On Tuesday, Jon Stewart welcomed former Christian Coalition wunderkind and Jack Abramoff scandal figure Ralph Reed to the Daily Show to pitch his new book, Dark Horse. But while the two discussed Reed's joining Scooter Libby, Bill O'Reilly and Lynne Cheney among the ranks of racy right-wing novelists, Stewart gave the disgraced lobbyist and failed Georgia Republican pol a free ride when it came to Reed's own close association with Abramoff.
Ironically, Reed's Daily Show appearance came just one day after Henry Waxman's House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released its report on Jack Abramoff's ties to the Bush White House. Despite the administration's ongoing efforts to conceal Abramoff's hundreds of visits to the White House, the report found the convicted GOP uber-influence peddler had met President Bush six times. But while Jon Stewart briefly jabbed at Reed about Republican corruption, Reed's own prominent role in the Abramoff cash machine never came up.
Reed, after all was a central figure in the Abramoff scandals that helped undo the Republican Party in 2006 (as well as his own bid to become Georgia's lieutenant governor). Like Abramoff, Reed feasted on native American tribes to the tune of a million dollars for casino lobbying. He famously joined Abramoff, Ohio Congressman Bob Ney and Bush procurement official David Safavian on the notorious golfing trip to Scotland. (Abramoff, Ney and Safavian were all later convicted for their crimes.) In 2004, Reed received $4.2 million to mobilize Christian voters to fight new casinos opposed by Abramoff's tribal clients.
As it turns out, Jack Abramoff even provided the future fiction writer Reed with enough material for trilogy.
In October 2005, Time published excerpts from Reed's email correspondence with Abramoff. The emails provide a treasure trove for the would-be novelist, including how to tap highly-placed officials like Karl Rove and Haley Barbour for greasing the skids for dirty deals and how to dupe tribes of both sides of the casino conflict in Mississippi and Louisiana. In one message just after 9/11, Reed tells Abramoff he "put in a tag call to Karl to find out the best contact at FEMA" for a scheme to house Ground Zero rescue workers on leased cruise ships. (There are even some potshots at the future Republican presidential nominee, John McCain.) Another Abramoff exchange highlighted Reed's essential role in providing access to the Bush White House:
"I'll get in touch with Rove through Ralph Reed."
Even before his dealings with Abramoff, Reed was already describing his work as a groundbreaking Republican operative along the lines of a Tom Clancy plot. As he told the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot in 1991:
"I want to be invisible. I do guerrilla warfare. I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag. You don't know until election night."
In early 2006, Phil Dacosta, a Georgia Christian Coalition member and now former Reed backer offered the perfect "fall from grace" story line. Foreshadowing Reed's election day defeat that year, Dacosta announced:
"After reading the e-mail, it became pretty obvious he was putting money before God. We are righteously casting him out."
Sadly, Jon Stewart gave Ralph Reed a pass on Tuesday, just as he did in March with Reed's partner in Abramoff's crimes, Grover Norquist. Ironically, in April 2006 Stewart lambasted John McCain for his embrace of the religious right he once denounced, scolding McCain about going to "crazy base world." As for Fox News contributor and new author Ralph Reed, who left crazy base world to cash in with his friends in the Bush White House, Jon Stewart let him off the hook.