Living History?

Emmett Tyrrell
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Posted: Jun 12, 2003 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Sen. Hillary Clinton's apocryphal memoir, following as it does upon the publication of her manservant Sidney Blumenthal's apocryphal memoir, reminds all serious students of the Clinton saga that the Clintons never let you down. They are always true to their nature. They lie. They lie when the do not have to, and they deliver a whopper when a little white lie would suffice. And another thing: They are not going to move on. They are not going to "put it all behind them."

For years, the mild mannered of the Republic have been importuning on me to "get over" the Clinton scandals. Well, with calamity threatening in the Middle East and terrorism menacing the civilized world, rest assured that I have concentrated most of my energies on the calamitous present and the uncertain future. Nonetheless, as Sen. Clinton is demonstrating with this simpering tome, Living History, the Clintons will continue to keep the issues of their past alive, much as Alger Hiss and his defenders kept the issue of his innocence alive for decades -- even after Soviet archives demonstrated his guilt.

Luckily for the Clintons, they have many more issues to fight than Hiss. One exposure will not set them back. A semen-stained dress, an incriminating memo, a judge's charge of contempt of court might damage their case in one or two of their controversies; but they have so many more to carry on with, insisting all the time that they are victims of conspiracy, not inveterate scamps.

In Clinton's book, as in her manservant's almost unreadable pamphleteering, all the old scandals are brought up again. The Washington political sages will tell you this is very clever for one reason or another: She is addressing the problems now rather than during a future presidential campaign, or she is drawing attention to herself at the expense of the patheticos now seeking the Democratic nomination.

Actually, the reasons for rehashing her scandalous past are: A) being a 1960s kid, she cannot stop talking about herself, and B) being a narcissistic amoralist, she believes she is blameless -- rather, those who exposed her were the wrongdoers. Troopergate, Travelgate, Whitewater, Monicagate, the impeachment, the pardons -- there was no culpability on her part here despite the revelations, the evidence, those prosecutions that succeeded, and the judicial rulings that left the Clintons paying and Bill without his law license. All Hillary will acknowledge is that she and her unique husband were for years wronged. It has gotten under her skin and will bug her for years to come. She is not going to "move on."

This is where Howell Raines and his scandals at The New York Times come in. The Times is known as the nation's newspaper of record. For a certitude, a nation needs a tablet of record, preferably more than one. Journalists working for such a newspaper should take their role with the utmost seriousness. Raines was serious, but before he left the newspaper after revelations of plagiarism and fabrication shook it, he was not serious enough. He allowed his prejudices and arrogance to overwhelm his judgment. The confluence of Hillary's apocrypha and Raines' disgrace, reminds me of a run-in I had with him as I made a small attempt to set the historic record straight.

When Raines was editor of the Times editorial page back in 1993, one of the paper's business reporters interviewed me about The American Spectator's huge circulation growth caused by our Clinton reportage. The result was not so much a piece on our growth as a sustained attack on our accuracy, particularly with regard to Troopergate, the story reporting Gov. Clinton's use of state troopers as pimps that ultimately led to his sexual harassment charge and impeachment. The reporter claimed it was "near pornographic." Other Spectator stories "included important error." The Times gave no examples.

Then The New Republic's Michael Kinsley was called in to deprecate the Spectator as "untrustworthy" (within two years his magazine would commence publishing dozens of fabrications by Stephen Glass). After quoting our longtime critic, Kinsley, the Times threw in a butchered quote from me "justifying the article (which article was unclear) in a way that would not be acceptable at most serious newspapers and magazine."

Finally, the credulous and possibly malicious reporter repeats a deceit that the Clintons have relied on for a decade to refute the Troopergate story, namely, that a trooper signed an affidavit claiming the Spectator was wrong to write that President Clinton had "offered him a job to remain silent." That sophistry reappears now in Hillary's memoir.

In truth, Troopergate also noted that Clinton offered the trooper a federal job for information on what the troopers were saying -- a matter left unmentioned in the affidavit. That Clinton would call him from the White House was a damning indication of Clinton's reckless use of the presidency.

I called Raines on the telephone requesting that he allow me to reply on his op-ed page. It was the Times that had been inaccurate, not the Spectator. No errors had then been demonstrated in our stories, nor have they been revealed to this day. Actually, Clinton's subsequent behavior vindicated them.

Raines denied my request with arctic disdain, telling me to write a letter to the editor. I reminded him that in the recent past the Times had failed to print a letter from me, and that my friend the British journalist John O'Sullivan had remarked that that was normal. The Times was the only paper he knew of that did not publish letters even when they came from someone the Times had attacked. Raines insisted my letter would be printed. It never was.

Now, Hillary's section on Troopergate reechoes the 10-year-old Times treatment of Troopergate, the story that tipped the world off to Clinton's fundamental flaw. She can base her account on the nation's newspaper of record. In Raines' day, it assisted in creating myths.