by Joe Carducci
"Contrary to his reputation as a hero, Sirica was in fact a corrupt, incompetent, and dishonest figure, with a close connection to Senator Joseph McCarthy and clear ties to organized crime."The eight or nine pieces that the New York Times ran in a virtual deconstruction campaign against this truth (Adler's Harper's piece documents this sentence with the evidence she gathered twenty years ago) included pieces spread throughout the paper (Arts, Magazine, Business, Letters, Book Review, Editorial, Op Ed, and Week in Review) from January to April, 2000. Why?
Well, the truth is the product of relatively simple work, but fiction takes enormous effort and continual maintenance, and when it's so obviously a self-serving fiction, it further, nearly impossibly, requires a light touch. That the Times' touch was so heavy and clumsy is not taken personally by Adler (that is after all a compliment), but rather as a professional affront; she has just discovered the other publishing institution imploding. (She was Bosley Crowther's replacement as NYT film critic 1968-9.)
The body english of the media institutions and persons that wish to imply the righteous possession of Nixon's scalp have much invested in many small fictions. And Sirica's heroism is supposed to have occurred in a period when the majority party was attempting to offload its racism and war-mongering onto the minority party. There are many lies from this period that yet comfort the Democrats and irk the Republicans. Sirica, like the segregationist Sen. Sam Ervin of North Carolina, were simply required to be righteous figures by the immediate needs of the Democratic Party and the news media which is often peddling narratives simplified beyond all reality.
Adler's dissection of Sirica's memoir - a quickie unsophisticated jobber - seems fair and obvious. Sirica was a typical early 20th Century product of Italian-American neighborhoods. His father wasn't a mobster, nor was he a law-abiding citizen. He let the mob use him as a front to run bowling alleys and barber shops where hootch might be bought during prohibition. Sirica himself let them use him as a boxer in illegal and certainly often fixed matches. This much is in the memoir itself. Further, Sirica's narrative strikes Adler as so convoluted as to suggest he had a mob-connected businessman's help to finally get past the bar exam and become a lawyer. Its the story of the urban America in those years - an iron triangle of the mob, the courts, and the local Democratic Party. Ovid Demaris' book, Captive City, about Chicago in the 1950s is a signal portrait of this largely extinct world. Interestingly, if you happen to accept that the mob had something to do with JFK's assassination, you might also find circumstantial evidence that they took out Nixon as well. Kind of makes you proud to be Italian. . .
Renata Adler goes on to establish his bumbling and dishonesty during the Watergate trials but her focus is on New York, of course, "The documentation for it (her sentence) is ample. (NYTimes' media correspondent and wife of Times editorial board member Philip Taubman, Felicity) Barringer, her "sources," and her colleagues could have found it if her agenda had really been journalism: the gathering, that is, and publishing of first-hand information."
She caught the Times engaging in advocacy history,
"Why, then, was the Times so heavily committed to the received idea that Sirica was 'an American folk hero,' . . . Part of the reason is that the Times itself has already said so, in its obituary. . . Partly because a relatively recent, complacent kind of sloth on the part of many reporters - sitting at a desk, phoning around, either repetitively badgering or, more commonly, passively receiving, quotes from anonymous, self-interested, possibly lying, or even nonexistent sources - tends to welcome, and to perpetuate, every sort of conventional wisdom and clichE. Partly because the Times is committed most profoundly to a certain notion of itself. . . . as a bureaucracy, a complacent, unchallenged, in some ways totalitarian institution convinced of its infallibility."She also caught the Times enforcing that imposed history - seven or eight Winston Smiths without a doubt among them because of course they phone out from the Times. This time they got a live one on the line. Poor New Yorkers.
Rage to Serve
The First Partner - Hillary Rodham Clinton by Joyce Milton, 1999 (William Morrow)
The Case Against Hillary by Peggy Noonan, 2000 (Regan)
Hillary's Choice by Gail Sheehy, 1999 (Random House)
The Seduction of Hillary Rodham by David Brock, 1996 (Free Press)
Hell to Pay by Barbara Olson, 1999 (Regnery)
In 1985 or so, Henry Rollins and Lydia Lunch performed at the Club Lingerie for the hipsters of Hollywood. The attendees lined up and went into a room one at a time only to find themselves verbally accosted and physically abused by these two scamps. The L.A. Weekly's La De Da column the next week was full of outrage directed at La Lunch and El Rollins on behalf of friends of the editors. The performance was called, 'Help Us Hurt You.' And they lined up. . .
. . .and voted into office Bill and Hillary. (Al Gore only really got to assume the vice presidency from the point at which Hillary's healthcare task-farce catapulted Newt Gingrich into the Speaker's chair and her deep into Hillaryland). But the Clintons aren't self-possessed performance artists; they are, rather, a pair of homeless half-formed ids that together spark the only spasms that have animated the Democratic National Corpse since JFK got laid out.
But that's not good because today all parties of the Left are now nihilist. As long as there existed the general expectation that historical evolution would progress toward centralized planned socialism the Democrats were at least true believers in their policies. Now that they no longer believe in their own political philosophy they are mere posturers - out of inertia, or fear, or self-interest. In Hillary's case it would appear to always have been self-interest, though a deeply sublimated, in-grown self-interest. How common this is on the Left is an open question as the Left's current quandary is a recent development. But it's certainly common in teachers union precincts. And trial lawyer environs. And in the media. And with others in the demi-mind economy. There may also be a gender aspect at work in Hillary's case - this kind of megalo-sublimation which yields a near perfect sealing off from doubt and reappraisal. This may be seen most clearly when this Empress of ours strode chin up into staterooms immediately after having been stripped bare so publicly. Hillary only transmits; Bill receives. In fact, what makes Bill such a poor public speechmaker is that he's too busy reading his audience as he speaks.
