BuzzFlash Interviews David Brock
March 18, 2002
BUZZFLASH.COM INTERVIEWS DAVID BROCK, AUTHOR OF "BLINDED BY THE RIGHT"
In typical "liberal press" style, publications like "Salon" and the "Washington Post" have taken potshots at David Brock's new book, "Blinded by the Right," and questioned the motives of the author. It's all too typical of the flaccid, overwrought efforts of the allegedly "liberal media" to bend over backwards to eat their own.
The right-wing Republican media pundits march in lock step behind books that bolster their political goals. The average so-called "liberal press" book reviewers usually run around trying to eat their own tails in a misguided attempt to prove that they are being "fair."
What results, of course, is just the opposite. In the case of David Brock's new book, the criticisms from the so-called "liberal media" (with the exception of a few publications, such as the "New Yorker") are a grave injustice to the book and to Brock.
"Blinded by the Right" provides an insider's account into the right-wing conspiracy that attempted to entrap and impeach a democratically elected President of the United States. The seminal book "Hunting of the President," by Jon Conason and Gene Lyons, provides the definitive account of the strategy that the right-wing used, beginning before Clinton was even elected, to stalk and entrap a President. "Blinded by the Right" fills in and confirms the details, as Brock explains his own personal transformation from eager journalistic "hit man" to repentant confessor. In the process, we learn that even federal judges at the highest level were willing participants in the Clinton character assassination and entrapment strategy.
BuzzFlash believes Brock deserves our gratitude, not our scorn.
BuzzFlash.com recently interviewed Brock, beginning with the subject of Ted Olson. The Democrats allowed the confirmation of Ted Olson as Solicitor General, despite Brock's detailed account of Olson's role in the infamous "Arkansas Project."
BuzzFlash.com is offering "Blinded By The Right" as a BuzzFlash Premium: http://www.buzzflash.com/premiums/Blinded_By_The_Right.html
BUZZFLASH: In "Blinded by the Right, you recount that you were stunned when you went to talk with Ted Olson in D.C. (early on in the efforts to bring down Clinton), when he expressed to you that it was irrelevant whether Vince Foster had committed suicide or not. To Olson, raising questions about the Foster suicide was just another way of keeping the heat on the Clinton administration until a scandal could be shaken loose, which was the mission of the infamous Arkansas Project.
How does Ted Olson, now our Solicitor General (who is going to argue the White House case against the Government Accounting Office lawsuit against Cheney), symbolize the right-wing attack machine?
DAVID BROCK: I think in Ted's case, through the nineties, he led a kind of double life. On the one hand, he was the pinnacle of the legal establishment in Washington, not only on the conservative side. I think he's generally recognized as being at the top of his profession.
What no one outside the conservative world knew was the second role he was playing, which was as a kind of a consiglieri to the extreme right. And in particular, to the Arkansas Project, which was the two-million dollar smear campaign that was ran against the Clintons through the American Spectator, funded by Richard Mellon Scaife. I think Scaife was and is the center of the anti-Clinton movement in the nineties in terms of financing a broad range of publications and legal interest groups. These institutions surreptitiously were getting money to advance the Paula Jones case, so Scaife had his fingers in everything. And Ted became more and more involved with the Spectator and with the Arkansas Project, which was, in some ways, inexplicable in the sense that it didn't seem to jibe with his other reputation. So he's an interesting character.
I think the other thing that's important about Ted is that the qualifications for Solicitor General are normally someone who is regarded as not a political partisan. They may have various ideological pre-dispositions, but would not have been the kind of person who was actively involved in trying to bring down the prior administration. He was in concert with his wife Barbara Olson, who was, at that time, one of the lead investigators on all the anti-Clinton scandals on Capitol Hill.
So together, Ted and Barbara sort of symbolize the kind of relentless pursuit and relentless disregard for the facts. And that's where the anecdote that I told about Ted and Vince Foster comes into play. I did meet a lot of people in Arkansas over the years whom seem to have deluded themselves into believing a lot of these crazy stories. And to me, they bordered on lunacy. But Ted is a sophisticated Washington lawyer. Nonetheless, Ted Olson exemplifies the view that whether a particular article was credible or not, the allegations put forth were simply a process. That process was throwing out more and more dirt, in the hope that some of it would stick.
