Crucially, Strother realized, he had no proof, and probably never would. Atwater was dead. Although Hart did not run in later elections, he was busy and productive: He had earned a doctorate in politics at Oxford, had published many books, and had co-chaired the Hart-Rudman Commission, which memorably warned the incoming president in 2001, George W. Bush, to prepare for a terrorist attack on American soil. Why, Strother asked himself, should he rake up an issue that could never be resolved and might cause Hart more stress than surcease?
But late last year, Strother learned that the prostate cancer he had been treated for a dozen years ago had returned and spread, and that he might not have long to live. The cancer is now in remission, but after the diagnosis Strother began traveling to see people he had known and worked with, to say goodbye. One of his stops was Colorado, where he had a meal with Gary Hart.
Aware that this might be one of their final conversations, Hart asked Strother to think about the high points of the campaign, and its lows. Hart knew that Strother had been friends with Billy Broadhurst, the man who had taken Hart on the fateful Monkey Business cruise. According to Strother and others involved with the Hart campaign, Broadhurst was from that familiar political category, the campaign groupie and aspiring insider. Broadhurst kept trying to ingratiate himself with Hart, and kept being rebuffed. He was also a high-living, high-spending fixer and lobbyist with frequent money problems.
Strother talked with Hart this spring; Broadhurst had died about a year earlier. In retrospect, Hart asked, what did Strother make of the whole imbroglio?
“Ray said, ‘Why do you ask?’ ” Hart told me, when I called to talk with him about the episode. “And I said there are a whole list of ‘coincidences’ that had been on my mind for 30 years, and that could lead a reasonable person to think none of it happened by accident.
“Ray replied, ‘It’s because you were set up. I know you were set up.’
“I asked him how he could be so certain,” Hart told me. Strother then recounted his long-ago talk with Atwater, and Atwater’s claim that the whole Monkey Business weekend had occurred at his direction. According to Hart, that plan would have involved: contriving an invitation from Broadhurst for Hart to come on a boat ride, when Hart intended to be working on a speech. Ensuring that young women would be invited aboard. Arranging for the Broadhurst boat Hart thought he would be boarding, with some unmemorable name, to be unavailable—so that the group would have to switch to another boat, Monkey Business. Persuading Broadhurst to “forget” to check in with customs clearance at Bimini before closing time, so that the boat “unexpectedly” had to stay overnight there. And, according to Hart, organizing an opportunistic photo-grab.