Hillary Rodham had been a star in the Movement netherlands of the Democratic Party since she left the Republican Party of her childhood as a Wellesley undergrad. Her childhood was not like most, however, in that she paid more constant attention to politics. Most kids ape their parents as the presidential campaign begins to register with them through TV ads or via mock elections in history class. Only the creepiest age-traitors collude with the school administrators and run happily and seriously for student government positions. And that's our Hill (and Bill) - End of story.
The permutations of their story are, if not quite Shakespeareian, at least richly telling of the soft post-war generation. The story might be traced in any of a number of narratives:
The Psychological narrative:
wherein young Hillary's response to her hardworking and challenging parents is a grandiose public, yet essentially personal, trumping of their small, quintessentially American triumphs.
The Social narrative:
wherein the straight-laced Hillary inserts herself as the practical interface between the emotional radical youth and the staid political establishment, first in college, then law school, then in Black Panther defense work, then in the Legal Services Corporation, then Arkansas politics, and finally national politics.
The Political narrative:
wherein the ex-Goldwater Girl / Movement lawyer helps write the House Committee's expansive impeachment charter against Nixon, marries a Kennedy clone and lives to rue her own youthful implacability and her new party's criminalization of political differences via the Independent Counsel Statute, et. al.
The Philosophical narrative:
wherein the progressive Methodist interfaces with the New Left and feminism's Identity Politics and attempts to revivify the welfare state and push it towards a therapeutic state - totalitarianism with a human face.
The Class narrative:
wherein uppity children of the new upper middle class found that their appetite to forge a new criteria in which to best their parents (who had just mastered the fascists and rallied the free world against the communists) put them in alliance with a sullen Academia which had just been taken down several notches from its heyday in FDR's first two terms by the imperatives of war - the U.S. Army oversaw the brilliant physicists of the Manhattan Project, most every one of which was either a high-minded com-symp or U.N.-worldgovnik.
The Criminal narrative:
wherein the moral yet ambitious young woman who turns down the chance to buy the 1974 Congressional campaign for Bill because its wrong, is seduced by the chance to work her moralistic policies behind the mud-guard of her husband's henceforth amoral prosecution of his political career.
This is all certainly ripe enough material, but without a Shakespeare that's all it is. The chroniclers we had early on (Joe Klein, David Maraniss, Roger Morris) identified with the Clintons to such an extent that their body-english told the real story while they droned on and on about the supposed "larger story" of a broken system, as if the Clintons were no more problematic than the Doles, Bushes, Reagans, Carters, Nixons, etc., and as if the American system is broken when it is in fact nearly every other polity on the face of the earth that are unable to respond to their own intractable problems (high unemployment, expensive investment capital, punitive taxes, immobilizing regulatory regimes on business, protected inefficient sectors, corruption. . . .). These nations often seem to progress against these self-generated problems only courtesy the competitive challenge they face from the American juggernaut.
This early approach to the Clintons is not the approach of these later Hillary chroniclers because the various money stories of the 1996 re-election campaign make it clear that whatever the shape of our polity, taking money from everyone from Indian tribes (stiffing them on the casinos or lands they sought) to the Chinese military (giving them what they wanted!) is a personal corruption bordering on dessication. (If the Clintons were taken as seriously as they have insisted, they'd simply have to be charged with treason.)
The new prose attempts at telling Hillary's story (and their are dozens more Hillary books) are fired by the rich opportunities she herself presents. Most of the books lean on two important magazine pieces: Christopher Lasch's Harper's piece, 'Hillary Clinton, Child Saver,' which ran just before the 1992 election, and Michael Kelly's NY Times Magazine piece, 'Saint Hillary,' which ran May 23, 1993. Only Gail Sheehy, in her book Hillary's Choice, doesn't ref the Lasch piece, and she pointedly neglects to identify Kelly by name or as anything but "a young writer." Kelly had interviewed Hillary and got her to out herself as religious in motivation. Hillary must have hated the piece; Gail sure did. Sheehy in her book, Hillary's Choice (Random House), identifies with Hillary and is therefore precious about her insights and protective of her relationship with her subject. Her original reporting focuses on her interviews with Hillary for Vanity Fair, and interviews with denizens of Hillaryland (Betsey Wright, Jane Sherbourne, Bernard Nussbaum, Neel Lattimore, Harold Ickes, Susan Thomases). Sheehy's interviews with others from Hillary's life are all filtered through her 1970s psycho-Donahue-babble about "passages," "choices," "couple crossover," "the post-menopausal flaming fifties. . . ." She does elicit inadvertent gal-pal confessions of bias from the likes of Martha Teichner (CBS reporter, ex-Wellesley classmate), and front row Hillary-watching from Don Jones, the dashing young Methodist minister pied piper - now there's a lost early sixties archetype! The best line in the book is attributed to an anonymous former press secretary of Bill's - likely Mike McCurry; when asked what Bill will be doing post-presidency answered, "He'll drive off that bridge when he comes to it."
