Byron York
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Not all campaign books are treated equally. Just look at Edward Klein and J.H. Hatfield.

Klein, of course, is the author of the new book "The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House." Hatfield, now dead and forgotten, wrote a book about George W. Bush, "Fortunate Son," during the 2000 presidential contest.

Klein's book, which debuted in early May, has been mostly ignored by large media organizations (although not by the book-buying public, which has put it at the top of the best-seller list). Hatfield's book, on the other hand, rocked a presidential campaign -- before crashing and burning on its own dishonesty and its author's criminal record.

"Fortunate Son" attracted attention because it reported that Bush, then the leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, had been arrested for possessing cocaine when he was 26 years old. Hatfield wrote that Bush's father, the future President George H.W. Bush, used his influence to cover up the incident.

"George W. was arrested for possession of cocaine in 1972, but due to his father's connections, the entire record was expunged by a state judge whom the elder Bush helped get elected," Hatfield quoted a "confidential source" as saying.

George W. Bush denied the story, as did George H.W. Bush.

Still, even though nobody had ever heard of Hatfield, for some reporters the revelation seemed final proof of a rumor that media types had been kicking around -- and sometimes publishing -- since the beginning of Bush's campaign. The New York Times, which had looked for evidence of cocaine before, looked again.

"Reporters for The New York Times, which received an advance copy of Mr. Hatfield's book last week, spent several days looking for evidence that might corroborate his account," wrote Times reporter Frank Bruni, now a liberal columnist for the paper, on Oct. 22, 1999. "But they did not find any, and the newspaper did not publish anything about the claim."

Lots of other news organizations did. When both Bushes denied the story, The Associated Press, Washington Post, New York Post, Los Angeles Times and many others reported Hatfield's revelation.

The New York Times also found a way to pass on the accusation without passing on the accusation; the paper published several articles about the controversy over the book, even if it did not directly quote the book itself. Times readers certainly got the idea.

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Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner