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MCMURTRY SPEAKS (PART 2)! Larry McMurtry delved into his subject. And guess what? He lacked the first clue:


AN AFFAIR TO EMBELLISH: Larry McMurtry was throwing his F-, D- and P- words around pretty good (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/13/03). By the fourth paragraph of his review, he had explained that “the F-word” is “fuck;” he had declared that, in the matter of Monica, Clinton should have said “he didn’t fuck her;” and he had mentioned Clinton’s “dick-driven” predecessors, noting that “the press would never have dared write about…LBJ’s White House pussy pool.” (Sorry. That’s what the man said.) But finally he mentioned Nigel Hamilton, whose new Clinton bio was under review. And when he did, the rough-talking man gave us our first big surprise:

MCMURTRY: Kennedy and Johnson were gone by the time the American press threw off its shackles. The press chased off Richard Nixon over the cover-up of a trivial burglary and instantly unseated the pale rider Gary Hart because a pretty girl named Donna Rice sat on his lap. They fully expected to do the same with Bill Clinton, not over Monica but over Gennifer Flowers, way down in Arkansas. But the brash boy from Hope, Arkansas, confounded them: he kept right at it with Gennifer, kept at it for more than a decade, though with some lengthy interruptions; Nigel Hamilton provides us with many spicy details.
Really? Clinton “kept right at it with” Gennifer Flowers? He kept right at it for more than a decade? We’ve followed this story fairly closely, but up until now, we had no idea that anything like this had been established; if Hamilton has somehow nailed this story down, he has surely produced some Big News. But—strange for a man of such great erudition—McMurtry doesn’t seem to know that Hamilton’s claims would count as new knowledge. Instead, he just sprinkles the spice:
MCMURTRY (continuing directly): Want to know what Gennifer felt when her big unbashful boy surprised her by taking an unexpected liberty? Nigel Hamilton’s book—it’s subtitled Great Expectations—will tell you. He must not think his readers have very long attention spans, because he works in short chapters and even gives us snappy chapter titles: here are three from the Genniflower years: “Having Sex Day and Night,” “Sex at an Ever-Higher Intensity,” and “The White House, Not the Cathouse.”
That G-word—“Genniflower”—is clever word-play, an amalgam of “Gennifer” and “Flowers.”

For the record, McMurtry’s no fan of Hamilton’s opus—it’s a “sloppy book,” he complains. “[W]henever possible,” McMurtry reports, Hamilton “attempts to discuss Bill Clinton through sexual anecdotage, which might work in a tabloid but hardly counts as serious historical biography.” But, though McMurtry sniffs at Hamilton’s focus, he never betrays the slightest sense that something may be wrong with his facts. In particular, McMurtry never stops asserting the claim that Clinton kept at it for a decade with Flowers. “The American press really didn’t like it that Bill Clinton just plain got away with Gennifer Flowers,” he writes. “They’ve sulked and spat at him from that day to this.” Indeed, when McMurtry gets around to another prime topic, he says that Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky was “a pale shadow of what went on with Gennifer.” These statements are made in McMurtry’s own voice. At no point does he ever suggest that these claims may be in dispute. Nor does he ever tell his readers where these spicy facts have come from. What is the source of Hamilton’s apparent claim that Clinton kept at it for ten years with Flowers? Readers of the New York Review aren’t told. But they’re told that the story is accurate.

As noted, we were surprised by McMurtry’s presentation because this account of Clinton-and-Flowers plainly would count as new knowledge. When Clinton gave his sworn deposition in the Paula Jones case, he acknowledged that—under the tortured definition produced by Jones’ lawyers—he had engaged in one act of “sexual relations” with Flowers, in 1977 (not an act of sexual intercourse, a spokesperson later said). Of course, Flowers had claimed something vastly different—she had claimed a passionate, twelve-year affair, in which she dreamed of marriage. But alas! The lady, however brilliant a songstress, was a bit of a shaky witness. In January 1992, she had written a spicy tabloid story alleging that hot-blooded, twelve-year affair. But, as Newsweek instantly noted, her story was larded with groaning errors, and, as she herself later said under oath, she had been paid $150,000 to type it. (All in all, her story netted her more than $500,000, she acknowledged.) And then, when she wrote her own book (in 1995), she managed to type over 200 pages while notably failing to name times and places when she and Clinton were alone together. Sensible people will surely doubt such oddly denatured tales. By 1999, Flowers had been reduced to gruesome cable appearances in which she peddled those “murder lists,” the rankest product of a disordered age; during these stupid, ugly sessions, Flowers pretended to be sincere, and repulsive men like Fox’s Sean Hannity pretended to believe every word that she said. (Alan Colmes pretended to be troubled. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/26/03.) In short, Flowers had proven to be a clowning clown, and no one ever offered evidence that her claims, however stirring, were accurate. The state of play of the great love affair? “Genniflowers” had said twelve years; her opposite, Clinton, had said one occasion. And no one had ever offered proof—until McMurtry, with his F’s, D’s and P’s, tossed off his current assessment.

