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Author’s Corner: Russ Baker

Russ Baker is an award winning investigative reporter. He has written for the New Yorker, the New York Times, Vanity Fair, the Nation, the Washington Post, the Village Voice and Esquire. Visit his website at www.familyofsecrets.com and www.whowhatwhy.com.

How did you get the idea to write this book?
Back in 2004, I was thinking about all the remarkable events unleashed by George W. Bush, about how astonishing it was that such an individual could become president of the United States and moreover, be on his way to re-election despite all the controversy. And so I asked myself: is there nothing more to Bush and his rise than we know? Clearly, a huge amount of money was behind him, money that preferred him over other, far more distinguished figures. I had no idea what I would find, if anything. But what I found in five years of research astounded me.

What are some of the Bush family secrets that you’ve uncovered?
“Family of Secrets” contains literally hundreds of revelations of import. But here are just a few:
-The differences between George W. Bush and his father were deliberately exaggerated in order to make the son a credible political contender, his own man, more “authentically western” than his father, etc.  In fact, the two were essentially a team.

-His purported religious conversion, which won him the evangelical bloc and put him into the presidency, appears to have been the result of political coaching on how to get those votes.

-He was a hypocrite when it came to the abortion issue.

-His father was not the man we thought he was. Prior to serving as a supposed neophyte CIA director in 1976, George H.W. Bush was involved in covert intelligence activities for many years. Among the more interesting aspects of his deep-cover work are the curious ties he has to so many figures and events connected to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Similarly, the elder Bush appears in a curious role at the height of Watergate. Family of Secrets contains four chapters of new information on the JFK assassination that are relevant to a study of the elder Bush, and three chapters on the little-understood back history to the relationship between Richard Nixon and the Bush family, a relationship that seems to have taken an odd turn when Nixon began angering the Old Guard. My research, based on hundreds of interviews and thousands of facts, points to a new interpretation of Watergate—not as a Nixon operation, but as an organized operation designed to harm Nixon.  

What are some ways that George W. Bush has followed his father’s actions?
Both father and son turn out to have been deeply involved with overt and covert efforts to advance the interests of powerful cliques in oil, finance, military contracting and intelligence. In “Family of Secrets”, I document the extent of those activities, which have spanned decades.

What do you think makes the Bush Family so adept at hiding their missteps?
I don’t know that they have successfully hidden their missteps. They have hidden their steps—the measures they have taken in service of the true agenda that they serve.
 

What do you feel the story of the Bush family can tell us about politics in general?
 I think for me the lesson of these years of research is that we really understand very little about what is going on in our country at a fundamental level. The surface political skirmishes seem less and less relevant to the bigger picture of power and democracy.

Are you worried about being dismissed as just another conspiracy theorist?
It’s hard to dismiss my work because I have a two-decade track record working for some of the world’s best respected news organizations and carefully documenting what I do. People can read “Family of Secrets” and consider the facts, the more than 1000 footnotes, and can decide for themselves what the cumulative revelations do or do not mean.

What, in your opinion, is the juiciest political scandal in American history?
It is a rolling scandal—the systematic undermining of presidents when they begin taking actions that threaten powerful interests. That, really, is one of the key themes of “Family of Secrets”: that the scandals, the controversies and the tragedies that befall presidents are not necessarily all isolated and random.

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