MONDAY, MAY 19, 2003
ROBERTS DALLIANCE: What a remarkable sentence! At present, Robert Dallek is appearing all over cable, revealing key facts about Kennedys girl friend. But forget all that. Heres how he starts paragraph 10 (of 15) in his review of Sidney Blumenthals book about the Clinton era:
DALLEK (pgh 10): The book offers a powerful and generally persuasive defense of Bill, Hillary and Blumenthal.Youll have to look past Dalleks rudeness; in a standard display of pundit hauteur, he pretends to be on a first-name basis with the former president and first lady. But dont let his manners throw you off; Dalleks assessment is perfectly clear. According to Dallek, Blumenthals book, The Clinton Wars, offers a powerful and generally persuasive defense of Bill and Hillary Clinton. In other words, according to Dallek, Sidney Blumenthal is basically right.
But Dallek pens more than a mere review; he offers a profile in cowardice. Having said that Blumenthal is right, Dallek spends the rest of his time failing to say what Blumenthal actually said. We arent told what the author was right about. Heres paragraph 4, for example:
DALLEK: Domestic and foreign policy issues form a part of Blumenthals discussion, particularly Clintons efforts during his second four years to keep the focus on the economic and social problems at home and international strife in Africa, the Balkans, Latin America and the Middle East. But public controversies erupting out of private actionsabove all the Monica Lewinsky scandal and Clintons impeachment and Senate trialdwarfed the countrys and the worlds business and turn The Clinton Wars into a kind of lawyers brief for the accused.But long before he gets to Lewinsky and impeachment, Blumenthal discusses other great controversiescontroversies erupting out of private actions which, he says, simply never occurred. Most specifically, he says that the Whitewater scandal was a hoax, and he explains why we never found out; we never found out because mainstream press organs, like the New York Times, persistently chose not to tell us. (He also notes that Gothams Times ginned up this phony scandal in the first place.) Specifically, Blumenthal describes the way the Times and other news orgs concealed the fact that the RTCs Pillsbury report exonerated the Clintons in 1995 (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/16/03). And then he describes another key moment. Taking us to the McDougal trial, he tells us what Starr prosecutor Ray Jahn said in open court on May 15, 1996:
RAY JAHN (quoted by Blumenthal, page 177): The President of the United States is not on trial. Why isnt the President of the United States on trial? Why isnt he on trial? Because he didnt set up any phony corporations to get employees to sign for loans that were basically worthless. He didnt get $300,000 from Capital Management like Jim and Susan McDougal did by falsely claiming their use The President didnt backdate any leases. He didnt backdate any documents. He didnt lie to any examiners, he didnt lie to any investigatorsThats what Starrs office said about the Clintons! But for most HOWLER readers, this will be the first time they ever saw this quote by Jahn. And Blumenthal explains that strange fact, too. According to Blumenthal, most Americans dont know that JahnKen Starrs agentexonerated Clinton in open court because news orgs like the New York Times actively suppressed the information:
BLUMENTHAL (page 178): Once again, the reportage on this verdict was colored by the omission of essential information. Not a single major news outlet reported Jahns words to the jury exonerating Clinton. Instead, the verdict was greeted routinely as a blow to the White House, a setback that portends trouble for Clinton, as Time put it.In a rational world, this would be a shocking assertion of shocking misconduct. But none of thisnothing like itis mentioned in Dalleks review. Blumenthal is basically right, Dallek says. But he doesnt explain what he said.
According to Dallek, Blumenthal gets even with a few easy targets. The book is partly an exercise in score settling, Dallek writes. Kenneth Starr, Dick Morris, Christopher Hitchens are just a few of the tormentors who get the back of his hand. But Hitchens and Morris are minor players. Nowhere does Dallek say that Blumenthal savages other major targets; nowhere does a reader learn that Blumenthal savages the New York Times, the Washington Post and the other major news orgs who conspired in the wars against Clinton. At one point, Dallek gives himself cover, noting that Blumenthal knocks the modern news media. But look how vague and uninformative he keeps it:
DALLEK (pgh 11): Blumenthal sees the modern news media, with their affinity for scandal-mongering, as principally responsible for recent political bashing. But personal attacks on public officials are as old as the Republic. Newspapers, Alexis de Tocqueville observed in 1835, disregard principles to seize on people, following them into their private lives and laying bare their weaknesses and their vices.Believe it or not, that highlighted sentence is the only hint of Blumenthals attack on the mainstream press. And instantly, Dallek changes the subject; he quotes de Toqueville from 1835, not Blumenthal from 2003. In The Clinton Wars, Blumenthal says that the mainstream press corpsthe New York Times chief among itgimmicked a set of phony scandals, then refused to report the facts when the Clintons were officially exonerated. But Dallek knows not to mention these charges. Weird, aint it? On the one hand, his readers are told that Blumenthal is right. On the other hand, they arent told what he said.
