Politics & Policy

Paranoid Conspiracy Theory Wednesday; Having It Both Ways; Here We Go


Now, we all know there is a small cabal of world leaders called the Pentavaret, made up of the Pope, the Queen of England, the Rockefellers, the Gettys, and, until recently Colonel Sanders (who puts an addictive chemical in his chicken which makes you crave it fortnightly). But the Pentavaret has been quiet for quite some time (Maybe because Lyndon LaRouche’s jailhouse husband has told him to concentrate on getting the ironing done). But other crafty conspirators have been doing their dark business. About the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy we already know more than we need to — at least I do because whenever they come over my mom makes me take everyone’s coat and throw ‘em on my bed. So we will put them aside too.

But still, we have to offer something.

1. Ken Starr was blasted by the White House and its leftist conspiracy-theorist allies as a “politically motivated prosecutor” in large part, they claim, because he had represented the interests of “big tobacco.” James Carville used to sputter, “I ain’t gonna listen to what some dirty tobbacky lawyuh has to say.” OK, now follow the bouncing ball. Clinton lifts the embargo on Cuba and gets great publicity for it when it is announced that the Baltimore Orioles will play baseball in Havana. Of all the teams in the major leagues, why Baltimore? (Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Orioles fan.) One reason might be that their fat-cat owner is Peter Angelos, a scourge of “Big Tobacco.” He has lined his pockets with settlement money to the tune of several hundred million dollars (and he has given generously to Dems in the past). So why isn’t the decision to send Angelos’s Orioles questioned as “politically motivated”? But an even better question is, why not have the reigning World Champs, the Yankees, representing the US in Havana? Cuba’s deputy foreign minister even asked that Yankees owner George Steinbrenner be invited to Cuba for serious baseball discussions. More important, a primary hero of the ALCS and World Series was Yankee Orlando Hernandez, “El Duque,” as he is affectionately known, the Cuban defector and hero to his people back home. His return would be a far more subversive act than sending the Cuban hero-less Baltimore Orioles.

2. A group of critics has mounted an assault on the report by the journal Nature that says Thomas Jefferson fathered a child with his slave, Sally Hemmings. This is an old conspiracy theory but it won’t die. The group hasn’t directly contradicted the conclusion that Jefferson is the father. But they do offer considerable evidence that it could have been one of Jefferson’s relatives too, including his brother or several of his nephews. Indeed, the genetic evidence was never of O.J. or Clinton clarity. The original article said the odds were probably about 1 in a 100. The North American Editor of Nature has now suggested that the study was regrettably unclear; “[I]n hindsight we could have done a better job,” she told the Washington Post. But the conspiracy lingers. Why did Nature waive its long-standing policy about press embargoes in such an unusual way when it released the original story? Nature has a policy of not releasing individual stories prior to their embargo date. Traditionally, they distribute all of the articles at once, or not at all. But if they had stuck with that policy, the article would not have appeared until after the election last November. So, they cut loose a story they now admit was written too stridently (and perhaps hurriedly) in a direction that could only help Bill Clinton and defame Founding Father. (Although, I must confess I think that it’s probably better for America if Jefferson did do it.) The delicious irony is that DNA is turning out to be the bane of Clinton’s existence these days.

3. Remember the “Historians in Defense of the Constitution”? These were the men and women who took out the $55,000 ad in the New York Times in order to “deplore the present drive to impeach the President.” They were supposed to be totally impartial (one of their signatories cooperated with the Nature article discussed above) and independent. They spoke as historians. Well, first it turned out, the American Enterprise Magazine reports, that People for the American Way helped organize them. Now it turns out, according to George magazine, that Sid Blumenthal helped pull the strings. This guy has the reverse Midas touch: Everything he gets near turns to fecal matter.


Joe Conason, defender ad nauseam of all things Clinton, has written an interesting column in the latest New York Observer (an excellent paper). He says that people of my ilk condemn the politics of personal destruction practiced by Clinton and his cronies when it is convenient. But we don’t condemn it when it happens to his beloved president. On the surface, it’s a fair point. He says that the purpose of the Paula Jones lawsuit, and all the attacks since, was to destroy the president’s reputation. He says that the various stories being peddled now are all politically motivated and probably false.

Well, first, Bill Clinton’s reputation was never sterling; it wasn’t even pewter. Second, almost all of the allegations against Clinton, unlike the attacks on Hyde, Livingston, et al. — which Conason often cheerleads — were not about private behavior. It is a tired point by now, but the Lewinsky affair was not private. The Paula Jones case was not private. The alleged assault on Jane Doe No. 5 is not private because the claim is that he assaulted her — no consensual act there — and then used his goons to cover it up. Even Mr. Conason would not have argued that the Lewinsky affair was private if it had turned out Clinton forced himself on her. This black kid out-of-wedlock-by-a- prostitute thing is private. Unless Clinton in fact used his goons to cover it up. My guess is that the Jane Doe story will turn out to be true. I am far less certain about the deadbeat dad story.

When you think about it, Mr. Conason’s argument is integral to the Clinton overall strategy. Assert that everybody has disgusting skeletons. Suggest that there is doubt about whether Clinton’s skeletons are real. Stipulate that Republicans’ skeletons are both real and worse because Republicans are moralizing hypocrites. Assert that Clinton is unfairly being held to a different standard.

In shorthand: Everybody does it, Clinton is an innocent victim, but if he isn’t innocent he’s still a victim.


So the trial starts tomorrow. I don’t have much new to offer on that. I’m sure my outrage capacitors will be spewing thick, black smoke by the end of the day for one reason or another. But right now I’m fairly at peace. Personally, I do have some high hopes. Let’s see. I hope Justice Rehnquist wears a very clever hat, like a three-sided jobby. I hope we hear Oy-yay, oy-yay a lot. You can’t get enough of those these days. I hope David Kendall handles the whole thing. My dream scenario is that Kendall tries to argue that his client never concerned himself with Monica Lewinsky’s gratification — thus he did not lie according to the definition of sex in the Paula Jones case. When asked about the kissy-tushy stuff (mothers don’t let your children use the internet), he would then argue that such activity does not constitute “touching.” Around this point Rehnquist, still wearing his pointy hat, lets his hand stray below the rostrum. He depresses a button and the sergeant-at-arms shouts, “Release the hounds!”

One prediction I will offer is that the current stream of unceasing jokes about the hilarity of watching 100 Senators quietly sitting around will become a flood. At this point I think every newscaster and Washington “old hand” has made this joke at least three times now.


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