Tuesday, March 30, 2004


Republicans are tut-tutting about Richard Clarke making money off his book, Against All Enemies, accusing him of profiteering from the war on terrorism. Well, according to Joe Conason, the real reason they’re upset is because Clarke is cutting into the sales of their own books.

While Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist quickly backed away from the most damaging assertions he made during his floor tirade against Richard Clarke Friday, admitting that he had no evidence of contradictions in the former counterterror chief’s sworn testimony, he stuck to his depiction of Clarke as a rapacious ex-staffer looking to cash in on his past public service.

“I am troubled that someone would sell a book, trading on their service as a government insider with access to our nation’s most valuable intelligence, in order to profit from the suffering that this nation endured on Sept. 11, 2001,” said the Senate majority leader solemnly. In fact, what really disturbs Frist and other Clarke critics is the prospect of yet another bestseller that portrays the Bush White House in an unflattering light. Because they have no problem with profiteering, from Washington to Baghdad, when the business at hand suits their own partisan or pecuniary purposes.

For example, Frist displayed no such qualms when he published his own little tome on bioterrorism in March 2002, titled “When Every Moment Counts: What You Need to Know About Bioterrorism From the Senate’s Only Doctor.” During the anthrax mail attacks that followed Sept. 11, he showed up almost daily on television news programs to discuss the threat. That allowed him to reap further publicity and royalties from public fears by tapping out the “essential manual” that promised to save the lives of readers and their families in the event of a bioterror assault (for only $29.90 retail). Perhaps the government ought to inform and protect citizens against bioterror, but Frist immediately recognized a promising privatization opportunity.

Republicans like Frist certainly aren’t complaining about Karen Hughes, the once and future Bush advisor and ghostwriter whose new book, “Ten Minutes from Normal,” will debut tonight on ABC’s “20/20.” Why should they complain? According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Hughes dutifully “avoids controversial subjects, giving scant attention to the war in Iraq and the exploding federal deficit,” while hinting that her boss may well have been chosen by God to combat terrorism, borrowing from the Old Testament Book of Esther to ask whether Bush had “come to a royal position for such a time as this.” If that sounds undemocratic and possibly blasphemous, it’s just politics — and business — as usual among the Lone Star profiteers.

I’m all over being outraged about the hypocrisy. I’m just waiting for the rest of the country to catch up.