By John C. Drake
October 24, 2008
Republican Jeff Beatty says he has been compared to Jack Bauer of Fox TV's "24," the antiterrorism agent who rushes headlong across the small screen to foil evil networks intent on destroying America.
Now, after a career providing antiterrorism advice to governments and Hollywood, the Army veteran and former CIA agent has embarked on the ultimate long-shot mission: toppling US Senator John F. Kerry.
Beatty is a Cape Cod resident with no experience in public office who was trounced by US Representative William D. Delahunt in a House campaign in 2006. This year, he won the state's GOP nomination for the US Senate race by default. The party favorite, Jim Ogonowski, did not collect enough signatures to get on the ballot.
So Massachusetts residents this fall find the unproven Beatty stumping around the state and airing a smattering of television spots that try to blame Kerry, who is seeking his fifth term, for the nation's economic crisis.
Beatty also launched an aggressive assault on Kerry on Monday night in a live NECN debate, accusing the senator of playing presidential politics when he voted to authorize the Iraq war in 2002. Beatty is hoping he can eat into the 32-point advantage Kerry had in a recent Rasmussen poll.
"I still think we can win this race, because we still have the opportunity to get the word out to people," Beatty said last week during a campaign swing through his hometown of Harwich.
Beatty said he decided to run for office because he grew tired of issuing warnings about vulnerabilities in the nation's security systems that went unheeded.
"I'm frustrated about seeing and understanding these national security challenges and seeing politicians who don't get it," Beatty said. "We need people in Washington who don't just throw money at a problem."
Beatty pitches himself to voters as a middle-class veteran and businessman. An easygoing, divorced man with a soft spot for dogs, the 56-year-old lives in the 1,200-square-foot Cape Cod house that his parents retired to in 1973. The ranch-style house sits just off the seventh green of a public Harwich golf course where a tree is planted in memory of his adoptive father, Sergeant Raymond Beatty, a World War II veteran who died of a heart attack on the course's sixth green.
"You'll have to dynamite me out of this house," Jeff Beatty said.
Beatty was an ROTC member at Rutgers and joined the Army after graduating with a sociology degree in 1974. He was awarded a Purple Heart after taking part in the 1983 rescue of American medical students taken hostage in Grenada, a Delta Force operation in which the Black Hawk helicopter he was riding in was shot down. In the run-up to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, he served as a special adviser to the FBI's hostage rescue team. And for seven years until 1992, he conducted counterterrorism training and operations as a CIA agent based in the Middle East and Europe.
In 1992, he formed Total Security Services International, which conducted security training and provided consulting services to government agencies, operators of National Football League stadiums, and even school bus drivers.
"When I got out [of the CIA], I was a little frustrated that I didn't think we were as serious about preventing terrorism as we ought to be, so I decided that I would go form my own business and try to consult [for] people, people who we thought were likely targets," Beatty said.
The company also sold a few products, including blast-proof trash cans at a cost of about $1,600 apiece. The MBTA, which had retained Beatty as a consultant, bought about 250 of the trash cans in late 2001, a no-bid sale Kerry's campaign has lambasted as a waste of taxpayer money. Beatty defends the product as a fairly priced, essential tool for subway systems, saying trash cans are a well-established hiding place for bombs.
As a consultant, he says, he issued dire warnings about some of the country's worst terrorist attacks. As an adviser to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Beatty said, he warned organizers that the openness of Centennial Olympic Park left them vulnerable to a package-bomb attack that could injure dozens. It did happen, on July 27, 1996. And before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Beatty warned that a terrorist attack was likely, saying in a January 2000 Boston Herald op-ed: "When the terrorist improves his logistics to be as effective as the drug smuggler, more death will come across our borders."
His media savvy and antiterrorism expertise landed him on CNN the afternoon of 9/11 and increased demand among government agencies for his consulting work. In October 2001, he testified at a US Senate hearing on protecting mass transit systems from terrorist attacks, winning public praise from Senator Joe Biden, now the Democratic nominee for vice president.
Beatty said he also has been sought out by Hollywood. He was tapped to consult on "The Siege," a 1998 film starring Denzel Washington and Annette Bening about a string of terrorist attacks in New York City, getting his name in the film credits. He was also an adviser for Martin Lawrence's "Big Momma's House," a 2000 action comedy about an undercover FBI agent.
Beatty's Hollywood work, he said, led to an October 2001 meeting in California in which directors like Oliver Stone and Dick Wolf dreamed up nightmare terrorism scenarios for the government to plan for at an Army-funded research center.
Despite a military and professional career defined by national security issues, Beatty is also trying to speak to voters' economic worries by criticizing Kerry's personal wealth. A critic of the federal bailout package, he has hit the Kerry family's financial investments in insurance giant AIG, which has received its own bailout. Kerry said a firm handling his wife's finances once placed some of her assets in AIG stock but that the family no longer has a stake in the troubled insurance giant.
Beatty generally holds close to traditional Republican positions on domestic issues: He opposes abortion, supports gun rights protection, backs giving parents school choice through vouchers, and wants to reduce income taxes. He also supports Question 1 on the November ballot in Massachusetts, which would repeal the state income tax.
"I want to see everybody get a tax cut," he said, suggesting he could find significant cost savings in the federal government's Homeland Security budget to help pay for tax reductions. "We've got to do the [Barack] Obama tax cuts and do the Bush tax cuts."
But his campaign - directed by a small coterie of paid advisers and Cape Cod-area volunteers often working out of the candidate's home - is largely on its own, with the cash-strapped party offering only token support.
Beatty had $58,000 in his campaign account this week, compared with Kerry's $5.3 million, the Associated Press reported yesterday. He will get another shot at Kerry in a debate on Oct. 27, on WTKK-FM.
John C. Drake can be reached at email@example.com.