on March 21, 2000
THE HUNTING OF THE PRESIDENT documents a sickness at the very center of this nation's soul. A few people, convinced of their exclusive ownership of the truth, proved willing to tell any lie, despoil our nation's institutions and traditions, and break laws in order to displace from power a man they hated. The assault on the president is a challenge as serious as Watergate to our nation's ability to self-government, but in this case, the cancer is on the judicial system, metastasized to the press and the Congress.
THE HUNTING OF THE PRESIDENT shows that the anti-democratic activity originated at very high levels, probably including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, members of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, and other officers of the court. These sworn guardians of justice perverted the principles of equity to turn the court system into their instrumentality to grasp political power. For example, the book exposes serious lies in Paula Jones' case, lies at which Judge Susan Wright winked as she judged the president solely guilty of contempt. Also, in the process of using the courts for political purposes, very basic rights guaranteed in our Constitution, including the protections of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, have been damaged. Grand jury secrecy has been turned into a mockery, and reporters turned into informants for the prosecution. The power of money may have been used to buy testimony. The press itself is used not to report news but to influence opinion. These developments are frighteningly similar to what occurred in the Soviet Union as it slid into dictatorship.
THE HUNTING OF THE PRESIDENT shows that elected officials are not exempt from blame, either. The shame with which Newt Gingrich, Dan Burton, Alfonse D'Amato, Jesse Helms and Lauch Faircloth covered themselves is well-known, but even sadder is the participation in misdeeds by nominally independent and fair-minded Republicans such as Jim Leach. Leach used his congressional position and committee chairmanship to let now-exposed liars spin fables about Mena and Madison Guaranty. Will Leach and others ever accept that they have done terrible damage to our democratic republic and repair the breach they have opened?
THE HUNTING OF THE PRESIDENT also traces how a vast web of tax-exempt foundations (e.g., Coors, e.g., Bradley) are routinely used for partisan purposes, thereby effectively siphoning money from the Treasury, combining it with private wealth from men like Scaife and using it to betray democracy. Saddest of all, THE HUNTING OF THE PRESIDENT shows that the name of Jesus Christ has been used to spread slanders and false testimony by televangelists like Jerry Falwell and false messiahs like Sun Myung Moon.
The answer to Counsel Welch's question to the extremists exemplified in Senator Joe McCarthy, "Have you at last no shame, sir?" has been answered by THE HUNTING. We now know that these extremists have no shame. An always-vigilant citizenry, dedicated to fairness and openness of process, is the only defense against them.
on April 2, 2000
Beginning in late 1993, I began to read news reports in my local newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News, which contained serious but unsubstantiated allegations about an Arkansas land deal known as Whitewater and the possible criminality of the President and his wife. There seemed to be quite a few of these "news articles" and I began to wonder if all of that smoke did not have a substantial fire at its center. Four years later, I start "pulling" the articles on Whitewater and by now, the numerous "Gates" being investigated and reported on in the daily newspapers, from the archives of the Mercury News and about twenty other Knight-Ridder newspapers across the country. One of the things I learned that a large proportion of these stories were by four reporters -- Jeff Gerth and Stephen Labaton of the New York Times, Michael Isikoff and Susan Schmidt of the Washington Post.
This was an interesting experience, and can be duplicated by anyone reading these words. This is what I discovered: In the San Jose Mercury News alone from October 31 1993 to March 31, 1994, there were a total of 163 stories. Of these, 158 had been published in a 106-day span of time from December 16, 1993 to the end of March, about 1.5 stories a day or two stories every three days. It became even more interesting when I "pulled" the "Whitewater" and "Madison Guaranty" stories from twenty Knight-Ridder newspapers in the 62 days from October 31,1993 to December 31, 1993. There were no less than 83 unique items, about 1.3 items a day, and of course many of the newspapers were publishing identical stories during this time. When you look at the coverage in this way, it looks more like indoctrination rather than reporting.
What were the sources of these unsubstantiated allegations? Joe Conason and Gene Lyons describe these sources in The Hunting of the President as a loose cabal of "longtime Clinton adversaries," "defeated politicians, disappointed office seekers, right-wing pamphleteers, wealthy eccentrics, zany private detectives, religious fanatics," and in my view, the primary culprit -- "die-hard segregationists. . . . " Here, as in the rest of the book, Conason and Lyons restrain themselves from going beyond what they can prove or substantiate from sources -- a demonstration of journalism as it should be practised in this age of "infotainment."
