Boy Clinton and Wife
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R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.’s Boy Clinton: The Political Biography had been sitting on my bookshelf almost completely unread for two decades. But then I discovered Arkansas state trooper L.D. Brown’s book with its revelations of CIA drug smuggling through Arkansas’ Mena Airport with Bill Clinton’s apparent knowledge and complicity and was reminded by Brown in his book that Tyrrell was one of the few mainstream journalists who made any effort to push the story forward. A couple of others were Sally Denton, who wrote the Penthouse magazine article, “The Crimes of Mena” with Roger Morris and John Cummings who helped Terry Reed tell his story, Compromised: Clinton, Bush, and the C.I.A, and if we want to count an Englishman as a mainstream journalist, Ambrose Evans-Pritichard in The Secret Life of Bill Clinton: The Unreported Stories.
Tyrrell stood out in particular because, as much as they purported to oppose, and even despise, Bill Clinton, the “conservative” crowd of opinion molders, for the most part, gave the topic a wide berth. Personal experience provides a case in point. Because of my early interest in the mysterious death of Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster, I had made contact with the conservative media watchdog group Accuracy in Media (AIM). My main contact there was a former intelligence officer for Chiang Kai Shek’s Kuomintang, Bernard Yoh. We typically talked on the phone several times a week, usually about the Foster case. Once I noted with displeasure to Yoh an AIM newsletter piece dismissing any connection between Clinton and the CIA drug smuggling out of Mena. I had read the Terry Reed book and knew that there was genuine fire behind that smoke. Yoh’s excuse to me was, “Oh, that was written by Joe Goulden, and he’s ‘connected’.” He didn’t need to say any more for me to gather what he meant. That revelation later grew into my 1998 article, “Spook Journalist Goulden.”
I had put Tyrrell’s book aside for the same reason I had grown close to AIM. While AIM’s director Reed Irvine had doggedly pursued the Foster case, Tyrrell, whose main claim to fame during the first Clinton term of office was that his American Spectator magazine had published “His Cheating Heart” about Bill’s sexual escapades while governor of Arkansas, had endorsed the government’s suicide conclusion. “How serious and believable can the man be?” I thought, and his book gathered dust on my shelf.
As it turned out, Tyrrell and Irvine had one big thing in common, which is summed up by Byron York in his 2001 article in The Atlantic, “The Life and Death of The American Spectator.” “A few conservatives—Tyrrell was prominent among them—became possessed by a self-destructive brand of opposition to Bill Clinton, and in their desire to knock the President out of office they ended up hurting themselves more than him.”
With Tyrrell it was Clinton’s connection to the CIA drug smuggling; with Irvine, it was Vince Foster’s obvious murder. York is right in that, on these issues, Tyrrell and Irvine went too far for their own good. He is being the thoroughly cynical American mainstream journalist to the core, however, to say that their purpose was just to “knock the President out of office.” What each of them did was to tell too much truth for his own good.
When Joe Goulden was Irvine’s top assistant at AIM, all the important people in Washington would take Irvine’s calls and they had a regular joint column in The Washington Times. As Irvine got deeper and deeper into the Foster case, though, Goulden resigned, people stopped taking Irvine’s calls, and Irvine’s byline no longer appeared in The Washington Times. When he died of a stroke in 2004 at age 82, virtually no one among Washington’s Who’s Who attended his funeral.
York doesn’t say it, and Tyrrell didn’t seem to realize it, but the handwriting was on the wall when he published the L.D. Brown drug smuggling revelations in the August 1995 issue of The American Spectator. In the following passage York refers to Tyrrell’s longtime second in command Wladyslaw Pleszczynski and his lead researcher in Arkansas, David Henderson:
Tyrrell and Henderson believed that the Mena piece would be a bombshell. When publication day arrived, Henderson went to Tyrrell's house to help with the expected press inquiries. But no one called. "It just went flat as a brick," Henderson says. That didn't mean it had no impact. In Washington conservative circles word of the internal squabble at the Spectator spread fast. "People knew about that more than they knew about the article," Pleszczynski says. The open revolt suggested that Tyrrell wasn't really in charge of his own magazine. His later effort to re-establish control would result in a fight that proved much more ferocious than the dispute over Mena Airport.
