Frank Rich hates to do it

Posted: Mar 04, 2002 12:00 AM
The uses of sex-talk in the high calling of disparaging it is nicely illustrated by Frank Rich of The New York Times, who has written about the (brace yourself) re-re-defection of author David Brock. Mr. Brock, in his ongoing confessional book, writes now, "Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative."

Some years ago, as editor of National Review, I published a searching review of British libel law. Now it isn't easy to do this without citing examples of what had been ruled libelous by the courts, or what barely escaped being ruled libelous. The essay, written by a distinguished British historian, begot criticism in England for having repeated libels. The critics had a point: If you quote somebody as having written, "Alice Wolverine made her living as a whore," even though Alice sued and won a judgment, it is difficult to explain how the libel was defended or prosecuted without repeating the bad tale about not-bad Alice.

Well, culture critic Frank Rich is terribly eager to make sex-oriented points, in order to deplore their being made. Here is what he has to work with.

David Brock first got public attention by writing a book, the finding of which was that Anita Hill, the alleged victim of Clarence Thomas, was "a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty."

Two things then happened. David Brock decided to atone for his past attack on Miss Hill, and incidentally Hillary Clinton, to which end he wrote another book and an article for Esquire called "Confessions of a Right-Wing Hit Man." Here he appeared as St. Sebastian, waiting, eyes lifted to heaven, for the arrows that would martyr him. But before the arrows came to an absolute rest, a second thing happened -- another confession, the new book turning, apparently, this way and that, on this and that, redefining the Brockian view of things. It is treated by Mr. Rich with the exegetical curiosity one might show to a Vatican III.

Now it is sort of essential to the fresh view of Brock that he be recognized as a self-declared homosexual, which makes it easier for Mr. Rich simultaneously to deplore all the political/cultural commentary that writhes in and out of public figures' sexual lives. He does this by giving out the names of public figures who were/are/may be gay, adulterous or hypocritical. This permits him to tell us that he is glad that the '90s are at least temporarily behind us, the '90s being the decade in which Anita Hill was written about as sluttish and Bill Clinton as a libertine.

Rich has, providentially, an opportunity to talk about people and things he doesn't like, where possible, dredging up a sex angle. He does not like The Washington Times, so he runs over Arnaud de Borchgrave, its sometime editor, because ... because the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, whose movement owns the Times, officiates over multiple-marriage ceremonies.

The '90s were when "the hottest partisan battles" -- we can now see -- "revolved around Long Dong Silver and Paula Jones, not Stalin." That gave us a chance to talk about Long Dong Silver. And, while at it, to say that Clarence Thomas rented some porno videos, though Brock denied this (the second time around) and now repudiates his denial.

This permits us to denounce people who denounce sexual misconduct, along the lines of, "A Richard Mellon Scaife-financed talk-show bloviator and cut-and-paste writer like William Bennett," whom you would not recognize as having been a professor of philosophy at Boston University and a former secretary of education. And we are reminded that Whittaker Chambers (in his youth, this being something we are not reminded of) had homosexual experiences, as did Allan Bloom, and that Rudy Giuliani is a womanizer, also Newt Gingrich, also Henry Hyde and Robert Livingston, that Roy Cohn was a homosexual, also J. Edgar Hoover, as also one of Phyllis Schlafly's children.

We are quite carried along, but then we learn that Brock's slur against Anita Hill was motivated by the desire to "force the conservatives to love a faggot whether they liked it or not"! This should not have worried Brock, Mr. Rich tells us, because far from being ostracized as a homosexual, he was courted a outrance! At a party at his Georgetown home, he had to eject a conservative columnist "after he pushed me onto a bed, into a pile of coats, and tried to stick his tongue down my throat." And that became a way of life for poor Brock, as for instance his problem with "the closeted pro-impeachment Republican congressman, who had pursued me drunkenly through a black-tie Washington dinner, offering a flower he had plucked from a bud vase, condemning Clinton for demeaning his office."

Frank Rich is glad that that kind of thing is behind us, at least for the time being.