by Toby Rogers and Nick Mamatas
said it best, in Areopagetica. In 1643, British Parliament passed laws restricting the sale of pamphlets and newsbooks by allowing only licensed printers to publish. Criticism of the new ruling elite was eliminated under the rubric of preserving the propriety and religious beliefs of the Puritans. Milton brilliantly criticized this law, which stopped good reporting as well as "evil" publications, explaining, "Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and falsehood grapple; who ever knew truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter." Interestingly, the harsh licensing laws Milton came out against were written by a revolutionary government supposedly committed to liberty. The infamous Star Chamber, which had maimed and tortured printers and publishers for sedition and heresy, had been disbanded, but the authoritarian impulse towards censorship remained. It was Milton's argument that formed the basis for a free press.
In today's United States, nominally committed to liberty and freedom of speech, the book in your hands had to be reprinted after over 100,000 copies were collected from bookstores all over America and "burned." There were no licensing laws involved in the decision by St. Martin's Press, just a set of spurious principles that make such laws redundant. Publishing and journalism do a great job censoring themselves these days, thanks to the discipline provided by lawsuits and the threat of withdrawn access. Instead of truth and falsehood getting to wrestle in the minds of readers, the truth never makes it to the ring, while falsehood is freely told and repeated.
For months now, George W. Bush has failed to deny allegations of cocaine use. Asked directly, time and again, Bush has demurred. He admits to drinking heavily as a young man, but on cocaine, he has repeated a series of non-answers. He has even said that he does not want to go into his past because that may give a young person an excuse to do what Bush had done in his past. Basic logic fills in the blanks of Bush's non-answer. To "Have you ever done cocaine?" there are two possible answers: "Yes" and "No." Only one of these two answers fulfills the condition of possibly giving a young person an excuse to engage in a variety of self-destructive behaviors like cocaine use, and that is the "Yes" answer.
conclusions can be drawn from logic? According to the practices of modern journalism, absolutely none. What George W. Bush says enjoys life as a fact, thanks to the news media faithfully repeating his press releases. Thus, George W. Bush is a "compassionate conservative" but not because he is particularly compassionate or is even a principled conservative. He says he is, and the press repeats it as fact. Even though his own comments on drug use allow us to create a logical proof to show that he has done drugs, journalists like Nat Hentoff, famed defender of free speech and columnist for The Village Voice, are content to ignore logic and claim that the story of Bush's cocaine use is a rumor reported "without proof."1 Logic is similarly ignored when Bush's own claim of "compassionate conservatism" is accepted without being analyzed. In addition to implying that conservatives are not generally compassionate, neither "compassionate" nor "conservative" accurately describes George W. Bush.
Public statements of the Bush camp aside, rumors of his past cocaine use are not totally unfounded. In an April 1998 interview with Houston Public News reporter Toby Rogers, former President George Bush's Chief of Staff Michael C. Dannenhauer2 admitted that G. W. Bush "was out of control since college. There was cocaine use, lots of women, but the drinking was the worst." According to Dannenhauer, Bush's use of cocaine started "sometime before 1977" and that former President Bush told him that George W. even experienced some "lost weekends in Mexico."
The Dannenhauer admission was published in a Web magazine called The Greenwich Village Gazette on September 13, 1999. However, the story, which did not mention Dannenhauer by name, was pulled only hours after going up because of fear of lawsuits and the publisher's worry about there not being a second source for George W. Bush's cocaine use. Dannenhauer didn't even have to deny anything, the same journalistic practices which allow George W. to call himself a compassionate conservative without critique worked to keep the truth from coming out. A public statement by a person with power is assumed to be true, while a statement made by a journalist has a much higher standard of proof to meet before it is accepted.
What can the reader conclude from Dannenhauer offering three different and mutually exclusive stories of his interview with this author? Obviously, at least two of the stories are false. Most editors and journalists today would probably feel honor-bound to accept all three denials as being equally true, in spite of the massive changes in space, time and logic such a feat would require.
Dannenhauer then read a statement from President Bush about Fortunate Son. "The report is a vicious lie, it simply did not happen. Its author can stand by his anonymous sources all he wants but he is not telling the truth. He is insulting his character and my character and I resent it. This kind of nasty, grievous attack is the reason many good people are unwilling to enter politics. I am proud that George Bush is willing and strong enough to take the heat even in the face of this mindless garbage." Dannenhauer denied that George W. Bush used cocaine in his conversation with the Greenwich Village Gazette staffer.
