“There is a special place in hell for publishers who run from their authors like craven dogs, who don’t mind sensationalism that sells… until the game gets rough.”
Jim Hatfield? Wasn’t he some kind of whack-o? Some kind of Conspiracy Theorist with fruitcake ideas out to get the Bushes?
I’ve got to admit it. That’s the first thing that popped into my head when Soft Skull suggested I write an introduction to the new edition of Hatfield’s Fortunate Son.
But then I read the book.
Twenty pages in, I’m wondering, So where’s the goofball info? Where are the rumors and unsupported claims? Not only is the information solid, the writing well-considered and thoughtful, but damn, this Hatfield guy actually likes the Bushes even if, good journalist that Hatfield is, he has to lay out the facts both flattering and less so. Just read Hatfield on Bush Sr’s comforting Barbara over the death of their young daughter: deeply sympathetic, without a hint of Texas irony or shots at the Bushes for politicizing personal tragedy. I wonder if I would have been so nice to the serial presidents.
What you get here is the drumbeat of fact after fact after fact on the rise of a president born with a silver oil well in his mouth. It’s without invective, even without the usual speculation common to political bios, but it is devastating. Gone is the Hollywood re-make of Dubya as Just Plain Folks who happened to pick up a few dollars in the oil and sports biz. This is about a guy who stuffed his pockets and built a career on a combination of daddy’s Rolodex, political venom and rich-kid contacts. The big boys didn’t help Bush, they invested in him. But unlike the investors in Dubya’s shaky oil-well partnerships, the money-bags who bet on Junior Bush hit a gusher. Never have so few enriched themselves for so long at the expense of so many.
I owe Hatfield big time. Fortunate Son is the unacknowledged Chapter One of my own book on the Junior Bush Administration. In reading Hatfield’s description of Bush’s rise to Governor of Texas, we see that history repeats itself with horrifying predictability: first as farce and then as Presidency.
In November 2001, for BBC Television, I reported that FBI agents, prior to September 11 attack on the World Trade Center, told me that the Bush Administration had put the kibosh on investigations of Saudi Arabian funding of terror groups including a see-no-evil policy on members of the Bin Ladin family (excluding the evil Osama). It just didn’t make sense to me until I read Jim’s book: how young Dubya struck it rich in the oil business drilling nothing but dry holes … except for the hole he drilled into the pockets of Sheikh Abdullah Bakhsh (a Bin Ladin family advisor) and the story of the extraordinary contract granted Bush’s oil company, Harken, by a Persian Gulf emirate.
You can’t understand our White House today the oil company wet dream of an Energy Plan, the Kiss-Me-I’m-Saudi foreign policy without reading the rise and reign of Governor Dubya. Vending machine government is what it is, Houstonian LaNell Andersen told me, You put the money in, and the policies come out. LaNell has reason to be angry, suffering from diseases linked to the filth spewed into the air above the Houston ship channel by Exxon-Mobil and Bush’s other major political donors.
It’s not as simple as this lump of cash for this change in regulations. As one CIA agent put it: suggesting an investigation of your President’s or his daddy’s business partners is not a career-maker. It’s a web of relationships, one hand – or one wallet – washing another. Somehow those that took care of the Bush family get taken care of. For example, while investigating the theft of the vote in Florida, I discovered that a company, ChoicePoint, had given a list of 57,000 felons to the office of Secretary of State Katherine Harris prior to the 2000 election and she ordered the removal of these criminals from the voter rolls. In fact, 95% of those on the list were innocent of crimes but the vast majority were guilty of being African-Americans and Democrats. That was the election. Lo and behold! The big winner in the contracting game that is the Bush War of Terrorism: ChoicePoint, the database company whose computers made George our President. Hatfield showed us the pattern: investigative reporters today just have to fill in the new names.
I have a couple of complaints about the book. Hatfield could have been tougher. Take the story of Gtech, the dodgy lottery company. Did GTech save its billion-dollar contract with the State of Texas because their lobbyist knew the secret of how young George Junior got into the Texas Air Guard? Hatfield, thorough as they come, would have known the story, but must have left it out rather pile on an accusation which needed further corroboration. Hatfield’s sin then, if any, was over-cautiousness.
And that is why it borders on criminal that Hatfield was smeared with the charge of making an unsubstantiated accusation. It all came down to the astonishingly insignificant information that Junior Bush got caught with a bit of cocaine in 1972. Hey, what’s a little toot between friends, Mr. Rove?
Why did the Bush Battalions go hunting for Hatfield and force St. Martins to run, hide and withdraw the book? Every political hack in D.C. knows that the way to cover personal transgressions is to give the goobers the old I-Sinned-As-A-Youth-Then-Found-Jesus routine. Hatfield reports — without laughing out loud — Bush’s famous soul-saving walk on the beach with Billy Graham. Hatfield’s revelation of the nose-candy bust blows Bush’s cover as just a kid with a few boy-will-be-boys DWI tickets. Yet in the revelation of the cocaine story, Hatfield doesn’t gloat, doesn’t say,’Gotcha!’ — he just reports.
And for that sin reporting Jim Hatfield was driven to his death. So God Bless America.
And God bless Soft Skull for keeping this book alive. There is a special place in hell for publishers who run from their authors like craven dogs, who don’t mind sensationalism that sells … until the game gets rough. I suspect that for my own sins, I’ll end up in the Flames but when I do, at least I’ll have the comfort of seeing the spineless executives of St. Martin’s Press roasting with me.
London and New York
Author, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy