BuzzFlash Interviews David Brock
May 29, 2002
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW WITH DAVID BROCK, AUTHOR OF "BLINDED BY THE RIGHT," ON THE ROLE OF THE JUDICIARY IN THE RIGHT-WING AGENDA
interviewed David Brock when "Blinded
by the Right" was first published in March (See: http://www.buzzflash.com/interviews/2002/03/
Since that time, his expose on the machinations of the right-wing has become a bestseller. Interestingly, political-media-judicial-"think tank" attack dogs were curiously silent in the wake of Brock's explosive account of his travels through the slimy and dark side of the "conservative movement."
Considering the high-profile cast of characters that weave in and out of his sordid tale, it is astonishing that no one leveled a libel or slander suit against Brock. But, then again, it is all the more indication that David Brock is telling the truth. And, as we all know, the right-wing king makers can't get within 100 yards of the truth.
Since they couldn't lay a glove on Brock's revelations -- which detail how the ideologues of the right undermine democracy -- they finally chose to resort to the only thing they know how to do well: conduct a campaign of character assassination. As usual, it was the slime-master himself, Matt Drudge, who, last week, tried to discredit Brock by charging that he was mentally unstable. Other wingers picked up on Drudge's sludge (since wild dogs, as we know, usually travel in packs). Since they couldn't attack Brock's facts, they attacked him. Sound familiar?
Of course, Drudge -- the guy the gutter creatures of the GOP go to when they want to drop some fecal matter down the sewer -- might also be upset that Brock talks openly of Drudge's being gay in "Blinded by the Right." When you are the Internet megaphone for the same crowd that denounces gays as creatures of the devil, you certainly are one screwed up creature. So Drudge might be just a little irritated that Brock discloses that Drudge had a crush on him, brought him yellow roses, and took him bar hopping along the gay strip in Hollywood. That sort of information doesn't go over well with the Falwells, Robertsons, and Tom DeLays of the world. (Also see: http://www.nypress.com/15/22/news&columns/signorile.cfm)
David Brock is the real thing: a man who saw his sinful ways and repented. That's the story the Grand Hypocrisy Party pedals about George W. Bush. Only for Bush, it's a Karl Rove/Karen Hughes fictional screenplay. For David Brock, it's the real thing. No one mentioned in Brock's book has the guts to sue him, because they would lose. And more dirty right-wing linen would be exposed in the discovery process of any lawsuit. It's hard to argue with the truth.
In this interview with Brock, BuzzFlash focuses on one of the most underreported stories in politics: how the right-wing has used GOP presidents to make a large part of the federal judiciary a third branch of the hard right Republican party.
Unfortunately, we didn't have sufficient time to cover the true extent of the way in which the GOP has politicized the courts. All you have to do is look at the irony that Ted Olson, a key behind-the-scenes player in the anti-Clinton impeachment efforts, is now our nation's Solicitor General. Olson argued on behalf of George W. Bush in the Gore vs. Bush Supreme Court battle. Now, he is paired up with the Rehnquist/Scalia Court, advancing the interests of the right-wing in a full court judicial press.
Olson epitomized, according to Brock's book, how "the Republican insiders, exaggerating every real flaw and exploiting every cockamamie angle they could find, were after one thing only: power for themselves and for the right-wing social and economic interests they represented."
In election 2000, when Scalia stopped the counting of the votes in Florida in order, according to his own comments, to protect the reputation of George W. Bush, we realized too late how successful the GOP right-wing had become in politicizing the federal judiciary to act on its behalf.
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BUZZFLASH: I wanted to explore your book in relationship to the issue of the interplay of the judiciary and political goals of the right-wing in the Republican Party. On page 307 you wrote: "I knew that the [Paula] Jones case, if it had ever had any merit at all, had been hijacked by operatives working covertly to manipulate the courts for political ends, when the secret legal strategists for Paula Jones tell me years earlier that the purpose of the sexual harassment suit was to probe Clinton's consensual sex life through the deposition process, and then to question Clinton under oath about it."
