News, Political Strategy

I know it was you, Fredo

Fredo Corleone: I’m your older brother, Mike, and I was stepped over!
Michael Corleone: That’s the way Pop wanted it.
Fredo Corleone: It ain’t the way I wanted it! I can handle things! I’m smart! Not like everybody says… like dumb… I’m smart and I want respect!

—The Godfather: Part II

I’m sure John Brunner never saw himself as Fredo Corleone.

A Burning Question

Did you ever ask yourself why John Brunner would release a surreptitious recording of a phone call with an opponent? Especially one that lacks a smoking gun that would seriously wound the opponent?

Think about it: by releasing that tape to the media, John Brunner told the world, “I cannot be trusted.” He showed himself as the sort of cowardly, weak politician who tries to bait his opponents into secret traps. And he comes off as foolish enough, inept enough, to think people will forget that he uses Nixonian tactics.

“Is this being recorded?” will cross the minds of every person who talks to John Brunner for the rest of his life.

It Doesn’t Add Up

I ask again, why would Brunner willingly destroy his own reputation? It doesn’t make sense.

Mr. Brunner successfully operated his company’s business for years. He should know that executives—or executive candidates—don’t secretly record private conversations to gain a tactical advantage. Legal or not, releasing a secretly recorded phone conversation without the other party’s consent is sleazy, and no one seriously disputes that.

According to mafia legend, if you kill a don, you can’t become a don. Brunner’s complicity in the secret recording and leak means his political career peaked the day he announced his candidacy for governor. The man who tried to lecture a decorated Navy SEAL on manhood did so while violating the first rule of manliness.

As Jane Dueker said on the Reardon Round Table November 27:

That was weaselly. Your taping conversations—and I don’t believe the story that he felt threatened . . . no, no, no, no, I don’t like that. And just man-up. You did a weaselly thing, you need to own up to it.

With all that downside and no upside, why would Brunner release the recording?

Who Released the Tape?

We learned from his 2012 race for US Senate that Brunner is easily manipulated by Republican consultants. Those of us who wanted to support Brunner in 2012 for his ideological consistency had to walk away because of his weakness in debates and his failure to be his own man. Brunner ran as a caricature painted by John Hancock.

So someone must have convinced Brunner to record his calls with Eric Greitens. Or someone released the recording behind Bruner’s back.

I know, I know, “But, Bill, if John Brunner knew it was wrong, he shouldn’t have done it.” I get it, and I agree. But Brunner, as I say, is easily manipulated. And ambitious. He wants to win an election, and he trusts the people he’s hired to make that happen.

And trusting Republican players is the dumbest thing a person can do. It’s like when Fredo trusted Hyman Roth in The Godfather: Part II.

So I realize that Brunner knowingly and with malice recorded a private conversation with Eric Greitens. I am less sure that Brunner was involved in the recording’s release.

Brunner had everything to lose by that recording going public. He lost his reputation, his credibility, and trustworthiness. Why would Brunner out himself as a rat?

I’m not going to  speculate here about who did it, but I will explore why.

Eric Greitens Is a Threat to the Establishment

Republican insiders agree that Eric Greitens is the biggest threat to Chris Koster in the GOP field.

The same Republican insiders agree that Eric Greitens is the biggest threat to the Republican establishment. And we know from our Center for Self-Governance training that the purpose of political parties is to maintain their power. Everything else is ancillary.

Party insiders will go to extraordinary lengths when their power comes under attack. As Richard Nixon demonstrated, no law or ethic will stand in the way of a political animal who feels threatened or cornered.

And Eric Greitens presents both parties with a huge threat to their power.

Some will say, “but Bill, John Brunner is an outsider, too.” True. He is. But Brunner has shown himself to turn to putty in the hands of establishment seducers. Plus, the insiders believe Koster would wipe the floor with Brunner in the general election.

Because he’s easily manipulated and because he’s a poor candidate, Republican insiders do not see Brunner as a serious threat. By the same token, because he’s not easily manipulated and because he could beat Chris Koster, Eric Greitens is a huge threat the GOP establishment.

The GOP’s Hyman Roth

When Hyman Roth wanted to consolidate his power by taking down the Corleone family, he manipulated Michael Corleone’s brother Fredo. Fredo set up Michael.

When the Missouri GOP establishment wanted to eliminate a potential threat to its power, one of its agents manipulated John Brunner to set up Eric Greitens. At least that’s what I’m thinking.

It’s a plot so diabolical and underhanded that the schemers deserve a certain amount of respect. Until you see the plot play out.

What’s most brilliant about the plot is that Brunner is spending his own money to try to whack Greitens politically, not realizing that the GOP’s Hyman Roth is using Brunner’s money to pay the contract on Brunner. As the establishment sees it, with Greitens and Brunner out of the way, either Kinder or Hanaway is a shoe-in for the nomination. And if one of those two loses to Koster? Well, as one Republican insider told me a couple years ago, “we can work with Koster.”

Politics Is More Corrupt Than It Knows

No one involved in this scheme would consider himself corrupt. The political elites want us to believe that bribery is the only form of political corruption. Anything short of bribery, to the political animal, is just hardball politics.

To you and me, corruption is broader. What’s more corrupt than manipulating a man like John Brunner?

Corrupting the morals of a man like Brunner—or turning Fredo Corleone against his brother—is corruption. And it’s a more serious corruption than mere bribery. The establishment has corrupted John Brunner’s soul and wrecked his good name. And ended his political career.

And the establishment is proud of its wicked work. Or it would be if the scheme had worked.

No Smoking Gun

For the GOP scheme to succeed, it needed a knock-out blow. But Eric Greitens gave them nothing. As I said on KMOX, Brunner’s secret recording was not Greitens’s fines moment, but for a man whose life is a long string of fine moments, this was nothing.

The bold scheme to take out Brunner and Greitens took out only Brunner, the dupe. Greitens was wounded but only slightly. When you take a shot at a Navy SEAL, you better kill him. The GOP’s bullet missed its mark.

Now, the GOP finds itself in an uncomfortable place. Its stooge has lost all credibility. Eric Greitens learned a hard lesson that will make him only tougher and more determined to pitch corrupt lobbyists and politicians down the steps of the capitol.

Greitens Is the Only Innocent

The GOP’s Hyman Roth wanted to help one of two established politicians in the race. Unless one of those candidates admits complicity, it will be hard to trust them. Though I don’t believe Brunner would voluntarily act as a foil to Greitens, by agreeing to secretly record a call, Brunner’s credibility is shot.

For voters who want an outsider with integrity, one who played no role in this episode of ugly election manipulation, Greitens is the only trustworthy Republican still standing.

So, nice try, establishment.

The Burning Question

Now that we have a plausible explanation for why John Brunner was manipulated to secretly record a private call with his opponent, one open question is: who dunnit?

Who told Brunner to make the recording? And who released it to the press?

When we know the answer to that question, we’ll know which remaining Republican gubernatorial candidate absolutely cannot be trusted. For the record, I think the story that Brunner felt threatened by Greitens is pure BS. And if Brunner is that easily intimidated, he shouldn’t be running for office.

The one man who can answer is the candidate whose reputation just got flushed down the toilet. Ironic, isn’t? Whoever turned Brunner into a rat put themselves in Brunner’s crosshairs. And John Brunner has nothing to lose by outing his corrupter.

Fredo tried to regain Michael’s favor by outing Hyman Roth. It didn’t work for Fredo, of course, but Fredo had to try.

At some point, Brunner will realize his best hope for redemption begins with exposing the person or persons who corrupted him.

So the burning question is: will John Brunner sing?

Author: William Hennessy

Co-founder of St. Louis Tea Party Coalition and Nationwide Chicago Tea Party Persuasive design expertLatest book: Turning On Trump: An Evolution (2016)Author of The Conservative Manifest (1993), Zen Conservatism (2009), Weaving the Roots (2011), and Fight to Evolve (2016)I believe every person deserves the dignity of meaningful work as the only path to human flourishing.

