- SPRINGDALE, Ark. (AP) - The author of a controversial book about George
W. Bush has killed himself, police said.
- James Howard Hatfield, 43, wrote Fortunate Son: George
W. Bush and the making of an American President in 1999.
- The unauthorized biography accused Bush of covering up
a cocaine arrest. But during interviews about the book, Hatfield lied to
reporters about his own criminal past.
- A hotel housekeeper discovered the man's body about noon
Wednesday, Springdale police Detective Al Barrios said Thursday. Barrios
said the man apparently overdosed on two kinds of prescription drugs. Police
don't suspect foul play. ___
- "Karl Rove killed the book. God only knows who killed
the author..." Publisher's Review of the Hatfield book and the firestorm
- Fortunate Son By J. H. Hatfield Published By Soft Skull Press
- George W. Bush's Brain? - How Karl T. Rove Used Fortunate
Son To Stick George W. Bush In The White House
- By Sander Hicks http://www.softskull.com/catalog/hatfield/fs_karlrove.html
- All his life, George W. Bush has been allowed to cheat
to get by. You see this in Fortunate Son, starting with the special favors
Bush enjoyed in his youth, such as the family connections that shielded
him from the ugly realities of Vietnam. The same pattern continued into
his adulthood, when the careful, strategic handling of his advisors won
him the Presidency.
- In 1989, Bush himself said "You know I could run
for governor, but I'm basically a media creationI've never done anything."
Bush campaigned in the 1994 race for governor of Texas solely on his record
as a "businessman." The sharp-tongued, popular incumbent Governor
Ann Richards asked why all the businesses Bush had run since 1979 lost
a combined $371 million. Bush was instantly put on television to plead
with her to cease "these personal attacks." He eventually won
this race with manipulative strategies, heavy spending and scare-tactic
TV ads. In office, Governor Bush relaxed environmental controls to stick
Texas with one of the highest concentrations of air and water pollution
in the country, allowed 134 executions, and allowed the gulf between rich
and poor to grow out of control. Bush limited access to abortions and legalized
concealed handguns despite protests from law enforcement. He even refused
to pass hate crimes laws after the murder of James Byrd by three racists,
saying that legislation was unnecessary, because "all crimes are hate
- Bush spent his youth in a haze of debauchery, and while
that's understandable for one whose life is so empty, what Soft Skull finds
exceptional is his lack of accountability. It is commonly believed that
Bush was busted for cocaine possession in 1972, but records of the arrest
were expunged as a special family favor. Once again, Bush didn't have to
play by the rules, he was given special treatment over the rest of us commoners.
- On the campaign trail for President, Bush couldn't seem
to keep quiet about his drug past. In August 1999, with his handlers out
of town ghost-writing his "autobiography," he blurted out at
a press conference that he hadn't done drugs since 1974. The media crowed
at the spectacle-another deer in the headlights, another conservative politician
who puts his foot in his mouth on camera.
- Now imagine you're Bush's senior adviser, Karl T. Rove.
It's August 1999, 18 months from the election. This means that in just
18 months, you have to transform the public image of a right-wing incompetent
into a "man of the people." This was not a small job: Karl Rove
and company had to take an unproven, spoiled rich kid, and create a competent,
eloquent, likable man.
- Rove is no angel. In the 70's, he had been investigated
by the Republican National Committee for teaching seminars on political
"dirty tricks" to college students, and, like George W. Bush,
trained under cagey campaign strategist Lee Atwater.1 But after managing
Bush's successful campaigns for governor in Texas, Rove was set to reinvent
Bush as Predidential timber. In January of 2000, a year away from the election,
The New York Times' Frank Bruni reported on Rove's passionate, almost homoerotic,
dedication to Bush: "When Mr. Rove talks about Mr. Bush, he radiates
a regard for him that goes beyond professional obligation or selfish investment
in Mr. Bush's fortune. It is more like a crush, both platonic and political,
and it underscores the oddness of this particular couple: the pale, intense,
bookish Mr. Rove and the ruddy, easygoing, folksy Mr. Bush."2
- After the "election," Rove was chided for taking
maximum credit for placing Bush in the White House. The New York Times
reported "He committed a subtle breach of Bush-world etiquette at
an election post-mortem at the University of Pennsylvania last weekend,
when he took responsibility-and credit-for many of the candidate's moves."3
As David Shribman asked, in the Boston Globe magazine in July of 2000,
"Is there a place where George W. Bush ends and Karl Rove begins?
