March 13, 2002

Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative

Just finished reading David Brock (2002), _Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative_ (New York: Crown: 0812930991). The book is worthwhile. We need to be reminded just how large a chunk of the Republican political establishment went a lot slutty and a lot nutty in their management and use of Brock when he was their mendacious pit-bull sliming every liberal he could find in the 1990s.

The book is also quite scary, because the picture it paints of the moral state of the right wing in the 1990s is--if true--far worse and far more depraved than anything I had feared or imagined.

We knew that the right wing was happy to ally with the Reverend Sun Myung Moon--even though Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and others saw Moon's cult "a religious alternative to Communism"--against the real enemy, for they see the moral equivalent of Communists as much less threatening than American Democrats. We did not know that American Enterprise Institute fellows like Nick Eberstadt spent their evenings ridiculing their gay conservative friends behind their backs. And we did not know that conservatives like Elliott Abrams were deeply dismayed at the idea that the rot had penetrated so far that a conservative audience would applaud a known homosexual.

We knew that Rush Limbaugh did not know fact from fiction, and that William Bennett lied through his teeth when he called Limbaugh "... extremely sophisticated, extremely smart... very serious intellectually." We did not know that Heritage Foundation types ran meetings where "a replica of [George H.W.] Bush's head was presented on a silver platter." We knew that Newt Gingrich was not the "kind of guy who would impose a fundamentalist view of morality... marijuana, avoid[ing] service in Vietnam... divorc[ing] his first wife... an unfaithful husband to his second wife, Marianne..." We did not know that D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Larry Silberman was the source of the false information about his colleague, Judge Pat Wald, that showed up in Brock's _The Real Anita Hill_.

We knew that the conservative right was willing to go to great lengths to try to destroy the credibility of witnesses who accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. We did not know that Senator Thurmond's aides were willing to risk criminal liability by giving Brock access to confidential FBI files. And we did not know that Justice Clarence Thomas, from the Supreme Court Bench, through intermediaries, gave Brock private information for him to use as a lever to intimidate potential sources critical of Thomas. We knew that Mayer and Abramson's book, Strange Justice, was much better than Brock's The Real Anita Hill. We did not know that Brock regarded his own book as a tissue of misrepresentations.

We knew that the American Spectator's "Troopergate" stories were false because the Arkansas state troopers' "wicked portrait of Hillary Clinton was a jumble of contradictions. In one scene, she was a man-hating feminist whose marriage... was a cynical pact for... power; in another, she was an anguished spouse, distraught over her husband's unfaithfulness..." We did not know that current Solicitor General of the United States Theodore Olson did not care whether what the Spectator published was true or false--of the American Spectator's Vincent Foster articles, for example, saying "bluntly... that while he believed... that Foster had committed suicide, raising questions about the death was a way of turning up the heat on the administration until another scandal was shaken loose, which was the [American] Spectator's mission..."

We knew that the replacement of independent counsel Fiske by independent counsel Starr was strange. We did not know that the key reason for it was that "...conservative insiders like the Silbermans and [Judge] Sentelle knew that Starr, though he would pass muster as independent to the outside world, would prove to be a reliable anti-Clinton partisan..." And we did not know that right-wing moneybags Richard Mellon Scaife believed that "...former Arkansas senator J. William Fulbright.... had been an agent of the Soviet KGB and had recruited Clinton as a Soviet spy" and commissioned an investigation.

We knew that David Brock had lost credit among the right when his 1996 biography of Hillary Rodham Clinton was not vicious enough. We did not know that Simon and Schuster's publisher, Jack Romanos, hoped that Brock would be able to discover and reveal that she was a lesbian. And we did not know that indpendent counsel Starr's deputies called her "bitch" when her face appeared on TV.

How much of all this is true? The anti-semitism, the gay-bashing, and so forth is attested by many other sources. It is neoconservative godfather Norman Podhoretz, after all, who is opposed to researching treatments for AIDS. The pieces of the book which are Brock recounting things he saw are likely to be reliable--he did see them, after all, and few have disputed his accounts of what took place. The rest? Unfortunately, here we have an author with a demonstrated inability to interview sources, unable to sift truth from falsehood. So as for the rest it is anybody's guess.

Posted by DeLong at March 13, 2002 04:14 PM | TrackBack

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