe this made our media a sharper guardian of the public interest against liars and hypocrites. But it also made it hard for any thoughtful politician to offer arguments that might be considered nuanced or controversial. It drove a lot of potential candidates with complex ideas away from the process, and it made it easier for a lot of candidates who knew nothing about policy to breeze into national office, because there was no expectation that a candidate was going to say anything of substance anyway.

Gary Hart, meanwhile, has continued to try to influence the issues of the day. Now a robust 77, he has written 15 books since 1987, including three novels, and now serves on voluntary commissions for the secretaries of state and defense. But he never said much publicly about the scandal or admitted to having an affair, and he never really recovered, politically or emotionally.

A few years ago, during one of our many conversations in the upstairs, book-lined study in Hart’s Colorado home, I asked him whether he ever felt a sense of relief at having not actually become president. This was what people said still — that he allowed himself to be caught because he was ambivalent about the job.

“It was a huge disappointment,” Hart said, shaking his head. “A huge disappointment.”

Lee Hart, to whom he has now been married for more than a half century, had entered the study and was refilling our water glasses, and she overheard him.

“That’s why he accepts every invitation where someone wants him to speak,” she told me. “Every time he can make any kind of a contribution, he does it, because he thinks he’s salving his conscience. Or salving his place after death or something.” She appeared to try to stop herself from continuing, but couldn’t quite do it. “I don’t know,” she said. “It’s been very difficult.”

“Is that why I give speeches?” Hart said defensively.

“No, no,” Lee answered quickly. “But you do things when you’re tired to the bone that you shouldn’t be doing.”

I asked Hart what it was he might have to feel guilty about. It seemed we were veering close to the boundary beyond which he had always refused to travel.

“I don’t feel guilty,” he said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with salving my conscience.”

“No, I don’t mean your conscience,” Lee said.

I asked Lee what she had meant to say.

“Gary feels guilty,” Lee said finally. “Because he feels like he could have been a very good president.”

“I wouldn’t call it guilt,” Hart said.

“It’s not guilt, babe,” he protested. “It’s a sense of obligation.”

“Yeah, O.K.,” Lee said, sounding relieved. “That’s better. Perfect.”

“You don’t have to be president to care about what you care about,” Hart said.

“It’s what he could have done for this country that I think bothers him to this very day,” Lee said.

“Well, at the very least, George W. Bush wouldn’t have been president,” Hart said ruefully. This sounded a little narcissistic, but it was, in fact, a hard premise to refute. Had Hart bested George H. W. Bush in 1988, as he was well on his way to doing, it’s difficult to imagine that Bush’s aimless eldest son would have somehow ascended from nowhere to become governor of Texas and then president within 12 years’ time.

“And we wouldn’t have invaded Iraq,” Hart went on. “And a lot of people would be alive who are dead.” A brief silence surrounded us. Hart sighed loudly, as if literally deflating. “You have to live with that, you know?”

WATCH: Jim On History – Gary Hart & His Monkey Business

He told The New York Times in an interview published on May 3, 1987, that they should follow me around. . . . They’ll be very bored.

As the NBC anchor John Chancellor explained a few days later, “We did. We weren’t.”

Seldom if ever has a major presidential candidacy crashed and burned so quickly.

On May 8, 1987, a mere five days after issuing his challenge, the Colorado senator withdrew as a candidate.

He would reenter the race the following December, but he would then withdraw a second time after winning just 4 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary in February 1988.

His political career was over.

Jim on History reviews Hart’s downfall, including a round table discussion about the situation with members of the Heath family.

WATCH: Jim on History – Gary Hart & Monkey Business:

Was Gary Hart Set Up?

What are we to make of the deathbed confession of the political operative Lee Atwater, newly revealed, that he staged the events that brought down the Democratic candidate in 1987?

Illustration by Paul Spella Paul Liebhardt / Corbis 'National Enquirer' / Getty Associated Press

In the spring of 1990, after he had helped the first George Bush reach the presidency, the political consultant Lee Atwater learned that he was dying. Atwater, who had just turned 39 and was the head of the Republican National Committee, had suffered a seizure while at a political fund-raising breakfast and had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. In a year he was dead.

Atwater put some of that year to use making amends. Throughout his meteoric political rise he had been known for both his effectiveness and his brutality. In South Carolina, where he grew up, he helped defeat a congressional candidate who had openly discussed his teenage struggles with depression by telling reporters that the man had once been “hooked up to jumper cables.” As the campaign manager for then–Vice President George H. W. Bush in 1988, when he defeated Michael Dukakis in the general election, Atwater leveraged the issue of race—a specialty for him—by means of the infamous “Willie Horton” TV ad. The explicit message of the commercial was that, as governor of Massachusetts, Dukakis had been soft on crime by offering furloughs to convicted murderers Horton ran away while on furlough and then committed new felonies, including rape. The implicit message was the menace posed by hulking, scowling black men—like the Willie Horton who was shown in the commercial.

