This week my column earns its name--though "strange bedfellow" might be a better title for something by David Brock. Brock, in case you've forgotten, is that young, gay, conservative investigative sex journalist who specializes in the reverse beatification of liberal saints in the gay-baiting AmericanSpectator. After making his name with a best seller arguing that Anita Hill had mixed up Clarence Thomas with someone else, Brock became even more notorious by breaking, in the pages of the Spectator, the lurid tale that came to be known as "Troopergate." Though many of the "revelations" by Clinton's former bodyguards were clearly baloney (Vince Foster groping Hillary Clinton in public, Bill consuming whole baked potatoes in a single bite), the fantasy was blended with elements of reality in an artful way. One product of the mixture was the Paula Jones lawsuit, which was filed not only against Clinton but also against one of Brock's own trooper witnesses, who alleged that "Paula" did not flee the governor's hotel room as promptly as she recalls.
Given that background, Brock's The Seduction of Hillary Rodham has been much awaited, eagerly by the Dole camp, less so by the Democrats. The hype succeeded in getting my hopes up, but not for long. Slate has gotten its hands on a bootleg copy of the book, marked "confidential," and embargoed for Oct. 8. Slate is woefully disappointed.
There are only four allegations here that even vaguely resemble news:
1. While running for Congress in 1974, Bill Clinton contemplated buying black votes in order to steal the election, but ultimately did not.
2. In the early '80s, Hillary hired a private detective to find out about her husband's tomcatting.
3. In 1992, the Clinton campaign hired another private detective to intimidate bimbos. This detective obliquely threatened the life of Gennifer Flowers.
4. On the morning of the inauguration in 1993, the Clintons had a frank exchange of views on the steps of Blair house, trading such endearments as "fucking bitch," and "stupid motherfucker."
These nuggets all have the same problems. First, they are remarkably thinly sourced, to 1) a disgruntled former consultant who was disbarred for bribery; 2) a detective who had his license revoked by the State of Arkansas; 3) Gennifer Flowers' ex-roommate; and 4) Park Police. Second, none of them implicates either the president or first lady in anything that is actually or even nearly illegal. It was the consultant, not the Clintons, who wanted to buy votes. Campaigns hire detectives all the time. Profanity isn't a crime. But worst of all, these bombshells aren't particularly juicy, and to find them, you have to wade through 400 pages of stupefying rehash.
Possibly because he returned from Little Rock without the goods, Brock takes a new authorial tack. He casts himself as a fair-minded, quasi-objective investigator, appalled by the Hillary-hating right. To do this, of course, he must distance himself from himself, and this he does with aplomb. A Spectator piece of his about the travel-office firings "was even accompanied by a facetious caricature of Hillary as a witch!" he notes. Fancy that. The new, evenhanded Brock says Hillary is "neither an icon nor a demon."
Actually, he veers drunkenly between these two poles, now mocking Hillary for thick ankles, dowdy outfits, and résumé padding, now excusing her involvement in Travelgate and Whitewater. The troopers see Hillary as "an undesirable, foul-mouthed harridan who had brought the mistreatment and neglect on herself." Not so, Brock assures us, gallantly fending off the rogues. "It seems fairer to conclude that Hillary's flaring temper was an understandable reaction to the humiliation to which she was subjected on a regular basis."
Brock's disingenuousness is monumental, and takes place at several levels. At the first, Brock, under the guise of fairness, slings enough mud to drown a Bangladeshi village. His particular obsession is that Hillary Clinton is, I kid you not, a Red. Carl Ogelsby, whose writings influenced her at Wellesley, was a "Maoist or Marxist." Saul Alinsky, about whom she wrote her senior thesis ("now under lock and key") was the mentor to "the socialist agitator Staughton Lynd, who had gone to Hanoi with Tom Hayden in 1965 to meet with North Vietnamese leaders." At Yale Law School, her revolutionary "uniform" consisted of white socks, sandals, "and the loosefitting, flowing pants favored by the Viet Cong." She studied the First Amendment with "Tommie the Commie" Emerson and was seen around the "influential circle of Robert Borosage," later connected to the Institute for Policy Studies which "promoted pro-Soviet movements in the Third World at the height of the renewed Cold War." She spent a summer working in Berkeley with lawyers Robert Truehaft and Charles Garry, who were--you guessed it--Communists.
