Two and a half years ago, I had an idea for a book. I mentioned it to my agent, Gail Ross, and she thought the notion had potential. She then spoke with editors at the major publishing houses in New York. No one was interested. No one wanted a book that would explore and explain the untrue assertions of George W. Bush. In the spring of 2002, Bush was still walking tall as the post-9/11 defender of the nation and conqueror of the Taliban. These editors–all of whom were probably liberal and sympathetic to a critique of Bush–had each reached the same decision: there was no market for an anti-Bush book. Fine, I thought, and went ahead with other projects.
Six months later–in October 2002–my agent called and said that she believed it was time to try again. After all, Bush and his lieutenants had started pounding on the drums of war and anxiety among the Bush opposition was growing. She asked me for a sample chapter. I said I didn’t want to invest that much time and told her to call around first and see if there might now be interest. She asked for a proposal. I’m lazy, I said. Okay, she replied, how about a one-paragraph description of the book you have in mind? I agreed and shot her off an email. She forwarded it to editors and within hours about six publishing houses had come forward as suitors. Within a week, I had a contract.
Less than a year later, in September 2003, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception was published by Crown. It became a bestseller. And it was part of a wave of anti-Bush books that included works by Al Franken, Joe Conason, and Molly Ivins. (My distinction was that I had written the only book that focused on Bush and his falsehoods.) All of these books became bestsellers. And in the following months many other Bush-bashing volumes overran the shelves at bookstores. The market had spoken.
This spate of books and other developments prompted pundits to wonder about a phenomenon they called “Bush hating.” They wondered if the libs had become too angry–meaning, irrational. But it was clear that the anger–or outrage–was not misplaced. For as these pundits wringed their hands over the nasty tone of the national political discourse, Bush and his crew were leading the country to war on the basis of false assertions. Which was worse: being intemperate in tone when critiquing Bush policy, or using phony arguments to whip up support for a war that was not necessary? A number of us at that time attempted to question or challenge the Bush administration’s pitch for war in Iraq. But it was a hard current to swim against, and much of the media seemed to avoid a critical examination of Bush’s case for war. In recent months, both The New York Times and The Washington Post have each conceded–grudgingly–that they failed in their prewar coverage. Now, a majority of Americans, according to recent polls, say they believe the war in Iraq was a mistake. And a majority have told pollsters they think that Bush either had distorted or exaggerated the truth when he presented his case for the invasion.
This is not (entirely) an I-told-you-so moment. All the telling won’t matter much if on Election Day the defining sin of the Bush administration–launching a war that need not have been launched–is washed away by a victory for Bush. (This election is not only about Bush; there’s another guy involved.) But perhaps this is a moment to reflect upon the rapid growth of the anti-Bush movement–from what was once about a third of the public to what this week might be a majority of the electorate. And consider the diverse nature of this anti-Bush and pro-Kerry coalition: The Times, The Post, The Economist, the Financial Times, The Nation, The New Republic, Pat Buchanan’s The American Conservative (with Buchanan dissenting), P. Diddy, Russell Simmons, Eminem, Michael Stipe, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Moore, Andrew Sullivan, Camille Paglia, Jesse Ventura, George Soros, Winona LaDuke, Barry Diller, Charles Gifford (chairman of Bank of America), ret. General John Shalikashvili, ret. Adm. William Crowe, ret. Gen. Joseph Hoar, ret. Gen. Merrill McPeak. It also includes several Bush relatives (see www.bushrelativesforkerry.com) and dozens of Nobel prize winners.
When you’re done reading this article,visit David Corn’s WEBLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent entries on how federal records could easily resolve lingering questions over Bush’s National Guard service (if Bush requested them), the 100,000 “excess” civilian deaths in Iraq, and the “defining sin” of the Bush administration.
The good news is that–no matter what occurs on Election Day (or the days and weeks afterward, if it takes that long)–about half of the country (give or take that crucial 1 or 2 percent) and much more than half of the nation’s cultural and intellectual community has rejected Bush’s leadership and agenda during a time of war and quasi-war. Bush really must be doing something wrong to piss off both the Financial Times and LaDuke, who was Nader’s running mate in 2000, and cause each to endorse (even if haltingly) John Kerry. It should tell Bush something that his war in Iraq has so bitterly divided the nation. But there is no sign that Bush has absorbed any lessons. He has mainly responded to Kerry’s critique of the war with derision and false accusations. Even in the red-hot crucible of a neck-and-neck election, a commander in chief engaged in a controversial war overseas can still be expected to discuss the matter in a serious manner. But not Bush. He would rather push buttons than discuss points.
Commentators have observed that this election is a contest for the soul of the nation. There is limited truth to that. The United States is a country split along various fault lines: Red States versus Blue States. Rs versus Ds. Town versus country. Traditionalists versus modernists. Those who question authority versus those who crave authority. Those who believe Bush lied the nation to war versus those who don’t. Those who accept the findings that Iraq had no WMDs versus those who still believe Saddam Hussein was loaded with WMDs. Those who want a man of action who is guided more by principles than analysis versus those who appreciate a fellow who fully analyzes a situation before he acts. And these divides will remain after the votes are added up and a winner announced (or appointed).
This election will not resolve the underlying issues that animate these various sociological, cultural and political face-offs. In a winner-take-all system, it may appear as if one said has vanquished the other. But that will be a false impression. The clash over values, ideals and policies will not be done. It will, however, certainly be a relief for our side if Bushism and all it represents (dishonesty in government, unnecessary war, tax cuts favoring the best off) receives a slap-down and has to regroup, while Kerry strives (we can hope) to make good on his promise. Half the nation or so will still be on the other side, and the fray will continue. Yet putting hope aside regarding the final tally and looking at this half-full/half-empty election before the counting is done, participants in the anti-Bush coalition (from Eminem to The Economist) can perhaps be encouraged that they have forced a close fight that will decide a battle but not a war.
WHILE THERE IS STILL TIME BEFORE THE ELECTION, DON’T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN’S BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An UPDATED and EXPANDED EDITION is NOW AVAILABLE in PAPERBACK. The Washington Post says, “This is a fierce polemic, but it is based on an immense amount of research….[I]t does present a serious case for the president’s partisans to answer….Readers can hardly avoid drawing…troubling conclusions from Corn’s painstaking indictment.” The Los Angeles Times says, “David Corn’s The Lies of George W. Bush is as hard-hitting an attack as has been leveled against the current president. He compares what Bush said with the known facts of a given situation and ends up making a persuasive case.” The Library Journal says, “Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations….Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough.” And GEORGE W. BUSH SAYS, “I’d like to tell you I’ve read [ The Lies of George W. Bush], but that’d be a lie.”
For more information and a sample, go to www.davidcorn.com. And see his WEBLOG there.