The New York Times has now published two reviews of The Clinton Wars. They make a comical pairing. Last Thursday, Janet Maslin did explain what Blumenthal said (the Whitewater story was empty) but pretended that his statements were nutty (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/16/03). By contrast, Dallek says that Blumenthal is right, but is careful to hide what he actually said! And so it continues, the disturbing decade which Blumenthal describes in his crucial book. Reading the Times is like reading Pravda. A skillful reader of Maslin and Dallek might begin to get the idea that something was wrong with the Whitewater scandal. But this reader gets only a glimpse. This reader will have to go elsewhere to find out what happened. More specifically, this reader will have to buy Blumenthals book to find out what he has said.
Dalleks husbanding of the truth keeps him thoroughly safe for cable. Hell go on those nets and sell plenty of books, giving us detail about Kennedys conduct forty years in the past. Meanwhile, readers of his Times review will remain in the dark about the present. Like Pravda, Dallek tells the truth very slowly. Blumenthal was right, he bravely says. Perhaps at some time in the mid-2040s, well be told what he actually said.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: The Times has played this game for yearswhen it reviewed Lyons and Conasons The Hunting of the President, for example. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/13/00, 4/14/00 and 4/17/00. Neil Lewis was careful not to reveal what these authors actually said.
DALLEK (pgh 10): The book offers a powerful and generally persuasive defense of Bill, Hillary and Blumenthal. But this will hardly be the last word on the Clinton wars. The Clinton presidency will underscore the proposition that history is argument without end. It will also challenge historians to explain why the political combat of the 90s was so fierce. American politics, of course, has never been a vocation for the thin-skinned. Every president has been the object of scathing attacks, including the countrys three greatest chiefs: Washington complained of unmerited censures of the vilest kind; Lincoln was ridiculed as the original gorilla; and Franklin D. Roosevelt attacked as a demented cripple.Blumenthal was basically rightbut instantly, Dallek changes the subject. At the finish, he once again dances away from particulars:
DALLEK (pgh 15): Blumenthals book may do more to stir old controversies than settle them. But participants in the Clinton wars would do well to understand that re-fighting 90s battles will be of less benefit to the country than detached analysis explaining how we can avoid future unproductive quarrels over the personal weaknesses of our presidents. Still, for anyone who wants to revisit the political acrimony of the Clinton years, Blumenthal's book is the place to begin. [end of review]Dalleks advice? Its time to move on! Its time for detached analysis which looks to the future. In this way, the thoroughly corrupted insider press corps keeps you from knowing about what its done. They dont want people to re-fight old battlesto say what occurred in the Clinton wars. Instead, Dallek is coming to cable near you. Hell be discussing Jack Kennedys girl friends.
The Daily update
SEEING NO EVIL: Why do we hear so much about Jayson Blair? Because his disturbed inventions were basically trivial, and because his story feeds conservative spin-points. But the legion of scribes who are flogging Blair know not to mention Jeff Gerth, who wrote the NYTs Whitewater stories and then bungled the papers Wen Ho Lee work. Jeff Gerths strange work did mountains of harmbut insider pundits know not to notice. The rest of the press corps bought into Gerths hoaxing, and therefore know that re-fighting 90s battles will be of less benefit to the country than detached analysis explaining how we can avoid future unproductive quarrels.
Two weeks ago, Michael Kinsley pretended that weve just now learned that William Bennett has a vice (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/9/03). During the 90s, Kinsley knew not to notice Bennetts real vicehis endless dissembling about Clinton and Gore. And Kinsley and friends know not to discuss the real harm the New York Times has done. They cluck and fuss over Jayson Blair because Blairs cracked pottery makes no real difference. But they all went along with the corps Clinton wars. They dont plan to revisit them now.