Franklin Foer on Paul Manafort's MemoirBreaking News
tags: human rights, Paul Manafort, dictators
The title of Paul Manafort’s memoir, Political Prisoner, is ridiculous, but at least he’s writing what he knows. For much of his professional life, Manafort served as a lobbyist and an image consultant for the world’s most prolific torturers. One of his clients, the Angolan revolutionary Jonas Savimbi, led an army that incinerated its enemies alive. Another of his clients, President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, dumped hundreds of mutilated corpses in the streets to show the price of opposing him.
After spending 23 months in prison on charges of bank fraud, witness tampering, conspiracy, and tax evasion—the longest stretch in a low-security facility in Pennsylvania—Manafort now places himself in the same category as the victims of rape and beatings whose suffering he was once handsomely paid to minimize. This grotesque conflation feels like the fitting capstone to his career.
After decades of working to soften the reputations of dictators, corporations, and Republican senatorial candidates, he’s now applying his craft to himself. His book is an attempt at redeeming a career wrecked by Robert Mueller’s prosecutors, who portrayed him as one of the most corrupt characters to ever bestride Washington. With little prospect of ever representing fancy clients again, or perhaps even finding himself a new slate of scoundrels, he has discovered that his best hope is to rebrand himself as a right-wing martyr, a victim of the same forces that Donald Trump says conspired to end his presidency.
In one memorable scene, he recounts the van ride to a correctional facility in Virginia. A prisoner named B.B. strikes up a conversation with him, asking him why he was arrested.
“For something I didn’t do,” Manafort replies. “I was set up. ‘Business crimes.’”
“We all set up by the man!” B.B. tells him.
As Manafort mulls the moment, he writes, “He was 100 percent right. I had been set up by ‘the man’—the Office of Special Counsel, Weissman, Mueller, Hillary, Obama, the MSM. The list went on.” Will the nation ever reckon with its history of persecuting lobbyists with shady bank accounts in Cyprus?