Peggy Noonan is precious as well. She's responsible for some great speech-writing and some fine interpretive analysis in the Wall Street Journal, but her contribution here, The Case Against Hillary Clinton (Regan/Harper Collins), is a fake book coasting on a publisher's advance and written to election year deadline. George magazine printed the absolute worst of the chapters, which almost put me off picking it up. But she is too good an observer to waste all of your time and money. She notes Bill's assuming JFK's posture from the Jamie Wyeth portrait that he passes every day in the White House as he walks from the helicopter to the White House. It's a posture Gary Hart had mimicked in his day. These acolytes studied JFK footage in the dark as if it were pornography. (Their breezy womanizing was / remains fully misogynistic because what they are actually doing in Sheehy-Donahue-terms is conducting a homoerotic relationship with Johnny-We-Hardly-Knew-Ye, only they keep finding themselves stuck to some bitch when they come down.) Noonan doesn't go this far - she ain't Paglia - but she does hit a point or two home: "John Kennedy went to war; he fought for two years in the Pacific, came home, and, crippled with pain, went door-to-door in the triple-deckers of South Boston asking for votes as a veteran. Bill Clinton watched a war on TV and calls it his trauma. He watched the civil rights movement and calls it his proving ground." And this too:
"I suspect we will be seeing more of a small and subtle habit Mrs. Clinton has developed in the past year or so. When she is asked a question that touches on what she considers a danger area, and to which she wants to give a 'no' response. . . she often nods her head up and down, as someone would when they're saying yes. When she is asked a danger-area question to which she wants to respond with a 'yes'. . .she often shakes her head side to side, as people do when they mean no. It is possible that this is an unconscious quirk, but I suspect it is deliberate, a way of taking the clarity out of a moment and leaching it of impact."
This is actually an imitation of ABC's Diane Sawyer. (She's the wife of Mike Nichols, director of the film adaptation of Joe Klein's pre-novelization, Primary Colors, so, you know. . .)
As many have noted this year, Hillary seems intent on conducting her run for Senate without clarity or impact - as a First Lady mannequin saying little as she glides through campaign stops like the ghost of Diana. It's campaigning-as-victory lap - what comes of running for what Harold Ickes termed, "redemption," instead of, oh say, to serve the public.
Barbara Olson, author of Hell to Pay (Regnery), is one of the blonde pundettes that Fox News and MSNBC have used to chip away at CNN and its secondary market hirelings. They are an improvement but still disappointing. Olson's standing is based on her service as the chief investigative counsel for the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, chaired by William Clinger (R.-Penn.), which looked into the FBI files and Travel Office firings scandals. Olson and her staff "wrote and rewrote the interrogatories for her to answer under oath and deposed her friends and loyal soldiers." She writes, "The members of my seasoned investigative staff would each tell you they have never seen anyone better able to keep her stories, however improbable, straight. She was unflappable when presented with damning evidence and was adept at darting nimbly to a new interpretation that put that damning evidence in the best light."
Olson begins with the false pregnancy of the 1996 re-election campaign. Actually it was Hillary's threat to adopt some poor bastard. Olson doesn't parse it deeply but a female friend explained to me why this Hillary gambit was so cold a political taunt. She launched it in a softball interview by Time's Walter Isaacson: "I must say we're hoping to have another child." Really, why must you? Olson has it that it humanized Hillary who was Bill's main negative, while Bob Dole was having trouble staying on his feet, but my friend considered it to be aimed directly at Elizabeth Dole who had no children and then in her fifties was never going to. You'd have to appreciate Hillary's personal hostility to any woman who would take her position, especially one who had actual independent professional accomplishments. Still, it can be breathtaking to consider the ease with which Hillary folds up and stows away her collapsible feminist principles for tactical self-interest in a mere symbolic contest with a true feminist pathfinder.
She was again using her daughter Chelsea for political gain, though this time by subtle indirection. She and Bill claim to have never used Chelsea, even though she was a veritable prop in the weeks after the emission admission. Even that will be as nothing compared to what Chelsea will be asked to perform in the final weeks of this New York Senate campaign. She's skipping the fall semester to shadow mom during the fall campaign, and with Hillary trailing first Guiliani, and now Lazio, Chelsea the co-ed will be called upon to do precisely the opposite of what Hillary the college girl had done - she will be made to publicly validate her parents' worldview - certainly a new landmark in boomer hubris. Hillary's mother Dorothy Rodham may be the only person on earth who can fully appreciate this. Oh Mom!
Barbara Olson's book is a breezy run through the story of Hillary and it leans heavily on published accounts. Hard to recommend when there are Brock's book, and Milton's book available. Olson's is another insta-book that owes its existence to the publishing world's politics rather than merit. Still it has the best cover photo of Hillary who seems to be caught whistling admiration for someone else's underhanded shiv thrust - same photo makes an appearance on the cover of Chistopher Hitchens' excellent pamphlet, No One Left to Lie to (Verso). Olson quotes two of the more egregious press toadies which are worth repeating: Martha Sherrill of the Washington Post on Hillary: "She has goals, but they appear to be so huge and far-off grand and noble things twinkling in the distance that it's hard to see what she sees," and Hard News Dan Rather, the Nixon-hater who yet salts his grave at every anniversary of the break-in or the resignation or his death, speaking to Bill via satellite before a CBS affiliates meeting, "If we could be one-hundredth as great as you and Hillary Rodham Clinton have been in the White House we'd take it right now and walk away winners." You are Dan, you are, so please. . . good-bye already.
After the New Left's disillusionment in the seventies, those who would not commit to the bilious, outsider life of the Left sold out in various ways. Most just turned the page once the draft, which had been their real concern, was over. Others crashed and burned as political and racial wet-dreams (Black Panthers, SDS, Weathermen, Red Guards, Red Army Faction, Japanese Red Army, Khmer Rouge, PFLP, Viet-commies, Polisario. . .) dried up. They'd gotten what they'd wanted: Nixon pulled down, communist victory in Viet-nam, the welfare state run riot, etc., but they turned around and the anti-draft legions were suddenly gone from the movement. The millions more put to the people's sword across the third world meant precious little to them, but the New Left paradigms of the seventies (feminism, gay liberation, and ecology) did make the new commie regimes look suddenly as stodgy as Brezhnev and Mao shuffling through politburo ceremonies.