It was centered really in the Federalist Society, and I don't know now if he is anymore, but at one point, he was the head of the Washington chapter of the Federalist Society, and it is a very powerful legal networking group. If you look at the anti-Clinton campaign and then you look at the people who are holding the key legal positions in this Bush administration beyond Ted Olson, they all come out of the Federalist Society. And that was a vehicle for a lot of the destruction, I think, that went on in the nineties.
BUZZFLASH: In Ted Olson's confirmation hearings, you stated that he actually wrote articles anonymously in the American Spectator that were scathing attacks on Clinton with, at times, fictitious information under a pseudonym. Is that correct?
DAVID BROCK: Yes, he definitely did that under a pseudonym, and charged the Clintons - both of the Clintons - with a multitude of felonies, including a list of, in his opinion, the years in jail that they ought to have served for these crimes. And the articles were not nuanced in the sense that they were presented as allegations. They were presented as facts. "They had committed these crimes. They should go to jail." I don't have the exact years, but, you know, we were into the 150 year, I think, jail terms for Hillary Clinton. And so he did have his own role in spreading that kind of propaganda. And I think that you might consider that a member of the bar doing that is more questionable than a young scribbler doing it. Here was a very top lawyer leveling charges that there was no evidence for, and there never was any evidence for, and there still isn't today any evidence for.
BUZZFLASH: Woven throughout your book, which documents the hypocrisy of many of the key right-wing impeachment figures, is that the right-wing attacked Clinton on so-called moral and values issues. But if you take someone like Ted Olson, his marriage to the late Barbara Olson was his third one. Newt Gingrich was having an affair with a Congressional staff member 22 years his junior, while lambasting Clinton during the impeachment process. Bob Barr, according to his second wife, had written a check for an abortion, even though he's a rabid anti-abortionist. And you indicate at several points in the book that personal morality is sort of irrelevant to these people and their personal lives. What do you think is driving them, because it can't be morality and ethics?
DAVID BROCK: What struck me in trying to get a handle on what this was all about was revealed when this current administration took office. You could see, on a day-to-day basis, when they announced various appointments in the Washington Post, that almost every day there were names affiliated with the anti-Clinton campaign of the nineties who had taken key positions in this administration. It was all about was their own personal power, and the right-wing empowering their ideology.
And I do make a distinction between conservatives and the decadent conservative elite in Washington, which didn't practice what it preached. In other words, they tried to hold Clinton to standards that they routinely violated themselves in their own lives, both personal and professional.
When Ted Olson got in front of Congress during his confirmation for Solicitor General, and gave extremely misleading answers to questions about his involvement in the Arkansas Project, he was doing precisely what he had tried to trap Clinton into doing for years. I mean, that level of hypocrisy was really astounding.
BUZZFLASH: In your mind, this was indeed a vast right-wing conspiracy?
DAVID BROCK: The only thing I might quibble with is the word "vast" because we're not talking about all that many people. But I do believe that the description of a vast right-wing conspiracy is generally on the mark, and that going back even to the 1992 campaign, you had private money coming from politically interested players to dig up various smear stories about Clinton to keep him from winning the election. None of that panned out, but they continued on as soon as he was elected.
And I think that their view was that Clinton was not a legitimately elected president. He had won with less than 50% of the vote. And they were determined, I think, from the very beginning to do everything they could to prevent him from being president, beginning with creating a fog of scandal that would detract from Clinton's agenda. At first, I think that's probably what it was. And then that snowballed into the prospect of actually removing him from office.
If you look at the role of the so-called "elves" involved in developing the Paula Jones case, all of whom had intimate ties to the Federalist Society, had relations with the original people who were behind my Troopergate story, and had relations with Peter Smith - who was the financier of Newt Gingrich's GOPAC. There was also a fellow named Richard Porter who worked in Ken Starr's law firm in Chicago, who later had to admit that he was the switchboard operator of the whole Lewinsky scandal. And so there was information being traded back and forth. Clearly Lucianne Goldberg and company tipped off Paula Jones' lawyers to the existence of Monica Lewinsky. And one of the most striking things to me in the book was a private conversation that I had with the lead "elf" - a lawyer named George Conway who, at one time, admitted to me that he actually did not believe the claims of Paula Jones. He said, quote, this is about proving Troopergate, and then went on to explain that proving Troopergate meant getting Clinton into a deposition in the Jones case, in which his alleged consensual sexual activity could be an issue, in the hopes of catching him in a perjury trap.
