By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Even though his book was still months away, Flynt finally couldn’t contain himself during a February 2004 interview with New York’s Daily News.
“I’ve talked to the woman’s friends,” Flynt is quoted as saying. “I’ve tracked down the doctor who did the abortion, I tracked down the Bush people who arranged for the abortion . . . I got the story nailed.”
The anecdote got some airing, especially after it was repeated by pop musician Moby. But the attention came almost entirely from the British and Australian press. They played it up as an example of mudslinging, sometimes pairing it with unsubstantiated rumors of a John Kerry affair.
In 2000, if the story had taken off, would it have mattered? Should it have mattered?
In the razor-thin 2000 election, it’s hard to deny that anything that could change votes could have made a difference. Flynt hoped the abortion account would paint W. as a hypocrite. Bush already looked every inch a hypocrite to critics who saw him ally with rich corporate interests, while savaging the poor behind a façade of “compassionate conservatism.”
But Bush supporters see the world and Bush so differently. Many are drawn by his appeal to traditional values and free enterprise, regardless of his actual policies. And many of Bush’s die-hard religious-right supporters had ample reason to forgive Bush, even for an abortion. His entire story, from their perspective, is one of a sinner redeemed, the type of soul who can, in an odd way, sometimes shine brighter than the less fallible person who never required such redemption. It didn’t matter so much, therefore, if Bush had been a drunk, if he had used cocaine, if he’d had premarital sex — if he’d been the wayward prodigal son. At one level, such behavior made him an ordinary guy, just like ordinary people everywhere. At another, his reform underscored his exemplary born-again identity and his unwavering commitment to conservative Christian values. For many Christians, Bush stands on the upright side of the before-versus-after divide intrinsic to a belief system in which a person must be personally saved from his sins by Jesus. Indeed, to the religious right, George W. Bush is more the real deal than his better-behaving, high-achieving father ever was.
How about the fence sitters of 2004? Should the alleged incident matter to them?
Maybe, but its relevance stacks up weakly compared to that of the Iraq invasion, the ballooning federal deficit, the erosion of civil liberties and the ongoing subjugation of environmental protection to corporate interests. It is with such matters that even Flynt’s own book is primarily concerned, though he does spare a few words to discuss his boyhood experience of sex with a chicken.
Flynt’s investigators weren’t bloodhounding this one anecdote alone. Along the way, they also met with author J.H. Hatfield, who alleged that, in 1972, George W. Bush was arrested for possession of cocaine and, with the help of his father, got the charges erased in exchange for performing community service.
Hatfield cited anonymous sources in his book Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President. Hatfield’s first publisher got cold feet and ultimately destroyed its copies of Hatfield’s book.
Flynt’s investigators met with Hatfield and repeatedly pressed him for additional details. They wanted to pursue the story further. But Hatfield finally stormed out of their meeting. Hatfield died, an apparent suicide, in July 2001.
The researchers also checked out rumors of a Bush cocaine binge in the early 1990s that were called into Flynt. If true, it would mean Bush lied about when he’d given up drugs. When asked in 1999 about drug use, Bush was quoted as saying, “As I understand it, the current [FBI] form asks the question, ‘Did somebody use drugs within the last seven years?’ and I will be glad to answer that question, and the answer is no.” He also said, “Not only could I pass the background check of the standards applied in today’s White House, I could have passed the background check on the standards applied on the most stringent conditions when my dad was president of the United States, a 15-year period.”
Once again, the researchers came up with nothing that met journalistic standards of proof, although their entire chasing-Bush experience would make a heck of a plot for a buddy movie.
“Flynt was interested mainly in two things: pussy and drugs,” noted one researcher, who now considers that preoccupation quaint and ironic. “Here we were looking at Bush’s personal life and the whole Enron scandal was happening right under our noses.”
Larry Flynt will sign copies ofSex, Lies & Politics: The Naked Truth, at Brentano’s, in the Century City Shopping Mall, 10250 Santa Monica Blvd; Wed., June 30, 7 p.m. And at Hustler Hollywood, 8920 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; Thurs., July 1, 7 p.m.