Saturday, May 03, 2014

The Dishonored Dead

By Mark Steyn
May 1, 2014

In Sir Henry Wotton's famous formulation, an ambassador is a man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country. In the case of Susan Rice, a UN ambassador is a broad sent to lie to her country for the good of her man — President Obama. Happily, it worked. A year-and-a-half after going on five Sunday talk-shows and pinning Benghazi on some unseen YouTube video, Miss Rice is National Security Advisor, and the Administration's designated fall-guy, the director of that unseen video, is still in jail.
I'm not surprised by anything in the emails belatedly released this week. My view of Benghazi has been consistent since my column of September 14th 2012, three days after the attack and two days before Susan Rice peddled to the nation an agreed story she and the President and the Secretary of State knew was utterly false. Unlike her September 16th TV appearances, my September 14th column still holds up:

As I say, I'm inclined to be generous, and put some of this down to the natural torpor and ineptitude of government. But Hillary Clinton and General Martin Dempsey are guilty of something worse, in the secretary of state's weirdly obsessive remarks about an obscure film supposedly disrespectful of Mohammed and the chairman of the joint chiefs' telephone call to a private citizen asking him if he could please ease up on the old Islamophobia.

Forget the free-speech arguments. In this case, as Secretary Clinton and General Dempsey well know, the film has even less to do with anything than did the Danish cartoons or the schoolteacher's teddy bear or any of the other innumerable grievances of Islam. The 400-strong assault force in Benghazi showed up with RPGs and mortars: That's not a spontaneous movie protest; that's an act of war, and better planned and executed than the dying superpower's response to it. Secretary Clinton and General Dempsey are, to put it mildly, misleading the American people when they suggest otherwise.

One can understand why they might do this, given the fiasco in Libya. The men who organized this attack knew the ambassador would be at the consulate in Benghazi rather than at the embassy in Tripoli. How did that happen? They knew when he had been moved from the consulate to a "safe house," and switched their attentions accordingly. How did that happen? The United States government lost track of its ambassador for ten hours. How did that happen? Perhaps, when they've investigated Mitt Romney's press release for another three or four weeks, the court eunuchs of the American media might like to look into some of these fascinating questions, instead of leaving the only interesting reporting on an American story to the foreign press.

But the court eunuchs never did take an interest, and it would be foolish to expect them to now. Nevertheless, if Washington had a healthy media culture, the Ben Rhodes email outlining the Administration's four goals for Susan Rice's telly marathon would be devastating:
*To convey that the United States is doing everything that we can to protect our people and facilities abroad;
*To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy;
*To show that we will be resolute in bringing people who harm Americans to justice, and standing steadfast through these protests;
*To reinforce the President and Administration's strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.
All four "goals" are bunk, but the second was an explicit lie.

Who is this colossus of Rhodes? He's not part of the State Department or the "intelligence community"; Ben Rhodes is a political guy in the White House. And it was the political guys who called the shots, rather than the diplomats or spooks or military or anyone else who knew what actually happened that night in the Libyan town of Benghazi, as opposed to the stage-set "Benghazi" the White House constructed and dressed with lies. Rhodes & Co "politicized" Benghazi because that's all these fellows know how to do:

To "politicize" means "to give a political character to." It is a reductive term, capturing the peculiarly shrunken horizons of politics: "Gee, they nuked Israel. D'you think that will hurt us in Florida?" So media outlets fret that Benghazi could be "bad" for Obama — by which they mean he might be hitting the six-figure lecture circuit four years ahead of schedule. But for Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyrone Woods, it's real bad. They're dead, over, gonesville. Given that Obama and Secretary Clinton refer to Stevens pneumatically as "Chris," as if they've known him since third grade, why would they dishonor the sacrifice of their close personal friend by peddling an utterly false narrative as to why he died? You want "politicization"? Secretary Clinton linked the YouTube video to the murder of her colleagues even as the four caskets lay alongside her at Andrews Air Force Base — even though she had known for days that it had nothing to do with it. It's weird enough that politicians now give campaign speeches to returning coffins. But to conscript your "friend"'s corpse as a straight man for some third-rate electoral opportunism is surely as shriveled and worthless as "politicization" gets.

In the vice-presidential debate, asked why the White House spent weeks falsely blaming it on the video, Joe Biden took time off between big toothy smirks to reply: "Because that was exactly what we were told by the intelligence community." That too is false.

