Poster Boys

Poster Boys

Poster Boys

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
March 13 1998 8:11 PM

Poster Boys

David "I Made Paula Jones Famous" Brock, who wants everyone to know that he deeply regrets single-handedly bringing down the president, isn't the only journalist to have reported the allegations of Arkansas state troopers who claim to have procured women for then-Gov. Clinton. In addition to the Los Angeles Times, the American Spectator in April, 1994, printed a long, well-documented piece by Daniel Wattenberg recounting the tale of Trooper L.D. Brown, who claims to have solicited "over a hundred" women for Clinton. Does Wattenberg, who quit the Spectator that same year, still stand by his story? "Yes, I do," he says.

Advertisement

In a phone interview Thursday night, Brock was not as oily as Chatterbox had hoped he'd be. But he was quite disingenuous on the subject of whether he still believes the troopers' essential allegations. In his well-hyped Esquire "apology"--the most recent one, not last year's I-was-a-hatchet-man number in which he defended his Troopergate reporting--Brock merely says he's had "occassional pangs of doubt" about the trooper story. Not exactly a recantation. What reporter doesn't have occasional pangs of doubt about controversial pieces? Pressed on this point, Brock paused, then paused some more, then would only say, "There may well be some truth in what [the troopers] say. I don't know. I'm not ruling it out. I'm not standing by it." At least that is his position on the record. You get the sense that he doesn't want to say anything that might annoy his new White House friends. ... If he thought the gist of the troopers' story was false, of course, he could just declare that he thought it was false. ... Asked if he still defends his earlier, anti-Anita Hill sexological snooping, Brock unenthusiastically says "Yeah." ...

Stand-Up Backstabbing: Paul Begala is emerging as Mr. Loyalty in the Flytrap scandal. Is that the same Paul Begala who leaked nasty little tidbits about fellow Clintonians to Bob Woodward for use in the latter's 1994 book, The Agenda? Like the detail that in a meeting with Begala, Deputy Budget Director Alice Rivlin was eating a chicken salad sandwich, which was "dripping from her chin"? That's loyalty! ... Begala also called his colleague, then-Budget Director Leon Panetta, "The Poster Boy for Economic Constipation." ... Of course, in the great 1993 debate between Begala's don't -tax-the-middle-class "populists" and Rivlin and Panetta's Wall-Street-pleasing budget-balancers, Rivlin and Panetta have been proven right and Begala proven wrong ...

The Sabato Scorecard: In the early stages of Flytrap, University of Virginia media critic Larry "Feeding Frenzy" Sabato was all over the tube, promoting his view that 40 percent of all that facts that come out in the early stages of a scandal will always turn out to be wrong. Call it Sabato's Law. Chatterbox would like to pose a contrary hypothesis: in Flytrap, virtually all the stories that get criticized as the false products of a Sabatovian "feeding frenzy" will turn out to be essentially true. Here are four of them:

--Did Clinton give Monica a dress?

Advertisement

--Did Clinton seemingly coach Betty Currie with leading questions, as reported in the New York Times?

--Did steward Bayani Nelvis see Clinton and Monica alone in the study near the Oval Ofice, as reported in the Wall Street Journal?

--Did a Secret Service agent see Clinton and Monica in a "compromising situation," as the Dallas Morning News initially reported? In an "ambiguous situation," as the paper's second, watered-down version had it?

Keep score at home! Add new stories to the list as they come out and get knocked down with carefully worded denials by Clinton-affiliated lawyers (as was the so-far perfectly accurate New York Times story on Currie--see Chatterbox for 2/18). Remember that to win, Sabato has to get four out of 10! ... Or maybe his own pontifications were part of that inaccurate 40 percent. (The same way all those ordinary voters who are telling pollsters they think it's OK to lie may be lying to the pollsters about what they think!) ... Of course, even if all the "feeding frenzy" stories turn out to be true, by the time they are proven true the public may already have come to the unshakable conclusion that they're suspect, or the public may be so accustomed to the scandal that it doesn't care. This is the genius behind the "knock it down today, forget about tomorrow" Clinton strategy. ...

Advertisement

DOX KNOX BROX CROX! Chatterbox would love to dismiss the idea that a president's function is to be a "role model," as opposed to simply an effective president. Alas, the evidence keeps coming in that the "role model" effect is real. The latest? This week's study in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirming that mastectomies increased after Nancy Reagan chose to undergo that radical procedure rather than have a less drastic "lumpectomy." Indeed, lumpectomies dropped 25 percent. The conclusion: "medical care can be influenced substantially by the behavior of celebrity role models." And sexual behavior can be influenced substantially by ...

Which brings us to the CHATTERBOX LEXIS-NEXIS FIND OF THE DAY:

"Let me say that there is a lot of talk about personal responsibility. What we have to do is practice it. There's a lot of talk about valuing family and work and community. What we have to do is value them."

--President Clinton, remarks before the 25th anniversary dinner of the Congressional Black Caucus, Sept. 23, 1995

Chatterbox is already feeling occasional pangs of doubt about all of the above items! ...