WASHINGTON -- Back in the 1990s, David Brooks, then an editor at The Wall Street Journal, called me and asked me whether I would like to "gloat" on the newspaper's op-ed page. What inspired him to encourage such ungentlemanly behavior was the publication of a book, "First in His Class," by David Maraniss, which vindicated my claims of the prior year that Bill Clinton was a rampant philanderer, widely recognized as such throughout Arkansas, where he apparently had maintained a harem. The American Spectator had published two pieces based on interviews with Arkansas state troopers that irrefragably revealed Clinton as the kind of hound dog who would ... well, who would do what the historically minded now know he did do with a White House intern of unhappy memory. I was lambasted for publishing such wild charges. Michael Kinsley called me "dishonest." Joe Klein was equally defamatory, though he had covered Clinton in the 1992 campaign and knew all about Clinton's libidinous proclivities, as he demonstrated in his book "Primary Colors," disingenuously authored by "Anonymous."
I told Brooks that I would not stoop to gloat, but I did write a piece that was considered by my critics to be in shockingly bad taste. I quoted them from the year before. One of them, Klein, was particularly indignant. At a reception just after the piece appeared in the Journal, he told me I had acted very dishonorably. He accused me of assailing him with a "low blow." My response was, "But, Joe, all I did was quote you." Around our office, we amusedly coined a new journalistic offense: "Tyrrellism, blackening a person's reputation by quoting him." I wonder whether it is taught in journalism schools.
Vindication is sweet, but we must never gloat. A surprise decision made last week by the governing board of world swimming, FINA, has vindicated those of us who, as voices in the wilderness, complained during the 2008 Olympics that the high-tech swimming suits introduced in that Olympiad were an adulteration of the sport that threatened to distract from the athletes. No longer would attention fasten on the great feats of the swimmers. Soon the sport would be entoiled with questions of swimsuit construction, legal wrangles, corporate promotions and other controversies that have no legitimate place in competitive swimming.