That's from my column of October 11th 2012, after an extraordinary month in which the three most senior figures grew ever more brazen in their dishonesty, President Obama shoring up his fake narrative by warning the UN General Assembly that the future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam. The future's in no danger of belonging to him: that guy's in a California jail cell. The night of September 11th in Benghazi didn't belong to him, either - until Obama and Clinton decided he deserved the credit.

At 8:30 p.m., when Ambassador Stevens strolled outside the gate and bid his Turkish guest good night, the streets were calm and quiet. At 9:40 p.m., an armed assault on the compound began, well planned and executed by men not only armed with mortars but capable of firing them to lethal purpose — a rare combination among the excitable mobs of the Middle East. There was no demonstration against an Islamophobic movie that just got a little out of hand. Indeed, there was no movie protest at all. Instead, a U.S. consulate was destroyed and four of its personnel were murdered in one of the most sophisticated military attacks ever launched at a diplomatic facility.

This was confirmed by testimony to Congress a few days ago, although you could have read as much in my column of four weeks ago. Nevertheless, for most of those four weeks, the president of the United States, the secretary of state, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and others have persistently attributed the Benghazi debacle to an obscure YouTube video — even though they knew that the two events had nothing to do with each other by no later than the crack of dawn Eastern time on September 12, by which point the consulate's survivors had landed safely in Tripoli.

But anybody who was actually on the ground in Benghazi was now irrelevant to the story - unless you were in a casket. For the scene of their most shameless act of misdirection, the President and Secretary of State needed some extras. Non-speaking roles, of course:

In the most revealing glimpse of the administration's depravity, the president and secretary of state peddled the lie even in their mawkish eulogies to their buddy "Chris" and three other dead Americans. They lied to the victims' coffins and then strolled over to lie to the bereaved, Hillary telling the Woods family that "we're going to have that person arrested and prosecuted that did the video." And she did. The government dispatched more firepower to arrest Nakoula Basseley Nakoula in Los Angeles than it did to protect its mission in Benghazi. It was such a great act of misdirection Hillary should have worn spangled tights and sawn Stevens's casket in half.

And so Ty Woods, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, and Chris Stevens were left to die, and a decision taken to blame an entirely irrelevant video and, as Secretary Clinton threatened, "have that person arrested." And, in the weeks that followed, the government of the United States lied to its own citizens as thoroughly and energetically as any totalitarian state, complete with the midnight knock on the door from not-so-secret policemen sent to haul the designated fall-guy into custody.

Decency, I argued, required that Obama & Co be voted out of office as an urgent act of political hygiene. The electorate felt differently - and still does. Democrat spinners openly giggle when a TV interviewer uses the word "Benghazi": It's a big nothingburger; the American people have, in that Clintonian formulation, "moved on"; this is the tired old "partisan politics as usual..."

The dying Los Angeles Times reported this story on its homepage (as a sidebar to "Thirteen Great Tacos in Southern California") under the following headline: "Partisan Politics Dominates House Benghazi Hearing." In fact, everyone in this story is a Democrat or a career civil servant. Chris Stevens was the poster boy for Obama's view of the Arab Spring; he agreed with the president on everything that mattered. The only difference is that he wasn't in Vegas but out there on the front line, where Obama's delusions meet reality. Stevens believed in those illusions enough to die for them. One cannot say the same about the hollow men and women in Washington who sent him out there unprotected, declined to lift a finger when he came under attack, and in the final indignity subordinated his sacrifice to their political needs by lying over his corpse. Where's the "partisan politics"? 
Obama, Clinton, Panetta, Clapper, Rice, and the rest did this to one of their own. And fawning court eunuchs, like the ranking Democrat at the hearings, Elijah Cummings, must surely know that, if they needed, they'd do it to them, too. If you believe in politics über alles, it's impressive, in the same way that Hillary's cocksure dismissal — "What difference, at this point, does it make?" — is impressive.

But the embassy security chief, Eric Nordstrom, had the best answer to that: It matters because "the truth matters" — not least to the Libyan president, who ever since has held the U.S. government in utter contempt. Truth matters, and character matters. For the American people to accept the Obama-Clinton lie is to be complicit in it.
In that sense, this week's emails are superfluous. The facts about Benghazi have been clear to anyone willing to see them, as those Autumn 2012 columns of mine illustrate. But the American people were disinclined to see them - like the dysfunctional rural family in that Sam Shepard play where everyone knows there's a baby buried in the backyard but they've all agreed not to talk about it.