Where did McMurtry get his facts? Who did Hamilton cite as his source? McMurtry showed no sign of thinking that any of this should be answered. “He kept right at it for more than a decade,” the novelist writes, in the New York Review of Books. But alas! Like so much of his puzzling cohort, McMurtry seems to lack the first clue. He typed the words rough men dearly love. And as he typed, things just got worse.

WEDNESDAY: Oops! Michiko Kakutani noted that Hamilton’s book is pure horsesh*t.

A SILLY GIRL AUTHOR MEETS BILL: “First off, you’re absolutely right about the desensitization,” she said, agreeing with her cable host. “Andrea Dworkin warned in the ’80s, you know, sex is going to turn—I mean, sorry—porn is going to turn men into ravenous beasts. In fact, what it seems to be doing, based on just very early indicators about people really losing interest and losing libido and sort of kind of withdrawing—” The speaker, of course, was Naomi Wolf, and the host with whom she had found such agreement was none other than much-maligned William O’Reilly. In our view, Wolf’s appearance on last night’s Factor made for the evening’s top cable.

Wolf was discussing her current New York mag piece. “What did resonate for me is what I’m hearing on college campuses in my own experience,” she said, “which is that young men and young women on college campuses do talk to me a lot about how the ever-presentness of pornography has made sex just not very special and not very mysterious and not, certainly not sacred, and that makes me sad.” And Mr. O was right there with her, point for point. “I agree with you on that,” he said a bit later. “Here’s my read on this. Americans have now reached the saturation point of sex and violence. Can’t have any more.”

Is Internet porn reducing desire? Sorry—we can’t tell you that. But for us, last night’s session recalled the press corps’ conduct as they conducted their twenty-month War Against Gore—the war which decided Election 2000. On October 31, 1999, Wolf became the latest club with which your “press corps” could hammer Al Gore, and for the next six weeks, the boys and girls pretended to be shocked at the news that Wolf was a Gore adviser. (Wolf had been a Clinton adviser during Campaign ’96.) As usual, the thigh-rubbing pundits were faking, but the fake, phony people who make up your “press corps” are really quite advanced at this skill. And so, over the course of the next six weeks, your pundit corps aimed its big guns straight at Wolf. Wolf was dismissed as a “big haired cutie,” a “kook,” a “crackpot,” a “bimbo,” an “oddball,” and a “flashy Culture Babe.” Thirty-seven years old when the frenzy began, she was described as “this girl,” “this silly girl,” a “girl writer,” a “Valley Girl,” and was scorned as “this silly book author” (Margaret Carlson, Capital Gang). By the way: Just how “silly” were Wolf’s books? Their author was a former Rhodes Scholar, and two of her three “silly” books had been New York Times “notable books of the year.” But no matter! The press corps’ propaganda campaign rumbled on, with smutty half-wits like Maggie Gallagher typing up their political porn. Deeply concerned and very worried, Gallagher spoke straight to Gore:

GALLAGHER: So now I hear you’ve gone out and hired a feminist babe with big hair, friend of your daughter, to help boost your MQ (that’s “masculinity quotient” to you outside the Beltway)…So you’ve got this pretty little writer thing (don’t get me wrong, smart too, gives real good pen), who’s going to teach you how to be a man, Al, and you are going to pay her 5,000 big bucks a month for the privilege.
Gallagher wrote in the Washington Times, but the Los Angeles Times, inexcusably “liberal,” published this type of garbage too. Indeed, smut and stupidity drove the corps’ work as they conducted their War Against Gore (links below).

As we’ve told you, Wolf is a thoroughly mainstream figure, as even your “press corps” surely knew. And Bill O’Reilly—a deeply strange man when he comes in for criticism—has virtues that libs often miss. Last night, Wolf offered an intriguing report, and O’Reilly engaged her point for point. But as we have told you, again and again: American need to understand the way their last White House race was decided. To recall the way the “press” slandered Wolf as part of their twenty-month War Against Gore, do yourselves a thorough favor. See THE DAILY HOWLER 3/3/03, 3/4/03, 3/5/03 and 3/7/03. Marvel again at the grinding corruption which eats at the heart of your “press corps.”

Meanwhile, for cruel and unusual punishment, catch last night’s “Journalism Ethics During Wars and Elections” seminar if C-SPAN airs it again this weekend. The gabfest, straight from GWU, was hosted by sonorous Marvin Kalb, who is well established as host-for-life of all press corps self-examinations. Kalb was joined by the standard collection of zombies, who provided their standard imitations of life; our hearts went out to the journalism students forced to sit through the hour-plus snorefest. How empty, how pointless, can human life be? Tape this strange exhibition and see. You’ll soon be emitting low, mordant chuckles as the life-forms dispense their shopworn insights and clap themselves on the back in recognition of their greatness. By the way: Did even one of these self-impressed scribes speak out on the sliming of Wolf? Tell us again so we’ll all understand: Just what was the “ethics” of that one?

(Point of fairness: David Broder made several original points in the course of last night’s discussion.)