WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2003
NOT THAT THERES ANYTHING WRONG WITH IT: How shaky a witness was Gennifer Flowers? In January 1992, she told the tale of her 12-year affair in the pages of the tabloid Star. (She was paid $150,000, with much more to come. At the time, her salary as an Arkansas state worker was $17,000.) But uh-oh! One week after her story appeared, Newsweeks Jonathan Alter noted some problems with Flowers credibility. Among them: Flowers claims she met Clinton at the Excelsior Hotel in 1979 or 1980. The hotel didnt open until late 1982. Another: Flowers claims to have been Miss Teen Age America, 1967. She wasntthat year, or any other. In The Hunting of the President, Joe Conason and Gene Lyons went into more detail about this shaky messenger:
CONASON/LYONS (page 25): Musicians and club owners who had worked with Flowers described her as manipulative and dishonest. Her resume falsely proclaimed her a graduate of a fashionable Dallas prep school shed never attended. It also listed a University of Arkansas nursing degree shed never earned and membership in a sorority that had never heard of her. Her agent told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that contrary to her claims, Flowers had never opened for comedian Rich Little. A brief gig on the Hee Haw television program had come to a bad end, the agent would later confirm, when Flowers simply vanished for a couple of weeks with a man shed met in a Las Vegas casinoand then concocted a tale about having been kidnapped. She had never been Miss Teenage America. Even her twin sister Genevieve turned out to be purely a figment of Flowers imagination.Not that theres anything wrong with it! Conason and Lyons also said this: Flowers never produced a single paragraph, valentine, or birthday card as evidence of her twelve-year affair with Clinton; no witness ever came forward who had seen them together. Indeed, she would eventually write an entire book, Passion and Betrayal, without stating a specific time and place where she and her famous lover were together. But your press corps did what it now does best; they simply pretended not to notice. Indeed, seven years after these problems surfaced, this same Flowers was dragged out on Hardball and Hannity, where repulsive journalists stroked their thighs as she rattled insane murder lists. The rest of your press corps stood by and said nothing (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/26/03). As weve long noted, the actual depth of this press corps dysfunction is almost impossible to comprehend or convey. But that dysfunction was surely conveyed in the way the corps adopted this witness. OK, she wasnt Miss Teenage America, but she had great stories, and they pleased empty scribes. So they dragged her around, again and again, to talk about passion, then murder.
And now, someone else is peddling her talesrough-talking, half-witted Larry McMurtry, who (through ample use of his favorites, the F-, D- and P-words) assures misused readers of the New York Review that the brash boy from Hope kept right at it with Gennifer, kept at it for more than a decade (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/14/03). No actual evidence has ever suggested that this tale is actually true. But McMurtry seems too stupid to know it, and his editorswell rattle their names off tomorrowseem much too empty to care.
McMurtry, of course, pretends to review Nigel Hamiltons new Clinton biography. As noted, he criticizes the book for its tawdry, tawdry focus, but never shows the slightest sign of doubting the books pleasing facts. Readers of the New York Review are therefore presented a flowery tale: Clinton kept at it for more than a decade; his later relationship with Monica Lewinsky was a pale shadow of what went on with Gennifer. These facts are asserted in McMurtrys own voice although, presumably, theyre also found in the book which hes reviewing. McMurtry never voices a doubt about that books credibility.
But are the books spicy accounts really true? If we too may employ the rough talk of real men, Hannity and Colmes didnt give a rats *ss when they let Flowers toy with her sick murder lists, and McMurtrys editors didnt much care when they put his review into print. But luckily, someone at the New York Times was also reading Hamiltons book, and this reviewer had quaintly retained the values of a lost, bygone era. In her own review of Hamiltons book, Michiko Kakutani actually wondered if Hamiltons statements were actually accurate. Her conclusion? Let us again use the rough talk of men: She said that this book is pure horsesh*t.
A pasted-together compendium of recycled news, familiar observations and base gossip, Nigel Hamiltons new biography of Bill Clinton represents a sleazy new low in the chronicling of presidential lives, she began. (Her review appeared on September 23.) It regurgitates the most scurrilous and unsubstantiated rumors about Mr. Clinton and his wife. Ah yes, rumors and gossip! Kakutani explained where theyd come from:
KAKUTANI: [Hamiltons book] is heavily indebted to secondary sources, ranging from credible ones like David Maranisss First in His Class to rabid conspiracy-minded ones like Ambrose Evans-Pritchards Secret Life of Bill Clinton; from thoughtful, analytic memoirs like George Stephanopouloss All Too Human to panting, pulp romanesque ones like Gennifer Flowerss Passion and Betrayal.Indeed, a simple look at Hamiltons book shows its total reliance on Flowers musings. Hamilton endlessly cites Passion and Betrayalthat 200-page tract in which Flowers forgot to name a time/place when she met with her Bill. Mr. Hamilton makes little effort to independently verify assertions made by his more questionable sources, Kakutani notes, and he lards these pages with innuendo and conjecture. For the record, Kakutani is no Friend of Bill. Whats the real problem with Hamiltons book? Because of its trashy tone and unwillingness to discriminate among fact, rumor and speculation, she says, this biography has the odd effect of whitewashing this former presidents real failures and foibles: his lawyerly evasions and lies, his indecisiveness, his willingness to risk his administrations policy agendas on a self-indulgent, adolescent affair. The main feeling a reader who finishes this book is likely to have is a vague sympathy for anyone unlucky enough to become one of Mr. Hamiltons biographical subjects. But Kakutani had gambled and lost. Did McMurtry actually finish this book? We dont have the slightest idea. But if he actually finished the book, he emerged not with sympathy, but with gossip.
But lets sing paeans to rumor and gossip! They ruled human life at the dawn of the west, and by the time we saw Flowers being dragged out on Hardball, rumor and gossip were again sacred values. Half-wits like Hannity raced to promote them. Now they rule the slick NYR too.
TOMORROW: The fight, if it happened, was probably no big deal. McMurtry toasts rumor and gossip.
WINERIP: Now the experts are looking at New York differently. Im stunned, said Mr. Hodas. Frankly, I thought they were professionals.At one time, Steven Hodas praised the states testing program. Now he suggests that its authors arent competent.
Make no mistakewhen states began devising their own testing programs, many incompetents were put in charge. You should be very skeptical of testing programs and resultsand you should keep reading Winerips articles.