Politics & Policy

Tawana Menhcú; Andrew Speaks; Barney The Principled Dinosaur; Norman Feller, R.I.P.


Overheard in my apartment this morning: “Baaaaa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.” What is the cause of this huge, gloating, chest-puffing, head-swelling laughter? The impeachment tsunami swamping the White House out-rigger? No. That is a grave national issue, a somber moment, cause for introspection and whatever else I am supposed to say. I’ll give you a hint. Check out the front page of this morning’s New York Times.

The Times reports today that an American anthropologist named David Stoll has debunked the life story of Rigoberta Menchú. After Janet Cook made up her story of child drug addicts and had to give back her Pulitzer; after Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle got dethroned for freelancing the facts; after New Republic fact-checker (!) Stephen Glass got nailed for writing articles I never believed were true to begin with, one is left thinking what can top all this. Well, it turns out that Rigoberta Menchú, the Joan of Arc of left-wing identity politics and international human rights, made up her “autobiography.” It’s not quite of Glassian proportions; she did have a rough life. But the really horrible stuff, the stuff that causes the tut-tutters in New York and Paris to write checks and hold conferences, it turns out, is all a fraud. One “murdered” brother never existed. Another brother she says was burned alive before her eyes was in fact not. In her book she claimed she was an Indian peasant who never learned Spanish until right before she dictated her story.

It turns out she went to two prestigious Catholic boarding schools.

Her oral-history autobiography was dictated to a prominent French feminist. The book is filled with pot-shots at every Marxist-Feminist bugaboo. Rigoberta conveniently renounces or denounces motherhood, white people, the patriarchy, the Church, the West, capitalism, and so on. Her denunciations had weight because of the depredations she suffered. And now it turns out that she is less Mahatma Gandhi and more Tawana Brawley.

Not that this will change anyone’s mind on the Left. It is the lessons of the narrative which are important, not the facts. Still, it gave me a chuckle.


Indeed, the Rigoberta Menchú crowd met yesterday at NYU to defend another of their heroes who is being unfairly victimized. Who was it? No, not some hermaphroditic performance artist, living off the NEA, yelling censorship because his/her funds have been cut. It wasn’t even a murderer like Mumia Abu Jamal, who killed somebody but has very important hair and a nice writing style. No, the Salman Rushdie Caucus got together to defend the President of the United States. Most of the predictable limo liberals attended: Alec Baldwin, Gloria Steinhem, Sean Wilentz, Toni Morrison, et al. Elie Wiesel, who does have a certain gravitas, shamefully wasted some of it last night, by intoning “Who shall judge the judges?” Such silliness is beneath him. In this case, the judges are democratically elected politicians who will be judged by the voters. Next question?

But the silliest was novelist E.L. Doctorow, who declared, “The impeachment proceedings have all the legitimacy of a coup d’etat. I can’t think of an American President who hasn’t lied to the American people.”

“Perhaps,” he wondered aloud, “the problem with Clinton is that his lie is without grandeur.”

Or perhaps, the problem is not grandeur. Perhaps the problem with Clinton is that the lie was before a grand jury.


But if Doctorow and the Rushdie Caucus want grand lies rather than petty (but perjurious) ones, let’s do a quick flashback to what one of their own wrote about Clinton. Here is an excerpt from The New Republic’s Senior Editor Andrew Sullivan’s argument in favor of Clinton’s resignation:

