Media Matters founder David Brock spoke this afternoon at the Clinton School of Public Service, his first trip to Arkansas since what he described as his “bad old days” in the 1990s as a right-wing hatchet man digging for dirt on the Clintons. Nowadays, the obsessive Clinton basher has been reborn as a slick Clinton shill. What a world.
Brock described his story as a “cautionary tale” and said he hoped to illustrate the “right wing’s 20-year obsession with the Clintons, and how in their zeal to try to destroy an American president, conservatives upended many of our long-held cultural values, and they fundamentally reshaped how we all engage in politics — and life — in today’s America.”
“It’s great to be back in Little Rock, in what I have to say are very different circumstances than when I was here last,” Brock said.
Brock was smack dab in the middle of several ’90s political scandals – he wrote a story savaging Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings and another on state troopers who claimed to have arranged sexual trysts for Bill Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas – both for the American Spectator, the magazine behind the Richard Mellon Scaife-funded “Arkansas project.” Oh sweet, slimy nostalgia. Brock’s “Troopergate” story was the first to mention Paula Jones, and, well, the rest is history.
Brock later had a conversion and apologized to both Hill and the Clintons, saying that his articles were bad journalism. His ultimate mea culpa came with the 2002 best-seller Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative. Let no one doubt that David Brock has a knack for getting healthy book advances.
Nowadays, Brock is involved (though not directly) in the possible presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, founding the Democratic Super PAC American Bridge, which runs the Correct the Record project — sort of the Arkansas Project in reverse, devoted to defending Clinton against attacks (which employs several prominent Arkansas Democratic political strategists).
Brock now brings the same zeal to singing the Clintons’ praises as he once did to slamming them. Here’s his take on the Clinton presidency:
The conservative powers-that-be wouldn’t accept the legitimacy of the victory by a young, dynamic, progressive couple who threatened the established political and social order. They were serious agents of change. … Having lost the enemy they needed to win elections when the Soviet Union collapsed and struggling to compete with Clinton’s positive agenda for the country, [the Right] had nothing but scandal politics to fall back on as the means to gaining power.
What made Brock famous in the 1990s was his keen voice for preaching to the converted and telling them what they want to hear. He’s still got it, though the audience has changed.
As for Hillary Clinton, Brock said that “the anti-Clinton animus deepened when Hillary Rodham, an accomplished professional woman, came on the scene.” Brock said his conversion from conservative to progressive came about as he was in Arkansas researching and reporting for what was intended as a hit-piece book on her, to be published on the eve of the ’96 election as the “silver bullet that would finally stop the Clintons.” However, Brock said, “As I did my reporting, I came to see what Hillary Clinton’s admirers saw in her, what we all see in her today – a steadfast commitment to public service and a deep desire to affirm the good and virtuous in politics all too rarely seen in her generation of politicians.”
Good and virtuous! I like Hillary too, but the PAC-man lays it on a little thick.
Brock also reminisced about his days as a scandal-monger:
Back then I was still in my 20s staying just down the street at the Capitol Hotel, drinking at the bar – plotting a campaign of dirty tricks – all in the service of one goal: to make sure that Bill and Hillary Clinton would never make it to the White House.
Seriously, that’s the guy I was back then. I was part of what Hillary Clinton would later call “the vast right-wing conspiracy.”
When Mrs. Clinton made that remark about the political opposition in the late 1990s, insiders scoffed. But she was right. The people I was working with then — they were after the Clintons. We were. I was.
Brock predicted that the “vast right-wing conspiracy” will be after Hillary again, even though she’s the “most vetted candidate for that office in modern political history.”
The strategy is attempting to recreate the scandal-obsessed press corps of the Ken Starr era. Only this time presenting recycled pseudo-scandals from twenty years ago as if they’re somehow new or relevant. For the conservatives to succeed, they’ll have to reactivate the old anti-Clinton mental constructs of our media elite.
The market is big. Unprecedentedly, virtually every major news outlet has assigned a reporter to the Hillary Clinton beat 2 and ½ years before Election Day, and while she is still a private citizen. One study found that in a recent one-week period, cable news channels aired 80 segments on Clinton despite the fact that she had made no public appearances or statements. That’s one segment every single hour around the clock for more than three days. Then the media turns around and blames Mrs. Clinton for being over-exposed, for creating an aura of inevitability around her candidacy, and laments so-called Clinton fatigue
It’s also troubling that more than twenty years later, given her long and exemplary record of public service acknowledged on both sides of the aisle, that the Right’s sexist caricatures of Hillary Clinton still have mainstream currency.
To the delight of the left-leaning crowd at the Clinton School, Brock slammed Fox news (“Fox has accused Hillary Clinton of murder; compared her to a murderer; and suggested she commit suicide”), the Koch brothers, Rush Limbaugh, Drudge, Breitbart.com, etc. Sen. Rand Paul, who has made a habit of bringing up Bill Clinton’s old sexual peccadilloes, also drew Brock’s ire. “It’s not surprising that Rand Paul is obsessed with something that happened long ago,” Brock said. “His general mindset seems stuck in the past.” Meanwhile, Brock said, Paul himself should answer for the “secessationist rantings” of a former aide and “the anti-Semitic and racist material published by a newsletter his father Ron Paul oversaw.” Zing!
Brock closed with a call for decency in politics, unfortunately employing the phony high-mindedness and empty bromides of a middle-brow political pundit:
There’s probably no better place than Little Rock for me to say: I know from personal experience that the best efforts of the right-wing to market political smut did not defeat the Clintons, the truth won out in the end, and it will again. … Now, I’m sure the vast majority of Americans don’t want to go there again – and rightly so. They will find such a campaign more repugnant than persuasive, just as they rejected the empty scandal politics of the 1990s as a distraction from real issues facing the country.
So whether or not you feel as I do – even if you’re not a Clinton supporter, even if you’re a conservative – I have a novel idea. We’re here today at the Clinton School of Public of Service. In the spirit of true public service, let’s challenge our political parties: Call off the political smutmongers.
Agree to have a thoughtful debate about our conflicting philosophies of government and society. Give the American people the Presidential campaign they deserve, one based on real issues and on the public record.
As sympathetic as I am to the message Brock had to deliver, I’m afraid I see the same sleazy, self-serving pitch man that showed up in Arkansas 20 years ago. He’s just playing for the other team these days.