The website of the Washington Post yesterday featured an online chat between assorted websurfers from around the world and an author trying to promote his new book. That, in itself, is unsurprising; the Post hosts such a chat once or twice nearly every week. However, it is downright startling when the earnest young author in question happens to be Russ Baker and the book is the newly published Family Of Secrets, his study of the Bush family that claims the outgoing President’s father, our 41st Chief Executive, was somehow involved in arcane ways in the JFK assassination and in Watergate.
And it’s downright stunning to find Baker chatting there when the same book also extensively cites Jim Hougan’s Secret Agenda and Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin’s Silent Coup in maintaining that Pulitzer-winning journalist Bob Woodward had, as a young Naval officer, all manner of intelligence contacts that somehow influenced his choice of career and choice of investigative subjects when he got out of the service. You have to wonder if this is the cue for Hougan or Colodny and Gettlin to issue updated editions of their books and see about using the Post’s cyberspace to present their meditations on the career of the author of The War Within.

But, having said all that, I have to inform TNN’s readers that the transcript of the chat does not have one reader after another asking about George de Mohrenschildt, Operation Zapata, the true origins of “Deep Throat,” the Townhouse mystery, or any of the other persons and things that enliven Family Of Secrets, though Baker, several times, refers to the numerous “revelations” in his book. Instead, a series of unexceptional questions about the highs and lows of the Bush era are asked, and Baker, usually, answers in quite workmanlike fashion.

I know that during these chats employs a moderator who screens questions submitted, to make sure that queries from cranks, the illiterate and/or muddled, and self-styled employees of African financial institutions do not turn up onscreen. The definition of what constitutes an “acceptable” question seems to be narrow sometimes.

Last year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned up in the site’s discussions to talk about her new book. I used the occasion to send in a question about her reasons for urging then-Sen. Barack Obama, who had won the Democratic nomination partly on a platform of opposition to the Iraq war, to choose Rep. Chet Edwards, one of that war’s most steadfast supporters, as his running-mate. The Post’s moderator did not put it up, but opted instead to present queries on the order of: “How did you establish yourself as a woman who has both brains and a feminine side?”

I wonder if Russ Baker’s chat was similarly homogenized, and if so, who was doing the homogenizing. I keep having a mental picture of Bob Woodward himself hunched over the screen, making an expression familiar to Sunday-morning TV viewers and moving the mousepad to “delete” whenever a question comes up on the order of “What is your opinion of the claim of David Obst, the literary agent who sold All The President’s Men, that Deep Throat was a composite?”

And in yesterday’s Post proper, Nixon Library director Tim Naftali reviewed two recent books on the events of November 22, 1963: The Road To Dallas by David Kaiser and Brothers In Arms by Gus Russo and Stephen Molton. Though Tim, the author of the volume on George H.W. Bush in the American Presidents Series, does not mention Family Of Secrets in the review, my guess, based on his dissection of Kaiser, Russo and Molton’s conspiracist arguments, is that he would take a rather dim view of it. Tim advises those interested in the subject that, rather than the books under review, they’d do better to examine Reclaiming History (Vincent Bugliosi’s gigantic volume, the fruit of 20 years’s research, which was published two years ago to undeservedly poor sales), and also the work of Max Holland of fame. (Here I should mention that earlier this week Max’s site posted a very informative and illuminating review of Brothers In Arms by Brian Latell, the author of After Fidel.)