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Caveat lector

NOT SO FAST! Battling back like that kid from Camp Hill, Margaret Carlson sends us Sheehy’s second story:

FRIDAY, JUNE 13, 2003

BECAUSE YOU OCCASIONALLY ASK: Because you occasionally ask, we’ll note that our entire staff will be appearing with Lewis Black at the Baltimore Improv this weekend (through Sunday). It’s our first joint appearance since that filling-rattling “Funniest Celebrity” spectacular—the one C-SPAN so daringly aired back in March. Yes, it’s too far for some to travel, but please don’t say you never were told. In fact, we kicked things off at the Improv last night. Based on various emanations from the crowd, it’s fair to say that a very good time was had by a clear plurality.

SHEEHY SAID IT: Were the Clintons joking and laughing on their way to Martha’s Vineyard? In her book, Hillary’s Choice (December 1999), Gail Sheehy painted a quite different picture (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/11/03). But later, Sheehy reversed herself. Margaret Carlson sends along the transcript of Sheehy’s 8/23/00 interview with Paula Zahn on Zahn’s FNC program, The Edge. Here is the relevant passage:

ZAHN: You’re saying the night after the announcement where President Clinton admitted to being involved with Monica Lewinsky—remember that somber image of Mrs. Clinton holding Chelsea’s hand—

SHEEHY: Walking across—

ZAHN: —and the president on the other side.

SHEEHY: Right. And then they got on—

ZAHN: She doesn’t look at the president.

SHEEHY: They get on the helicopter and Clinton and Hillary are laughing and joking—

ZAHN: How do you know that?

SHEEHY: —on the ride to the plane. Because there was somebody else on the plane who made that—who told me that.

ZAHN: And did anybody else verify that that was the—

SHEEHY: Well, there were only—there weren’t very many people on the plane so this was a very, you know, very important source, so—

ZAHN: And I can’t either verify it or discount it but that was symbolic of what?

SHEEHY: But this has often happened. This has often happened. Actually, Rick Lazio even told me that he had been on a plane with President Clinton going over to Russia at one point and he was, at that point, very much against impeachment for the president, but that Clinton laughed and joked with him all the way over and never mentioned anything about this crisis of impeachment. And Lazio changed his mind and came back and voted for impeachment.

In her new book, Anyone Can Grow Up, Carlson says that the Clintons were joking and laughing. This interview seems to have been her source. Once again, here’s the passage from Carlson’s book:
CARLSON (page 154): Hillary never touched her husband, even ducking under his arm at the entry to the Marine One helicopter…Wearing sunglasses, she looked like an aggrieved widow, not a betrayed wife. It was a boffo performance.

And a performance it was. Gail Sheehy reported later that Hillary had been faking it. Sheehy talked to an aide who was on Air Force One going to the Vineyard. The aide told Sheehy that Hillary laughed and joked all the way to Massachusetts.

Clearly, part of Carlson’s statement is accurate; Sheehy did report that the Clintons were joking and laughing. For the record, though, Carlson embellishes things just a tad. Sheehy says that that Clinton and Clinton laughed and joked “on the ride to the plane” (on the brief chopper ride to Air Force One). In Carlson’s book, the story improves. In Carlson’s book, “Hillary laughed and joked all the way to Massachusetts.”

At any rate, Sheehy did report this story. But Carlson simply accepts the report as accurate, saying that Mrs. Clinton’s somber walk to Marine One was “a performance.” It completes the portrait Carlson prefers, but even Zahn notes that Sheehy’s updated report was based on a single, unnamed, uncorroborated source. Sheehy accepted this source’s report, but the scribe is notoriously weak on facts; her treatments of the Lewinsky episode were a fount of factual confusion, for example. In her book, Carlson also accepts the report as accurate. But is it accurate? We don’t know. It does, however, extend a portrait which Clinton-haters treasure.

Part of Carlson’s statement is accurate. But there’s no word from Carlson about her book’s strangely bungled “quote” from Bill Clinton to Dick Morris, or about her inexcusable spinning of Vince Foster’s death. We’d also be happy to let you hear her explanation of that laughable New Delhi anecdote. But then, Carlson’s book is crammed with such anecdotes, designed to showcase the Clintons’ bad character. We’d be happy to let you know why the author found these pointless episodes so revealing. After all, the Clintons have been on the scene since 1991. If you have to turn to that New Delhi groaner to help us see Mrs. Clinton’s bad character, that would suggest a lack of real fodder supporting this much-cherished tale.

Carlson’s book is crowded with clowning (more tomorrow). But yes, Gail Sheehy did make this report (the transcript is missing from the Nexis records). Tomorrow, we’ll return to “Margaret’s choice.” Carlson’s semi-all right—today only.