The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
The Morning Mendacity
Thursday, July 28th, 2005
The Nossiter Net is cast  to snare some of  the riper rascalities of the day.  Comments?  editor@nossiter.net
I was studying the sunshine pouring through my office window like liquid honey.  Sunshine is rare in a San Francisco summer, and the sight of it should have been welcome. For me, it was a reminder that I hadn’t dusted the place in weeks.  If I owned a duster, I’d have started right in.  Not that I object to a little house-cleaning;  dusting is pretty close to what I do for a living anyway. Christopher Smart, Private Investigator, is what my card says.  Missing family members, straying spouses, fraud and embezzlement in small offices.  Penny ante tragedy is my business, despair on a small scale.  Nothing that would ever make the national news headlines comes my way.

Except for that sunny July morning.  Waiting in my outer room was big time trouble. National trouble, historic even.  I wanted no part of it.  I half hoped that if I sat staring out my window long enough, it would go away.  But the little bespectacled fat man in the shapeless gray suit looked like a fixture, and I couldn’t stall him any longer.  I knew who he was and I knew why he was there.  I didn’t like him, and I didn’t like his problem.  But a client is a client, and so I opened the inner door and ushered him in.

“Mr. Smart?” he said, beginning to extend a hand, then putting it in his pocket when I didn’t do the same.

“So I am.  Have a seat, Mr. Karl Rove.”

He gave me a piercing once over, his eyeglass lenses glaring aggressively.  “I suppose you’ve read about my current little business.  You were recommended to me by a mutual acquaintance.  I need you to get to the bottom of a major mystery.”

“Why don’t you tell me about it?” I said, unenthusiastically.  I figured there wasn’t anything I could do for him anyway, but he could at least state his case.

“William McKinley, the 25th President, is one of our greatest, and one of our most underrated leaders, as I explained at the University of Utah back in ’02.*  He brought the Presidency into the 20th century, and he laid the foundations of the American empire by defeating Spain in the Spanish American War, thereby acquiring Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and the other remnants of the Spanish empire in the new world.”

This wasn’t what I expected.  Of course I’d read the man was a self-taught history buff, and I’d heard that McKinley was a particular hero of his, but I thought he’d come consulting me on the Valerie Wilson affair.  I said “McKinley, eh?  Pray continue your interesting narrative.”

“This great American has a persistent cloud over his name.  The proximate cause of the Spanish American war was, as we all know, the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana harbor in 1898.  McKinley was convinced the battle ship was blown up by a Spanish mine, and took us to war to avenge her.  ‘A splendid little war’ Teddy Roosevelt called it, and so it was.  A glorious victory, and a new empire the result.  But there are some who insist that the Maine wasn’t sunk by a Spanish mine.  These commie terrorists, er, revisionist historians, claim the explosion was due to on board causes, coal gas and gunpowder and so on.  Your assignment, Smart, is to lay these false claims to rest for good.  You can examine any record, visit any government office, spend whatever it takes.  The historians have had their chance;  now it’s the turn of a smart private eye.  Whaddya say?”

I stood up wearily. Not because I wasn’t interested in the assignment;  I’m at least as fond of history as Rove is.  But I was about to talk myself out of what could have been a sizeable fee.  I pulled a book off the shelf and handed it to Rove.

“Your answer’s in there, Rove.  It’s a study, exhaustive, commissioned by Admiral Rickover.  It asked precisely your question:  what sunk the Maine?**  The conclusion isn’t challenged by sensible historians.  The Maine, according to Rickover’s scholars, blew up because the ship’s coal bunkers were too close to the magazine, and one set off the other.  It’s all in there.  You can borrow the study if you promise to return it to me.”

Rove reddened and began to splutter.  “Wait a minute, just wait a minute.  You’re saying that the US was led into a major war – on false pretences?!”

I found myself not regretting my fee one bit.  “Fancy that,” I replied.

*http://hnn.us/articles/1529.html
**http://www.nybooks.com/articles/877


©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2005

NOTE TO READERS:

Dear Readers,
A little more than one week shy of this page's first anniversary, this is the 100th column in the series.  Thank you for all your comments, and for reading THE NOSSITER NET.
Sincerely,
Josh Nossiter
Last Words
The Good Old Days
The World Through Blinders
Only if it Quacks
Supreme Solution
Faking the Real
A Grand Design
The Second Coming
A Real (Cinderella) Man
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