......scanned in from newspapers...in the archives....interesting stuff !
Those who follow Bush's frenetic sports activities on television are doubtless familiar with Bush's speedboat, in which he is accustomed to cavort in the waters off his estate at Walker's Point in Kennebunkport, Maine. [fn 3] The craft in question is the Fidelity, a powerboat capable of operating on the high seas. Fidelity is a class of boat marketed under the brand name of "Cigarette," a high-priced speedboat dubbed "the Ferrari of the high seas." This detail should awaken our interest, since Bush's profile as an Anglo-Saxon aristocrat would normally include a genteel predeliction for sailing, rather than a preference for a vulgar hotrod like Fidelity, which evokes the ethos of rum-runners and smugglers.
The Cigarette boat Fidelity was purchased by George Bush from a certain Don Aronow. Bush reportedly met Aronow at a boat show in 1974, and decided to buy one of the Cigarette boats Aronow manufactured. Aronow was one of the most celebrated and successful powerboat racers of the 1960's, and had then turned his hand to designing and building these boats. But according to at least one published account, there is compelling evidence to conclude that Aronow was a drug smuggler and suspected drug-money launderer linked to the Genovese Purple Gang of New York City within the more general framework of the Meyer Lansky organized crime syndicate. Aronow's role in marijuana smuggling was reportedly confirmed by Bill Norris, head of the Major Narcotics Unit at the Miami US Attorney's office and thus the top federal drug prosecution official in south Florida. [fn 4]
Aronow numbered among his friends and acquaintances not just Bush, but many international public figures and celebrities, many of whom had purchased the boats he built. Aronow's wife was said to be a former girlfriend of King Hussein of Jordan. Aronow was in touch with King Juan Carlos of Spain, Lord Lucan (Billy Shand-Kydd, a relative of Princess Diana's mother), Sir Max Aitken (the son of British press baron Lord Beaverbrook), Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco, Eastern Airlines chairman and former astronaut Frank Bormann, Kimberly-Clark heir Jim Kimberley, Alvin Malnik (one of the reputed heirs to Meyer Lansky) and Charles Keating, later the protagonist of the Lincoln Savings and Loan scandal. Some of these exalted acquaintances are suggestive of strong intelligence connections as well.
In May of 1986, Aronmow received a letter from Nicolas Iliopoulos, the royal boat captain to King Hussein of Jordan expressing on behalf of the King the latter's satisfaction with a powerboat purchased from Aronow, and conveying the compliments of King Juan Carlos of Spain and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who had recently been the Jordanian sovereign's guests on board. Aronow sent a copy of this letter to Bush, from whom he received a reply dated June 6, 1986 in which Bush thanked him "with warm regards" for forwarding the royal note and added: "I can repeat that my old Cigarette, the "Fidelity" is running well too. I've had her out a couple of weekends and the engines have been humming. I hope our paths cross soon, my friend." [fn 5]
Aronow was reportedly a close friend of George Bush. In his book-length account of the life and death of Aronow which is the basis for the following analysis, Thomas Burdick quotes an unnamed Justice Department official relating the comments of one of his friends on the Bush-Aronow relation: "My friend said, 'I guarantee you I know what the connection was between him and Bush. It's the boats. The guy loves ****ing boats." A Secret Service agent also referred to Bush as a "boat groupie." [fn 6] But does this exhaust the topic?
Over the years, Bush had apparently consulted with Aronow concerning the servicing and upkeep of his Cigarette boat. During 1983, Bush began to seek out Aronow's company for fishing trips. The original engines on Bush's Cigarette boat needed replacement, and this was the ostensible occasion for renewing contact with Aronow. Aronow told Bush of a new model of boat that he had designed, supposedly a high-performance catamaran. Bush planned to come to Florida during the New Year's holiday for a short vacation during which he would go bonefishing with his crony Nick Brady. During this time he would also arrange to deliver an antidrug pep-talk.
On January 4, 1984, George Bush rendezvoused with Don Aronow at Islamorada in the Florida Keys. Earlier in the day, Bush had delivered one of his "war on drugs" speeches at the Omni International Hotel in Miami. Bush and Brady then proceeded by motorcade to Islamorada, where Aronow was waiting with his catamaran. Accompanied by a flotilla of Secret Service and Customs agents in Cigarette boats that had been seized from drug smugglers, Bush, Brady, Aronow, and one of the latter's retainers, the catamaran proceeded through moderate swells to Miami, with White House photographers eternalizing the photo opportunity at every moment. Bush, who had donned designer racing goggles for the occasion, was allowed to take the wheel of the catamaran and seemed very thrilled and very happy. Nick Brady, sporting his own wrap-around shades, found the seas too rough for his taste.
After the trip was over, Bush personally typed the following letter to Don Aronow on his vice presidential staionery, which he sent accompanied by some photographs of Bush, Aronow, Brady and the others on board the catamaran:
January 14, 1984
Here are some pretty good shots which I hope will bring back some pretty good memories. I included one signed shot in your packet for [Aronow's pilot] Randy [Riggs]. Also am enclosing a set of picture [sic] for Willie not having his address or knowing how he spells Myers? Will you please give them to him and thank him for his part in our wonderful outing. He is quite a guy and I learned a lot from him on the way up to Miami from the Keys.