Sad to say, or thank God, much of the New Left was simple demographic-enabled herd instinct - the difficult years of adolescence writ large and expanded past the age of thirty. What really was happening in the world overseas, or even just off-campus, was of little true interest to any of them. The sixties-to-seventies sequence of sexy radical totems was something like: Che, Ho, Mao, Allende, Newton, Carlos, Dohrn, Meinhof, Pol Pot, Ortega. (In Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela the radical leadership has been less personalized. Subcomandante Marcos has tried to resurrect the archetype in southern Mexico.) Today politicized consciousness in radical America has more to do with simply which coffee beans not to buy.
Hillary's choice of sell-out was law, but there'd be no funky store-front people's law office for her. She'd already interned the summer of 1972 with Robert Treuhaft, the Stalinist lawyer in Oakland married to Jessica Mitford, co-ordinating Black Panther defenses - a continuation of Hillary's Panther involvement while at Yale in New Haven. But while her heart was with the radicals, her head was determinedly focused on bourgeois goals. Or maybe it was her head with the radicals, and her heart with the bourgeois - its hard to discern a heartbeat when the Left so thoroughly politicizes appeals to the heart in order to market class vengeance. In perfect seventies curdled idealistic style, living the bourgeois life was the price they would have to pay for being serious, purposeful radicals, not the kind that just carped from outside (damned anarchists!). The Weathermen, and R.A.F. also couldn't afford to be seen in bohemian parts of town wearing anything downscale. Tactical considerations demanded they take on the coloration of the ruling class - how convenient.
Hillary was determinedly unchic and disinterested in creature comforts until the eighties which really was the decade of greed for her. She had been convinced that Bill's governorship of a small state with a part-time legislature was the best launching pad available to them, but as their incessant out-of-state politicking made it impossible for her to make enough money as a lawyer in Little Rock to set up themselves in the style they would demand, she focused on the inside deals available to any governor - gift investment opportunities, sundry sweetheart deals, and board memberships (Wal-Mart, TCBY, Lafarge Corp., Bancorp.). Little did other liberals suspect, being on the board of Wal-Mart would not hurt you with organized labor, and a Lafarge appointment would not hurt you with environmentalists.
The best of these books is Joyce Milton's The First Partner. She is of Hillary's generation and admits to having been a supporter of hers from the beginning of Bill's campaign for the Democratic nomination. She wrote a children's book about Hillary (there were several of these!), though she has been a serious biographer of those with politically charged lives - Chaplin, Lindbergh, the Rosenbergs. Hillary ultimately disappointed Milton, though she nevertheless writes sympathetically as if personally understanding just what it was Hillary thought she was doing. I too (b.1955) remember the traps set for that cohort's herd instincts and am glad to have been just young and backward enough to have seen counter-culture trip-ups before being old enough to partake. That and Mad magazine's treatment of beatniks and hippies tempered my enthusiasm with doubt. But for those slightly older, once the demographic power of the baby boom made it socially profitable to be counter, the die was cast. The original postwar iconoclasts were cohortless and glad of it. This is why older cultural avatars are frequently so contemptuous of Bill and Hill, who came on the collegiate counter-culture scene when it was already a virtual upper middle class sinecure.
Milton describes the period, "It was a time when disaffected young people felt great confidence in their ability to lead and when the older generation, conscience-stricken over its own shortcomings, was often more than ready to let them." She further considers that after the well-meaning college kids were run out of civil rights work, the nihilism began. Black power essentially painted the white race no less than the American polity itself as irredeemable. This defensive, cynical fantasy quickly made the jump to white radical culture where it caused a split. Most went off into late hippie/new age tangents which were very white with increasing Native American affectations. But a few were mesmerized by the specter of a black revolutionary vanguard. Jung youth! Instead of projecting patricidal energy into a perverse alliance with the Kremlin as had the old Left, the New Left spiced it up by allying with and finally prostrating itself before the black man on the other side of town. This was in part picked up from British rock stars. In their only just post-imperial culture, any interest in colored cultures beyond anthropological curiosity was "going native." In Britain the kids were crazy about American music, but black American music was of particular interest due in part to its safe distance (there were residual colonial issues with white Americans). White American college kids took the British pop culture as more sophisticated and it seemed to direct them at black American music just as black power was in its ascendancy.
Milton doesn't parse all this but she does know her generation's backstory, both the official one that reflects glory onto all the right (Left) characters and leaves out the rest, and the actual backstory that is yet unwritten, merely felt. The Clintons have provoked the first stumbling efforts at investigating this since the Jewish neo-cons left the Left with the rise of black power. Milton is smart enough to begin with Bill's self-pitying allusion to Arthur Koestler's character in Darkness at Noon and catch that it is a more apt reference than he knows,
As a good revolutionary, Nicolai Rubashov has always believed that the end justifies the means. Now that he has become expendable, he is doomed by his own principles. Koestler, interestingly enough, describes Rubashov as entrapped by his habitual abuse of language, which he calls the "grammatical fiction" - Rubashov's "Truth" has been a lie all along.Milton also sharply notes of LBJ's Great Society programs, "there was nothing populist or radical about Johnson's program; it was strictly an elitist crusade. More than 14 presidential commissions made up of public policy experts labored in secret to produce Great Society legislation which promised to wipe out poverty in a decade." Sounds like a Goldwater Girl we all know.