But this cabal had a powerful effect on this country and its politics because as Conason and Lyons tell us in detail, the once-respected New York Times and Washington Post not only published unsubstantiated allegation after unsubstantiated allegation, they also withheld any exculpatory information. Like sheep, the rest of Mainstream Media passively followed.
And here is the real danger the authors expose. The cabal was the source of the allegations which acted as toxins poisoning political discourse in this country. But the Mainstream Media was continuously pumping these toxins into the blood stream of America. Without the criminal carelessness and disregard of the Mainstream Media, the press, the TV, and talk radio, the cabal would have affected only a small hate-filled audience on the right. Instead the poison was spread throughout the country, and into every metropolitan area, city and small town.
on March 8, 2000
Of all the Clinton Impeachment books, this the one which has the most credibility because neither of the authors is particularly interested in achieving "Pundithood." At once a crisp rendering of Southern Gothic politics, as well as "Big City Gullibility" Lyons and Conason create an entertaining and sobering vision of Republican Dirty Tricks as high art, as well as an accurate rendering of how big media was fooled over and over again in a game of find the "Clinton Scandals."
Some chapters are laugh out loud funny, as rich and as colorful as anything ever written by Twain or Stephen Leacock.
Other chapters are monumentally depressing, in that we get a terrifying picture of how far unemployeed Republicans would go to get their cushy Govmnt jobs back.
And in the midst of this madness, there are scores of reporters playing the fool for various conmen, scoundrels, and thieves.
This book gives an unblinking look at the enemies of Bill Clinton, and one can be assured that the mainstream press and the Clinton haters will not like what they see one bit. (if they can actually bring themselves to read this wonderful book.)
on April 10, 2000
About two years ago at this time, I was cheering on Ken Starr's investigation. A major reason for this was because of The New York Times. Since high school (15 years ago), the Times had served as my major source of news. So when it came to the investigation of the Clintons, I had no reason to distrust the paper's portrayal of the them as devious criminals who needed to be prosecuted to the fullest extent at every opportunity and destroyed. Even the Washington Post was saying the same thing. How could they both be wrong?
Then, the Starr report was released. Something seemed so horribly wrong with it that I felt I should search out new voices to help me understand the Clinton "Scandals." I soon found the writings of Gene Lyons and Joe Conason (and others) at Salon and The Nation (and other places). Needless to say, I was shocked. There was another side to the Clinton "scandals" that had been 100% completely ignored by the Times (and others.) Worse, some of this reporting had been done over a several year period. I felt a tremendous amount of anger at a newspaper I trusted and began to doubt nearly all of its reporting on the Clintons.
I felt that same feeling of anger while reading this book. While I had become familiar with the work of Conason and Lyons in varied sources, this book does a remarkable job of compiling in one place, "the other side of the story," a full recounting of the craven partnership between the press and right-wing to bring down the Clintons. After reading this book, what truly stands out about the Clinton "scandals" and the conventional wisdom attached to them is a body of "mainstream" journalistic reporting whose words, messages and slant have been shaped by a band of Southerners steeped in a dark, reactionary and racist sub-culture. If you take anything from this book, it should be the recognition that the national press, namely the Bill Rempels, Mike Isikoffs, Susan Schmidts, Jeff Gerths, served as mouthpieces for this element of society. That these reporters (or their editors) didn't have the dignity nor decency to harbor any skepticism about their sources (nor convey any hint of it to their readers) is a mark of shame these writers deserve to carry to their graves.
What also stood out about the book was how little the Impeachment farce meant in the Press/right-wing campaign to destroy the Clintons. When I first heard that Lyons and Conason did not focus much on Lewinsky (only about 10% - 15% of the book), I was disappointed. What this book shows, however, is that the impeachment effort was an all too predictable endgame in the mission to ruin Bill Clinton; The effort by Starr and his cheerleaders in the press to destroy every element of humanity in Clinton had been going on for years. Only a few years later does the story become a little more clear. (For a better look at the Impeachment farce, Jeffrey Toobin's book serves as Part II to the Lyons/Conason work.) The examples of this hateful alliance are too numerous to name.
Worse yet, the craven and duplicitous reporting on the Clinton Administration continues. From "Clinton Fatigue" to the misreporting on Al Gore, the press continues its freightening aversion to decency and care in reporting. About all you need to know about this long sordid history is whom the New York Times and Washington Post chose to review this book in its pages. The Times chose its own Washington Bureau Editor (a bureau whose credibility is thoroughly debunked), while the Post selected an editor at the National Review, home of the Arkansas Project. Not surprisingly, both reviews are dismissive of the book, though even the Post review had some semblance of balance. (To illustrate his contempt for the book, the Times editor misreports a specific element of the book.) If you have that nagging feeling that something is amiss with these reviews, you are encouraged to read Anthony Lewis's (one of the few NYT columnists with a shred of decency on the Clinton beat) review of both this book and Toobin's book in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books.