Are you the wizard behind the curtain of George W.? Are you George W. Bush's
- Hatfield was the Stalking Horse
- When Bush blurted out that he hadn't done drugs since
1974, Rove probably realized he needed to find a way to remove discussion
of Bush's drug past from the national discussion so thoroughly that even
Bush himself couldn't bring it up again. Right around August 1999, when
Bush made that blunder at his solo news conference, J. H. Hatfield's biography
Fortunate Son was in its final stages with its original publisher, St.
- In the late 1980's in Texas, Hatfield had made the acquaintance
of Clay Johnson, Bush's lifelong friend and advisor to Bush as Governor.
An author of several nonfiction books, Hatfield decided that his personal
connections to the candidate would make for a great insider's biography
of Bush. He contacted Rove and Johnson and interviewed them at length.
Hatfield mistakenly assumed that Johnson and Rove weren't aware of his
1988 conviction for solicitation of capital murder (the result of a workplace
conspiracy gone horribly awry). Hatfield had served five years in the penitentiary,
but emerged and reinvented himself as a successful author of pop-culture
guides and biographies. Rove and Johnson realized that, in Hatfield, they
had found their solution to Bush's drug problem.
- Hatfield's book was in final proofing stages when a story
broke on the online magazine Salon.5 The piece stated that Bush had been
arrested in the early '70s for drug use, and that he "was ordered
by a Texas judge to perform community service in exchange for expunging
his record showing illicit drug use," according to an anonymous tip-off.
This article was the first to suggest that Bush did community service in
Houston in exchange for having his record expunged. Hatfield went to work
corroborating this story through Johnson and Rove, his regular sources
of information. According to Hatfield, Rove and Johnson discussed the cocaine
arrest on the phone, under condition of anonymity. Rove had earlier taken
Hatfield on a fishing trip to Lake Eufaula, Oklahoma, to discuss Bush.6
- Rove and Johnson apparently altered key facts in the
story in an effort to discredit Hatfield-and thus they raised the burden
of proof for future reporters. At one point, Hatfield was told that the
arresting judge was a Republican, a falsehood which, although easily detected,
served to damage Hatfield's credibility. St. Martin's rushed the cocaine
arrest story into the book as an Afterword, and foresaw skyrocketing sales
upon publication, an automatic cover story in the New York Times, and a
spot on the Today show. But instead, they ran into a media firestorm and
threats of possible lawsuits from the Bush campaign. In a panic, St. Martin's
pressured Hatfield to reveal the identity of his confidential sources.
- The Dallas Morning News happened to suddenly receive
private, confidential information on Hatfield's criminal background, and
published an article about Hatfield's felonious past. Hatfield quickly
claimed that the Dallas Morning News had gotten him mixed up with another
person bearing the same name, and promptly fled. He returned home to Arkansas,
to find camera crews camped out outside his home.
- The story became an exercise in irony. St. Martin's panicked.
They pulled 70,000 copies out of bookstores and promised to burn them.
The message from influential media like 60 Minutes and media magazine Brill's
Content became: Isn't it awful that felons are writing books about poor
put-upon Presidential candidates? Where were the fact-checkers?
- When my company, Soft Skull Press, acquired the rights
to republish Fortunate Son, Hatfield proudly phoned Clay Johnson and informed
him that the campaign to discredit him and his story hadn't been 100% successful.
Johnson responded with a variety of harsh threats to be implemented if
Fortunate Son made its way back into print. We believed that this was a
bluff, and printed 45,000 copies in January, 2000.