In the last year of his life, Atwater publicly apologized for tactics like these. He told Tom Turnipseed, the object of his “jumper cables” attack, that he viewed the episode as “one of the low points” of his career. He apologized to Dukakis for the “naked cruelty” of the Willie Horton ad.

And in a private act of repentance that has remained private for nearly three decades, he told Raymond Strother that he was sorry for how he had torpedoed Gary Hart’s chances of becoming president.

S trother, 10 years older than Atwater, had been his Democratic competitor and counterpart, minus the gutter-fighting. During the early Reagan years, when Atwater worked in the White House, Strother joined the staff of the Democratic Party’s most promising and glamorous young figure, Senator Gary Hart of Colorado. Strother was Hart’s media consultant and frequent traveling companion during his run for the nomination in 1984, when he gave former Vice President Walter Mondale a scare. As the campaign for the 1988 nomination geared up, Strother planned to play a similar role.

In early 1987, the Hart campaign had an air of likelihood if not inevitability that is difficult to imagine in retrospect. After Mondale’s landslide defeat by Ronald Reagan in 1984, Hart had become the heir apparent and best hope to lead the party back to the White House. The presumed Republican nominee was Bush, Reagan’s vice president, who was seen at the time, like many vice presidents before him, as a lackluster understudy. Since the FDR–Truman era, no party had won three straight presidential elections, which the Republicans would obviously have to do if Bush were to succeed Reagan.

Gary Hart had a nationwide organization and had made himself a recognized expert on military and defense policy. I first met him in those days, and wrote about him in Atlantic articles that led to my 1981 book, National Defense. (I’ve stayed in touch with him since then and have respected his work and his views.) Early polls are notoriously unreliable, but after the 1986 midterms, and then–New York Governor Mario Cuomo’s announcement that he would not run, many national surveys showed Hart with a lead in the Democratic field and also over Bush. Hart’s principal vulnerability was the press’s suggestion that something about him was hidden, excessively private, or “unknowable.” Among other things, this was a way of alluding to suspicions of extramarital affairs—a theme in most accounts of that campaign, including Matt Bai’s 2014 All the Truth Is Out. Still, as Bai wrote in his book, “Everyone agreed: it was Hart’s race to lose.”

Strother and Atwater had the mutually respectful camaraderie of highly skilled rivals. “Lee and I were friends,” Strother told me when I spoke with him by phone recently. “We’d meet after campaigns and have coffee, talk about why I did what I did and why he did what he did.” One of the campaigns they met to discuss afterward was that 1988 presidential race, which Atwater (with Bush) had of course ended up winning, and from which Hart had dropped out. But later, during what Atwater realized would be the final weeks of his life, Atwater phoned Strother to discuss one more detail of that campaign.

Atwater had the strength to talk for only five minutes. “It wasn’t a ‘conversation,’ ” Strother said when I spoke with him recently. “There weren’t any pleasantries. It was like he was working down a checklist, and he had something he had to tell me before he died.”

What he wanted to say, according to Strother, was that the episode that had triggered Hart’s withdrawal from the race, which became known as the Monkey Business affair, had been not bad luck but a trap. The sequence of events was confusing at the time and is widely misremembered now. But in brief:

In late March 1987, Hart spent a weekend on a Miami-based yacht called Monkey Business. Two young women joined the boat when it sailed to Bimini. While the boat was docked there, one of the women took a picture of Hart sitting on the pier, with the other, Donna Rice, in his lap. A month after this trip, in early May, the man who had originally invited Hart onto the boat brought the same two women to Washington. The Miami Herald had received a tip about the upcoming visit and was staking out the front of Hart’s house. (A famous profile of Hart by E. J. Dionne in The New York Times Magazine, in which Hart invited the press to “follow me around,” came out after this stakeout—not before, contrary to common belief.) A Herald reporter saw Rice and Hart going into the house through the front door and, not realizing that there was a back door, assumed—when he didn’t see her again—that she had spent the night.

Amid the resulting flap about Hart’s “character” and honesty, he quickly suspended his campaign (within a week), which effectively ended it. Several weeks later came the part of the episode now best remembered: the photo of Hart and Rice together in Bimini, on the cover of the National Enquirer.

Considering what American culture has swallowed as irrelevant or forgivable since then, it may be difficult to imagine that allegations of a consensual extramarital affair might really have caused an otherwise-favored presidential candidate to leave the race. Yet anyone who was following American politics at the time can tell you that this occurred. For anyone who wasn’t around, there is Bai’s book and an upcoming film based on it: The Front Runner, starring Hugh Jackman as Hart.

But was the plotline of Hart’s self-destruction too perfect? Too convenient? Might the nascent Bush campaign, with Atwater as its manager, have been looking for a way to help a potentially strong opponent leave the field?

“I thought there was something fishy about the whole thing from the very beginning,” Strother recalled. “Lee told me that he had set up the whole Monkey Business deal. ‘I did it!’ he told me. ‘I fixed Hart.’ After he called me that time, I thought, My God! It’s true!