Well, Benghazi's a long way away. Who cares? It's not like Washington's Libya policy makes any difference to the average guy in Des Moines, is it? Ah, but if you swallow Benghazi you're not really in any position to complain about the IRS or if-you-like-your-plan-you-can-keep-it or whatever's next down the pike, are you? Healthy political cultures punish the first lie - because otherwise it never stops.

And this wasn't a small lie. It was a bold, audacious lie on a date the American people are supposed to hold in sacred memory: 9/11. Nixon lied about a "third-rate burglary". But, as I told Hugh Hewitt earlier today, nobody died at Watergate. There weren't four bodies left on the floor. And the Administration didn't attempt to pin the quadruple murder on some other fellow entirely.

But that's exactly what the Obama crowd did.

Was it worth it? Silly question. For these guys, it's always worth it.

"Greater love hath no man than this," quoth the President at Chris Stevens' coffin, "that a man lay down his life for his friends." Smaller love hath no man than Obama's - that he lay down his "friend" for a couple of points in Ohio.

© 2014 Mark Steyn Enterprises (US) Inc

Internal Emails: State Dept. Immediately Attributed Benghazi Attacks to Terrorist Group

By Sharyl Attkisson
May 1, 2014

A newly-released government email indicates that within hours of the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya; the State Department had already concluded with certainty that the Islamic militia terrorist group Ansar al Sharia was to blame. 

The private, internal communication directly contradicts the message that President Obama, 
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice and White House 
press secretary Jay Carney repeated publicly over the course of the next several weeks. 
They often maintained that an anti-Islamic YouTube video inspired a spontaneous 
demonstration that escalated into violence. 
The email is entitled “Libya update from Beth Jones.” Jones was then-Assistant Secretary 
of State to Hillary Clinton. According to the email, Jones spoke to Libya’s Ambassador at 
9:45am on Sept. 12, 2012 following the attacks. 

“When [the Libyan Ambassador] said his government suspected that former Qaddafi regime 
elements carried out the attacks, I told him the group that conducted the attacks—Ansar 
Al Sharia—is affiliated with Islamic extremists,” Jones reports in the email. 

There is no uncertainty assigned to the assessment, which does not mention a video or 
a protest. The State Department provided the email to Congress in Aug. of 2013 under 
special conditions that it not be publicly released at that time. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) 
sought and received permission to release it Thursday. 

“If the video was a cause, why did Beth Jones of the State Department tell the 
Libyan Ambassador that Ansar Al Sharia was responsible for the attack?” said Chaffetz. 

Among those copied on the emails: Deputy Secretary William Burns; Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman; Jake Sullivan, then-Deputy Chief of Staff (now promoted to national security advisor to Vice President Joe Biden); Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy; Cheryl Mills, then-Secretary Clinton’s Chief of Staff (now on the board of directors of the global investment firm BlackRock); and Victoria Nuland, then-State Dept. spokesperson (now promoted to Asst. Secretary of State). 

Two days after the email, documents show that Nuland raised concerns about an early draft of talking points in which the C.I.A. disclosed that it had warned of possible impending attacks. Nuland wrote that the C.I.A.’s disclosure to the public "could be abused by members of Congress to beat the State Department for not paying attention to [C.I.A.] warnings so why would we want to seed the Hill." 

The language about prior warnings was subsequently removed by then-Deputy C.I.A. Director Mike Morell over the objection of his then-boss, C.I.A. Director David Petraeus. That's according to testimony last month from Morell, who has since been hired by Beacon Global Strategies, a PR communications firm dominated by former Clinton and Obama officials, and also works as an analyst for CBS News (where I was employed until March). Petraeus retired just after President Obama’s re-election amid allegations of a sex scandal. 

Another State Department email sent at 5:55pm on Tues. Sept. 11, 2012, while the attacks were underway, includes a report that “the extremist group Ansar Al Sharia has taken credit for the attack in Benghazi” and that U.S. officials asked the offices of the [Libyan] President and [Prime Minister] to pursue Ansar al Sharia.” Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed in the Benghazi attacks. 

The following month, the State Department designated Ansar al Sharia as “an alias” for the terrorist group “Al-Qaeda” in the Arabian Peninsula. 

Two days after the State Department told Libyan officials that Ansar al Sharia was at fault, Secretary of State Clinton instead evoked the YouTube video at the ceremonial return of the victims’ bodies. 

“This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country. We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with,” said Clinton. 

Obama administration officials have not fully explained who was responsible for deciding to advance the incorrect video narrative eight weeks before the Presidential election. They have said that they were acting on “the best intelligence available at the time” and that they clarified the story as they got more information. However, the vast majority of government witnesses and documents released over the past year and a half indicate there was widespread belief from the start that the attacks were the work of terrorists, not protesters.