So the issue really for them was not sexual harassment or to win justice for Paula Jones. It was to trap Clinton on all these other rumors and set him up, in the hopes that they would be able to catch him lying about sex. And that's exactly how it worked out.
BUZZFLASH: How do you explain or help people to understand the sheer nastiness and the hatefulness of what went on now? Even after Bush was elected, I recall, there was some sort of celebration in Washington and Judge Bork said if he had a chance, in essence, he'd hang Clinton from a tree.
DAVID BROCK: I think you could break down the hatred of Clinton, in various ways. Clinton himself recently said that he was hated because he won. The fact that Clinton was the most successful Democrat of his generation presented a real threat on various issues - guns, et cetera - that the right-wing was resisting.
I think you had a cluster of cultural issues that the Clintons were identified with, rightly or wrongly, in the sense that they were the first Baby Boomer couple to occupy the White House. Hillary Clinton was a professional woman and a feminist, and they had come of age in the sixties. And so they were, in the mind of the right-wing, they were identified with all the social changes that the right hated in the sixties, which runs a whole gamut from gay rights to feminism and affirmative action, and Clinton's progressive views on race.
But then there was something deeper that went beyond just partisanship. It went beyond disagreement on the issues. You could only find it in the emotional life of the actual Clinton haters, their own frustration, their own projection of their own flaws onto the Clintons. There's hardly anyone in the book who wasn't living in a glass house while they were making all these accusations against the Clintons. I'm not a psychologist, but you have some kind of psychological phenomenon going on where that deep level of emotion and hatred has to do with themselves more than it has to do with anything the Clintons said or did.
BUZZFLASH: Now let me just ask you a speculative question: most of your book deals with your role as the insider, how you came to see the light after being blinded by the right. To what degree do you think the Democrats understand the tactics of the far right? Because it seems to me the Democrats have been fairly ineffective in coming to terms with the reality of a group of people who will win at all costs.
DAVID BROCK: Yeah, I think that's definitely true. I mean, I think there's no question in terms of message discipline and political strategy and tactics, the Democrats are definitely not up to playing the kind of hardball that the conservatives play. And I think part of that has to do with the culture of liberalism, which is more tolerant and is not hate-filled. It's less disciplined, in general, less organized. They certainly don't have the vast partisan media apparatus that the right has at its disposal to get its message out.
And if you notice, there are very few times where the entire conservative commentary disagrees or takes any independent stands not consistent with the Republican Party line of the day. On the other side, I think liberal commentators actually do try to be more objective, more neutral, and try to judge things more as reporters or on the facts, as opposed to being slavishly devoted to a Democratic line.
And then even in the Democratic political world, I think you just have, again, a lack of discipline in terms of message. You get one line from Daschle, one from Gephardt, one from Kennedy, but they're certainly not all on the same page. That's the democratic process, and I'm not criticizing that. I actually think the culture of the left and liberal circles is a lot more healthy than anything I've seen on the right. But there's got to be a way, with integrity, to more effectively mount their case and get their message out onto the airwaves.
BUZZFLASH: As an example the Democrats did confirm Ted Olson, despite your allegations, which certainly seemed proven by the facts of the case. I don't think the Republicans, given an opposite turn of circumstances, would have confirmed a Democrat who had participated in the same type of conspiracy against a Republican president. The Democrats just have a harder time taking a stand on a political basis.
DAVID BROCK: Right. And I think they are more prone to compromise and conciliation by nature. These conservatives are willing to go down with the ship. And so you just don't see that kind of drawing of a line in the sand, essentially, on the Democratic side. And certainly in the case you just mentioned - in the Olson case - I think things would have played out much differently had the situation been reversed. The Republicans were playing extreme hardball until the end, calling for that vote at the last hours that the Republicans controlled the Senate. And they were determined to push it through, regardless of the facts surrounding Olson's testimony. And there's a ruthlessness there, I think, that you don't often see on the Democratic side.
BUZZFLASH: A lot of your book deals with your coming to terms with being gay, and what that meant in terms of right-wing ideology. You mention Matt Drudge as having a crush on you. In fact, many months ago, BuzzFlash wrote about a dust-up about a book that allegedly was going to supposedly "out" some of the people who worked on the Ken Starr "entrapment" team. Matt Drudge basically went on a campaign "playing the gay card," saying this was going to be totally unfair to people. As a result, the book was deep-sixed by the publisher. We thought it was all a bit odd, coming from Matt Drudge.
