17 March 1999
Our current howler (part I): Lowered Standard
Synopsis: The Weekly threw basic standards away in a remarkable issue on Broaddrick.
Our Fearless Press
David Frum, The Weekly Standard, 3/15/99
We decided wed have to review the matter when we came to this passage in David Frums piece--just one of many remarkable articles in the Weekly Standards March 15 issue:
FRUM: The strongest counter-evidence against her story--that she had earlier signed an affadavit denying the rape--actually tended to confirm it. As we now know, Clintons protectors have made a habit of collecting false affadavits from women linked to their man.
Frum was discussing Juanita Broaddricks charges against President Clinton. His article was one of five on Mrs. Broaddrick in the March 15 Standard, whose cover said (and believe us, they meant it): Cant we just move on? No!
And we decided we couldnt move on either, without stopping to comment on Frums strange remark--without stopping to comment on the devious writing which litters this remarkable issue. The articles on Broaddrick are teeming with howlers--with prosecutorial writing as slick as it gets. Slippery, devious, evasive, untrustworthy--these are terms that the Standard once applied to Bill Clinton. Now, in an issue teeming with writing as bad as it gets, we see Standard writers display all the traits that the journal claims to hate in Vile Bill.
Look for example at the remarkable passage we have quoted above from Frum. Frums first assertion: Because Mrs. Broaddrick has previously sworn that no rape occurred, that tends to confirm her rape charges. We have written before on this remarkable claim--that past sworn lying enhances credibility. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/27/99, for past comments on this striking tale.
Weve said it before, and we say it again: We think Mrs. Broaddrick gives a perfectly plausible account of her failure to place charges at the time of the alleged assault. And we think she gives a reasonable account of why she filed an allegedly false affadavit with the Paula Jones lawyers, and of why she wouldnt testify to the FBI when they were sent to her by Kenneth Starr.
But the fact that Broaddricks account is plausible surely doesnt mean that its true, and it takes an unblinking true believer to argue as Frum does here. No, it does not make a witness more credible when she says she has lied under oath in the past--and when we see that she has avoided every possible forum in which her account would be subject to examination. It doesnt take a devious mind to see that this could stem from a shaky or false story; and Frum has simply stopped trying to be fair when he makes absurd statements like this.
But what is most disturbing about Frums presentation is the reason he gives for his posture. Broaddricks denials tend to confirm her charge for a very specific reason:
FRUM: As we now know, Clintons protectors have made a habit of collecting false affadavits from women linked to their man.
In short, Frum says the allegedly false affadavit is all just a part of that debbil Wild Bills well-known pattern.
But surely, even Standard editors must see what is wrong with Frums remarkable construction. Mrs. Broaddrick and her lawyer--a Republican office-holder--have made clear that her affadavit was not requested or proposed by Clintons men. Commentators have widely said that this explains why Ken Starr didnt pursue Mrs. Broaddricks charges (as part of his obstruction count). And House managers have said that this is why her case wasnt part of their counts.
Everyone knows this, but there is Frum, pretending he just never heard it. Frum assures readers that a rape has occurred on a basis he surely must know to be false. Mrs. Broaddricks past lying now proves that shes truthful, because its all just a part of that Bill Clinton pattern. Except, all witnesses agree that the pattern didnt happen. Frum pretends that it just wasnt said.
Is it possible that Mrs. Broaddricks charges are true? Of course that is one of the possibilities. But could it also be true that her charges are false? In fairness, that is possible too. Frums presentation is startlingly devious--striking conduct when the charges are so serious. Our question: If Frum cant be minimally fair to the accused, cant he at least show some basic respect for his readers--and for our 2500-year-old public discourse, whose simple standards he so strangely disregards?
Visit our incomparable archives: On March 1, the Hardball gang (who else?) also pretended that Broaddricks affadavit was part of a pattern. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/2/99.
Tomorrow: We probably should have seen it coming March 8 when Fred Barnes pulled an odd Love Child II.