Illustration by The Bayou Brief, based on the film “Being John Malkovich.”
Rating: ½ * out of five stars.
Several weeks ago, Jim Engster, the inveterate Louisiana talk radio host, historiographer, and pantomath of state politics, invited me on his morning show to discuss the news of the day. I think, by now, I qualify as one of his regulars (We spoke just only a few days ago). Here’s usually how it works: His producer will call me about five minutes beforehand, and I’ll get to quietly listen in on the tail-end of his interview with the previous panelists or guest. On that particular morning, I got punched into the show, and because I was in Alexandria at the time, I hadn’t already been listening in. I had no idea who the other guest was.
For some reason, though, they were discussing Whitey Bulger and then Pan Am 103 and then Ruby Ridge, which, obviously had nothing to do with the news of the day.
“I still don’t understand how this has anything to do with Robert Mueller,” Engster then said, several times.
I wondered why he hadn’t just moved onto the next caller, before realizing the person on the other end of the line wasn’t a caller; it had to be his guest.
The mystery was quickly solved. “Well, thank you to state Sen. John Milkovich, whose new book is called Robert Mueller: Errand Boy for the New World Order.”
The overtly deranged title immediately convinced me. “I guess I’ll have to buy his book,” I told Engster when we went on the air. After all, this was a book written by a sitting Louisiana state Senator, a man who was elected in 2015 as a Democrat.
Milkovich may be registered as a Democrat, but he is arguably the most radical conservative member of the entire state legislature: He is vehemently anti-gay and anti-choice. He authored unconstitutional legislation seeking to criminalize abortions after fifteen weeks of pregnancy and has frequently spoken about his desire to overturn Roe v. Wade. Recently, he was also the lone member of the state Senate to vote against a balanced budget compromise that funded TOPS and healthcare, because, among other things, of his opposition to Common Core, which he contends advances an atheist agenda.
Over the summer, after the legislature finally adjourned, Milkovich turned his attention to writing an elaborate conspiracy theory about Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a theory, he tells readers, that he had been initially inspired to develop after a brief discussion with an unnamed, uneducated, and apparently homeless man.
But make no mistake: This is not gonzo journalism. It is an overdose of meandering and solipsistic rants, a glimpse into the gutters of the internet that poison our politics, and a damning indictment of the competence and mental stability of man in a position of public trust.
Being John Milkovich
In describing A.J. Liebling’s classic The Earl of Louisiana to a friend of mine who had never read the book, James Carville cut right to the chase: “It’s a book about a man from New York who travels to Louisiana to cover our ‘insane’ governor, Earl K. Long, and discovers, while he’s here, that Earl Long may have been the only sane person in the entire state.”
Uncle Earl, famously, escaped from the “looney bin,” which is probably a more proper euphemism for the section of the discount bookstore to which Robert Mueller: Errand Boy for the New World Order belongs than it is for an institution that helps those struggling with mental illness.
If this sounds cruel and insensitive, remember, this is a state Senator, a person who possesses political clout and power by mere virtue of his position, attempting to seriously convince readers that he is somehow privy to an elaborate government conspiracy about the “Deep State” that centers around a multi-decade coverup by Robert Mueller. It is an egregious effort to delegitimize the investigation into serious allegations that Donald Trump and members of his campaign conspired with associates of the Russian government and hackers in order to steal documents and emails from Trump’s opponent, spread false information through an expansive social media campaign, and interfere with the 2016 election.
Those familiar with the genre of Christian eschatological fiction- the kind of books authored by people like John Hagee- will undoubtedly recognize the influence. Like those books, Robert Mueller: Errand Boy for the New World Order relies on readers to subscribe to a set of dubious beliefs about an imminent apocalypse based on a convoluted, ignorant, and absurdist understanding of geopolitics and domestic policymaking.
We are supposed to assume that people like state Sen. Milkovich must be smart, not only because he managed to get elected but also because he earned good grades in graduate school.
A Montana native, John Milkovich made Louisiana home more than three decades ago, after graduating in the top 10% of his class at LSU Law and serving on the LSU Law Review. He and his wife Carola, who is also an attorney, eventually settled in Keithville, an unincorporated exurb southwest of Shreveport, near the border of Caddo and DeSoto parishes.
For the past twenty years, he has served on the Board of Directors of Shreveport Community Church, a far-right conservative mega-church led by the charismatic preacher Denny Duron. Duron is such a singularly important figure in his life that he is one of only four people who earns a mention on the state Senator’s official biography page. According to a former member of the church, Milkovich has at least one thing in common with the similarly-named celebrity. Like John Malkovich, John Milkovich is also an actor, appearing infrequently in church performances as a character known as “Verse Man.”
