October 24, 2020

Sleazing With The Enemy

Sleazing With The EnemyI can only imagine it would have been like James Brady sitting down at Cheesecake Factory for lunch with John Hinckley. They’d exchange a few pleasantries, talk about their respective lives, a little small talk, and just get to know one another before getting up to the eventual, “You know, I’m really sorry I shot you in the head.”

In the 1990s, billionaire right-wing newspaper magnate Richard Mellon Scaife ponied up $2.3 million to The American Spectator, which devoted much of its existence to excavating as much dirt from the Bill Clinton landscape as possible, and whose “Arkansas Project” was devoted to ferreting out information about Bill Clinton’s misdeeds in Arkansas with Paula Jones, Whitewater, and whatever else they could find.

Of course, these initial investigations begat a treasure trove of filth that had absolutely nothing to do with governance and even less to do with the truth, Along the way, Mr. Scaife’s project and his other publications gave a Herculean effort to finding out what was really behind the CIA drug-running collaboration out of Mena, Arkansas and the “Arkansas Mafia” that Bill Clinton controlled, and also trying to expose how they had Vince Foster murdered, and told George magazine, “Listen, [Bill Clinton] can order people done away with at his will. He’s got the entire federal government behind him. … God, there must be 60 people who have died mysteriously.” That doesn’t explain Ken Starr and Newt Gingrich surviving the decade. Seriously, if he was that good, he could have hired someone to sever a brake line here or put a little DMSO and cyanide on a steering wheel there and they’d be just another car accident, and no one would be the wiser.

“We’re going to get Clinton,” Scaife predicted to some friends over lunch in 1994. “And you’ll be much happier.” Richard Mellon Scaife devoted much of the 1990s to his goal of destroying Bill Clinton, and this past autumn, they sat down for a pleasant lunch together. It was kind of encouraging, actually–that there’s no reason a massively-funded character assassination and single-minded effort to destroy someone personally and professionally should be an impediment to future friendship.

I don’t know what they talked about, but they apparently must have buried the hatchet as Hillary this week sat down with the editors and reporters of Scaife’sPittsburgh Tribune-Review for a Q & A and a get-to-know-ya. This was the very birthplace of Hillary’s infamous Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, and she’s sitting down with Mr. Scaife and his staff to talk about her position on the issues and, presumably, not wax nostalgic about the 90s. I hope they at least asked why she chose Fort Marcy Park to dump Foster’s body.

I didn’t think it possible there were any rocks in the Clinton garden that they didn’t turn over and turn over again in the 1990s, and I don’t know why Hillary would have let them in their jagged trowel, but there’s clearly a détente between the newspaper and the candidate whom they said as recently as 2002 would be hamstringed in any future Presidential race because of “cover-up” in the Vince Foster affair.

I think we’ve officially reached that point where Hillary has renounced any claims to the liberal vote. I have to commend her singular devotion to pursuing the Presidency. “At any cost” really does mean at any cost, and that you’ll lie down with anyone if there are enough votes in it. I’m still having a hard time imagining what she gains here. She’s already clobbering Obama in Pennsylvania and the lunch-bucket whites aren’t going to be swayed by his pretty speeches after the Reverend Wright debacle. Maybe it’s purely strategic. If anyone knows how to go negative, it’s Mr. Scaife.

The Reverend Wright story was big on Hillary’s agenda this day in Pittsburgh with her husband’s apparently erstwhile arch-enemy. It was all about the Hate Speech. “I spoke out against (fired radio host) Don Imus … saying that hate speech was unacceptable in any setting, and I believe that.”

Well, depends upon the setting, I guess. Besides being the primary benefactor of the modern conservative movement, Mr. Scaife is perhaps most famously known for an exchange he had in 1981 with the Columbia Journalism Review‘s Karen Rothmyer, who asked him why he donated so much money to nascent right wing causes. He answered her in a fashion, telling her, “You fucking Communist cunt, get out of here.” He also commented on her “terrible” teeth and warned her “don’t look behind you” as he concluded what passed for their interview.

She never discovered if he meant that literally or figuratively, but there was no confusion the “fucking Communist cunt” remark. As Slate notes of the Clintons’ recent association with Mr. Scaife, so much for a hard-line against hate speech. Of course it was the Cold War. We all had to be vigilant. As for the remarks against her dentition, I was young then and also remember a war on tooth decay in school.

Only a cynic would suggest that Clinton was cozying up to Mr. Scaife to use his own media and the outlets he funds to encourage negative stories against Senator Obama. Scaife is one of the checkbooks behind NewsMax.com, which recently printed an erroneous story about Obama actually attending one of Reverend Wright’s most offensive sermons, a story that was repeated in a column by right-wing columnist William Kristol.

I wouldn’t presume to speculate on that, though. Being the half-full glass sort of person that I am, I just think, in this most ugly of campaign seasons, that it is reassuring to see the increasingly pugilistic Hillary perhaps turning a corner and reaching out and making new friends.