That is an extraordinary charge. We had in essence, a conspiracy to unseat the President of the United States through entrapment.
DAVID BROCK: Right. I can say that I knew and I know first hand that the Jones case became the vehicle for the right-wing conspiracy. I was friendly with two of the three secret legal advisors to the Jones case. They called themselves the elves, as, you know, others have reported. And they were George Conway, Jerome Marcus, and Ann Coulter. I did not know Marcus, but I knew Conway and Coulter very well.
I had originally reported the Paula Jones anecdote without using her last name, with the implication that, if anything had gone on in the hotel room between Clinton and Paula Jones, that it would have been something consensual.
BUZZFLASH: You're referring to the article in the right-wing Spectator, which was at the epicenter of the conspiracy to bring Down Clinton?
DAVID BROCK: Yes, the American Spectator article - the Troopergate article.
BUZZFLASH: Which became the basis, she said, of her suit, even though her full name wasn't mentioned.
DAVID BROCK: That's right. She came forward about six weeks after the article came out and identified herself as the person in the article. And she wanted to clear her name.
BUZZFLASH: She wanted to clear her name, which wasn't mentioned?
DAVID BROCK: Right. As one of the troopers had told the story to me, there was no issue of sexual harassment raised. In fact, he had said that, when she came out of the room, she said she was willing to see Clinton again and be his girlfriend. And so I was always interested in the discrepancy obviously between what the trooper had told me back in 1993, and in what Jones later claimed in her lawsuit.
And so, at one point, I just asked George Conway -- and I write this story in the book -- I asked George Conway if he believed Paula Jones' claims. And he said he didn't, and that what this was all about was quote-unquote "proving Troopergate" -- by which he meant proving simply that Clinton had extramarital affairs, and nothing about sexual harassment.
And so Conway explained to me in that conversation that they had, for three or four years, been on a fishing expedition to gather all the rumors about Clinton's sex life. What they wanted to do was to get him into the Jones case to get him into a deposition format, where he could be questioned under oath about all this. And hopefully catch him lying at most. At a minimum, to get him on the record about all this, and then to leak the contents of that deposition into the press to embarrass him. And so that was really one of the moments where it was explained to me by somebody who was really the key strategist behind the whole case.
I think the other interesting point is that, going back to what happened shortly after the Spectator article came out, I was also privy to conversations among some of the early legal advisors to Paula Jones about how she would pursue the idea of clearing her name. And obviously, if that was all she wanted to do, one would think she would have contacted the magazine -- the American Spectator that published this anecdote, or the author, which would be me -- and take it up with us. And to take it up with the source of the anecdote, which was one of the troopers named Danny Ferguson. And one of the lawyers who was advising Jones informally at that time, which was in the spring of '94, told me that Paula Jones was told that she would not get any conservative money for her case if she went after the Spectator. It was very clear to me that there was a strong political motivation, if not by Paula Jones herself, but by all the people around her, to use the case to damage Clinton's presidency. And I do believe that Conway essentially explained to me, months before it happened, how the perjury trap was going to be laid. And that's exactly what they ended up doing.
And of course, that was before he knew that Monica Lewinsky would fall into their lap.
BUZZFLASH: They wanted to use Paula Jones, in essence, to get the President on the record, and maybe hopefully entrap him in perjury. And if it so happened, eventually to use that in the impeachment process itself.
DAVID BROCK: Yes, I don't think they had so envisioned, at that point anyway, having Starr come into the investigation. I think that came later.
BUZZFLASH: But the Paula Jones deposition was the vehicle on which we kept hearing it's the so-called "rule of law," that the President perjured himself, and therefore, violated "the rule of law."
DAVID BROCK: Right. Hypothetically, if you speculate that perhaps the affair with Monica Lewinsky may have surfaced in some other way in the press, for example, if it wasn't in a legal proceeding, it would have never had any basis for any kind of impeachment claim. It would have been another sex scandal.