Surely Tyrrell must have known that his big exposure of President Clinton’s complicity in CIA drug smuggling when he was governor of Arkansas did not fall flat with the national news media because the subject was not newsworthy or because it lacked credibility. If suspicions of the latter had been the case then there would have inquiries asking for clarification or further substantiation. Anyone claiming that it’s not really news might just as well claim that the fact that the 3-judge panel that appointed Kenneth Starr as independent counsel ordered that he include in his final report evidence of a cover-up was not newsworthy, and that was why nobody in the press reported it in the Foster death case.
If you missed the article, you can read the story in even greater detail in the prologue of Boy Clinton, including a bonus account of Tyrrell’s confrontation with the Clintons over it. It was the evening of July 17, 1995, Tyrrell was dining at Washington’s Jockey Club, and he had spied the Clinton party dining there as well, and had ordered two bottles of champagne to be sent to their table, which had been accepted:
As we were almost finished with our meal when I sent over the champagne, I soon notified the maĒtre d’ that we were ready to accept the president’s gratitude. Past a wall of security and through a corridor of flunkies we were lead [sic]. The Clintons were seated at one lone table with their guests and fifteen tiny servings of champagne. Large and amiable, the president rose from his chair to greet us. He was all smiles; Mrs. Clinton, seated across from him was less joyous.
“And so we meet,” I said. He joked, shook my hand, and immediately turned the charm on my [fourteen year-old] daughter [Annie] and [Annie’s friend] Zana [Arafat]. He asked the girls their ages. He spoke of Chelsea’s summer camp. Out of the corner of my eye I espied an increasingly uneasy Hillary. Time might be running out. Her eyes put me in mind of a snake about to strike. Quickly I made my move for the White House’s official response to the L.D. Brown-Mena story. Reminding the president of my respect for the Clintons’ characteristically 1960s trait of “talking and talking” and debating every issue, I briskly addressed the issue of the moment. “What did you think of the L.D. Brown story?” I asked. He reddened. He ignited.
He denied that he had read the piece. He said I should be “ashamed” of publishing it. “Lies, lies,” he intoned indignantly. The flunkies stiffened. The president’s next charges were curiously familiar. He called Brown a “pathological liar” who had tried to destroy his own family. Those were precisely the lines that the White House operatives had employed months before against Brown to kill ABC’s interview with him.
I replied that the president’s hometown paper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, had just described Brown as a very credible witness who had never yet been caught in a lie. The president began reiterating his charges. I mentioned that it seemed he had read our piece. He continued with his charges and showed no sign of breaking off what was becoming an increasingly uncomfortable conversation. Surely, I thought, he will wheel on me and, as the sophisticates say, “cut” me. But, no, he continued to sputter and to whine. This too was what Arkansans had told me to expect. There stood this large man surrounded by bodyguards. His presence, however, was completely without force. The president was angry. His voice was labored. Yet this was anger without force. What came to mind was not the anger of a statesman, but rather Tinkerbell in a snit. I made my congés [sic]. Mrs. Clinton might join in and I would be guilty of having placed young girls in harm’s way.
Tyrrell Doesn’t Get It
Tyrrell might have done a very good job of taking the measure of Bill and Hillary and of what he calls ad nauseam Coat and Tie Radicals and of the Arkansas corruption of which the Clintons were an enthusiastic part, but he fails to take the measure of the larger, sweeping corruption of America’s Deep State. The Clintons, like the current and previous residents of the White House, might be a couple who shrink on you the closer you get to them, but that’s why they’re there. So bad have things become that a president with real independence and stature cannot be tolerated. It is why Barack Obama could talk wistfully of “going Bulworth.”
Throughout his book Tyrrell seems not to have completely comprehended the full significance of what he revealed in his prologue and what the reception by the American press of those shocking revelations showed. One can reach no other conclusion from what L.D. Brown observed than that Bill Clinton is an asset of the CIA and has been for quite a long time. At the same time, the CIA has a great deal of power over the American press.