The Lewinsky saga, in this sense, is a distillation of everything we already knew about Clinton, the purest proof yet of the moral nihilism that drives him forward. From the beginning, Clinton has lied with indiscriminate abandon. He has lied about genocide and he has lied about his golf scores. Every label he has attached to himself, every public position he has taken, has smacked of opportunism, not conviction, self-interested deceit, not public-interested candor. Very little of it can be taken at face value. He claims to be a feminist and yet treats the women around him as fools, tokens, or sexual objects. He claimed to be a New Democrat and yet embarked first and foremost on instituting semi-socialized medicine. He claimed to be a social liberal, and yet he signed the Defense of Marriage Act and boasted about it on Christian talk radio. He claimed to be in favor of making abortion “safe, legal, and rare,” and yet he vetoed a measure to outlaw the most violent of late-term procedures. He claimed he wanted to end welfare as we know it and to balance the budget, and yet he failed to do either until forced to on Republican terms. Like a Visa card, he is everywhere you want him to be, which is to say he is nowhere reliable, nowhere dependable, and nowhere in the slightest bit honest. And, more important, he has never taken responsibility for any of this. In Clinton’s moral universe, the truth is whatever he can get away with, and a lie is always somebody else’s fault. He therefore hardly struggles with the truth, because, where there is no responsibility, there can be no struggle. He can analogize the Bosnian conflict as another Holocaust, take a poll to see whether he should intervene, stand by while tens of thousands of civilians are murdered, and then take credit for world peace when he sends American soldiers to police the aggressor’s gains. He can publicly weep for people with AIDS, and empathize with homosexuals, and then sign a bill that would have thrown every HIV-positive person out of the military and almost double the rate of gay discharges from the service. He can advocate women’s rights, and then expose himself to a stranger, and molest a distraught staffer in the Oval Office. (Yes, I believe Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey.) And then he can go to gay fund-raisers, and NOW rallies, and Bosnia itself, and pretend he is still a crusader for morality, civil rights, and peace, all the while corrupting anyone who comes into contact with him along the way.

He said it, not me.


Last night Gore argued that Republicans were irresponsibly denying the compromise the American people wanted. Barney Frank argued on C-SPAN this morning that to deny the Congress the ability to vote on censure was “dictatorial” and flagrantly undemocratic. In fairness, I will concede that the Republican strategy to deny the censure vote is not 100% principle, though for many of them it is. But Frank is using words like tyrannical and dictatorial and his desire to bring a censure vote is certainly not driven 100% by principle, either. So, let’s let the political calculations cancel each other out and talk strictly about principle.

The House leadership has ruled that censure would be unconstitutional. There is nothing inherently dictatorial about denying democratic Representatives the opportunity to vote on something unconstitutional. If the House leadership declared that a vote on repealing women’s suffrage will never be allowed, would Frank call it dictatorial? Even if a few people wanted to be on the record voting against such a measure? After all, we would be gagging Democratic Expression! Even in our democracy, people don’t have the right to vote for unconstitutional measures. If they did, we could vote blacks back into slavery, private property out of existence, and make Scientology the national religion.


The current issue of Esquire announces its “Dubious Achievement Awards.” My mother was in contention for biggest dubious achievement of the year. The magazine lays out the contenders like players in a tennis match. After each match-up, the person with the more dubious achievement moves on to the next seed. In round one, Mom is up against the Washington Post’s Sally Quinn. Quinn’s dubious achievement reads as follows, “F-cked the boss, broke up his marriage, became the toast of Washington. Twenty years later, decides to get self-righteous with Clinton.” My mom beats Quinn. Her dubious achievement?

“Gave birth to Jonah Goldberg.”

In round two my mom gets knocked out by Osama bin Laden.

You might have heard about this issue of Esquire because it’s the one which has David Brock’s big scoop. The right-wing apostate breaks the news that former congressman Michael Huffington is, like Brock, gay and recovering from being a Republican. Other scoops Brock is working on for next year include: Former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson is Tall; Sidney Blumenthal is Mean; Bill Clinton has Sex On the Brain.


Norman Fell died yesterday. Many of us remember him as Mr. Roper from Three’s Company and the spin-off classic The Ropers. But he had credits in many well-known films as well including, The Graduate, Bullitt, The Killers, If It’s Tuesday This Must Be Belgium, and Pork Chop Hill. He was also in some lesser classics like, Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold. And, in The Simpsons he was the reputed star of the Erotic Adventures of Hercules.

He will be missed.


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