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See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes (Rodale, October 2003),
Monday, September 13, 2004
KITTY CORNERED. Approaching
Kitty Kelley's accusations
about the Bush family with
tweezers and rubber gloves isn't a bad idea. Still, I was struck by
the way that Matt Lauer hit her with almost nothing but Republican
talking points on the Today show this morning - although Lauer
also deserves credit for doing some legitimate damage.
Nor does NBC seem particularly
happy to have made a three-day commitment to Kelley and her new book,
The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty. If you go to
Today show home page
right now, you'll see absolutely no mention of it, although it seems
that just about every other story they're doing today gets a plug.
CBS hangover? Perhaps.
Among other things, Kelley has
written that George W. Bush snorted cocaine at Camp David, when his
father was president; that he may have helped arrange an abortion for
a girlfriend; and that his future wife, Laura Welch, both smoked and
sold pot when she was a student at Southern Methodist
Lauer started ripping into Kelley's
credibility in the show's introduction, right after 7 a.m. Then, in a
short package before his interview, he called her "the author in the
center of the firestorm ... a phenomenon, but her credibility has
often been called into question." He did add: "Every libel lawsuit
filed against Kelley has been dismissed."
Kelley commended Lauer for having
her on despite the "great pressure" she knew that Republican forces
had exerted to prevent her from appearing on national television.
Lauer responded that her book is "an extremely, extremely
unflattering look at the Bush family." Kelley: "I think it's
Lauer's next tack was to press
Kelley on whom she plans to vote for this November, as if that has
any relevance. Kelley refused to answer except to say that the last
politician to whom she gave money was Republican senator Kay Bailey
Hutchison, of Texas. She then asked Lauer whom he planned to
vote for, a question that he ignored.
Lauer: Why put your book out, just
before the election? (Note: just in case there's any doubt, the lack
of quotation marks means I don't have this word for word. I'll vouch
for the gist of it, though.)
Kelley: Why not?
Lauer then noted that in all of her
previous books - on the royal family, on the Reagans, on Frank
Sinatra, and the like - the subjects were not in public office at the
time of publication. He asked whether her standards "need to rise"
when writing about a sitting president and his family.
At that, Kelley grew indignant. "My
standards are my standards," she replied, saying she is always
careful to follow the rules of libel and of invasion of privacy.
Lauer came back by reading part of a Time-magazine review of
one of her previous books, ripping her for relying on "third-hand
Lauer next asked Kelley about the
coke-at-Camp David matter. Kelley made what struck me as an
extraordinary statement: "George W. Bush has never denied using,
buying, or selling cocaine." Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't
think Bush has ever denied being abducted by aliens,
In any event, Lauer did trip her
up. She initially said she had two sources. Lauer asked if Sharon
Bush, the former wife of Neil Bush, was one of those sources. No, she
replied; Sharon Bush's only purpose was to confirm the
Lauer: So you had two sources other
than Sharon Bush?
Kelley: No, I had one confidential
source plus Sharon Bush.
Hmmm ... not too good, given that
Sharon Bush has vehemently denied telling Kelley any such thing. (In
fact, Lauer had Bush on later in the morning, and she issued her
Kelley: "I never said that she saw
it, Matt, but she did confirm it over lunch."
Lauer: You tape-record interviews
all the time. Why didn't you record this one?
Kelley: It was over lunch, and it
was too difficult. But I did call her back, and other people at my
publishing house heard her say it. "What better than witnesses?"
Then: "I feel sorry for Sharon Bush.... We knew the next day that
Sharon was going to be frightened over this." Kelley also compared
herself to Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neill, and Joseph Wilson, all Bush
critics who've been run through the wringer for speaking
So what did we learn? Not much,
although I think we did learn something about how thin the
coke story is. It sounds to me like Kelley has one unnamed source for
this remarkable accusation. I happen to think that Kelley is telling
the truth about what Sharon Bush said to her. I also happen to think
that the reason Sharon Bush denies it so vehemently now is that she
realizes she was in no position to confirm it in the first place. How
would she even know?
Lauer noted that The Family
is already #2 at Amazon.com. No doubt it will sell well, but I can't
see this having any impact on the presidential campaign. For one
thing, I think the media are thoroughly cowed after CBS took its best
shot on the National Guard story last week and blew it. For another,
with sourcing like Kelley's, you just don't know whether to believe
her tales or not.
NOT SO BAD FOR KERRY?
Electoral-Vote.com, which keeps a running tally of the state-by-state
polls, has Kerry
leading Bush by a margin of
269 to 233. Bush was ahead in the immediate aftermath of the
Republican National Convention. The latest Newsweek poll has
up by six - a significant
drop from the 11-point lead he had last week. (Media Log caveat: who
knows what any of this means?)
For what it's worth, on the
Today show this morning, Tim Russert said that both campaigns
believe that Bush currently has a five- to six-point lead.
posted at 8:55 AM |
Unless a complete Kerry collapse keeps minorities from turning out to vote, there is pretty much an absolute limit for how much of the total vote Bush can get: 52%. All Kerry needs to do now is to hammer away at a few Joe Sixpack segments of white voters and he'll win. As it happens, Time Magazine just gave him the perfect talking point: Our borders, left unprotected by Bush's manic desire to supply Corporate America with cheap labor (and Karl Rove's fantasies about winning more Hispanic votes).
The table is set for Kerry, and he presumably knows how to use a fork and a knife.
The Kitty Kelly interview was useless. NBC didn't cave to pressure to kill the interview, instead they used the entire time to beat up on the author (whose credibility ain't much anyway). As to why publish now; TO SELL BOOKS. duh.
You mention that GW Bush has never denied being abducted by aliens...but then again, AFAIK he hasn't been ACCUSED of being abducted by aliens either.
I do remember that during the 2000 election there was some fervor over Dubya refusing to deny whether or not he'd ever tried cocaine, and that when you picked through all his trite sayings about his "youthful indiscretion", that he might have been a cokehead as recently as the late 1980's for all we knew.
I don't know whether or not he ever did deny it - I think the issue just kind of died down after the Bush camp stonewalled everyone, but I don't remember for sure either way.
I do remember this gag poster:
- Aaron Read
- Melrose, MA
Nobody in the press had particularly asked Bush if he had been arrested for drunk driving in the '70s (or demanded an answer to this question) , either, and that panned out at the last minute in 2000, because of the actions of a local Dem. in Maine.
The press has been all too happy to accept GW's "young & irresponsible" phase (which apparently lasted until his 40th birthday & perhaps later), without turning up the heat for specifics. There have been all sorts of anecdotes (and even alleged court documents of a now allegedly quashed miami coke dealing bust on one 2000 era web page). It's a legitimate issue because Bush took a hard line on drug possession, increasing penalties in Texas to something like 10 years for possession of small amounts.
Considering the timid press attitude toward this, I suspect there's a whole lot more there to be found.
The genius of the Rove attack machine is not to even begin to address the allegations, but to attempt to shred the messenger in whatever way will deflect the ADD media from addressing the allegations. As for the Killian memos, I suspect they're quite real (from the White House refusal to dismiss the content), but that may not matter in the face of the WingNut assault on reality.
As for the difference in the electoral map & the national polls, Rove's strategy of exciting his base might lead to rolling up huge numbers in the red states, but it will all amount to nothing if Bush loses the Midwest by 2%.
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Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.