BUZZFLASH: And Ken Starr filed an amicus brief with the Paula Jones case right?
DAVID BROCK: He considered it. He ended up not filing it. But he was approached by something called the Independent Women's Forum, which is an anti-feminist Scaife-funded organization. Back in the spring of 1994, as Jones was getting ready to file her suit, or shortly thereafter, the Independent Women's Forum had the idea of getting Starr to file a friend-of-the-court brief. And Starr declined to do that, but he did, on a pro bono basis, give some legal advice to the Jones team behind the scenes back in '94. And then that became an issue later on whether it was properly disclosed to the Justice Department as a potential conflict of interest when he later intervened in the Jones case or took it over.
BUZZFLASH: The issue did come up before the Supreme Court as to whether or not the Paula Jones suit could proceed while Clinton was in office. It was a civil suit, and whether the President, while in office, should be immune from such suits. And the Rehnquist court said: "Go ahead and proceed, it really shouldn't take away too much from his time." The same Rehnquist Court that appointed Bush to the presidency by a 5-4 vote.
DAVID BROCK: Right. Which was not a traditional conservative point of view to take. The traditional conservative viewpoint on that would be to defer to the Executive, and so it was unusual. That just raises the question of how political all of this was.
BUZZFLASH: Well, in every step of the way, it seems that the judiciary was making decisions that complemented and gave a green light to the political use of the Paula Jones case.
DAVID BROCK: There's also the issue of Rehnquist's appointment of David Sentelle to head that three-judge panel that chose to appoint Ken Starr as the independent counsel.
BUZZFLASH: Well, I wanted to ask you about that, because you did write about that in your book. And that seems to me a key point which we have brought up on BuzzFlash from time to time. But I think it's one of those obscure details that people tend to forget. And, yet, it is so key to understanding the political nature of the way that the Republicans view the Court as just another vehicle for achieving their political goals.
DAVID BROCK: Which are what they always accuse liberal Democrats of doing. But I think if you look at the history, it's pretty clear that that's a case of projection from the conservatives, because it's exactly what they're doing. And a lot of it is done through the Federalist Society.
BUZZFLASH: The Republicans are really the ones who are using the courts to intervene and to be a very activist court.
DAVID BROCK: That's right.
BUZZFLASH: What happened with Robert Fisk, the first special counsel to "investigate" Clinton?
DAVID BROCK: Well, Fisk was a moderate Republican and never trusted by conservatives of the Federalist Society. And you'll remember that there were some preliminary conclusions by Fisk. One of the first things he looked into was Vince Foster's death. There had been a lot of conspiracy-mongering among the right-wing raising questions about whether, in fact, it was a suicide. And Fisk really laid that to rest and said that it was simply a suicide. The conservatives were unhappy with that. And I think that was a sign to them that Fisk wasn't going to do the job the way they wanted it to be done.
And so you saw, by the spring and early summer of '94, an effort in the conservative press to discredit Fisk, particularly on the Wall Street Journal editorial page. And so the drumbeat started. And then there was an opportunity, because the independent counsel statute had lapsed. When that law was reauthorized, there was an opportunity to either re-appoint Fisk under the reauthorized statute, or to essentially fire him and replace him. And that decision was made by the three-judge panel that David Sentelle headed.
Sentelle was himself kind of an odd choice to head that panel because that designation usually goes to someone with more seniority. And Sentelle was known -- and this was explained to me by one of his colleagues on the Circuit Court of Appeals -- as someone who would sometimes provide useful cover for the political machinations of others. And so I think that maybe one of the factors as to why he was chosen for that position. He had named his daughter Reagan, and was a staunch conservative. He also was involved in politics in North Carolina with Jesse Helms.
BUZZFLASH: So we have Sentelle heading a special three-judge panel that oversees the independent counsel, even though he's a junior member, over someone more senior. And Starr's appointment means that he will be the key player in the ramifications of the Supreme Court decision to allow the Paula Jones suit to go ahead. Tellingly, the person who appointed David Sentelle, over a more senior member of the three-judge panel, is none other than Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, William Rehnquist.
