By Jason Hart
Euclid Democrat Kent Smith touts his 2008 book, “Please God Save Us,” as proof of his qualifications to serve in the Ohio House. Facing questions about the book’s content, Smith has recently sought to distance himself from its coauthor.
A collection of Smith’s essays and Derek Hess’ artwork criticizing George W. Bush’s foreign and domestic policies, “Please God Save Us” contains violent imagery comparing Republicans — Christians, in particular — to Nazis.
The “Crosstika” appears on the book’s cover and throughout “Please God Save Us.” Other pieces from Hess include a red elephant being crucified, a row of elephant heads on spikes in front of the White House and a dog ripping the throat from a fox bearing the Fox News logo.
“The art depicts the country’s mood at that point,” Smith told Cleveland NBC affiliate WKYC 3 in a mid-September interview. “I’m responsible for zero of the artwork.”
Author Kent Smith
And according to Northeast Ohio Media Group at Cleveland.com, Smith
Smith’s campaign failed to respond to a Watchdog.org inquiry seeking comment.
But Smith had probably seen much of the art included in “Please God Save Us” when he undertook the project with Hess.
A 2008 Detroit Metro Times story noted the book was “born out of” a 2006 Hess display called “Please God Save Us From Your Followers.” Smith acknowledged as much in the book’s introduction.
The book was released in mid-2008, specifically because Smith and Hess “knew they had to get it out before the presidential election.” After the election, Hess distributed free Obama posters with copies of the book.
Smith, head of the Democratic Party in Euclid and a former school board member, has used “Please God Save Us” as a selling point for his candidacy in Ohio House District 8.
Smith discusses “Please God Save Us” in the biography on his campaign website. A separate page of his campaign site is dedicated to reviews of the book, and his campaign’s only blog post begins with a paragraph about the book.
Smith is endorsed by Rep. Armond Budish — the Democrat former House speaker who holds the 8th District seat Smith seeks — and by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a subsidiary of Northeast Ohio Media Group. Budish is running for Cuyahoga County executive.
In a Cleveland.com comment thread following the outlet’s story about “Please God Save Us,” NEOMG reporter Jackie Borchardt admitted she had not read the book.
Following are several excerpts from Smith’s essays in the book:
"The Republican reaction to losing the moral highroad to the Democrats during the 1960′s was to create fables of fear." (pg. 12)
"The Republican Party has used its pro-church message to divide the country and win elections. But they are not interested in making America a more Christian nation, in fact, they do not even believe the message themselves. If they let the Gospels shape their political agendas, they would not seek tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of social programs." (pg. 15)
"The Republican strategy is to divide the public on issues so their riches can be protected." (pg. 34)
"The majority of Americans support stem cell research. Maybe George Bush would allow stem cell research if Halliburton could make money from it?" (pg. 80)
"If the goal is spreading propaganda, then Fox News is working." (pg. 95)...
“Local indie/hardcore artist Derek Hess and politician/self-proclaimed “policynerd” Kent Smith might actually be greater together than the sum of their individual parts. The duo has long charted ground individually in town with fiery effect. Together, they’ve joined forces for an incendiary graphic essay folio full of scathing indictments that scald like napalm.” – CoolCleveland.com, July 16, 2008.
“We are all irritated with U.S. leaders and the Christian right telling us how to vote on Proposition 8, but do we say anything more than ‘this sucks’? Fortunately, Kent Smith can, and does so in an educated and rational manner. More than just a complement, Derek Hess’s brilliantly messy and melancholic Ashley Wood meets Bill Sinkiewicz-style paintings, sketches and collages (often using the Red Elephant as his subject) appear on each page, echoing Smith’s words (and visa-versa). If the publishers of Ad Busters worked in cohesion and employed a shit-hot illustrator, the result would be this book.” – SLUG Magazine, November 2008.
“Please God Save Us,” a blend of Kent Smith’s facts and tracts with Derek Hess’s startling, dramatic art. Smith is an activist Democrat from suburban Cleveland, Hess a Cleveland artist who made his mark in the 1990s designing rock posters and album covers for the likes of Shudder to Think, Pantera, and Pink Floyd. Hess’s work is unapologetically subversive. A shot at the religious right, “Please God Save Us” balls word and image into a smart fist.” — Boston Globe, November 23, 2008.