Like Lewis, Lyons and Conason stayed committed to their independence and have produced a book that deserves to be read by as many people as possible. While it has already been dismissed by the right (which is to be expected) and the Times/Post (which is also to be expected), this book need to be shared with that vast number of Americans, who through no fault of their own, took their lead from the monotony of the National press and saw nothing wrong with the pursuit of the Clintons. This will become even more important with Susan Schmidt's new book and Iskioff's re-release just weeks away.
I will end where I began...with the New York Times. Whether I should be thankful to Lyons or Conason or not, because of its reporting on the Clintons, I no longer believe a single thing I read in the paper, nor trust the values of its reporters or editors.
In fact, no one should.....
on March 21, 2000
Let me have the honor of seconding the Reader from Boca Raton's nomination of this book for a Pulitzer. The book confirms the worst suspicions of the intuitively wise American citizenry--and proves that the Clinton witch hunt was even slimier than we thought it was, and we thought it was incredibly distasteful. This book, first of all, is journalism. Journalism is the discovery of a significant story in a set of facts. We have are not asked to accept as "news" the latest report of gossip from what the media regard as the centers of power. Conason and Lyons find the news and report it. They check it out. They minimize speculation. They editorialize hardly at all. The news is that the slimmer the chance that either the President or First Lady had ever committed a crime, the louder was the cry for a new investigation, the shriller the invective about what they must be hiding. Conason and Lyons gather the facts, find the pattern, report it exhaustively and entertainingly, and have made it possible for future hisorians to discover what was really going on. Commentary will be added to the story the authors have to tell, but little of real significance.
on May 10, 2000
As an Englishman, I have precious little invested in the matter of Clinton and his pursuers, either for or against.
Certainly, we had in England, just as in much of the rest of the world, been bombarded with these matters from the day they broke into the national American consciousness, and discerning fact from fiction became an increasingly difficult job.
As a Thatcherite Conservative myself, I had a pre-disposition to believe and hope that my political soulmates across the Atlantic were right, and that they would manage to despatch this President, apparently so odious. And yet......
And yet, it began to bother me that for all the accusations slung so energetically at President Clinton, there never appeared to be any concrete evidence of wrongdoing, and that no convictions on any serious charges of any of those indicted seemed forthcoming.
Furthermore, for a President so voluminously accused by so many, and condemned so widely in the press for so many misdeeds, the total lack of indictments against Clinton began to bother me greatly. An enthusiastic, partisan investigator, backed by a partisan Congress in both Houses, with unlimited access to funds and surrounded by a large, ideologically committed staff had, after some five to six years, found.........absolutely nothing! How could this be?
When Hillary Clinton spoke of a "...vast right-wing, conspiracy...", I shuddered silently. I did not wish to believe her, but something did not add up, and when the President was impeached and survived, I wondered if Starr and his team were simply monumentally incompetent, or if maybe - just maybe - Mrs Clinton was right?
And then this marvellous book. Marvellous not just because of the way it is written, but marvellous because it is so obviously wholly impartial, and utterly objective. The prose style is one which Sir Winston Churchill would have admired had he been alive; concise, precise and clear, but fully descriptive. "The best English is the simplest English..." Sir Winston often opined, a dictum to which he adhered religiously and with geat success throughout his professional life as a journalist, author and politician, and it won him a Nobel Prize for literature.
Lyons and Conason have resisted the temptation to become emotionally involved in their remarkable story, and this is a marvel too, especially in this day and age. They have set forth their findings calmly and unemotionally, and their book is the better for it. I have consulted a few times with your Library Of Congress, and I have taken the time to contact friends and colleagues in the United States, for some of the more pertinent source material relevant to some of the more obscure and controversial events in this narrative, and Lyons and Conason check out completely. Indeed, in my opinion, there are further allegations they could have made against prominent Republican figures, of an even more sensational nature, but they appear to have avoided them because the source material is not wholly corroborated. A remarkable research standard.
