Books As Campaign Propaganda

While it’s expected that candidates and their operatives will use about any means considered necessary in winning elections, the outside book efforts this year (particularly by Washington Post honchos Woodward and De-Young) have been quite timely regarding republican chances in congressional elections. The O'Neill, Clarke, Woodward, Wilson, and Clinton books of 2004 comprise a case in point, not just because they were so critical of Bush (at least the first four), but because they were released during the quadrennial circus known as the presidential campaign and therefore became part of the information/propaganda machine designed to deep-six Bush.

I didn’t read the books, but I read about them. The mainstream media, however, pumped them for all they were worth. Former Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill was perhaps most famous for his well-publicized “fact-finding” African tour with rock-singer Bono. Fired by Bush for poor performance, he named his book The Price of Loyalty.

Richard Clarke, author of Against All Enemies, thoroughly discredited himself in his appearance before the 9/11 Commission and looked foolish in his super-piety in apologizing to victims' families on behalf of the United States for the 9/11 WTC tragedies, as if anyone could have foreseen a monstrous happening like that or – except for the president – have the gall to “speak for the nation.” When he was caught up by a reporter's tape of a previous outing with news-people, he tried to bluff his way out of an outright lie to the commission members, but only made himself look more dishonest. His appearance on the CBS Sixty Minutes TV program with a gushing Leslie Stahl represented propaganda at its best…or worst.

Former ambassador Joseph Wilson's book, The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity, was perhaps the most egregious, not least because Wilson has been outed as a profound liar, negating anything he might have said about anything at any time. He lied about the fact that his wife, CIA employee Valerie Plame, had anything to do with his appointment as a special investigator to determine if Iraq was attempting to buy "yellow-cake," a material useful for making nuclear weapons, from Niger. Added to that lie was his lie that no such attempt had been made by Iraq, when there was ample evidence as proven by intelligence agencies of other countries that such an attempt was made. It is known now that neither Bush nor Karl Rove (5 Grand Jury appearances), the major targets for years of Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald, nor anyone else close to the president had anything to do with “outing” Plame’s identity.

Clinton's book, My Life, seemed essentially a matter of timing, perhaps mostly representing a tremendous payday for the ex-president. Reviewers were not kind concerning the monstrously large volume. Clinton had much to hide, so the obvious conclusion could be that the book's main focus was on simple obfuscation. It’s certain that on his eight-year watch terrorism was hardly addressed and not substantively affected, even though terrorist activities cost many American lives and Clarke was his “counter-terrorism czar.” Happening only eight months after Bush took office, 9/11 can be almost completely laid at the feet of Bill Clinton and his team. The pilfering of sensitive documents from classified archives by Clinton's national security adviser Sandy Berger (also a principal adviser to John Kerry in 2004) during congressional hearings only enhanced the notion that skullduggery marked the Clinton/Berger/Albright handling of world affairs.

Bob Woodward, an assistant managing editor of the Washington Post, was responsible for the book Plan of Attack, a premise of which seemed to be that Iraq was the target of choice in the White House from the get-go, though 9/11 got in the way and necessitated a side trip into Afghanistan. In his appearance on Sixty Minutes (so what else is new?), he seemed to have created a different atmosphere from the one offered in his book, considerably softening things.

Woodward’s current book, State of Denial, has to do with alleged disagreements within the administration regarding the Iraq War, some of which were noted in a column by him in October. On October 9, Fox News commentator Eric Burns said on the program Fox News Watch, “Bob Woodward charges the Bush administration with failure to tell the truth about how the war in Iraq is going and failure to heed warnings about 9/11.” In that program, Jim Pinkerton of Newsday mentioned that Woodward said on the Larry King Live show that his publisher, Simon & Schuster, told him that the only thing that had to happen was that the book be released before the coming election.

Woodward also claimed to have had a conversation with former CIA director Bill Casey shortly before he died (noted in his book Veil: the Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987), but it’s doubtful that anyone takes that claim seriously, just on the basis of the facts surrounding Casey's last days, as well as the statements made by people close to Casey. Woodward's credibility is no better than Clarke's, but his book provides a useful propaganda tool for the democrats this time around.

Washington Post associate editor Karen De-Young, in her recently written biography, Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell (due out October 10), charges that Bush appeared disengaged and quoted Powell’s wife as saying that President George W. Bush used her husband to sell the war in Iraq and that they needed him to do it because they knew the people would believe him. The inference is obvious. Timing coincidence? Hardly!

And so it goes with propaganda machines such as the Washington Post. The October surprises are probably money-makers, but knowledgeable people recognize the books for just what they are.