papers turned down story about Bush’s desire to invade Iraq
Published: June 3, 2009
An investigative journalist who authored a controversial book on the Bush dynasty says he approached major US newspapers about publishing a story before the 2004 election regarding George W. Bush’s alleged intent to invade Iraq prior to becoming president, but was rebuffed.
The journalist and author, Russ Baker, says he had a taped interview of Bush’s onetime biographer in which he says Bush told him he intended to invade Iraq as early as 1999, during his presidential campaign. The interview with former Bush ghostwriter Mickey Herskowitz took place before the 2004 election.
Baker eventually published his story online in October of 2004. In it, Herskowitz is quoted as saying, “He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999. It was on his mind. He said to me: ‘One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.’ And he said, ‘My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.’ He said, ‘If I have a chance to invade·.if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it.”
The Bush campaign parted ways with Herskowitz during his 2000 campaign for president and replaced him with campaign adviser Karen Hughes. Herskowitz was a sports writer in Houston and co-authored a book while Bush was governor of Texas in 1993.
In a column published Tuesday, Baker is quoted as saying that his story was turned down by The Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post.
Baker described the Post as “scared because of the Dan Rather thing, and they said to me, ‘What do you have in the way of evidence?’”
The author says he replied, “‘Here’s a tape of Mickey Herskowitz, who’s published 20-some books, long-time journalist of the Houston Chronicle, friend of the Bush family, telling me this story.”
He says a Post editor said, “It’s not enough. In this climate, we need Bush on tape saying this.”
A representative of the Post could not immediately be reached for comment.
In his 2004 story, Baker wrote: “That President Bush and his advisers had Iraq on their minds long before weapons inspectors had finished their work - and long before alleged Iraqi ties with terrorists became a central rationale for war - has been raised elsewhere, including in a book based on recollections of former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill. However, Herskowitz was in a unique position to hear Bush’s unguarded and unfiltered views on Iraq, war and other matters - well before he became president,” as Bush’s ghostwriter.
Baker’s recent book on the Bush family received mixed reviews. A Los Angeles Times review called the book “preposterous;” Time Magazine called Baker “prodigiously industrious” but one of his conclusions “far-fetched.”
Jim Moore, author of “Bush’s Brain,” however, gave Baker glowing praise.
“Baker is independent and unafraid, two characteristics needed for unfettered journalism, and he has been relentless in pursuing the damning details that other reporters have either misunderstood or ignored,” Moore wrote. “Baker’s investigation into the Bush family and its self-serving influence over American policy is profoundly disturbing and immediately important as the spinners try to reframe the disaster of George W. Bush’s tenure in the White House. As an investigator and as a writer of compelling narrative, Baker has created, in my estimation, an almost unequaled standard in political reportage.”
“”The big story is simply the cumulative sense, based on hundreds and hundreds of fresh facts, of the extent to which elites write our history,” Baker remarked in an online interview about his book. “And the realization that, as we flee the Bush years, we remain utterly in the dark about so much.”