Again Don this day was one of the greatest of my life. I love boats, always have. But ever since knowing you that private side of my life has become ever more exciting and fulfilling. Incidentally, I didn't get to tell you but my reliable 28 footer Cigarette that is, still doing just fine...no trouble at all and the new last year engines.
All the best to you and all your exciting ventures. May all your boats bee [sic] number one and may the hosres [sic] be not far behind.
At the end of this message, before his signature, Bush wrote in by hand, "My typing stinks." [fn 7]
As a result of this outing, Bush is said to have used his influence to see to it that Aronow received a lucrative contract to build the Blue Thunder catamarans at $150,000 apiece for the US Customs Service. This contract was announced with great fanfare in Miami on February 4, 1985, and was celebrated a week later in a public ceremony in which Florida Senator Paula Hawkins and US Customs Commissioner William von Raab mugged for photographers together with Aronow. The government purchase was hyped as the first time that the Customs would receive boats especially designed and built to intercept drug runners on the high seas, a big step forward in the war on drugs.
This was the same George Bush who in March, 1988 had stated: "I will never bargain with drug dealers on US or foreign soil."
As one local resident recalled of that time, "everyone in Miami knew that if you needed a favor from Bush, you spoke to Aronow." [fn 8] It was proverbial among Florida pols and powerbrokers that Aronow had the vice president's ear.
The Customs soon found that the Blue Thunder catamarans were highly unseaworthy and highly unsuitable for the task of chasing down other speedboats, including above all Aronow's earlier model Cigarette boats, which were now produced by a company not controlled by Aronow. Blue Thunder was relatively slow class, capable of a top speed of only 56 miles per hour, despite the presence of twin 440-horsepower marine engines. The design of the catamaran hulls lacked any hydrodynamic advantages, and the boats were too heavy to attain sufficient lift. The stern drives were too weak for the powerful engines, leading to the problem of "grenading" : when the drive shafts severed, which was often, the engines began to rev far beyond their red line, leading to the explosion or disintegration of the engines and the sharpnel-like scattering of red-hot steel fragments through the boat. This meant that the boats had to be kept well below their maximum speed. Most Blue Thunders spent more time undergoing repairs than chasing drug runners in the coastal waters of Florida. Blue Thunder was in boating parlance "wet," a complete lemon, useful only for photo opportunities and publicity shots.
Documents found by Burdick in the Dade County land records office show that USA Racing, the company operated by Aronow which built the Blue Thunder catamarans for the Customs service was not owned by Aronow, but rather by a one Jack J. Kramer in his capacity of president of Super Chief South Corporation. Jack Kramer had married a niece of Meyer Lansky. Jack Kramer's son Ben Kramer was thus the great nephew and one of the putative heirs of the top boss of the US crime syndicate, Meyer Lansky. Ben Kramer was also a notorious organized crime figure in his own right. On March 28, 1990 Jack Kramer and Ben Kramer were both found guilty of 23 and 28 counts (respectively) of federal money laundering charges. In the previous year, Ben Kramer had also been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for having imported half a million pounds of marijuana. Bush had thus given a prime contract in waging the war on drugs to one of the leading drug-smuggling and money-laundering crime families in the US.
Don Aronow was murdered by Mafia-style professional killers on February 3, 1987. During the last days of his life, Aronow is reported to have made numerous personal telephone calls to Bush. Aronow had been aware that his life was in danger, and he had left a list of instructions to tell his wife what to do if anything should happen to him. The first point on the list was "#1. CALL GEORGE BUSH." [fn 9] Lillian Aronow did call Bush, who reportedly responded by placing a personal call to the MetroDade Police Department homicide division to express his concern and to request an expeditious handling of the case. Bush did not attend Aronow's funeral, but a month later he sent a letter to Aronow's son Gavin in which he called the late Don Aronow "a hero."
When Lillian Aronow suspected that her telephone was being tapped, she called Bush, who urged her to be calm and promised to order an investigation of the matter. Shortly after that, the suspicious noises in Mrs. Aronow's telephone ceased. When Lilian Aronow received reports that her husband might have been murdered by rogue CIA operatives or other wayward federal agents and that she herself and her children were still in danger, she shared her fears in a telephone call to Bush. Bush reportedly later called Mrs. Aronow and, as she recalled, "He said to me, 'Lillian, you're fine.' He said that 'ex-CIA people are really off.' That's the truth." [fn 10] Later, Mrs. Aronow heard that Gen. Noriega of Panama was interested in buying some of her boats, and she began to prepare a trip to Panama in the hope of generating some orders. Before her departure, she says she called Bush who advised her against making the trip because of Noreiga's involvement in "bad things." Mrs. Aronow cancelled her reservations for Panama City. But in the summer of 1987, Bush snubbed Mrs. Aronow by pointedly avoiding her at a Miami dinner party. But during this same period, Bush frequently went fishing with former Aronow employee Willie Meyers, whom he had mentioned in the letter cited above. According to Thomas Burdick's sources, Willie Meyers was also a friend of Secretary of State George Shultz, and often expressed concern about damaging publicity for Bush and Shultz that might derive from the Aronow case.
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