And of course, neither Dannenhauer nor Bush had to justify or prove their comment that "good people" are unwilling to enter politics because George W. has been asked about cocaine use. Bush is hardly a put-upon victim of an aggressive media, he's a deep-pocketed Presidential candidate who can get a media platform on demand. Far from being a good person on the verge of being run out of politics by the press, Bush has exercised almost total control over his public persona as a "compassionate conservative." If the media had been less willing to stand by anonymous sources during the Presidential administration of a less compassionate conservative, Richard Nixon, the Watergate scandal never would have broken. In the days of the sound bite and the softball interview however, no news is good news.
is a lot of news, for Bush is far less than compassionate, and far more than conservative. Here is a sample of Bush's vaunted compassion. Former Texas land commissioner Gary Mauro ran head-on into the Bush political juggernaut in 1998 as the Democratic nominee for governor of Texas. Outspent fifty to one, Mauro's campaign was obliterated on election day. More than the piles of corporate cash that got Bush the keys to the governor's mansion handed to him on a silver platter, what disturbed Mauro was Bush's arrogance. On February 2, 1998, the Bush arrogance bordered on the sadistic with the execution of convicted killer and born-again Christian Karla Faye Tucker.
"George W. Bush knew that he was not going to reprieve Karla Faye Tucker. He could have told her that the day before," Mauro explained. "He could have told her a week before. But he waited until the six o'clock prime time news, knowing she was strapped to a gurney still having hope about her life, and he grandstanded on her."
Bush went further when he joked about Karla Faye Tucker's desperate plea for life, which had been aired on Larry King Live. During an interview with Talk Magazine, Bush mocked Karla Faye, whimpering "Please, don't kill me" in an imitation of her voice.3 If this is an example of compassion, it's about as convincing as Dannenhauer's three stories, former President Bush's sneering at the anonymous sources in this book, or George W's refusal to say definitively that he did (or did not) do cocaine. But the mainstream press still gladly repeats the term "compassionate conservative" as if it meant anything at all.
George W. Bush is a conservative though, isn't he? Isn't his whole family? Conservatism typically involves respect for American traditions of liberty and freedom, and given this, the Bush family is hardly conservative. At best, they can be described as mercenary in their political alliances and fund-raising, and at worst, far to the right of mainstream conservatism.
Prescott Bush, the father of the former President and the grandfather of the current candidate, spent more than a decade helping his father-in-law George Herbert Walker finance Adolf Hitler from the Wall Street bank, Union Banking Corporation.4 Walker was one of Hitler's most powerful supporters in the United States, and landed Prescott Bush a job as a director at the firm. From 1924 to 1936, Bush's bank invested heavily in Nazi Germany, selling $50 million of German bonds to American investors. In 1934, a congressional investigation believed that Walker's Hamburg-America Line subsidized a wide range of pro-Nazi efforts in both Germany and the United States. One of Walker's employees, Dan Harkins, delivered testimony to Congressional leaders regarding Walker's Nazi sympathies and business transactions.5
According to US Government Vesting Order No. 248, many of Union Banking's assets had been operated on behalf Nazi Germany and had been used to support the German war effort. The U.S. Alien Property Custodian vested the Union Banking Corp.'s stock shares and also issued two other Vesting Orders (nos. 259 and 261) to seize two other Nazi-influenced organizations managed by Bush's bank: Holland American Trading Corporation and Seamless Steel Equipment Corporation. Many major firms had dealings with Nazis in the years leading up to World War II, but relatively few engaged in such extended cooperation with Hitler's Germany after Pearl Harbor. It was business as usual for George Walker and Prescott Bush.
Business as usual for young George Herbert Walker Bush also involved relationships with Nazi sympathizers, according to a school friend. George Upson Waller grew up with George Bush and in the late 1930's shared a math professor with the future President, Professor Michael Sides. Sides "was a Nazi. He would speak glowingly of Hitler," recalled Waller.6 Although Professor Sides was apparently a Nazi sympathizer, Bush, said Waller, was the teacher's pet. "He seemed to enjoy" Professor Sides and his other teachers "even the most authoritarian. Bush would never defy." Bush thought the Nazi professor "was a great teacher" according to Waller.
This may explain an unusual and seemingly context-less joke Bush made to a dismayed Mikhail Gorbachev on Dec. 3 1989 at the sea of Malta, "You know Mikhail, that Berlin Olympics in 1936 was such a great one, I think we ought to do it again."7
was more than a joke to George Bush when he was running for President though.