She finds or makes important general observations and digs up specific items skillfully, e.g., general: "(Yale law) Professor Robert Bork. . . had long tried to challenge the assumptions of his mostly liberal students, but in 1969 all that changed. Students were so tightly wound that they reacted with tears and curses to his attempts to challenge them intellectually." And specific: Hillary's seeming lack of comprehension about just how sympathetic media figures like the New York Times' Howell Raines, and CBS News' Don Hewitt were towards them, the farcical firing of White House Chef Pierre Chambrin, and this first dust up over drugs and White House security,
"Bill Clinton turned down requests from the New York Times for an interview with its health correspondent Dr. Lawrence Altman, and in December, 1992, his appointment with a heart specialist, Dr. Andrew Kumpuris, was omitted from his published daily schedule. In January 1993, just weeks after his inauguration, a package from Clinton's allergy specialist, Dr. Kelsy Caplinger, arrived at the White House containing a vial with a note identifying the contents as "President Clinton's allergy medicine." Dr. Burton Lee, who had been George Bush's official physician, refused to administer the medicine by injection without more information. 'I was not happy about how the serum came to us, delivered to the White House gate, no covering letter, no idea what was in the bottle or why it was mailed,' said Dr. Lee, who called the President's Little Rock physician, Dr. Susan Santa Cruz, to request his full medical records. Dr. Santa Cruz said she'd have to get Hillary's permission to release the records. Two hours later, Dr. Lee was fired."Consider Bill's refusal to release his medical records. His over the top sexual history and his telling Juanita Broaddrick after raping her not to worry that he was sterile, argues that the big medical secret is VD or Chelsea's paternity. The rampant cocaine use in his Little Rock environs argues for something like septoplasty to repair a coke-destroyed nose. Gary Aldrich's book, Unlimited Access (Regnery) tells from the inside how White House security was destroyed with regard to traditional concerns of espionage, blackmail, narcotics, assassination, and replaced with a paranoid black hole where no information ever escaped. Instead polling data and political dirt and cash money and fixers and bribesmen streamed in.
Whatever the number of Clinton books out now, there will be forests of memoirs once Clinton is out of the White House; more if Gore and Hillary lose, slightly fewer if they are around to dangle jobs for silence. Each memoir will be bursting with the bile of post-traumatic-stress-disordered Clinton veterans now free to clear consciences and debts in a great gale of pretentious gossip.
The most anticipated bio of Hillary in its day (election year, 1996) was David Brock's The Seduction of Hillary Rodham (Free Press). Brock was the most dogged reporter on the Clinton's trail and he was given the widest leeway by The American Spectator, most spectacularly in his January 1994 piece, His Cheatin' Heart - Living With the Clintons, which was a critique of the press by example. He merely revisited the half-stories that the Clinton damage control officers had been able to shunt to the tabloids beginning with Gennifer Flowers and attempted to paint a portrait of who the man Clinton was as governor. The piece might have shamed the media establishment, if not the Democratic Party, but each refused to deal with reality until the inexorable court proceedings began to eat away their ability to ignore it all. Brock's earlier big splash was a Spectator piece of March 1992 called The Real Anita Hill which became a 1993 book of the same name.
Unfortunately for the Left, they believed Anita and thus set themselves up for the utter obliteration of their own credibility and the to-that-point successful ratcheting up of sexual harassment law. On the backs of John Tower, Bob Packwood, and Clarence Thomas the feminist Left seemingly extirpated the last legal inch of wiggle-room when it came to anything from kissing, tonguing, pinching, joking, and talking, to reading a Playboy in mixed company. Little did they know that Bill's sidewindin' lil' weed-wacker has a gift for filling holes, and over these last few years it's even filled the holes in their heads - witness Joe Eszterhas' memoir of Clinton-watching, American Rhapsody, wherein Joe's speed rambling continually sputters to a halt as he finds Clinton's cock sliding into his mouth. At least when it slips into CBS's Bob Schieffer's mouth he looks as if he finds it distasteful.
Based on Brock's dissection of Anita Hill and the Senate hearings process, his book on Hillary was expected to verily knock her out of the box. But Brock explains in the preface that even as he attempted to set up an interview with Hillary "I had come to believe that the Republican effort to make her the arch villain of the Whitewater saga was wrong." Hillary had set many conservatives to climbing the walls, but as Brock's research confirmed, their suspicions were in large part correct. She was a radical and remains as radical as it is safe to for her to be.
Brock's chapter on her years with the Legal Services Corporation is the most valuable part of his book, especially considering that the use of federally funded class action lawsuits as war by other means has since metastasized into a plague upon enterprise and governance. Legal Services began in 1965 as a Great Society program budgeted at $1million and "was run by professional activists whose idea of social justice meant litigating and lobbying to change laws, . . .extending the welfare state, as well as Alinsky-style organizing of the poor into political pressure groups." It became an independent corporation in 1974 with a budget of $90million. Republicans and conservative Democrats who understood the potential for federally funded obstructionism failed to pen in its mandate. In any case they did not understand that the rhetorical shift in favor of the radicals after 1968 meant that once activist lawyers pushed at even what limits there were, there would be no will to enforce them, especially after 1974 election of the Watergate congress. Hillary was appointed to the LSC board in December 1977 by Jimmy Carter and became chairwoman six months later. Brock writes,
Though less publicized than her links to the Children's Defense Fund, Hillary's service on the board of the Legal Services Corporation in Washington in the late 1970s thrust her onto the national scene. The publicly funded legal services movement was the perfect vehicle to accomplish the plans Hillary had broached with Saul Alinsky ten years before. She would now prove that the key to achieving real social progress was not Alinsky-style agitation but skillful bureaucratic manipulation from inside. This tactical difference with Alinsky is what made Hillary's radicalism much more effective, but also harder for the public to perceive.By end of Hillary's tenure the budget was over $300 million. Brock also traces how LSC became allied with National Lawyers Guild during Hillary's tenure - a commie front since 1937 which of course counted Robert Treuhaft, the lawyer she interned with in Oakland, a member. Hillary organized and funded the poor to politic for Carter against Reagan in violation of the LSC's charter, and even ran an illegal rearguard action to offload their budget to keep it away from the new regime. She beat back a Reagan attempt to zero out the LSC and then left in 1982 to chair the New World Foundation where she helped fund the Christic Institute, CISPES, National Lawyers Guild, the Institute for Policy Studies and other commie-friendly operators until 1988. (Brock informs us that the NLG in their congratulatory note to the Clintons upon their election victory, explained that they had tried to help by not endorsing them or even discussing them.)