I would finally observe that we used to live in a political climate throughout the English-speaking world, where we respected the decision of the majority, and formed our opinions of a political leader based on his competence and professional integrity, rather than out of blind, partisan political emotion. I think we - regardless of whether or not we are American - shall all have to realise that not everyone is a Nixon. This book goes a long way to inspiring rational rather than emotionally based judgement of what I shall grudgingly have to admit is a remarkably able President.
on April 20, 2000
Having followed this story both in Gene Lyons' book "Fools for Scandal" and in the coverage in Salon e-zine, there is not a lot of "new" information here. However, both the contents of the book and the criticisms of it make it clear that the Washington Post and the New York Times have made a mess of this story from the start; and the obfuscations continue. Even the reviews of the book mis-state its point and attack the authors on an ad hominem basis rather than refute its arguments. Just recently, President Clinton pointed to the Pilsbury Madison report (which was ignored or buried in the NY Times when it came out, and not mentioned since) as a reason why he did not need a pardon; once again the Times did not see fit to bringup the fact that the report cleared the Clintons of Whitewater years ago.
on April 11, 2000
One has to be careful when one uses terms like "apologist". In the context of the so-called Clinton scandals it suggests an attempt to justify or explain away the actions of Clinton in these scandals. That is NOT what this book does. Lyons and Conason do not try to "get inside the head of Clinton" or defend actions that Clinton took. In the one case when they do make a subjective comment about the president they call the president's behavior as "reckless and foolhardy". Lyons and Conason do not criticize those who brought "facts" to light. They criticize those who concocted and helped spread obvious falsehoods and those who kept exculpatory evidence hidden. You don't have to rely on the word of the authors that there were such falsehoods spread about the Clinton. They have gone deep into the public record and have interviewed many of those directly involved. They have provided 27 pages of source notes.
Conason and Lyons have been criticized by certain news organizations, most recently by a New York Times reporter in that paper's Book Review. This is perhaps not surprising given the Times' investment in the Whitewater story. Who knows why the Times made such an effort to find something, anything in Whitewater that was damaging to the president. Perhaps because they were scooped by the Washington Post in Watergate. What is sometimes more interesting than what papers like the Times reported is what the newspapers did not report. The authors document many instances where exculpatory information was ignored by the papers of record. Not all news was deemed "fit to print". While the media was quick to report that "indictments are imminent" they failed to report that, during the trial of Jim McDougal, the OIC's own prosecutor argued that the Clinton's were VICTIMS in the Whitewater scheme. They failed to report that the "Joan of Arc" of the crusade against Clinton collapsed and fainted during a Senate Hearing when she was faced with information that severely damaged her credibility and reputation. The New York Times hid on page 12 on their Christmas Eve edition information about an independent report by the law firm of Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro which cleared the Clintons of any wrong-doing in Whitewater (even as many expected a partisan report especially given the fact that one of the partners of the firm was a Reagan and Bush administration U.S. attorney who had been fired by Clinton).
Lyons and Conason do a great service by filling in the gaps in the coverage by the major media of the Clinton "scandals". Because they make such an effort to document all their research and to give a full picture of all the players the book does sometimes get bogged down in details, However it is still very readable and this densely researched work gives one of the first complete pictures of those that felt it a responsibility to find something that would damage the president. Clinton eventually provided his enemies with the ammunition they needed by his own (what the authors term) "brainless behavior" when he had an affair with a young intern. However the details of that affair have been picked through by other journalists enough times. Lyons and Conason instead present us with a highly entertaining account of the figures and forces that would eventually turn Clinton's personal foibles into a Constitutional crisis.
on April 8, 2000
Maybe the media reports the truth, but it definitely does not report the "whole truth." If you want answers to questions about the past 10 years of scandals, the motives, the money sources, news leaks, or how Ken Starr's OCI knew every move of the Paula Jones's camp; then "The Hunting of the President" is the best source.
With almost 700 names (including 8 Browns and 8 Larrys) and over 100 groups listed in the index my simple mind had to struggle to keep it all together. But I did quite well, thanks to authors' help. When a new character was introduced, the authors would give a background. When an old character returned, the authors would put in a quick reminder.
Was there a conspiracy? It all depends on what your definition of "Conspiracy" is. My answer is yes. I'm betting that after you read this book, you would agree.
With "E-Mailgate" on the horizon, I am sure we will hear "indictments will be coming" again. Will we have "The Hunting of the President Part 2" in another 8 years?
on April 6, 2000
THOTP exposes the rabid segregationists, loonie multimillionaires, corrupt jurisprudence and unprofessional reporters at the heart of the investigatory madness that culminated in impeachment.
In the end there was no Whitewater scandal, no Filegate scandal, no Travelgate scandal, and no credible claim of sexual harassment. There was only a blue dress, which - thanks to the nightmarish gibbering of a press corps gone mad - was elevated into grounds for overturning two elections. Lyons and Conason go a long way toward explaining how it happened.