DAVID BROCK: Right. And Sentelle appointed someone for the independent counsel who is known as a Republican partisan, Ken Starr. This was not known, but Starr had already, at that point, talked about making a bid for the Senate from Virginia as a Republican. As we mentioned, he also considered filing the friend-of-the-court brief in the Jones case, but didn't do that. But he was talking to the Jones lawyers. And later, there was Congressional testimony where Sentelle essentially conceded that he had chosen Starr because he was a political opponent of the President. I think it's fair to say the Fisk inquiry was going to be, wrapped up in short order, rather than dragged out the way Starr did for years in this.
BUZZFLASH: So once again, we have a political process where Judge Sentelle, who is appointed by Rehnquist to head this panel, oversees the independent counsel. Judge Sentelle yanks Fisk out and puts in a replacement that is obviously going to pursue the case against Clinton to satisfy the right-wing, because they wouldn't be satisfied if Clinton was absolved. And that's exactly what Starr did.
DAVID BROCK: That's right. And they chose someone who was very politically ambitious. They knew what they were doing.
BUZZFLASH: Now let's talk about another aspect of involvement in the judiciary. You were very involved with the Judge Clarence Thomas nomination hearings in terms of your writing for the right-wing. You also seemed quite involved with the Silbermans. It was still astonishing to see the extent that a sitting federal judge was interacting with the efforts to attack Clinton -- Judge Lawrence Silberman and his wife that is. Silberman gave you advice on proceeding with articles that attacked Anita Hill and the President.
DAVID BROCK: Judge Lawrence Silberman, who sits on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, was an appointee of President Reagan to that court. His wife Ricky was the vice-chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the period that Clarence Thomas was the chairman on the Commission. I met them originally as sources for my first book on the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings. They went beyond the role of source.
BUZZFLASH: And he was a sitting judge at the time?
DAVID BROCK: Yes he was a sitting judge. For example, they reviewed in draft the galleys of that book. And so it certainly went beyond a reporter-source relationship. And coming out of that, Judge Silberman became a mentor to me and was someone who I relied on, as well as Ricky, for political advice while I was at the American Spectator pursuing a lot of the anti-Clinton stories. When Ricky Silberman left the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she founded, or was one of the co-founders, of the Independent Women's Forum -- it was actually her idea. And it was actually Ricky Silberman's idea to approach Ken Starr to file that friend-of-the-court brief in the Paula Jones case. And Ricky knew the Jones case was simply payback for the Anita Hill affair. She thought, wouldn't it be delicious that Clinton would now be accused of sexual improprieties in the same way that Clarence Thomas had been? Judge Silberman played an absolutely key role at a critical juncture.
I write in the book that I had misgivings about publishing the Troopergate article, even back at the time I was working on it. I had some concerns about -- both about the credibility of the troopers and also had some concerns about setting the precedent of vetting a sitting President's private life. Because again, Troopergate, you know, did not have anything to do at that time with sexual harassment. It was simply tales of alleged extramarital affairs, not even currently, but back when Clinton was governor of Arkansas. And so I was concerned about the journalistic precedent of that, and the political impact, and the impact on my own career if I went ahead with that story. And so I did seek advice from a handful of people, and Judge Silberman's advice was to publish the article. And I think it's fair to say, had he advised me not to, I very well might not have. That's how seriously I took his advice.
BUZZFLASH: Well, you say on page 146 of your book, in reference to that, "though, he was a sitting federal judge who would rule on matters to which the Clinton administration was a party. Larry strongly urged me to go forward."
DAVID BROCK: By the way, his court sits right below the Supreme Court. And so there are a lot of cases that come before the court dealing with the Executive Branch -- regulatory matters, things of that nature. When various assertions of executive privilege were being made by the White House during the impeachment, he sat in on at least one, if not more, of those cases.
BUZZFLASH: And Silberman did not recuse himself.