On the other hand Brock believes that Jerry Brown was wrong when he charged during the primary that Hillary had brought any profit to Rose. And he thinks the evidence suggests that Bill was the insider on the Whitewater and Madison Guarantee scams. Recently Brock was able to in effect defend his own research for this book under the approving eye of the New York Times' Howell Raines when he weighed in on the Hillary-called-Paul Fray-a-fucking-Jew-bastard blow-up. As Hillary is running for Senator of New York this charge made some noise. But as Brock had done his own interviews with Fray and his wife and they hadn't mentioned the Jew angle as being part of Hillary's red-in-the-face tirade, he suspects they've amped up old news for new circumstances. He may be wrong here; people move into the cold water of truth slowly and carefully when it concerns someone who has state power at his fingertips as Governor or President. And the Clintons have used Troopers and private investigators to harass and intimidate often.
I suspect that Brock confirmed something he then decided against including in this book. I hazard a guess only because it seems to be to follow from the lay of the land. The right was disappointed in The Seduction of Hillary Rodham because it finds Hillary's radicalism to be religiously motivated and sincere, and it further seems to soften her culpabilities by blaming the political system for her seduction. I don't find the book soft on her at all; expectations were just too high. But David Brock coming out of the closet soon after the book was published suggests to me that he found evidence of Hillary's long-rumored homosexuality, but in coming to terms with his own homosexuality decided not to run with hers. No doubt Brock feels he remains in no-man's land. His Anita Hill book and Troopergate story, which inadvertently launched Paula Jones on her quest for satisfaction, so to speak, made his name but cast him from polite journalistic society. The Hillary book was less explosive but he's one of the best reporters out there. I imagine he hopes for a Bush victory both personally and professionally.
But, whither Hillary? And what then is to be done about Bill? Their attacks on patriarchy were paternalistic; their attempts to shock the bourgeoisie were utterly middle class; their selfless devotion to public service was monumentally self-interested-the concern of a vampire for the survival of its host. Expect to never see their likes again. If she wins she loses, because the Senate is an ice locker - look what it did to Al Gore. Rarely does anyone but a Governor get elected President anyway. If she loses is she gracious about it, or does she debase her currency finally and completely? Gail Sheehy has reported in Vanity Fair that Hillary has had plastic surgery - another necessary bourgeois coloration. A loss to Lazio is less personal but more insulting than a loss to Giuliani. But it hardly matters to her who is in her way. She jumped at the chance Joe Lieberman, Gore's vice president nominee, could help her out of her pro-PLO problems with the Jews of New York.
I don't trust the professional women of New York when they tell pollsters they don't intend to vote for Hillary because, a) she didn't leave Bill when he humiliated her like their first husbands did them, or b) she's not a New Yorker. I think Hillary has been very skilled at exploiting prideful feminine solidarity, and she and Bill have been entertaining in a period when it seemed safe to indulge in such. (Expect to see soon that it was not safe enough.) She might be elected simply because New Yorkers are embarrassed for her and fear a red-faced-anti-semitic concession speech. Or they might find it too tempting to want to finally burst this little goody-two-shoes' bubble. Or maybe its as simple as the fact that masochism is a feature of decadence - Help Us Hurt You.
My best advice is read the New York Post if you can.
Pat Buchanan in the Crossfire
When CNN first put Pat Buchanan and Tom Braden's radio program in front of its cameras, the guest would sit between Pat and Tom. What usually followed were two-against-one arguments as either Pat or Tom joined the guest to help defend his position. This needn't have been the case; you'd like to think that any position ought to have to defend itself against each political premise - liberal and conservative. But the game of politics, and the gaming of the politics of the moment, are constantly debasing the discourse. And so they retooled "Crossfire" - replicating the ideological divide of the hosts by inviting two equally opposed guests. Only special guests get the center seat to themselves now, like when Pat Buchanan - the candidate for president - drops by.
Pat went after the Reform Party nomination and the third podium at the Great Debates. The Democratic and Republican nominees will be conspiring to keep the debates from being great by excluding that third podium. If Pat gets on that stage he will make the kind of noise that both parties fear. In the months since his most recent book, "A Republic, Not an Empire" (Regnery) has been published, idea-chewers from left and right and center have been having at Pat. This is good, though as on "Crossfire," the political needs of the respondents, whether politicians, reporters, academics or pundits, seem always to shunt critique onto a personalized siding that yields less publicly useful noise. The Left tries to use him to define all Republicans even after he left the party; and the Right uses him to define themselves as well, but both respond only to the media cartoon, not to the book or him. After coloring Buchanan a xenophobic, isolationist, racist, anti-Semitic crypto-Nazi they pause to consider if they aren't really treating a man of such noxious ideas so nicely because they've all known him for years and really like him. The NY Daily News' Sidney Zion refers to him as a "tramp," and "dirt under our feet," yet in the same column routinely refers him to him as "Pat."
Post-WTO meltdown the Democrats and Republicans both have cause to increase the demonization of Buchanan: the Dems because they've just been caught between the pier and the boat trying to balance their alliance of environmentalists and unions with Wall Street, and the Republicans to head off any defections on the right's moral issues. Unless Buchanan can be made radioactive he is perfectly positioned and perfectly skilled to split both parties down their middles. He is that man. And he might just be too well known to be demonized, though he certainly is a gremlin.
