TUESDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2003
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 didnt fuck her; and he had mentioned Clintons dick-driven predecessors, noting that the press would never have dared write about LBJs White House pussy pool. (Sorry. Thats 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? Weve 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. Butstrange for a man of such great eruditionMcMurtry doesnt seem to know that Hamiltons 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 Hamiltons bookits subtitled Great Expectationswill 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-wordGennifloweris clever word-play, an amalgam of Gennifer and Flowers.
For the record, McMurtrys no fan of Hamiltons opusits 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 Hamiltons 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 didnt like it that Bill Clinton just plain got away with Gennifer Flowers, he writes. Theyve sulked and spat at him from that day to this. Indeed, when McMurtry gets around to another prime topic, he says that Clintons relationship with Monica Lewinsky was a pale shadow of what went on with Gennifer. These statements are made in McMurtrys 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 Hamiltons apparent claim that Clinton kept at it for ten years with Flowers? Readers of the New York Review arent told. But theyre told that the story is accurate.
As noted, we were surprised by McMurtrys 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 thatunder the tortured definition produced by Jones lawyershe 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 differentshe 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 Foxs 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 proofuntil McMurtry, with his Fs, Ds and Ps, 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 Hamiltons book is pure horsesh*t.
A SILLY GIRL AUTHOR MEETS BILL: First off, youre absolutely right about the desensitization, she said, agreeing with her cable host. Andrea Dworkin warned in the 80s, you know, sex is going to turnI mean, sorryporn 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 OReilly. In our view, Wolfs appearance on last nights Factor made for the evenings top cable.
Wolf was discussing her current New York mag piece. What did resonate for me is what Im 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. Heres my read on this. Americans have now reached the saturation point of sex and violence. Cant have any more.
Is Internet porn reducing desire? Sorrywe cant tell you that. But for us, last nights session recalled the press corps conduct as they conducted their twenty-month War Against Gorethe 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 Wolfs 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 youve gone out and hired a feminist babe with big hair, friend of your daughter, to help boost your MQ (thats masculinity quotient to you outside the Beltway) So youve got this pretty little writer thing (dont get me wrong, smart too, gives real good pen), whos 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 weve told you, Wolf is a thoroughly mainstream figure, as even your press corps surely knew. And Bill OReillya deeply strange man when he comes in for criticismhas virtues that libs often miss. Last night, Wolf offered an intriguing report, and OReilly 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 nights 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. Youll 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 well all understand: Just what was the ethics of that one?
(Point of fairness: David Broder made several original points in the course of last nights discussion.)