Friday, May 02, 2014

The Disappearing Free-Speech Panic

After 9/11, the Left worried about Americans’ free-speech rights. After the Benghazi attack, not so much. 
May 2, 2014

LA sheriff's deputies taking in video maker, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula for questioning.

After the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001, members of the American Left found one thing they could all agree on: Our First Amendment rights were in peril.

The American Prospect insisted on September 12, when the rubble was still burning and the dead had not yet been retrieved, that “a number of government agencies and their cheerleaders would be clearly tempted to lock the Bill of Rights away in some basement dustbin of the National Archives.” Two weeks later, novelist Barbara Kingsolver warned, “Patriotism threatens free speech with death.” She bravely attacked the claim that “free speech is un-American.” Author Richard Reeves penned an op-ed for the New York Times under the headline “Patriotism Calls Out the Censor.” Conferences were rapidly convened; vows to fight the crackdown on free speech were issued.

The fact that this response was elicited by no actual crackdown on free speech seemed irrelevant. It was a classic example of “Fire, ready, aim!”

Later, when there was at least some theoretical basis to be concerned about lost liberties, the reaction from prominent liberals was nonetheless unhinged. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, goaded by the press to respond to a bigoted comment from a Republican congressman and a typically stupid comment from “comedian” Bill Maher, said such statements are “reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do. This is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.”

Then–New York Times columnist Frank Rich spent much of the next five years treating this comment as the end of liberty in America. He even said Fleischer’s comment was as significant as the terror attack itself. “Even as we’re constantly told we’re in a war for ‘freedom’ abroad,” Rich wrote, “freedom in our culture at home has been under attack ever since.”

I will admit I was vexed by this riot of knee-jerkery. At the time, I largely agreed with then-attorney general John Ashcroft, who said: “To those . . . who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists.”

But in retrospect, I have a bit more sympathy with those self-anointed defenders of free speech. It was, in its way, a thoroughly American, even patriotic reaction. Edmund Burke, the founder of modern conservatism, remarked — in 1775! — that the proto-Americans of the colonies had a tendency to nip attacks on liberty in the bud. “In other countries the people . . . judge of an ill principle in government only by an actual grievance,” but in the American colonies, “they anticipate the evil, and judge of the pressure of the grievance by the badness of the principle. They augur misgovernment at a distance and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.”

Fast-forward to another September 11. Failing to anticipate a terrorist attack on the anniversary of 9/11, four Americans, including our ambassador, were murdered in a pre-planned and coordinated terrorist assault in Libya. White House officials said they believed it wasn’t a terrorist attack but a spontaneous reaction to a video insulting the Muslim prophet Muhammad. There is a debate as to whether they knew all along that was untrue. There is no real debate that officials learned very early that it was untrue and continued to lie about it — or at least wildly and dishonestly exaggerate the role the video played.

President Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, hammered the video story. Clinton vowed to the grieving families of the victims that she would get the makers of the video, not the murderers themselves. The White House asked Google if it could censor the video from YouTube. Google partially complied, blocking it in Libya and Egypt. (Later, a U.S. appeals court ordered the film removed entirely.)

Our embassy in Egypt was widely seen to apologize for the video in a statement to protesters there. The administration bought television ads on Pakistani TV apologizing for the video and disassociating the U.S. from it. Obama spoke to the U.N. about the video, explaining that we can’t ban such things because of our Constitution. Still, the director was arrested. A picture of him being hauled off in handcuffs was splashed in newspapers around the world.

Subtle, that.

All this fueled an earnest debate about the downside of free speech in America. Cable news networks, op-ed pages, and public radio lit up with “expert” commentary about how we must find ways to accommodate the sensibilities of Muslims who don’t understand or care about free speech. And much of the crowd that once set about to “snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze” when George W. Bush was president said nary a word.