But what about the book? Last campaign Pat was beating the wrong drum with his "The Great Betrayal" joust at free trade and the exporting of jobs he claimed was occurring. Certainly it sounded tempting then when it was unclear what the vulnerabilities of Japan, Inc., and the People's Republic of China were. Four years later and its clear that the intractable nature of their problems are due to the kind of protectionist rigging of their economies that Pat was advocating for us. Also, there is no Free Trade, per se, but the insistence that policymakers at least stay in sight of this ideal prevents the wholesale rampaging of sectarian and corporate interests having their way with policy (Think Ethanol Uber Alles; think too of the political paralysis in the face of these systemic corruptions in Germany and France as well, as once down that road the favored constituencies refuse to give back an inch no matter the cost to the whole).
This time, however, Pat is on to something big and more necessary to the debate. "A Republic, Not an Empire" asks the question of the moment: In a changed world should the responsibilities of the United States also change? Extending NATO eastward, and the empowerment of supranational organizations are occurring with minimal debate. The WTO debacle in Seattle (like the earlier Test-ban treaty failure) is what happens when an administration no-one trusts tries to slip something past people and nations without debate. The advocates certainly don't want a loud debate, and in any case there probably can be none without a military crisis. Neither can there be one when the Republican and Democratic Parties both agree. (The Wall Street Journal believes the seemingly clumsy lead-up to WTO by the Clinton Commerce officials was designed to yield failure and so seal off the free trade question for Al Gore's benefit.)
The Mediacracy pretends to despair over the Bush/Gore choice, but they don't want an authentic debate, and neither does the electorate so the media gets away with their posturing. However, the electorate has good cause; they have better things to do. The so-called professionals of Journalism - well, one more profession down the drain. . . .
Luckily we have Pat who is up for this thankless task of opening a debate. He writes,
"Europe's sick man of today is going to get well. When Russia does, it will proclaim its own Monroe Doctrine. And when that day comes, America will face a hellish dilemma: risk confrontation with a nuclear-armed Russia determined to recreate its old sphere of influence, or renege on solemn commitments and see Nato collapse."He argues that no American really believes that we will fight to defend Poland or Hungary, or Ukraine, or Latvia, and neither do the Russians. It is a bluff. And this is where Buchanan's history lesson yields important lessons anxiously forgotten by our policymakers. After all, we are reminded, the British and French tried to bluff Germany by signing a defense pact with Poland after Hitler had taken Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia. They accomplished nothing for Poland except to issue a declaration of war on Germany upon the invasion. But England and France did not declare war on the Soviet Union, though it had simultaneously invaded Poland from the east. Buchanan has it that Germany then turned upon the west and gave his real target, the Soviet Union, two years to prepare. It's speculation but Pat isn't the author of this theory; evidence abounds for it and historians have considered it for decades and will continue to do so. Pat also recounts the "isolationist" FDR throughout the thirties, knocking back militarization requests and continuing the post WWI ship-building ratios of Wilson's peace which handicapped the U.S. - the only nation that would with certainty have to fight across two oceans. In fact, FDR was pushing as much socialism as this nation would stomach and as he deepened the depression he came to find what all socialists find: there is no international socialism at peace with the world, there is only national socialism on a war footing. This need for war to salvage what was increasingly a command economy was more important to Roosevelt than helping Britain, France, the Soviet Union, Nationalist China, the Jews, or anybody else. FDR needed the war but couldn't get Americans to agree for all the hell in Europe up to the date of December 6, 1941. By then Britain was not in danger of invasion as Hitler was nearly six months into the Russian campaign, and so despite the needs of FDR and the many Anglophiles and the few Communists in his administration, America might very well have never entered the war.
Attacks on Pat for countenancing not entering the war specifically to save Jews are premised on holding him to a higher standard than those who lead the allies before and during the war - the sainted Roosevelt and the knighted Churchill. (This special standard is now applied to Pius XII, "Hitler's Pope" as well.)
The Navy advised FDR against an oil embargo on Japan especially in light of their inability to get increased funding out of him and congress (FDR had been Secretary of the Navy). The U.S. could read Japanese diplomatic and military codes as early as August 1940. The aircraft carriers were out of port. And author Robert Stinnett's new book, "Day of Deceit," (Free Press) reproduces an October 1940 Navy Intelligence memo to FDR suggesting eight moves to force Japan to go to war against the U.S. If this is all true then FDR sweated out the four days it took for Japan's ally Germany to declare war on the U.S. Only then was he where he wanted to be, out of trouble and into the war.
Pat's parsing of how we got into WWII has been seized on by most of his attackers but it's just a small part of his grand review of the American debate on military alliances and intervention overseas since the early Republic was torn by Anglophiles and Francophiles. Is this the same media and academia attacking Pat that dreams of catching the black hand of the politicians and military brass behind the most heinous conspiracies? Yes, but as lost professions they've all become gamers and the game ain't beanbag. They've turned the richness of our history into a convenient cartoon where they seem to work from a premise that says 'The Greatest Generation' was such a great book and 'Saving Private Ryan' such a great movie that any argument that we should have stayed out of the war that provided the glorious settings for them is an affront to two of our finest shoe-shiners, Toms Brokaw and Hanks. This is not serious and coupled as it is with calls for an improved debate it can get very hard to take unless one is able to cultivate an appreciation for this scoundrel theater.
Pat drives home how important it is that we reconsider history and recognize mistakes before setting off blithely on global missionarying by tracing a 'what if' outline of WWI:
Without American loans and then troops, WWI ends in a stalemate;
Edward Luttwak's piece in the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs, "Give War a Chance," is an excellent critique of more recent American and International interventions in local wars; and once again it takes a special fearlessness to take up such thankless arguments, necessary though they may be.
