Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sarah and Greta and John: The Scientology Connection 2/3

Part 1

Champions Greta and John
Now let’s take a small step back and examine the husband and the wife.

Born in Appleton, WI in 1955, Greta Van Susteren came from a family immersed in local politics. In fact, her father, Urban Van Susteren, was a County Judge in Wisconsin and was also a close friend of Sen Joseph McCarthy. And according to a biography, “he served as a  campaign manager for McCarthy's smear-filled 1946 campaign that won the Senate seat from Sen Robert M. La Follette, Jr., who killed himself several years later. While McCarthy was a Senator, he roomed in the Van Susteren house when he was not in the nation's capitol.” (Van Susteren addressed this issue in a blog post in which she correctly states that she was not even born when her father worked with McCarthy and she was just three when he died. Fair enough.)
Ms. Van Susteren’s academic background is impressive, at least, for a television show host. This is a summary from her Wikipedia bio.
Van Susteren graduated from Xavier High School in Appleton in 1972 and the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1976, where she studied geography and economics. She later earned a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1979 and prior to the start of her television work returned to Georgetown Law as an adjunct faculty member in addition to her full-time legal career.

She began her journalist career working for CNN as a legal analyst, first covering the William Kenney Smith trial in 1991 and the O.J. Simpson trial.  Later she became  a co-anchor on the legal affairs news show, Burden of Proof, with political analyst Roger Cossack.  According to a  New York Times article, relations with CNN soured when, according to an angry letter written by Coale to CNN 's chairman, Walter Isaacson, Van Susteren  “accused new network executives of putting corporate interests above journalistic ones and slighting women and minorities while revamping the network -- accusations they denied.”

The letter said Ms. Van Susteren was treated as a "second-class citizen." As an example, it points to the the network's failure to secure an invitation for her to the White House Christmas party, which, Mr. Coale wrote, is an important gathering for forging relationships with administration officials.
After a bidding war in  2002,  she left CNN  to join Fox News.
Even before her immigration to Fox News, Van Susteren’s lawyerly approach- in which all facts are equal- was considered, by one observer, as “dishonest.”
Jonah Goldberg  in his article, Regrettable Van Susteren,  strongly criticized Van Susteren about her bias in the coverage of  both the O.J. Simpson trial and Bill Clinton’s sex scandal. (Rather surprisingly, throughout the Bill Clinton scandal, Van Susteren strongly and repeatedly defended the president.)   
Goldberg goes on to declare:
Greta Van Susteren, co-host of CNN's Burden of Proof and ubiquitous CNN legal analyst.. ... is, thanks to CNN's global presence, the international poster girl for all that is wrong with American political commentary.
So perhaps it wasn’t such a surprise that  Van Susteren would eventually wind up at Fox News. As an anchor at Fox Van Susteren, reportedly commands a seven figure salary annually according to at least one source .

For his part, John P. Coale, not unlike Sarah Palin, likes to think of himself as a crusader for the little guy. This mystique is primarily based on his multi-billion-dollar anti-tobacco lawsuits against Big Tobacco, which made him both wealthy and famous.
He has taken on other high-profile cases such as the Ritalin fraud and conspiracy against Novartis Pharmaceutical. (That trial would later turn out to be a fiasco when judges threw out the three of the five case, leaving the other two to be withdrawn quietly.)  
Coale represented victims in the Bhopal chemical accident in India as well. Attorneys noted that Coale could be found wherever there was a disaster. From the Du Pont Plaza Hotel fire in San Juan, to the 1996 Valuejet crash in the Everglades or an Amtrak crash in Maryland, Coale could be found, advising victims to hold out for the highest compensation.
Many found Coale’s methods, particularly his method of hunting down clients questionable.
In fact, both Coale and Van Susteren were found guilty of “ambulance chasing” by a bit too eagerly soliciting the families of coal-mine accident victims and were barred from practicing in West Virginia  for a year.
"As of April 1996, Coale, his wife Greta Van Susteren - who is also his partner in a law firm, and the law firm were all the subject of serious bar disciplinary proceedings in West Virginia, whose state bar's discipline board was seeking to suspend their right to practice law in West Virginia for a year as a result of soliciting prospective clients in ways prohibited by bar rules, generally referred to by the public as "ambulance-chasing"; in Coale's case, the term seems particularly appropriate because one of the incidents that landed him in trouble was his law firm's employee allegedly trying to chat up a severely-burned man in an intensive-care unit."
And there’s more from the Goldberg article:
American Lawyer magazine called him "a symbol for everything wrong with the plaintiff's bar."
Echoes of the comments made about Van Susteren.
In 1987 the same magazine awarded Coale its Most Frivolous Suit Award: He had sued his tailor, on the grounds that the sub-par work on his shirts had subjected him to "public humiliation . . . severe emotional distress, and embarrassment."
On the surface, Coale is something of a political contradiction . He was considered to be a  big Democrat player and was a huge supporter of Sen. Hillary Clinton during the Democratic Primary. In fact, at one point, Coale proposed the idea that Palin's political action committee—the creation of which Coale had master-minded— make a symbolic $5,000 donation to the Clinton campaign to help her retire her debt. (It was a drop in the ocean.) He later attempted to arrange a meeting between Palin and Bill Clinton. (Imagine that if you can.)
The whole idea understandably sent shivers up the collective spine of Republican Party officials. Politico noted
Coale conceded that he urged Palin and her advisers to consider helping Clinton, but he said it was part of a larger campaign to align the Alaska governor with prominent women in politics, including Republicans Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, both of whom are prospects for elective office in California. “It was a women thing and not a Hillary thing,” said Coale, who was angered at what he saw as sexism aimed at Clinton during last year’s campaign and who has long taken an interest in promoting female politicians.
Basically, Coale was saying to the Republicans, “it’s a woman thing. You wouldn’t understand.”  He also claimed that he was trying to tone down the rhetoric by bringing both sides together.
“With these people from the opposite side, I’m trying to turn down the volume a bit on the attacks,” Coale said. “The more people meet each other and actually talk to each other, the volume will come down.”

Strange idea, since most of the inflammatory rhetoric- the volume- was coming from the Palin side. Another reason Coale gave for this most unlikely pairing was... connecting people.

Pam Pryor, a Washington-based Palin adviser, defended Coale, calling him a “networking hound” who was only trying to help connect friends.

Whether Palin was shy about becoming pals with Hilary, or whether she simply did not want to part with her earnings, the meeting- nor the kind act of charity for Hilary- never occurred. The former president also declined a meeting with Palin, according to Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna.

After repeated nudging by Coale,...Palin directed a staffer to turn him down via e-mail: 
"While we appreciate your efforts and recognize that a friendship with the Clintons is appropriate, the governor believes (and I concur) that using SarahPAC to pay down Hillary's debt is not a prudent use of the money. Contributors who chose between heating their homes and sending in a contribution because they believe in Sarah would be crushed."
The image of freezing Palin contributors is a remarkable contrast to the Republican National Committee spending more than $150,000 on clothing and make-up for Gov. Sarah Palin, her husband, and even her infant son. 
But of course, that wasn’t her money.  

Palin had other reasons, perhaps, for wanting to distance herself from too much contact with Coale. 

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