In the fall of 1988, Vice President Bush had to fire several neo-Nazis and anti-Semites from his Presidential campaign. The scandal erupted when Washington Jewish Week and other media outlets discovered that the Bush campaign harbored well known neo-Nazis, including Jerome Brentar, a holocaust revisionist who claims that the Nazis never deliberately gassed victims of the Holocaust, and Akselis Mangulis, who was involved in the SS-influenced Latvian Legion during World War II.8 George W. Bush, the campaign's hatchet man, fired the Nazis slowly, so as to hide "under the radar" of the media. After the election, four of these came back to work for the Republican Party according to USA Today.9
Once the story was made public, the Bushes quickly dissociated themselves from these Nazi allies. In September of 1999, when many Republicans were calling for Pat Buchanan to resign from the Party for his seeming affection for Hitler and criticism of the US actions during World War II, the presidential front-runner remained silent, hopeful to pick up the votes of the far right.
The Bush family has ties to other anti-democratic forces as well, including Rev. Yung Sun Moon's Unification Church, also known as the "Moonies." In 1994, the elder Bush Sr. began courting the Moonies to help finance his son's political future. Why the Moonies would support a "compassionate conservative" is confusing, since the church detests the United States' way of life that George W. Bush has pledged to defend. "America has become the kingdom of individualism and its people are individualists. You must realize America has become the kingdom of Satan," said Moon during one sermon in Tarrytown, New York on March 5th, 1995.10 Moon also encourages a form of collectivism that most American conservatives would rightly balk at. On August 4th, 1996, Moon said that "Americans who continue to maintain their privacy and extreme individualism are foolish people."11
In September 1995 George and Barbara Bush gave six speeches for the Women's Federation for World Peace, a front group led by Moon's wife Hak Ja Han Moon. In one speech to 50,000 Moon supporters, the elder George Bush insisted that what really counts is "faith, family and friends." Hak Ja Han Moon followed the former President to the podium and said it has to be "Reverend Moon to save the U.S., which is in decline because of the family and moral decay."12
On November 22nd 1996, the elder Bush spoke at a reception in Buenos Aires, inaugurating Tiempos del Mundo, a Moonie-backed daily newspaper. With Moon sitting just a few chairs away, Bush praised the cult leader. "I want to salute Rev. Moon, who is the founder of the Washington Times and also Tiempo del Mundo. A lot of my friends in South America don't know about the Washington Times, but it is an independent voice. Editors of the Washington Times tell me that never once has the man with the vision interfered with the running of the paper. A paper that, in my view, brings sanity to Washington."13
The South American press hammered away at Moon's history and showed his connections to some of the continent's worst right-wing military dictatorships. They also examined Moon's connections to the drug cartels that, in cooperation with former Nazi Klaus Barbie, helped stage a coup d'etat in Bolivia in 1980.14 Moon and his friends had been the money men, and worked closely with the Nazi/drug cartel coup leaders. But thanks to Bush, "Once again heaven turned a disappointment into a victory." declared the Unification Times, which was very pleased with Bush's comments about Moon's latest endeavors.15
One year later, Rev. Moon donated one million dollars to the George Bush Presidential Library in Texas.
George W. Bush has made some anti-democratic
connections of his own. Let's examine his association with the neo-
Confederate group, the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The UDC operates as a cultural heritage organization and erects monuments to honor confederate soldiers across the South. The UDC proudly displays Confederate flags on the cover of its magazine and is closely tied to the far right. One of the darlings of the neo-Confederate movement is Michael Andrew Grissom. Grissom is a member of the national advisory board of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, a group which claims that Martin Luther King Jr. was a Communist and that whites are superior to blacks in such traits as "intelligence, law abidingness, sexual restraint, academic performance" and oddly, "resistance to disease."16
Grissom is the author of Southern By The Grace Of God, which includes justifications of the worst of Southern racism. Among Grissom's claims, "No one can doubt the effectiveness of the original Ku Klux Klan. The Klan did a tremendous amount of benevolent work among the poor."17 He also claims that the Klan hoods were useful protection by providing "a measure of anonymity to thugs and criminals who eventually destroyed the effectiveness of the Klan."18 The UDC has collaborated with Grissom on the construction of a statue on the site of the Battle of Vicksburg. While most would be shocked at the thought of an organization allied with an apologist for the Ku Klux Klan, George W. Bush has congratulated the UDC for its "dedication to others" and for the group's "high standards" in a letter which appeared in UDC Magazine in 1996.19
The truth about George W. Bush's so-called "compassion" and his dubious conservatism are matters of public record, but the candidate has yet to be seriously challenged about his credentials as a compassionate human being or a genuine conservative. In the battle between truth and falsehood, journalists who are supposed to be in truth's corner have thrown in the towel and wandered to the back to have another complimentary cocktail. In stepped J. H. Hatfield, the author of this book. Fortunate Son had all the makings of a bestseller. It was #8 on Amazon's Top 100 within 72 hours of its publication and #30 on The New York Times hardcover non-fiction list, but was pulled after less than a week on the shelves, after allegations that Hatfield had been convicted of a felony. What this conviction would have had to do with the man's ability to speak on the phone with sources close to the Bush camp on the subject of Bush's past was never adequately explained. The publisher, St. Martin's Press, publicly stated that Fortunate Son had been "scrupulously corroborated" and "fact-checked" by not only the publisher's in-house attorneys but by a respected Washington, D.C. firm that specializes in "vetting" biographies for publishing houses.
