Now We're Playing Pigball!

The worst things that the right and left can say about each other are sticking—and selling like hotcakes.

Two of the best-selling books in the country paint an ugly, scary picture of America under the Bush occupation government: Kitty Kelley's dubious but damning exposé, The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty (Doubleday, $29.95), and John E. O'Neill and Jerome Corsi's Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry (Regnery, $27.95), arguably the most contemptible No. 1 best seller since Mein Kampf. I don't know which is more terrifying, the fact that the swinish Swifties may help get Dubya re-elected without benefit of a second coup d'etat by the Bush-whore Supreme Court; or the fact that by comparison with O'Neill and the Swifties, Kelley, character assassin to the stars, comes off like the dean of American historians. She used to be the state of the art when it came to slanderous charges by often unnamed sources. Now she's been upstaged by a bunch of ex-Navy nobodies who are only too happy to give their names in service of the Big Lie. WHICH BOOK TELLS—or reveals—bigger whoppers? As she tried to pry reality from the black hole of facts that is the Bush regime, Kelley says she "felt like Alice in Wonderland because what I uncovered seemed unreal." It only seemed so because the American Taliban has been so cunning in tricking the nation into believing impossible things before every breakfast. People really believe that tax cuts for the top 1 percent somehow benefit them, and that Saddam was behind 9/11 and had the power to repeat the feat, just as Saudis, under the yoke of the Bush sheiks' Wahhabist counterparts, believe that 9/11 was concocted by Israel and the Jew-controlled U.S. government. Yet some of Kelley's sources behave like the Cheshire Cat. Savings-and-loan-scandal man Neil Bush's coldly ditched ex-wife, Sharon, tells Kelley that "W. had snorted cocaine with one of his brothers at Camp David during the time that their father was President . . . Not once, but many times." But Sharon now disavows the drug-use charge (also supported by a few more mostly unnamed sources), perhaps fearing the notoriously vindictive Bushes. Thus, without checkable sources, Kelley is sometimes reduced to using the same nonargument as the Liar-in-Chief: trust me. Still, she does nail George W., George H.W., and diverse Bushes on demonstrable lies, indicating a family tradition of deception. Using some checkable sources, assembling familiar information filled in with original research, she sketches a persuasive picture of Dubya's stony '70s, and much other firm dirt. Even if you toss out all her anonymous sources, a basic Bush fact pattern emerges. At worst, it's off by a few grams more or less. But, as Kelley makes clear, Bush gets away with murder every time. In 2000, faced with a finally revealed DUI from 1976, he was not yet experienced enough and 9/11–armored enough to try the bald-faced lie. Today, when a credible witness charges him with daddy-string-pulling in his military service, he lucks out via Dan Rather's faked-docugate, and the supine media decline to point out that, though the physical document in question is false, it supports the underlying truth. Kelley writes that satanic puppet-master Karl Rove estimated that Bush's weak response to the drunk-driving charge cost him 1 million votes. Thanks to Bush's Osama-conferred faux gravitas and Rove's ever-cleverer scheming, Bush now responds to all challenges with a confident, devastatingly effective concoction of flat-out falsehoods and quarter-truths. Whether or not Rove is pulling their strings (O'Neill risibly claims to be non- Republican, though he funds them and his tactics precisely echo Rove's), his Kerry-quashing Unfit book illustrates how far the right has come in warding off reality. Back in the day, as Kelley demonstrates, George H.W. Bush was able to fend off criticism of his alleged World War II heroism, relying on the decency and forbearance of reporters and fellow combatants who lacked smoking-gun evidence proving that he bailed out on his plane against orders in the absence of flames, let his pals die, and lied about seeing one of his pal's parachutes go down. The Swift boat veterans have no such compunctions about sliming Kerry's Vietnam War heroism. Today a porcine Texas attorney trained by the malevolent Nixon appointee Justice Rehnquist, O'Neill was then the skinny little reactionary weasel whom Chuck Colson, Nixon's dirty trickster, deployed to counter Kerry's Vietnam Veterans Against the War back in 1971. He denies that the Nixon tricksters put him up to founding the Bizarro World Viet-vet group mirroring and opposing Kerry's VVAW. I believe the account of the repentant born-again Christian Colson, not the hydrophobic attack dog O'Neill. In confusing, remarkably poorly marshaled detail, and with a halting command of English reminiscent of the lunkhead Bizarro Superman in DC Comics, Unfit charges that Kerry self-inflicted his Purple Heart wounds, lied about being in Cambodia (which O'Neill himself lied about, on tape, to Nixon), conspired with VVAW on terrorist violence (though Kerry was trying to oust the VVAW radicals), and committed atrocities against Vietnamese people and helpless domestic animals. Other Swift boat veterans—ones actually, physically aboard with Kerry instead of duplicitously claiming to have "served with" him, as the Swift-boat TV ad guy does—have called bullshit on O'Neill's third-hand hearsay posse, as does the Navy. "No informed person can seriously believe that Kerry fabricated evidence to win his military medals," the L.A. Times concluded. All serious media outlets concur, yet the book remains a best seller. Kerry has helped sell those books because his own accounts of Vietnam and Cambodia are a bit muddled, whether by political calculation, the absolute lack of proper signage along the Vietnam-Cambodia border, or mere forgetfulness. He and O'Neill also famously tangled over wartime atrocities on Dick Cavett's show, an exchange excerpted in the new documentary Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry (directed by Kerry pal George Butler; see related book review, p. 32). O'Neill continues to brand Kerry a liar for their differing interpretations of whether U.S. "free-fire zones" were tantamount to atrocities. If you want to read further in their battle of the 30-year-old footnotes, check out the Web site Dick Cheney meant to recommend (which actually reveals his Halliburton fibs): FactCheck.org. There you'll find a firm refutation of the Swift-boat lies, and documentation of hundreds of atrocities witnessed by thousands of veterans. WHAT BOTH BOOKS finally prove is that rational debate is now for pussies. A real man (or reactionary dame) relies on big lies, big money, and outright intimidation of the weak. Back at Andover, Dubya coined a name for his future political philosophy of will without idea. The game he invented was to identify a random, guiltless victim on the football field, and then have everybody pile on him with mindless violence. He called it "pigball." That's politics, and publishing, today. Who's at the bottom of the pigball pile? Puny, pencil-necked truth tellers whose books don't sell and meek journalists whose fact-checking of politicians is ignored. Meanwhile, openly right-wing media defend what they obviously know to be lies, like the Swifties' (and Rove's denial that they're his boys). Sen. John McCain, accused of kowtowing to VC captors by the Bushies in 2000, is quoted in Kelley's book as rebuffing a slimy Bush overture: "Don't give me that shit. And take your hands off me." Now we see the once-upright McCain bend over for Bush and the lunatic right at the Republican convention. Voters are also crushed beneath the pigball pyramid. Ultimately, the triumph of the Bush terrorists over democracy results from collusion between dumb citizens and the passive press. By merely reporting Swifties' Saddam-like fictions as fact instead of debunking them, the press becomes the Typhoid Mary of the right, spreading its unchecked contagion on dozens of cable channels. Back in 2000, Bush and his cronies showed how the game worked: Once McCain got under the pigball pile, there was no escape. So it is with Kerry. No matter how well he does in the debates to introduce himself to those Americans residing outside of Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., an alarming number of voters will have gotten to know him first as that lying, medal-burning, veteran-impugning, long-haired war protester. He got pigballed—the same complaint President Bush would make about Kitty Kelley's book. tappelo@seattleweekly.com

 
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