6 Comments on “I know it was you, Fredo

  1. Releasing this audio did two things for Brunner’s campaign. One, it now has the Democrats making videos about the call so now Greitens is being hit by both sides. I’m no military expert, but Fighting two front wars is never an easy or good thing. Two, it further takes the focus off Greitens and his limited platform that we’ve heard little about so far and puts the focus on this “controversy.” An old saw in politics: “If you’re on defense, you’re losing.” Greiten’s is losing.

  2. Bill, I know you are supporting Eric Greitens for Governor and thus the reason for the hit piece on John Bruner. As I previously stated the release of the tape was underhanded and sneaky and does not show highly of Brunner, but the tape also showed Greitens to be a bully and wants things his way or else he has a temper tantrum. What I do not understand is why you want to give Greitens a pass on his liberal leanings. Greitens was a registered Democrat until he decided to run for Governor. Then he became a Republican. Why? Greitens refused to answer Adam Sharp when he questioned him about when he became a Republican. (There is a video of the confrontation.)
    The other problems I have with Greitens are as follows: Why did Greitens not run as a Conservative Democrat against the leftist lib Chris Koster? Greitens charitable group is affiliated with the Clinton Global Initiative. Why would he want to be involved in that criminal enterprise? Greitens also believes in the hoax of climate change and there is video of that. Greitens supports a World Government. Then there are other questions that should be answered which are: what is his position on immigration; on the refugee/migrant situation; and what is his position on Common Core? As I stated, It seems you have been captivated to support Greitens even though his history shows he is not the Conservative you want/think him to be.
    As for the Establishment I am well aware of what underhanded things Establishment Republicans can do. In my Senate race against Ryan McKenna they cut a deal with McKenna and Republican John Lamping to sabotage my campaign. I am staying out of the primary and may help the winner.

    1. Greg,

      This wasn’t a “hit piece” on Brunner. It was a hit piece on the way Brunner was used.

      Everything else in your comment is pretty much a copy and paste of your last comment–with the exception of the last paragraph. Therefore, rather than waste my time, I’ll follow your lead and copy and paste my previous response to you. (BTW, it would be a lot easier for your to link to your prior comment. Just trying to save you time.)

      How does one really answer “when did you become a conservative?” I think most people who migrate from one ideology, particularly one adopted from family of origin, the change happens slowly. Reagan’s conversion took a decade or more.

      As for his organizations and their affiliations, I can’t answer. I do know that he formed the organizations before he recognized his political conversion and well before he decided to run for Governor.

      When it comes to his past statements, he was a Democrat and began as a fairly liberal Democrat. I’d be surprised if he didn’t say a few things that grate our ears.

      Bully? Really? Republicans are using the bully card now? What I heard was an angry man, angry because his opponent refused to acknowledge (or explicitly deny) connection to a website that attacks Greitens’ integrity. Abraham Lincoln was involved in a duel over less. And Greitens went straight to the source with his complaint. I can tell you that I’ve been far more hostile with people on the phone, including with friends.

      Why didn’t Greitens run as a Democrat? Because he finds the Democrat Party incompatible with his worldview. And, while I don’t know this, I suspect that Eric would consider it a lie to run as a Democrat with the intention of switching parties after the election.

      Finally, I’ve watched people migrate politically, including my wife and Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell. And Arianna Huffington. While every political conversion is unique, they share one thing in common: they don’t stop. At least later-in-life conversions never stop. However conservative Greitens is right now, he will be more conservative tomorrow. And more so next year.

      I have sat in a room with Eric on a couple of occasions. I have read his books. I have never met a person I’d rather follow. I know some of his policy mentors, and I trust them implicitly. I believe that Eric Greitens’ campaign presents Missourians with a rare historical opportunity to halt our country’s unravelling. I could be wrong, but I am taking this leap of faith with both feet.

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