- CBS' 60 Minutes broadcast a piece on Hatfield and his
book, titled "Unfortunate and Untrue?" The segment concentrated
on Hatfield's checkered past: they simply assumed that Hatfield must have
gotten the story wrong. We were later told by 60 Minutes that they attempted
to corroborate the Bush cocaine arrest story in the brief time they had
in their production schedule, but couldn't find anything. In other words,
60 Minutes chose to side with the establishment powers rather than a maverick
biographer with a criminal record. Their decision, while probably safer,
was neither truth-serving nor journalistically rigorous.
- How interesting then to see Bush himself effectively
admit that Hatfield got the story right. In September of 2000, Brill's
Content printed an interview with Bush which produced his very telling
slips of the tongue on Fortunate Son: "I think the book was outrageous.
And, to the credit of my staff and Pete Slover from the [Dallas] Morning
News who blew the whistle on the fraudulent nature of the writer. There
is no recourse."
- There is no recourse? In his normally fragmented, stream-of-conscious
prose, is Bush admitting here that he used his staff strategists, friends
in the media, and a bogus lawsuit as the only recourse against the truth?
Bush states that they destroyed Hatfield's "nature," by calling
who Hatfield is "fraudulent," but never attacking the story's
facts. They let the eager media go to town on the author's past, but never
do they expose the actual Afterword of Fortunate Son as "fraudulent."
(For further analysis of other parts of this interview, see Mark Crispin
Miller's excellent new Foreword, pp. xi- xii.) Many times, Bush and company
called Hatfield a "science fiction" writer, which is inaccurate,
since our author's other titles include biographies and pop culture reference
books, but not science fiction.
- Shortly after we re-published Fortunate Son, Soft Skull,
its author, and several major chain booksellers who had stocked the book
were hit with a lawsuit. The suit did not come directly from the Bush campaign,
but we long suspected that there was a relationship between members of
the Bush campaign and the plaintiffs. We made a motion in a Texas Federal
Court to discover exactly what this relationship was, but the magistrate
judge wanted more proof first that such a relationship might exist first,
before he would allow an investigation into that very question.
- After all the media overexposure and the legal harassment,
not everyone had the courage to stand by our side. Our distributor at the
time-who were not even named in the lawsuit-terminated distribution of
the book at the beginning of February 2000. Public opinion is something
created, and it had been created to destroy J.H. Hatfield and his book.
Despite our desperate pleas, our former distributor shut down the entire
sales and distribution chain for Fortunate Son. It hasn't been distributed
to stores in over a year, until now, thanks to the good people of Publisher's
- Reading and editing Fortunate Son taught me a lot about
George W. Bush, the man we will spend the next four years fighting at every
turn. Publishing Fortunate Son taught me some hard lessons about America
and the power of privilege.
- 1. "Behind Bush Juggernaut: An Aide's Labor of Loyalty,
New York Times, January 11, 2000.
- 2. Ibid. Also--compare this semi-critical journalism
in 2000 to Mr. Bruni's Times feature a year later "Architect of Bush
Presidency Still Builds Bridges to Power." New York Times, Sunday,
February 18, 2001. With Bush and Rove in power, the Times omitted the critical
background information on Rove's relationship with Atwater, and the "dirty
tricks" accusation from the R.N.C.
- 3. "Architect of Bush Presidency Still Builds Bridges
to Power." New York Times, Sunday, February 18, 2001.
- 4. "As Chief Strategist for the Bush Campaign, Karl
Rove Tells the Candidate What to Say, When to Say It, How to Say It, and
Where to Say It. And Bush is Listening," July 23, 2000, Boston Globe
- 5. "Bush Up to His Arse in Allegations! Sharp-Toothed
E-Mail, Killer Bees and Bag of Worms. Will This Hound Hunt?" by Amy
Reiter, August 25, 1999.
- 6. The Publisher holds copies of Hatfield's phone and
travel records which prove to us that he was in Lake Eufaula, OK, at the
time claimed, and that he did, in the summer of 1999, make phone connections
with the private phone numbers of Johnson and Rove.