Instead of letting Hatfield's claims "loose to play upon the earth" as Milton recommended, the publisher yanked the books from the shelves and burned them, as if merely reading the text you hold in your hands would be sufficient to drive the reader to accept its contents as the unadulterated truth. But unlike the media, the general public has a healthy skepticism and a curiosity which could not easily be denied. If Hatfield's claims are difficult to substantiate, as some media have reported, it would hardly be the first time such a book has been published, read widely, debated publicly and perhaps even disregarded.
Robert Parry, a journalist dismissed from Newsweek after President Bush's chief of staff Donald Gregg complained to Newsweek's editor about Parry's coverage of the Savings & Loan crisis and eventual government bailout said, "We've seen books written about Clinton that I think are essentially made up. There's the Aldrich book, Unlimited Access, all these wild allegations like the Mena, [Arkansas drug dealing operation] which is just made up."
The difference between the anti-Clinton books and this biography of George W. Bush is singular. The former were sold in bookstores across the country, and Fortunate Son was taken off the shelves and burned. Parry points out that "People have been expunging records for favored kids forever. You don't need a law to do it. If you're going to start burning every book that has in it some disputed allegation, we're going to burn every book in every library. I find that troubling. I find it even more troubling that the press has shown no concern about a book burning."
In fact, Nat Hentoff , usually a principled defender of the free press, referred to the burning of Fortunate Son as "necessary" because, in part, readers have no means to evaluate the story of a 1972 cocaine arrest.20 But since Bush's "compassionate conservatism" has also been left unevaluated by the press, perhaps Hentoff should call for the burning of George W. Bush's press statements, which also seem at times to read like "science fiction," the Texas governor's oft-repeated description of Fortunate Son.
For decades now, the media have gladly reported the content of press conferences and the occasional sex scandal, but investigative journalism, the search for the truth behind the soundbite, has faded in significance. As long as the airwaves are filled and all the "reputable" sources get their two cents in, there is no need to go any deeper. Going deeper means exposing oneself to liability or ridicule, and the battle between truth and falsehood is less important than the battle between networks and newspapers for precious access to politicians and advertiser dollars.
It is ironic that stories of Hatfield's "young and irresponsible" past behavior were used as an excuse to take this book off the shelves. The leading presidential candidate, George W. Bush, has spent millions of dollars explaining to America that his own past doesn't matter, and many voters accept this logic. The lesson Bush taught the media doesn't extend to J. H. Hatfield. His past, irrelevant as it is, was enough to damn him and his work.
Milton's point in Areopagetica was that a level playing field, where any idea could be expressed openly and then publicly critiqued, was not just a convenience or a privilege to be granted by the powers that be, but that it was the best and the only way to determine the truth. The public is able to evaluate the truth of a story by applying logic, comparing arguments and counter-arguments and by using their own judgment as to the credibility of sources. His pamphlet formed the very basis of journalism, until the business of the press changed from truth telling to, well, business. At the time of the signing of the Bill of Rights, the press needed protection from political interference from the establishment. Today, the press's increased power makes it a part of the establishment. Journalists decide what is true and what is false, and only rarely is the public invited to take place in the debate.
Consider the republication of Fortunate Son to be your invitation to one of the most pressing debates of this Presidential season. Don't let litigious lawyers and quiescent talking heads decide for you, decide for yourself.
Nick Mamatas has worked as an editor at Soft Skull Press on titles such as Michael Zezima's Saving Private Power: The Hidden History of "The Good War" (April, 2000) His first book, the first English edition of Kwangju Diary: Beyond Death, Beyond The Darkness Of The Age was published in May, 1999 by the UCLA Asian Pacific Monograph Series. His work has also appeared in The Greenwich Village Gazette, Spectrum (French), Getting It.com, and disinfo.com.
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