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.