Right-wing smear job, the sequel

The author behind the Swift Boat Veterans takes on Barack Obama in a new book that's full of holes.

Published August 13, 2008 9:40PM (EDT)

We at Salon like a nice "news you can use" piece as much as any other magazine, so here's a short primer on how to get your book to debut at the top of the New York Times bestsellers list, for anyone trying to make a quick buck as a right-wing hack.

Step one, accuse a major-party presidential candidate (like, say, Barack Obama) of hiding a lifelong drug habit. Step two, accuse him of hiding "extensive connections to Islam" (though don't let that get in the way of also claiming -- falsely -- that he attended church services where his Christian pastor talks about "white arrogance"). Step three, get conservative talk radio to push the book. And step four, don't worry too much about the facts.

At least, that seems to be the formula Jerome Corsi followed with his new book, "The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality," which will be the No. 1 nonfiction book on this weekend's Times bestseller list. The book appears to try to do for Obama what Corsi's 2004 hit job, "Unfit for Command," did for John Kerry -- keep him far, far away from the White House. (That book provided the intellectual underpinnings, such as they were, for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attacks on Kerry's war record.)

"The goal is to defeat Obama," Corsi told the Times. "I don't want Obama to be in office."

The book has already had more holes shot through it than one of Dick Cheney's hunting partners; Media Matters for America devoted about 12 pages to debunking errors large and small in a posting earlier this month, and the Times story on the book's rapid sales pointed out a few as well. (Of course, Media Matters chief David Brock would know something about the fine tradition of smearing liberals in conservative publishing, having written a book doing just that himself before he renounced his right-wing past.)

Here's a new one to add to the list for the errata sheet editors are, undoubtedly, preparing for the paperback edition. In a section on convicted fraudster/former Obama fundraiser Anthony Rezko, Corsi writes of Obama's Chicago home:

[Rezko] found the house for Obama. Salon.com reported that Donna Schwan of Metro Pro Realty, the real estate agent who listed the property, recalled the deal starting when Rezko expressed interest in the listing.

But a footnote points readers to this Salon story, by Edward McClelland, which actually quotes Schwan saying exactly the opposite. "This is way beyond misleading," Schwan told McClelland on Wednesday. "What can I do to get this story straight?"

Corsi couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday. GOP consultant Mary Matalin -- whose publishing imprint, Threshold Editions, a Simon & Schuster division, is behind the book -- referred questions to Corsi.

Corsi's publishing history so far was already pretty unconventional, though his books always sell well. Besides the Kerry tract, he has also written or co-written books saying U.S. officials plan to merge the country with Canada and Mexico and that oil is neither a fossil fuel nor a finite resource.

By Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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