— Jonah Goldberg is the author of The Tyranny of Clichés, now on sale in paperback. You can write to him by e-mail at, or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2014 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Obama’s foreign policy of denial

Political Cartoons by Lisa Benson
Barack Obama’s 949-word response Monday to a question about foreign policy weakness showed the president at his worst: defensive, irritable, contradictory and at times detached from reality. It began with a complaint about negative coverage on Fox News, when, in fact, it was the New York Times’ front page that featured Obama’s foreign policy failures, most recently the inability to conclude a trade agreement with Japan and the collapse of Secretary of State John Kerry’s Middle East negotiations.
Add to this the collapse of not one but two Geneva conferences on Syria, American helplessness in the face of Russian aggression against Ukraine and the Saudi king’s humiliating dismissal of Obama within two hours of talks — no dinner — after Obama made a special 2,300-mile diversion from Europe to see him, and you have an impressive litany of serial embarrassments.
Obama’s first rhetorical defense, as usual, was to attack a straw man: “Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force?”
Everybody? Wasn’t it you, Mr. President, who decided to attack Libya under the grand Obama doctrine of “responsibility to protect” helpless civilians — every syllable of which you totally contradicted as 150,000 were being slaughtered in Syria?
And wasn’t attacking Syria for having crossed your own chemical-weapons “red line” also your idea? Before, of course, you retreated abjectly, thereby marginalizing yourself and exposing the United States to general ridicule.
Everybody eager to use military force? Name a single Republican (or Democratic) leader who has called for sending troops into Ukraine.
The critique by John McCain and others is that when the Ukrainians last month came asking for weapons to defend themselves, Obama turned them down. The Pentagon offered instead MREs, ready-to-eat burgers to defend against 40,000 well-armed Russians. Obama even denied Ukraine such defensive gear as night-vision goggles and body armor.
Obama retorted testily: Does anyone think Ukrainian weaponry would deter Russia, as opposed to Obama’s diplomatic and economic pressure? Why, averred Obama, “in Ukraine, what we’ve done is mobilize the international community. . . . Russia is having to engage in activities that have been rejected uniformly around the world.”
That’s a deterrent? Fear of criticism? Empty words?
To think this will stop Putin, liberator of Crimea, champion of “New Russia,” is delusional. In fact, Putin’s popularity at home has spiked 10 points since the start of his war on Ukraine. It’s now double Obama’s.
As for the allegedly mobilized international community, it has done nothing. Demonstrably nothing to deter Putin from swallowing Crimea. Demonstrably nothing to deter his systematic campaign of destabilization, anonymous seizures and selective violence in the proxy-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk, where Putin’s “maskirovka” (disguised warfare) has turned Eastern Ukraine into a no-man’s land where Kiev hardly dares tread.
As for Obama’s vaunted economic sanctions, when he finally got around to applying Round 2 on Monday, the markets were so impressed by their weakness that the ruble rose 1 percent and the Moscow stock exchange 2 percent.
Behind all this U.S. action, explained the New York Times in a recent leak calculated to counteract the impression of a foreign policy of clueless ad hocism, is a major strategic idea: containment.
A rather odd claim when a brazenly uncontained Russia swallows a major neighbor one piece at a time — as America stands by. After all, how did real containment begin? In March 1947, with Greece in danger of collapse from a Soviet-backed insurgency and Turkey under direct Russian pressure, President Truman went to Congress for major and immediate economic and military aid to both countries.
That means weaponry, Mr. President. It was the beginning of the Truman Doctrine. No one is claiming that arming Ukraine would have definitively deterred Putin’s current actions. But the possibility of a bloody and prolonged Ukrainian resistance to infiltration or invasion would surely alter Putin’s calculus more than Obama’s toothless sanctions or empty diplomatic gestures, like the preposterous Geneva agreement that wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.
Or does Obama really believe that Putin’s thinking would be altered less by antitank and antiaircraft weapons in Ukrainian hands than by the State Department’s comical #UnitedforUkraine Twitter campaign?
Obama appears to think so. Which is the source of so much allied anxiety: Obama really seems to believe that his foreign policy is succeeding.
Ukraine has already been written off. But Eastern Europe need not worry. Obama understands containment. He recently dispatched 150 American ground troops to Poland and each of the Baltic states. You read correctly: 150. Each.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Obama’s ‘Blame the Video’ Fraud Started in Cairo, Not Benghazi

The e-mail revelations and the Obama administration’s lies 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Local author's biography of Michael Jordan digs deeper