Those most important and egregious in their attempts to run Pat out of the debate are Bill Kristol (ex-Quayle aide, ABC's 'This Week,' Weekly Standard), Norman Podhoretz (Wall Street Journal, Commentary, National Review), Robert Dallek (Boston U., FDR biographer), Michael Lind (LA Times), William Safire (NY times), Andrew J. Bacevich (National Review, Boston U., Director Center for International Relations), John Judis (New York Times, New Republic), Joshua Muravchik (Commentary), Tucker Carlson (Talk, CNN), Mona Charen (synd., CNN), and Michael Kelly (NY Post). These brains provide reporters, TV journalists and news hosts with the cover to all ask the same pseudo-hardball question, "Just what kind of anti-Semite are you, Mr. Buchanan?" Buchanan is confronted with this diversion by TV hosts from Russert to Geraldo; even the lightweights get juiced up for him (Katie's never met a real live Nazi before). Safire, Kristol, and Podhoretz succeeded in pissing him off; otherwise, he takes most of this noise with good humor. The ex-conservative now liberal Michael Lind ought to know better as he's in the midst of flogging his own new book, Vietnam - The Necessary War, which is asking an official culture that has made up its mind even more firmly on that war if only because they believe they remember it, to reconsider that conventional wisdom.
More interesting responses to Pat and his book have come from Charles Krauthammer (Washington Post), Nicholas von Hoffman (NY Press), George Szamuely (NY Press), Sean Wilentz (New Republic), Ramesh Ponnuru (National Review), Geoffrey Wheatcroft (Wall Street Journal), and Bruce Ramsey (Liberty) probably because they felt they should read the book and they have less pretense of being influential. Krauthammer's written one attack and one apprehensive appreciation of what Buchanan may pull off. Szamuely caught Podhoretz misrepresenting old Buchanan columns to fabricate evidence of anti-Semitism. Wheatcroft compares him to the European tradition of Catholic parties. Ponnuru focuses his critique on Pat's empowerment of the state to determine trade policy and compares him to Kevin Phillips, another old Nixon-hand populist. Wilentz (that double-dome freak from the Impeachment hearings panel of hystorians) tries to calm everyone by claiming Pat is not a Hitlerite, but a Francoist. Ramsey, and von Hoffman like the book and Liberty's headline for Ramsey's piece, "Pugnacious Peacenik" captures by indirection the looneyness that has greeted his book and candidacy. The Nation's Monte Paulsen wrote up Pat and Bay Buchanan's permanent campaign's financial structure with helpless admiration, despite the editor's packaging of the story as if it were the expose of an ongoing criminal enterprise.
Pat is being consistently and pointedly defended by John McLaughlin, and both the left and right of Crossfire, Bill Press and Robert Novak treated him respectfully, and the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, gave his foreign policy speech an enthusiastic hearing and the Q&A was no melee.
"A Republic, Not an Empire" begins with the leak of what came to be called the Wolfowitz memo to the New York Times in early 1992. Bush's Undersecretary of Defense had drawn up a post-cold war blueprint by which Nato war-guarantees would extend east to the Baltics, and U.S. policy would be the prevention of regional domination by any nation sufficient to generate global power. 1992 was the election year and the Bush administration was ridiculed by Carter's Secretary of Defense Harold Brown, and Senators Kennedy and Biden as a "Pax Americana." But Biden and Kennedy both voted to expand Nato eastward just two years ago!
Neither party in a real sense exists; much like the Reform Party, they are simply vehicles for the most active people in them. Unlike the Reform Party there are far larger numbers involved which temper and deadlock them into changing very slowly. Both are also pushed by the bureaucrats, academicians, journalists, and hacks who tie their wagons to that party expecting a job on a stage worthy of their presumed genius. Kennedy, Brown and Biden suggested they were outraged by the very idea of Nato expansion, when in fact they were simply playing to the Left while hoping the Republicans would succeed in foisting this new global role on the nation so that they could inherit these new sinecures to divvy out under the next Democrat administration, which as it happened came very soon.
This game had to be put up with for fifty years in the cold war world of an expansionist U.S.S.R. But today? Pat Buchanan has got the question of the hour to himself. Unbelievable, considering the media metastasizing going on. But he's game. In his preface he writes with a straight face,
What was most heartening about that (1996) campaign was the respectful and extensive coverage my ideas received in the mainstream media.Today the Republicans and Democrats are whistling past the graveyard, hoping and assuming that tying more nations into more multinational organizations will head off economic catastrophe and war. This is not globalization or free trade; it is the best attempt of the political class of the world to get a headlock around the private sectors of the world. Pat argues in favor of a unilateral U.S. trade policy headlock, and a unilateral foreign policy headlock. These are easy arguments to caricature but hard ones to refute, because the U.S. is a relatively healthy nation that even in its public unilateralism is tied to the greater good by its more complete philosophical interface with the marketplace. In resisting the marketplace other nations, whether France or Burundi, have an easier time in the political short term but a much harder time in the economic long term. But the world as it is argues, methinks, for the U.S. to uphold a free trade banner so that other nations at least pretend toward it themselves, because this is how to fend off the impulse to war by nations in the downward spiral of economies in political headlocks. Zimbabwe and Venezuela are the states currently most determined to kill their economies for greater political control.
The American electorate as it is will allow the major parties to tiptoe past the cemetery because they wish to as well. But that same electorate will turn harsh on the party that is caught unprepared should the international economic and/or political equilibrium begin to fail. Only such a crisis in Europe might've given Pat a chance at the White House. That would've got the attention of the major parties in a major, epiphanous, revelational, mystagogic big way. But the Reform Party has always been a bogus venue and like Venezuela it doesn't mind self-destructing to get a spiteful emotional satisfaction. Pat may not have been able to dramatize his ideas without the candidacies and this was probably his worst-case scenario, and no doubt he judges it all a success.
this page created 29 aug 00