DAVID BROCK: When I was in the Troopergate story, I embarked on an investigation which was trying to out Clinton's private life. And that was a conflict. I was on a successful career track, I was able to compartmentalize my feelings about all that, and continue to soldier on. But at a certain point, it did begin to wear on me. You're serving a party that a substantial majority of which is not amicable to your own interests as a gay person.
In the Drudge case, and in my case, I think that there's another issue of hypocrisy which would just simply involve the salacious pursuit of people's private lives, when you're trying to essentially deny your own -- guard your own privacy. If need be, lie about it. It is an interesting phenomenon that there were high-ranking people, in the case of Gingrich, you know, his very topmost lieutenant -- some people in the Starr investigation -- you know, a board member of the American Spectator. I could go on, but closeted gays are well represented in the extreme right.
I mean, if you want to go into the thinking of how that happens, in my case, I think that my own extremism was kind of a way of trying to prove myself in a movement that I knew down deep had trouble accepting me. And so I would go the extra mile to, you know, attack Anita Hill just to gain acceptance. I don't want to speak for the innermost thoughts of people like Matt Drudge, but I've seen it in others, and I think there's something to be said for the fact that a number of closeted gays are the more gung-ho extremists. And I think that has to do with the insecurity of their own position and, you know, possibly self-hatred as well.
BUZZFLASH: And yet you indicate that within at least the Washington circles, at the inner workings of the Federalist Society, inside the Beltway, you were accepted when you came out. Your betrayal wasn't that you were gay. Your betrayal was that you found the light.
DAVID BROCK: I had to make a decision about whether to publicly say I was gay or not, back in '94, after the Troopergate story -- about what the repercussions would be for my career. And I really didn't know, but I felt that I just had to. Since the issue had been raised, I had to answer it truthfully, which I did. And I actually didn't see any repercussions that I knew of until I deviated from the conservative party line in ideological terms. In other words, I think they may not have been happy about it, but they were willing to accept and even to defend me as somebody who was openly gay, as long as I was doing their work.
And then the first sign that I was going to have an independent thought, then the gay issue resurfaced in a way that suggested to me that this was what they thought all along. It's just that they had kept quiet about it as long as I was useful. And then when I seemed to be less useful, then it did become an issue. I was told later by a pretty prominent conservative that, even though I didn't see any negative repercussions in my career, the statement that I was gay back in '94 had not gone over very well. And that essentially I was on a collision course all along, trying, on the one hand, to be an openly gay right-wing conservative.
BUZZFLASH: What does the right-wing want? Now it's in power, in essence, in the Bush administration.
DAVID BROCK: I've been here for 16 years. I came in the middle of the Reagan administration. And there's no question that, from what I can see, that the conservative movement is happier with this administration than they ever have been. And I think that includes the Reagan administration.
Now what do they hope to achieve? I think that the issue of the judiciary is an interesting one that you raised, because I think that what they hope to achieve are things that go on often below the media radar screen. There are battles, you know, every day about funding AIDS, who gets on the Court, in the environmental area, certainly, who gets appointed in the agencies and in the departments at these lower levels.
A lot of these Federalist Society lawyers and conservatives are winning battles. And I have no doubt that the central area in which they hope to have an impact would be in the judiciary. The Republicans refused to confirm so many of the Clinton nominees in the later part of the Clinton administration that there are an awful lot of openings. And if you look at the background of these people, you can see the hand of the Federalist Society behind so many of these nominations. And what will be most interesting is to see when they get to a Supreme Court nominee.
People seem to think that the Anita Hill episode is ancient history, and doesn't really have actually any particular political relevance now. But I disagree. Clarence Thomas owed a small group of right-wing lawyers his confirmation to that Court.
I think if you look at the circumstances in which he came on the Court, the misleading answers he gave, and then the things that I found out later, which led me to think that Anita Hill's case actually was much stronger than I originally thought. If you look at all that, I think that the Thomas vote in 2000 couldn't have been anything but a perfectly predictable form of payback. And I think that's very disturbing, because even a Rehnquist or a Scalia, I think, is able to move more freely, more independently, than Clarence Thomas. He is really a creature of the right-wing Federalist Society. And they know exactly what they did to get him on that Court. He knows it, and they've kept that secret for, you know, ten years.
BUZZFLASH: Thank you David Brock for having the courage to write "Blinded by the Right."
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