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Confronting the 'Open Minds' of the Right-Wing
March 15, 2002
By Jackson Thoreau

A right-wing friend of my wife's recently paid us a visit from out of state. Our conversation inevitably drifted to Bush and his illegitimate regime. Though our tones remained friendly, my wife and I stated our opposition to Bush's policies - from his offensive war in the Middle East to his destructive, corporate-payback environmental schemes. Sharon's friend was equally adament that Bush was on the "right" path. Of course, that depended on one's definition of "right."

"We have similar goals," Ann told us. "We just have different ideas of getting there."

I could not even agree with that statement, believing that my goals of "liberty and justice for all" and the goals of people like Bush to help mostly the rich get richer are miles apart. Still, Ann is not an obnoxious conservative, and we found some common ground. We departed amiably, with her leaving a copy of the late Barbara Olson's twisted diatribe against the Clintons. Among Ann's message written on the inside cover page of "The Final Days": "Always keep an open mind."

Keeping an open mind is a philosophy I try to maintain, but I'm not sure right-wingers like Ann always attempt to do likewise. To many conservative Republicans, the open-mind creed is one steeped in deeper hypocrises, like with that sticky "Thou shall not kill" commandment. It is more an axiom to be mouthed than acted upon; more a philosophy to be chanted until most people become weary of arguing that the chanter does not practice what he or she preaches.

An inspection of Olson's book reveals more hypocrises. She rakes Clinton over the coals for pardons, travel, accepting gifts, executive orders, and other alleged excesses. She mentions little about how Bush Sr., Reagan, and other former Republican presidents committed similar, usually worse, excesses; to be fair, she does give a brief mention of Bush's save-his-own-skin pardon of Caspar Weinberger and others implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal. But overall, the book is 216 pages of hate-filled venom written by the late wife of the man who argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in December 2000 that legitimate votes in Florida should not be counted.

Then this man, Ted Olson, was rewarded with a top federal post, Solicitor General, by his former client who he helped install as president. There is nothing about that payback in Olson's book.

At one point, Olson writes that Clinton came from a "solidly middle-class" family of "sufficient means" that enabled him to attend a prestigious educational institution. The intent of this lie was to make Clinton seem less like a self-made man, even comparing Clinton to Bush Jr., who as the late J.H. Hatfield says in "Fortunate Son," had all of the advantages and more of privilege and squandered many of them.

But as Pulitizer Prize-winning journalist David Maraniss points out in his 1995 Clinton biography, "First in His Class," Clinton's upbringing was nothing compared to Bush Jr.'s silver-spoon early years. Clinton never knew his real father. His mother was so poor she could not afford a house of her own and lived with her parents when Clinton was born. Clinton's grandparents were not exactly well off, but they provided what they could.

When Clinton's mother remarried, as a teen-age boy, Clinton had to fight off his alcoholic stepfather from beating his mother. Maraniss writes that Clinton was the "Family Hero," serving as both caretaker of the family and redeemer to the outside world. While Bush Jr. cut up in class, doing just enough to pass, Clinton shouldered more responsibility than he should have and excelled in school without having to study much, graduating fourth in his high school class. He also was a student leader, serving in positions like junior class president.

Unlike Bush, who got into Yale and Harvard more on his father's name and background, Clinton earned his way into Georgetown with his high grades and school leadership positions. Georgetown was the only college he applied to, as he wanted to be in Washington, D.C., in the center of the nation's political arena. To reiterate my case against Olson's lies, Clinton did not have a father who was a senator and future president; he never knew his father and had to protect his mother from his stepfather.

Regardless of what anyone thinks of what Clinton did once he was elected to high offices, anyone with an "open mind" would have to admit that Clinton, as a young man, earned his own way.

So what do we do to combat such lies perpetuated by Olson and other right-wingers? Number one, as Michael Moore, author of "Stupid White Men," says, don't get discouraged. Sure, there are many more publishing companies willing to finance books like Olson's than books like the one Sharon and me wrote called "We Will Not Get Over It: Restoring a Legitimate White House." Sure, we have been turned down by numerous print publishers and literary agents, many of whom tell us that we need to "get over it." One agent even wrote back saying he would blackball me and tell other agents not to deal with me.

But others have been supportive, though they admit our book is a hard sell in a tight market where people would rather read about the latest diet fad.

Perhaps Michael Moore's best-selling success with "Stupid White Men," which was almost deep-sixed before being published, will open more doors for books with messages like ours. We turned to electronic publishers and were successful in securing two willing to showcase our work, Booklocker.com and Cyberread.com. Citizens for Legitimate Government also put our book on its site. We recently were on Meria Heller's Internet radio show. We have been heartened by many who have purchased the online work and sent us inspiring comments. We try to answer them all, even those right-wingers whose comments we cannot let go unchallenged.

While the message is getting out on the Internet, most in the mainstream media refuse to crack. What else can we do but continue to contact editors, publishers, and producers, writing letters to let them know we don't support the illegitimate occupier of the White House? What else can we do but continue to organize protests, campaigns, and meetings against harmful Bush policies? What else can we do but continue to write essays such as this one, raging against the right-wing lies that seem to dominate our landscape?

I spend much time on message boards such as Google, CNN, and MSN and in chat rooms, arguing with right-wingers. It's not hard to win such arguments, so while I might spend some time doing this, I don't expend much mental energy. I also don't get down to the level of many of them, where they call names, invoking the memory of Bush's "major league asshole" crack. I stay on the issues and continue to hammer away.

To keep from getting depressed, I also don't watch many mainstream news programs, except for Bill Moyers and Frontline on PBS. Occasionally, I'll watch Bill Maher's "Politically Correct" - it was an interesting recent show in which Michael Moore eloquently defended his viewpoint of why Bush was not elected to the chagrin of three right-wingers and Maher, who called Gore a "loser." Sometimes I'll read the headlines of a newspaper or listen to the first few minutes of a newscast, just to keep an "open mind" and find out what exactly they are saying.

But mostly, I don't need the aggravation that comes from listening to sugar-coated, Republican-biased broadcasts. I read certain columnists whose work appears in mainstream newspapers, such as Molly Ivins. I obtain much of my news and views from the international press and good Internet sites like Democrats.com, Buzzflash.com, Common Dreams, Online Journal, Democratic Underground, Citizens for Legitimate Government, BushWatch, Salon, and others.

Does that make me biased? Perhaps. But so what? Everyone who is human is biased to some degree. At least I admit it, which is more than many conservatives with their "open minds" will do.

The point is that those of us who believe Bush was illegitimately appointed to the White House must continue to remain optimistic and must continue to fight on, at least as hard as the right-wing fought Clinton during his eight years in the White House. We have the better arguments and goals; we must continue to use them in all of the forums we can discover. We have our small victories, such as Jim Jeffords' defection and Vincent Bugliosi's and Michael Moore's best-selling books. We will gain our larger victory, someday.

And when some right-winger tells you to "get over it" or "keep an open mind," tell them to practice what they preach. Tell them to just "get over" your not getting over it, with their "open minds."


Jackson Thoreau is co-author of "We Will Not Get Over It: Restoring a Legitimate White House." The 110,000-word electronic book can be downloaded here, here, or here. Thoreau can be emailed at jacksonthor@justice.com

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