And on it goes. The Legal Services Corp., on whose board Hillary sat, was a hotbed of Marxists and folk singers. She later joined the New World Foundation, on whose senior staff was Adrian W. DeWind, "who during the 1970s was a member of the Committee for Public Justice, founded by Lillian Hellman." Mrs. Clinton's mentor Marian Wright Edelman was "at the height of the 1980s U.S.-Soviet tensions ... a member of the board of SANE/FREEZE, a leading disarmament group, and she has been affiliated with the Washington School, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies." After the election, the first lady responded to a congratulatory note from the National Lawyers' Guild, "which had been founded in the 1930s as an adjunct of the American Communist Party." She thought about appointing as secretary of education Johnetta Cole, a member of a committee "connected to Cuba's intelligence forces and to the World Peace Council." Even the detective hired by the Clinton campaign in 1992 to intimidate bimbos was a "People's Detective"!
R obert Truehaft actually was a Communist--long before his association with Hillary; "Tommy the Commie" was a McCarthyite nickname for a Yale professor who never was. In either case, so what? Brock's anachronistic redbaiting resembles the fashionable game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," in which it is shown that the actor can be associated with any other actor in the world in a series of short steps. He then makes a laughingstock out of himself by accusing right-wing "critics" of practicing "smear" tactics and "guilt by association." When it comes to such subjects as lesbianism, drugs, and witchcraft, Brock's technique is slightly different. He retails various "suspicions," then assures us that they are "contemptuous." I think he means "contemptible," but you get the idea.
The second level of falsity is that Brock defends Hillary only to elevate his own, proprietary scandal. As he indicates, he thinks the media focused on Whitewater and Travelgate in 1994 as higher-minded alternatives to Troopergate. His agenda is to convince us that James McDougal doesn't matter, but that Paula Jones does. If he has to grant immunity to Hillary to prosecute her husband, so be it. Deep down, he assures us, Hillary is a good person. Bill is not. Unlike the virtuous Hillary, the president's late mother "slept around," he tells us, without any further elaboration. She even "ministered to call girls," whatever that means. William Blythe, whom Clinton "claims as his natural father," was with a different woman every night. Clinton, to Brock, is an empty vessel, or at least a vessel with his wife at the tiller. He has always been a parasite on her political acumen, her intelligence, and her income.
At the same time, Brock undermines his fainthearted defense by arguing that Hillary is a closet revolutionary cadre, a committed radical who takes as her creed Saul Alinsky's admonition that the struggle to help the poor is a struggle for power in which the ends always justify the means. He even describes her journey to the White House as a Maoist "long march." This theory demands a certain creative use of evidence. When Alinsky offered her a job after college, Hillary turned him down, saying in a letter that she disapproved of his methods and preferred to work inside the system. But to Brock, this only enhances the point. Her chance to foist socialism on America finally came with health-care reform. Never mind that lefties hated her managed-competition plan. Never mind that she didn't even try to stop her husband from repealing the welfare entitlement. She is a "Trojan horse," making tactical concessions in the name of the ultimate radical millennium.
Though Brock's primary theme is Hillary's clandestine pursuit of her own idea of justice, he intersperses it with his own titular one about how a good person was "seduced" by an amoral husband and the seedy realities of Arkansas political life. Unexplained is how one can be a dedicated revolutionary and a sellout to the status quo at the same time. But then, conservatives need to have it both ways about the Clintons. Bob Dole still hasn't decided whether his opponent is a "closet liberal" or a chameleon. You can make either case, but you have to make up your mind.