Prior to his election to the state Senate, Milkovich had run twice, unsuccessfully, for U.S. Congress, losing in 2002 to incumbent Jim McCrery by more than 45 points and in 2008 to Paul Carmouche by more than 21 points in the Democratic primary (the election was eventually won by Republican John Fleming, and Louisiana’s brief flirtation with party primaries ended shortly thereafter). During both campaigns, Milkovich relied heavily on personal loans and donations from family members and friends in Montana, South Dakota, and Washington State.
“He’s a Democrat because that’s the only way he could ever get elected in that district,” a person closely affiliated with his campaign candidly acknowledged to me shortly after his election. The person was proud of the bait and switch, but to me, that was nothing more than an overt admission that Milkovich had been running the worst kind of cynical and unprincipled campaign. There was little virtue to be found in someone who would engage in duplicity.
On the book’s very first page, Milkovich writes, “This author, and millions of Americans, are indebted to Dr. Jerome Corsi, Ph.D., for his trenchant insights expressed in Killing the Deep State.” Corsi, for those unfamiliar, is one of the country’s notorious conspiracy theorists. He believes former President Barack Obama forged his own birth certificate, that 9/11 was an inside job, that John McCain was supported by al-Qaeda, and that Adolph Hitler staged his own death and escaped to Argentina, among other things. Currently, Corsi is under investigation by Mueller for allegedly conspiring with Wikileaks and Roger Stone in order to pass along advanced information to the Trump campaign about stolen information from the Clinton campaign. Corsi had initially accepted and then rejected a plea agreement and asserts he never willfully misled investigators.
Corsi’s name on the first page of Milkovich’s book should be enough for a discerning reader to discredit the remaining 165 pages, but in the event that you are still patient enough to continue, consider the argument Milkovich constructs in his very first chapter: Robert Mueller was an Assistant United States Attorney in Boston during at least a portion of Whitey Bulger’s reign of terror. There is no direct connection between Bulger’s crimes and Mueller’s work as an assistant attorney, except that Mueller was “geographically and temporally” in Boston.
In Chapter Two, Milkovich spends an inordinate amount of attention on the hijacking of Pan Am 103, though it’s completely unclear how or why Mueller is involved at all until, toward the end of the chapter, he obliquely references “research” conducted by a 9/11 Truther named Kevin Ryan, a former lab tech in South Bend, Indiana. Ryan claims, without evidence, that Mueller covered up evidence of a CIA drug-smuggling ring.
Then, there are chapters about BCCI, Ruby Ridge, 9/11, Anthrax, and Weapons of Mass Destruction, all of which seem to be constructed from the same web of repeatedly and thoroughly discredited fringe conspiracy theorists that Milkovich believes to be professional investigative journalists.
Milkovich’s book attempts, weakly, to present some sort of Grand Unifying Theory about Robert Mueller, but instead, he offers a disjointed and incoherent story that calls into question his credibility and competence. It’s like Homeland‘s Carrie Mathison when she is on her meds.
Ultimately, though, Milkovich’s book isn’t really about Robert Mueller; it’s an attempt to vindicate the plight of a friend of his from Keithville, a dentist named David Graham, who Milkovich strongly implies was murdered by the government for threatening to self-publish a book about 9/11 that would have conclusively revealed the dentist had alerted the FBI of the presence of two of the nineteen hijackers in Shreveport.
Milkovich, who provided the eulogy at Graham’s funeral, has been attempting to expose the “truth” for more than a decade, according to KSLA. He suggests the government “poisoned” the dentist at a bar near Lake Conroe, Texas, which eventually resulted in his death.
“(T)here is no evidence those terror suspects, Nawaf Al-Hazi and Fayez Banihammad, were ever in Shreveport and said Dr. Graham only mentioned them after 9/11,” Mike Kinder, the FBI’s Special Agent in Charge in Shreveport, told KSLA. “Kinder also said the FBI did not investigate Graham’s death because there was no evidence of any connection between Graham’s writings and his illness.”
One can find Graham’s dubious story on several different “9/11 Truthers” websites, thanks largely to Milkovich’s persistence and his refusal to believe his friend, who was known to be beset with financial problems, would ever hasten his own death.
In that respect, Milkovich’s book, unwittingly, is about a man grappling with personal grief by attempting to reverse-engineer profound meaning out of a senseless loss, and if there is any sympathy to be found in the pages of Robert Mueller: Errand Boy for the New World Order, it is for a seemingly intelligent attorney whose despair devolves into a toxic and nihilistic perspective on the country to which he took an oath to defend.
Unless you are a member of the Louisiana legislature, there is no compelling reason to read state Sen. John Milkovich’s book. But for those in the legislature, his book should be considered mandatory reading; you need to know the true beliefs of a colleague with whom you are conducting business on behalf of the people of Louisiana.