DAVID BROCK: No, he did not recuse himself, even though, as I said, he had been directly involved. I think it's clear that the kind of activity that Silberman was engaging in is not permitted. It falls into a category of the kind of partisan politics that's not permitted. And he was aware of this, because he would jokingly say to me that, when I would go to him for advice, he often started out saying something like well, it would be improper to advise you on this. And it was set sort of tongue-in-cheek, and then he would go ahead and advise me. So he was aware of what he was doing.
Aside from me, he was also very influential with the Wall Street Journal editorial page in terms of advice. And of course, the Journal editorial page was, along with the Spectator, probably the second principal anti-Clinton vehicle during that time.
DAVID BROCK: If you go back to the Thomas situation, and you look at the issue of the principal advisors to Clarence Thomas during the confirmation strategy, some of them, I later learned, did know some damaging information about him. During the hearing they kept the press away, and they successfully dodged it all. But my view is that if you look at Bush v. Gore, that that decision is tainted by Thomas' ties to the conservative movement in a way that even Scalia and Rehnquist are not, because, of course, they were confirmed with large majorities. But Thomas directly owes his position on the Court to the Federalist Society and to the conservative movement more broadly. And so I think that he really can't be an independent actor. And I think that's why his vote is always so predictable. And in this case, Bush v. Gore, I don't think anyone expected anything other than the way Thomas did come down. And so the implication there is that this is a continual pattern of payback, essentially, by Thomas.
BUZZFLASH: You described the beginning of the full-out assault on the Democrats. You say on page 45 of your book, "more than any single figure for the right, Bork's nomination represented the culmination of a strategy put in place at the beginning of the Reagan administration to force a right-wing economic and social agenda on the country by judicial fiat. Judicial conservatism, the respectful idea of a limited role for the judiciary in a democracy, was abandoned by these right-wing judicial extremists who belonged to a secretive legal network called the Federalist Society, which was devoted to restricting privacy rights and reproductive freedoms, rolling back civil rights gains, and thwarting the authority of government to regulate industry in the public interest."
Then you go on to note that, in the Reagan administration, Federalist lawyers included our old friends Ted Olson and Kenneth Starr, and Clarence Thomas at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
DAVID BROCK: And Judge Silberman, and Bork.
BUZZFLASH: What do you think about the Bush administration making such a key issue of the appointment of their Federalist judges, and Trent Lott threatening to hold up the work of the Senate?
DAVID BROCK: I think one of the most important things in this whole story is the founding of the Federalist Society, and the influence that it has exerted over the years. It started on a couple of college campuses by a couple of law students, one of whom is now the Secretary of Energy, Spencer Abraham, as simply a conservative student organization. If you look at the composition of this administration, the membership in the Federalist Society or affiliation with the Federalist Society is one of the strongest common elements or themes that you can draw, not only for the Executive Branch appointments, but I think, more importantly, for the courts. It is a way for the right-wing to recognize many of their own. And it's essentially a litmus test, without having to impose the actual test, of membership in the Federalist Society. I think one of the ways that you see the influence of the conservative movement most strongly is in this area of the judiciary. And it doesn't necessarily get a lot of press attention. But it is one of the principal ways, if not the principal way, of paying back the conservative movement.
That is why all of these judicial nominees are so hard fought, and why the conservatives and the White House are now making the fuss that they are. Because that really is a key to enacting a lot of their agenda.
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Final BuzzFlash Note: We are sure the right-wing shills will find some fault or typo in this interview and seize upon it to discredit David Brock and BuzzFlash. They are very skilled at discrediting a person by focusing on an irrelevant detail. It's a bit like trying to prove that Nicole Kidman is ugly because she has an unplucked hair on her eyebrow.
In this case, the fundamental principle established in 1776 of a fair and independent judiciary is at stake. We can't afford to be distracted by the Ken Starrs, Matt Drudges, Rush Limbaughs and Karl Roves of the right-wing.
The future of our democracy is at stake.
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