Strother’s conversation with Atwater happened in 1991. He mainly kept the news to himself. As the years went by, he discreetly mentioned the conversation to some journalists and other colleagues, but not to Gary Hart. “I probably should have told him at the time,” he said recently. “It was a judgment call, and I didn’t see the point in involving him in another controversy.”

Crucially, Strother realized, he had no proof, and probably never would. Atwater was dead. Although Hart did not run in later elections, he was busy and productive: He had earned a doctorate in politics at Oxford, had published many books, and had co-chaired the Hart-Rudman Commission, which memorably warned the incoming president in 2001, George W. Bush, to prepare for a terrorist attack on American soil. Why, Strother asked himself, should he rake up an issue that could never be resolved and might cause Hart more stress than surcease?

But late last year, Strother learned that the prostate cancer he had been treated for a dozen years ago had returned and spread, and that he might not have long to live. The cancer is now in remission, but after the diagnosis Strother began traveling to see people he had known and worked with, to say goodbye. One of his stops was Colorado, where he had a meal with Gary Hart.

Aware that this might be one of their final conversations, Hart asked Strother to think about the high points of the campaign, and its lows. Hart knew that Strother had been friends with Billy Broadhurst, the man who had taken Hart on the fateful Monkey Business cruise. According to Strother and others involved with the Hart campaign, Broadhurst was from that familiar political category, the campaign groupie and aspiring insider. Broadhurst kept trying to ingratiate himself with Hart, and kept being rebuffed. He was also a high-living, high-spending fixer and lobbyist with frequent money problems.

Strother talked with Hart this spring Broadhurst had died about a year earlier. In retrospect, Hart asked, what did Strother make of the whole imbroglio?

“Ray said, ‘Why do you ask?’ ” Hart told me, when I called to talk with him about the episode. “And I said there are a whole list of ‘coincidences’ that had been on my mind for 30 years, and that could lead a reasonable person to think none of it happened by accident.

“Ray replied, ‘It’s because you were set up. I know you were set up.’

“I asked him how he could be so certain,” Hart told me. Strother then recounted his long-ago talk with Atwater, and Atwater’s claim that the whole Monkey Business weekend had occurred at his direction. According to Hart, that plan would have involved: contriving an invitation from Broadhurst for Hart to come on a boat ride, when Hart intended to be working on a speech. Ensuring that young women would be invited aboard. Arranging for the Broadhurst boat Hart thought he would be boarding, with some unmemorable name, to be unavailable—so that the group would have to switch to another boat, Monkey Business. Persuading Broadhurst to “forget” to check in with customs clearance at Bimini before closing time, so that the boat “unexpectedly” had to stay overnight there. And, according to Hart, organizing an opportunistic photo-grab.

“There were a lot of people on the dock, people getting off their boats and wandering up and down on the wharf,” Hart told me. “While I was waiting for Broadhurst and whatever he was working out with the customs people, I sat on this little piling on the pier.” Hart said that Donna Rice’s friend and companion on the boat, Lynn Armandt, was standing a short distance away. “Miss Armandt made a gesture to Miss Rice, and she immediately came over and sat on my lap. Miss Armandt took the picture. The whole thing took less than five seconds, with lots of other people around. It was clearly staged, but it was used after the fact to prove that some intimacy existed.”

What are we to make of Strother’s late-in-life revelation of Atwater’s deathbed confession? Hart’s reputation, deserved or not, certainly gave Atwater something to work with, if that’s what he did. (“It would be just like the perversity of history for someone to undertake an effort that might well have happened by itself,” Matt Bai told me when I spoke with him recently.) What would have induced Broadhurst to participate in an entrapment scheme? (When I asked Strother this question, he said, “Money.”) How exactly was the scheme supposed to work? Hart had been introduced to Donna Rice at least once before (briefly, at an event at the musician Don Henley’s house, in Colorado, that Hart attended with his wife), and he phoned her after the Monkey Business weekend. Both Rice and Hart denied any affair. A few people still living may know what happened that weekend, and why. (Rice, who now leads an internet-safety group called Enough Is Enough and goes by her married name, Donna Rice Hughes, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.) Most likely the rest of us never will.

L ike other political calamities, the Hart downfall had consequences that will be debated for as long as the man’s name is remembered. History is full of unknowable “What if?” questions. What if whatever happened that weekend in Bimini had not happened? “I was going to be the next president,” Hart told me, clinically. He was, or might have been—and then he wasn’t.

If history had gone in a different direction in 1987, and Hart had become the 41st president rather than Bush, then Bill Clinton would not have had his chance in 1992, or perhaps ever. George W. Bush, who found his footing with a place on his father’s winning campaign, would probably never have emerged as a contender. When and whether Barack Obama and Donald Trump might ever have come onto the stage no one can say. “No first Bush if things had turned out differently,” Gary Hart told me. “Which means no second Bush—at least not when he arrived. Then no Iraq War. No Cheney. Who knows what else?”

Watch the video: Gary. Coleman - The Sky is Crying