Both of those facts are on full display in his Chapter 3 entitled “Oxford and Prague: A Coat and Tie Radical Abroad in the 1960s.” In that chapter he talks of the revelations by The Washington Times and by the Sunday Times of London of Bill’s radical antiwar activities while a student at Oxford that came out during the height of the 1990 campaign for president.
Of all the Times’s revelations, the one that appeared most portentous was news that late in 1969 Clinton had embarked on a “40-day train trip through Sweden, Finland, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia.” Though a student on a modest budget (his Rhodes scholarship provided only $2,760 annually for tuition, room, and board) he had journeyed to Moscow and “stayed in one of Moscow’s more expensive hotels—the National, much favored at the time by the Soviet elite,” then he visited Prague, the capital of one of the Soviet Bloc’s most repressive regimes. The trip to Moscow alone in those days could have cost as much as $5,000.
There was more. On the day the Washington Times came out, London’s Sunday Times filed a similar report, detailing still more of Clinton’s counterculture activity. He had attended meetings of Group 68, an organization of American peace activists supported by the pro-Soviet British Peace Council. While in Oslo he had met with a leading international antiwar activist. His stay in Moscow was booked through Intourist, the state travel agency.
Where did the money come from? How did an American student acquire such clout with the Soviets? Surely the KGB or some propaganda arm of the Soviet government was involved. Cold Warriors had always suspected that the international peace movement was somehow controlled by Moscow. For a day or so after the appearance of these two reports Washington was resonant with rumors. State Department files supposedly contained evidence that Clinton had given up his citizenship to avoid the draft, that he had committed treason, and that while in Moscow he had slipped away for a clandestine trip to Hanoi similar to the highly publicized trips to Hanoi made by more renowned antiwar activists like Jane Fonda.
Clinton’s election prospects flickered and dimmed. Then, as his staff pondered how to salvage the campaign, something amazing happened. The stories simply died. Reporters were not offended by the lies Clinton had been laying on them for years. Citizens’ groups did not demand an honest account of his draft record, his antiwar activities, his visits to Communist countries at the height of the Cold War, visits that seemed to have the support of Communist governments. The stories had absolutely no effect on the election; few news organizations even picked them up…the stories of Clinton’s travels behind the Iron Curtain and of his antiwar protests made no mark. Even a year after the two stories broke in the London and Washington newspapers, no American journalist had bothered to look into them, as I was to discover.
And Tyrrell, apparently unable to put two and two together seems to be genuinely surprised by that. I am not. How many American journalists, we might ask, have bothered to look into my revelations that the leading anti-Communist and anti-Zionist in the Truman administration, Secretary of Defense James Forrestal, was almost certainly murdered and did not commit suicide?
Bill’s Soul Mate
Chapter 9 is entitled, “Hillary and Her Marriage of Convenience.” It is already known that Bill and Hillary got together at Yale Law School and Yale is a primary recruiting ground for the CIA. They have something else in common that would have made each of them primary candidates for CIA recruitment:
The Clintons share many similarities. From the first hurrah of their public lives (beginning in high school for both) Clinton and Rodham have been energetic and steadfast in their request for political visibility. I employ the word “visibility” advisedly; it would be inaccurate to fall in with the consensus and assert that the Clintons have been pursuing political “power,” which in their experience has often left painful blisters. They almost always settle for the semblance of power.
One might add that that is one reason why student government should make such an ideal recruiting ground for the wirepullers looking for future figurehead leaders. The semblance of power is generally all that one is likely to find in student government; the real power resides with the school’s administration.
Tyrrell tells us that Hillary was president of the junior class of Chicago’s Maine South High School, but that she lost in a bid for the same position her senior year:
Perhaps historians will someday offer a detailed account of why Maine South turned thumbs down on Rodham. Possibly she ran an inferior campaign or maybe her opponent was positively Kennedyesque. Yet it is equally possible that her classmates had endured enough of her busy-bodied bossiness. They called her Sister Frigidaire, highlighting a problem that looms through all the clouds of puffery. She is not easy company. In fact she is a very difficult human being. “I’ve never been called arrogant in my life before,” she complained to Leslie Bennetts once she got to Washington. “I find that the most astonishing charge.” How Clintonesque to serve up a big lie when a svelte little one would do.
