Published on Wednesday, December 12, 2001
Bush Made Taliban a Target After Rove Met with Razor-Industry Execs
by Dennis Hans
Slide over, Big Oil. A new corporate clique is calling the president’s
President George W. Bush’s decided to make the Taliban government of Afghanistan a prime target in the war on terrorism after senior advisor Karl Rove met with executives of the Bic and Norelco corporations, say sources at the two companies and the White House gymnasium.
On the afternoon of September 19, razor executives told Rove they would donate at least $20 million to Republican congressional candidates in 2002 -- and not one dime to Democrats -- if the White House would oust the Taliban regime. Rove countered that if the companies would double their donations, the White House would not only topple the Taliban but grant Norelco and Bic exclusive access to the Afghan market for the next five years. A flurry of phone calls ensued, and within an hour the deal was sealed.
Prior to the meeting, which took place at the swank Georgetown home of Norelco’s chief lobbyist, the Bush administration’s war on terrorism had focused on bin Laden and al-Qaida. There had been scant interest even among Pentagon hawks in an all-out war to unseat the unshaven Afghan regime.
After the meeting, Rove returned to the White House and met with the president in the basement gym. According to an assistant to the president’s personal trainer, while Bush squatted, crunched and curled, Rove suggested revisions to the major address scheduled for the following night. Bush grunted his assent, and on September 20 he hit the Taliban with a laundry list of non-negotiable demands he knew they would not accept, then punctuated the list with an ultimatum: “act immediately” or “share in their [bin Laden and al-Qaida’s] fate.”
As Bush spoke those words, the toothy smiles of razor executives lit up the Georgetown night.
The razor and shaving-accessories industry is a newcomer to international power politics. Long a force on the domestic scene, it has always donated generously but evenhandedly, splitting contributions between clean-shaven Democrats and Republicans.
The industry’s clout is such that neither major party has dared to nominate a bearded man for president in more than a century, and it’s no coincidence that the only Bush administration official on the chopping block is whiskered Surgeon General David Satcher. Nor was there anything spontaneous about the torrent of ridicule that greeted Al Gore when he emerged from hibernation with a furry face. “We activated our media assets and orchestrated that campaign from start to finish,” boasted an industry insider.
Norelco and Bic plan to resume their bipartisan ways in 2004, but officials say the Afghan payoff is worth the risk of ruffling Democratic feathers.
“With a shave-starved population of 25 million, we’re talking annual sales worth 150 million dollars,” said a Norelco executive. “Plus, we’ll have a leg up when domestic and foreign rivals join the competition in 2006. Afghans may be fickle when it comes to political alliances, but market research suggests they’ll stick with any razor that delivers a clean, smooth shave.”
Edward Bernays III, marketing director for Lady Bic, has recruited a number of exiled Afghan trend-setters to return home and wear in public the new line of “mini-burqas” designed for Bic by Calvin Klein.
“We’ve kept the classic loose fit,” said Klein. “But we’ve raised the hemline a daring six inches above the ankle and made the hood detachable for those special occasions when peripheral vision is a must.”
“Skin is in,” said Bernays, who hopes to do for Lady Bic what his grandfather did for Big Tobacco.
In 1929, the original Edward Bernays hired fashion models to march -- and smoke -- in New York’s Easter Parade while wearing banners hailing the cigarette as a “torch of liberty.” Photos of the bold beauties spread like wildfire, and soon ladies across the land took up smoking so they, too, could strike a liberated pose.
Charlotte Beers, the former advertising executive hired by President Bush to sell the U.S. government as if it were a brand to foreigners who don’t fully appreciate our policies and way of life, believes Afghans can learn much about democracy from America’s razor exports.
“Freedom to choose is what America -- and the new Afghanistan -- is all about,” she said. “Do I select an electric Norelco with pop-up trimmer or a hand-powered Lady Bic triple-trac? Do I cast my presidential vote for a Pashtun warlord or a Tajik warlord? It’s all good!”
Dennis Hans is a fearless investigative reporter in the grand tradition of Upton Sinclair and Matt Drudge. He can be reached at HANS_D@popmail.firn.edu