Michael Jordan ended his playing career 11 years ago, but he is still one of the most famous people in the world of sports.
The former Chicago Bulls great has been the subject of a number of books, as well as countless magazine and newspaper articles.
But author Roland Lazenby felt there was still more to his story.
Lazenby, a Salem resident and Wytheville native, has written a new biography of Jordan that will be published by Little, Brown and Company. “Michael Jordan The Life” will be available in stores May 6.
“The Jordan story, some of it had been told, but a lot of it had not,” said Lazenby, 61. “You’ll get one story early in the game while he’s playing and then as people look back, you often get a very different story.
“I didn’t really feel the context had ever been there. I think family often provides context. There were a lot of things I wanted to look at there.
“I just wanted to explain him.”
The book not only delves into the 51-year-old Jordan’s time at the University of North Carolina and with the Bulls but also details his family history, his youth, his stint with the Washington Wizards and his ownership of the Charlotte Bobcats.
Lazenby’s last book was a 2010 biography about another former NBA star — “Jerry West: The Life and Legend of a Basketball Icon.”
“At the end of your career, to be able to do these kind of books, these in-depth biographies, it’s very special,” said Lazenby, a George Wythe High School and VMI graduate.
Writing the Jordan book was “very, very difficult,” said Lazenby. He spent 3 1⁄2 years conducting interviews, researching and writing the book, working himself to exhaustion. He originally wrote 1,000 pages before cutting it to about 680.
Lazenby had written several previous books about the Bulls, including the 1998 book “Blood on the Horns: The Long, Strange Ride of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls,” about the end of the Bulls dynasty.
For the new book, Lazenby interviewed about 100 people, including former Bulls stars Scottie Pippen and Steve Kerr; former Bulls assistant Tex Winter; former Bulls executive Jerry Krause; and former Nike executive Sonny Vaccaro.
Jordan and Nike made each other plenty of money.
“Before he ever played a minute in the NBA, he got this fabulous Nike contract that paid him [a] 25 percent royalty — unheard of,” Lazenby said. “That essentially laid the groundwork for Jordan becoming a Nike partner. It’s a pretty amazing business story and a pretty amazing black power story — not the traditional black power of protests and politics but a black power story all the same, an economic story.”
It is no secret that Jordan likes to spend some of his money gambling.
But Lazenby said he was surprised to learn the extent of Jordan’s gambling. For example, said Lazenby, NFL player “Pacman” Jones told him that Jordan once lost $5 million shooting craps with Jones and others during the NBA All-Star weekend in 2007.
“Michael has lots of money and he has the gift that keeps on giving with his brand and his Nike relationship,” Lazenby said. “To throw away the millions he does gambling, that creates problems for him. … Family members, other people get angry. … They want things.”
For this book, Lazenby used interviews he had done with Jordan for the 1998 Bulls book and for a 2008 magazine article. He also had the benefit of interviews he had done with ex-Bulls coach Phil Jackson for previous books, including a Jackson biography.
Lazenby did briefly talk to Jordan about Jordan’s great-grandfather for the new book. But otherwise, said Lazenby, Jordan would not talk to him for this book because he wanted editorial control.
Learning about previous generations of Jordan’s family in North Carolina provided the context Lazenby was seeking for the book.
Jordan’s paternal great-grandfather, Dawson Jordan, was a sharecropper and moonshiner who died when Michael Jordan was 14 years old.
“He was the power figure in the family,” Lazenby said. “Michael’s great-grandfather is a powerful story in his own right and no one had ever told that story.”
Lazenby also learned about Michael Jordan’s late maternal grandfather, a farmer and moonshiner named Edward Peoples.
“He came to own his own land,” Lazenby said. “He had a two-story house and all this acreage. … They had this determination economically that until you understand that context, you don’t understand Jordan.”
Lazenby also researched Jordan’s childhood.
“This gets in and explains for the first time his … failure in Babe Ruth League baseball,” Lazenby said. “He was the North Carolina [Little League] player of the year as a 12-year-old. Then the next year he moved up … and he rarely got off the bench.
“You have to line all these things up and go through his adolescence to look at the building of his competitive nature.”
Lazenby said a lot of Jordan’s competitiveness stems from his relationship with his late father, James Jordan.
“His father really was down on Michael as a little kid,” Lazenby said. “He preferred his older brother [Larry].”
Lazenby used to teach at Virginia Tech and Radford. But he spent a lot of long weekends in Chicago during Jordan’s Bulls career for books he wrote about some of Chicago’s championship seasons.
Lazenby wanted to call the new book “Black Jesus: The Life of Michael Jordan,” in part because a Bulls employee used to refer to Jordan as Jesus. But the publishing company opted for the simpler “Michael Jordan The Life.”
Lazenby, who will soon return to a marketing job with some area radio stations, said he respects Jordan.
“Most of the people that have his kind of wealth and fame, they end up like Elvis,” Lazenby said. “He has his issues, but he has survived it for the most part.
“I just try to tell the story. You have to be engaging in your writing, but I’m not there as a cheerleader.”
Lazenby’s next book will be about the late VMI football coach John McKenna and will be published by VMI.