Both Clintons would continue their vigorous student government activities in college. Hillary’s student government career climaxed at Wellesley when she was chosen to be the first graduating senior chosen to address the commencement audience. Tyrrell dismisses her speech as so much “radical gibberish” and from the one long quote from it he gives us, it’s hard to disagree with him:
Words have a funny way of trapping our minds on the way to our tongues but there are necessary means even in this multi-media age for attempting to come to grasps [sic] with some of the inarticulate maybe even inarticulable [sic] things that we’re feeling. We are, all of us, exploring a world that none of us understands and attempting to create within that uncertainty. But there are some things we feel, feelings that our prevailing, acquisitive, and competitive corporate life, including tragically the universities, is not the way of life for us. We’re searching for more immediate, ecstatic, and penetrating mode [sic] of living.
Every protest, every dissent, whether it’s an individual academic paper, Founder’s parking lot demonstration, is unabashedly an attempt to forge an identity in this particular age. That attempt at forging for many of us over the past four years has meant coming to terms with our humanness. Within the context of a society that we perceive—now we can talk about reality, and I would like to talk about reality sometime, authentic reality, inauthentic reality, and what we have to accept of what we see—but our perception of it is that it hovers often between the possibility of disaster and the potentiality for imaginatively responding to men’s needs…If the only tool we have ultimately to use is our lives, so we use it in the way we can by choosing a way to live that will demonstrate the way we feel and the way we know… The struggle for an integrated life existing in an atmosphere of communal trust and respect is one with desperately important political and social consequences. And the word “consequences” of course catapults us into the future. One of the most tragic things that happened yesterday, a beautiful day, was that I was talking to a woman who said that she wouldn’t want to be me for anything in the world. She wouldn’t want to live today and look ahead to what it is she sees because she’s afraid. Fear is always with us but we don’t have time for it. Not now.
Tyrrell sees a contradiction between Hillary’s apparent denunciation of materialism while later “indulging in it so wantonly and unethically.” What I see is something I first noticed in Bill Clinton’s initial inaugural address, a mushy corruption of the language and of logic that consistently carries over into political and private life. Bill and Hillary really do have a lot in common.
Tyrrell, the Failed Shill
Unfortunately, articulate though he may be, when it comes to respect for the truth, Tyrrell also has too much in common with his book’s subjects. Apparently not realizing that he had already committed too much truth by relaying L.D. Brown’s story, he desperately tries to remain a mainstream media club member by going along with the Foster cover-up, and it’s not a pretty sight as he does it:
A peculiarity about Clinton’s lies that sets him apart from other presidential prevaricators is that his lies are often so obvious as to cast temporary doubt on his intelligence or his contact with reality. “President Clinton yesterday minimized the likelihood that an explanation will be found for the apparent suicide of White House deputy counsel Vincent Foster Jr….” the Washington Post reported immediately after Foster’s corpse was found in Fort Marcy Park. “As many of the Arkansans who came to Washington to run the new government began returning home for the funeral of their friend, Clinton and his senior aides repeated that no clues now exist to explain Foster’s death.” Clinton may become the first American, contrary to the Menckenian adage, to go broke underestimating the intelligence of his fellow Americans. The obvious and stupid lies that he calmly deposed on the public record after Foster’s death actually heightened public suspicion. “What happened was a mystery about something inside of him,” Clinton ventured. The ring of untruth was becoming a roar. The next day Clinton tried again: “I don’t think there is anything more to know…I don’t think there is anything else.” Adults continued to investigate, and in days it became clear that Clinton along with many of Foster’s colleagues had been very much aware of his troubled state of mind.
No it didn’t become clear at all. What happened was that the official story changed, as the authorities after the passage of a few days were able to cobble together a “suicide from depression” story. You can read all about how the transition took place in my “America’s Dreyfus Affair, the Case of the Death of Vincent Foster.” If you’re in a hurry, just scroll down to the early section entitled “Foster More Serious.” Clinton and the people around here were, in this instance, telling the absolute truth when they said they had no idea why he might have killed himself. What they were not clueless about, no doubt, is why he might have been killed.
The offending passage above came in Tyrrell’s Chapter 7. Later, buried away in the long 59th endnote of Chapter 10, he lays out a number of reasons why we should doubt the official story of Foster’s death. In so doing, he demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt that he doesn’t really believe the “official position” that he has taken on the Foster case and that he has done so only because it was expedient.
In the end, Tyrrell failed to pull off his tightrope walk. Byron York in his Atlantic piece tells us that Richard Mellon Scaife, who had funded Tyrrell and his magazine for three decades and more recently had employed Foster-case critic Christopher Ruddy, was “livid” over the trashing of Ruddy’s book in The American Spectator. That was the reason, says York, why Scaife pulled his funding from the magazine, spelling the beginning of the magazine’s end (except now online).
That might have been Scaife’s cover story, sort of like Ruddy’s cover story to me for why he didn’t care for my “America’s Dreyfus Affair.” He had first suggested that I write it, but after reading my finished work, which apparently had too much truth in it for his taste, he responded coldly. His only excuse for not liking it, though, was that I said that he had reported that the Park Police had not taken crime scene photographs (His case against me was valid only if one bends the meaning of “crime scene photographs.”). Tyrrell might even have believed Scaife’s excuse for withdrawing funding. The truth, I believe, is otherwise, in support of which I present as Exhibit A the conclusion of an incredible 2014 Hillary-promoting article in The New Yorker by Ken Auletta:
Hillary, like her husband, is respected among people who know her, even those who don’t share her politics, for her intelligence and charm. [David] Brock isn’t the only former foe to have embraced her. Beginning in 1994, in a series of articles in Scaife’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, Chris Ruddy accused the White House, the doctors, and the coroner of covering up the details surrounding Vincent Foster’s death. In 1997, he published a book along the same lines, “The Strange Death of Vincent Foster.” Recently, Ruddy told me that he now keeps a picture of Bill Clinton on a wall of his office, in West Palm Beach. He said, “Do I think I got caught up in anti-Clinton hysteria? Sure. Was the stuff I did over-hyped? Sure.”
In 1998, Ruddy founded News Max, a conservative Web site designed, he said, to “provide the other side of the story” to those “on the right or center right.” (Recent headlines have included “SCIENTISTS REBUT WHITE HOUSE GLOBAL WARMING CLAIMS” and “ALL EYES ON HOUSE SPEAKER BOEHNER FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM.”) He began to warm to Bill Clinton after the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq, which he opposed, and because he found Clinton’s post-Presidency philanthropic efforts commendable. In 2007, a Times reporter called him to ask what he thought of Clinton now.
“I said to the New York Times that my position had changed, and I had a higher opinion of his Presidency,” Ruddy said. A few months later, an aide to Bill Clinton called Ruddy and invited him to have lunch with Clinton in his Harlem office. Scaife went along, and the lunch lasted three hours. “I started getting invitations to Clinton events in Florida,” Ruddy said. He was invited to lunch several more times, and now considers Clinton a friend.
In 2008, Hillary Clinton, during her campaign for President, agreed to meet with Scaife and the staff of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The paper endorsed her candidacy, noting that her willingness to talk to the staff “was courageous given our longstanding criticism of her. That is no small matter: Political courage is essential in a President. Clinton has demonstrated it; Obama has not. She has a real record. He doesn’t.”
Ruddy told me that his first choice for President in 2016 would be Jeb Bush. “Jeb was a fantastic governor,” he said of Bush’s two terms in Florida. “He’s not the party of no.” Still, Ruddy isn’t averse to the possibility of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. “I don’t perceive her as an ideological person,” he said. “I do think she would make a good President.”
When Hillary and the national press pointed the finger of blame at Richard Mellon Scaife as the man behind the “vast rightwing conspiracy” against her and her husband everyone should have realized that he was fake, approved opposition. The New Yorker, I might remind readers, with its writings by close Clinton confidante Sidney Blumenthal, was in the forefront in selling the Foster suicide-from-depression theory to the public. If, as now looks obvious, the late Mr. Scaife was never anything but an intelligence asset attaching his name to money lavished upon compliant journalists, Tyrrell’s big offense—and what brought him and his magazine down—was what he wrote about CIA drug smuggling, not what he wrote about the Foster death.
April 14, 2016