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Investigation of a Suicide: The Diaries (1 2)

October 4 - Oklahoma road

John Sergeant and I spoke on a pay phone to the famed rebel reporter J.D. Cash. Cash was reluctant to give me any dirt on Pete Slover, the reporter who broke the news about Hatfield having a criminal past, just as the cocaine arrest story began to surface.

We've always suspected that Slover got tipped off by Republican insiders. At this moment in Oklahoma, I was trying to do research on whether Slover has a past for being used by the power establishment to discredit deviations from the accepted "truth. It turned out Slover did in 1997 get a scoop on Timothy McVeigh's "confession" before McVeigh was willing to take the fall for the entire operation. J.D. Cash was reluctant to talk about Slover, but at the time of the 1997 "hoax" confession Cash had plenty to say about Slover to the Dallas Observer. What happened? Why suddenly is everyone protecting Pete Slover? Texas journalism is such a tight little cabal.

But then I put John Sergeant on the phone. Sergeant had interviewed Cash for a piece on the real story behind the Oklahoma City bombing, and Cash warmed up. It turns out Slover was arrested earlier in his career for breaking into a public records office to obtain information. Is this the sign of a good reporter? Or one willing to do anything to achieve and succeed?

October 5 - Dallas

"the bleak desolate insanity of Texas " - John Sergeant

Im trying to shift the focus of the investigation. Im trying to find a way to substantiate that Hatfield was set up by Bushs campaign manager Karl Rove - on the original Bush cocaine arrest story that originally landed Jim in such hot water. Trying to find the "accountant" that Jim said his records were kept with.

One thing to look forward to, for certain, seeing the lovely and smart Pam Colloff tomorrow in Austin. She was a reporter who accused Hatfield of ripping her off, plagiarizing her work. At the time, I counter-accused her of making an allegation that was, upon examination, "pretty thin." These days, I'm between my stubborn initial defensive posture about Jim and realizing that he was a scam artist, and not a good one. He probably did become guilty of a small intellectual property ethical violation there. I just remember how this blew up into another odious thing that sank his reputation. I need to go over the accusation and evidence with Pam. I need to revisit all assumptions.

Today I am feeling beat. I ate 20 chicken McNuggets and now I feel like a python who ate a pig. I am in a hotel again because the rest of the crew from Channel 4 UK finally showed up to get in on the story. I read them some of these journal entries. Maybe that was what was so exhausting: reliving the initial hubris and sunshine at the outset of this trip a week ago. (An overnight delivery of the truth? What a pompous ass. Somebody smack this punk.) Here it is Friday night, the 5th. A week ago I was watching us on 60 Minutes, on video, at the press conference, foundering. I'm still foundering.

There was something really clear about visiting the site of the JFK assassination. A simple white X in the traffic marks where he took the final blow, our car slowing down to 3 mph. [Why? Was the driver in on it, or just panicked? Why was a black umbrella raised in the crowd on this rainless day, was that a signal? The black umbrella strikes me as at least symbolic. Bad luck. It's the end of idealism in America, that moment in November 1963. Or was it the birth of a new era, in which the Civil Rights struggle turns into the Poor People's campaign and is then destroyed, power consolidates but exposes its obvious evil to the people who will eventually smash it?

October 7 - Austin, Texas

Got blown off by Pam Colloff. Texas journalists. I had lunch with Lou Dubose, who, like everyone else, speaks warmly about Pam, great reporter, one of the best. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's all about reputation to these media pros. It's the same story in DC. But do they ever have the guts to break with the pack and do something that might risk their reputations or their cushy salaries? Have they ever slept in a van for a week to get the story? Breaking into a records office or getting inside scoops from political campaigns doesn't count.

Well it looks like the trip is over now there's only the hell-drive of three days back to NYC.

October 7 - McNeill, Mississippi

Well, no it isn't a hell ride that was just raw negativity. It's all a question of attitude and pills. I just drove nine hours out of the Southwest and into the Deep South. Screaming along to old Who songs and Billy Joel's anti-Catholic song. The Brits left herbal uppers in the van and they are great. That mixed with chocolate and Advil makes a long haul effortless and smooth. Well, nothing's effortless.

Anyway, the reason the Austin entry was interrupted was because I found my man Lou Dubose. Lou was cool. The co-author of Shrub, the book about Bush written with Molly Ivins, Lou gave me a ton of leads for my research on Karl Rove. I bought him lunch. Financially it wasn't smart, because I'm going to need every penny for gas, but spiritually, I had to do it. He really helped me out. He gave me a reason to be in pretty Austin. He had heard of me being the super with a publishing company in NYC, and we got along well. I found him to be principled, soft-spoken and thoughtful. He threatened to sue to get Bush's governor's records out of his fathers presidential library.

Lou knows about several smoldering scandals from the Bush governorship, the details of some of which are only now emerging or being submerged. How Rove often launched FBI investigations on people his candidate was running against. How he hides the dirt on Bush as governor by scuttling the candidacy of a clean Independent for Attorney General. I'm newly inspired to research Rove and pull out the truth from this diseased body of American politics. Rove is a telling symbol.

Lou told me something great about Rove. Lou spoke publicly about Rove at a liberal think tank's seminar and joked about the possibility of someone monitoring him from Rove's camp. Lou later got a note that said, "Hi Lou" and in so many words, said Yes, we are. We're out here. We're watching. How many other people have gotten creepy notices of surveillance from Rove? Someone should document them all. I'll do it.

Although this investigation has to conclude that Hatfield most likely committed suicide alone, the two years that lead up to this were not all Hatfield's doing. At lunch with Lou, I practiced telling Jim's story without the tangents: Rove set Hatfield up and then Rove broke him. The blood of a good writer is on his hands.

Sander Hicks is founder and director of Soft Skull Press, publisher of Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President, by J.H. Hatfield. He sings in White Collar Crime and writes plays. He is currently at work on a biography of Karl Rove. For more info on any of this, go to www.softskull.com.


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