YEAH! ME TOO!
SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER: THE WHOLE SORDID PROLOGUE
Here's another book I've begun after recently finishing The Ancestor's Tale and Kate Remembered. Also I'm reading in The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, a fine book that supports a lot of my claims that we're all just a bunch of sophisticated robots, but just now, I'm scanning you the entire prologue to a book called Blinded By the Right, written by David Brock. Maybe you remember him. He's the young man who was seduced by the conservatives while in Berkeley and who began to work for them until the lying, the cheating, the ruination of careers that conservatives called on him to do, shook him back to his idealistic, youthful roots. I think he now heads up an outfit called Media Matters. Returned to his good senses, he has written this book. I hope he got rich in the doing of it. I hope you'll look it up in your local library and give it a thorough read or, better yet, buy a copy and read it.
[Open quote.] This is a terrible book. It is about lies told and reputations ruined. It is about what the conservative movement did, and what I did, as we plotted in the shadows, disregarded the law, and abused power to win even greater power.
My story is about those familiar corrupting influences of ambition, greed, and ego. It is about how human weakness, lack of confidence, and emotional discomposure can lead to a susceptibility to manipulation for bad ends. It is also about the dangers of zeal and extremism in a political cause, and about how one can be blinded to the ethics of one's own actions.
I came to Washington in 1986 as a conservative rebel from Berkeley, California, and from that moment through the latter part of the l990s, as the leading right-wing scandal reporter, I was a witness to, and a participant in, all of the scandals that gripped the capital city—Iran-Contra, the failed nominatiOn of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, the Thomas-Hill hearings, Troopergate, Paula Jones, Whitewater, and the secret scheming that led to the impeachment of President Clinton. The conservative culture I thrived in was characterized by corrosive partisanship, visceral hatreds, and unfathomable hypocrisy. I worked for leading institutions of the conservative movement—the Washington Times, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Spectator—where I fought on the wrong side of an ideological and cultural war that divided our country and poisoned our politics.
The process of breaking ranks from a tight-knit political movement has been slow and torturous. The break came not in one decisive moment, but in a series of revelations great and small, about the character and actions of those who were my friends, about my own character and actions, and ultimately about the fanatical cause behind it all. There were times when I was not sure I would live through it to tell this story.
In the 1940s and 1950s, ex-Communist intellectuals created a literary genre documenting their break with Communism. In the 1970s and 1980s, so many liberals became conservatives that a new movement— neoconservatism—was born. Few have traveled in my direction, from conservatism to liberalism, at least publicly. It is the nature of an ideological defection such as mine to be a lone voice, met by denials or silence from my ex-comrades. Only they and I really know what we did and why we did it.
Though I do not know if these wrongs can ever be righted, in this or any other way, I wrote this book as an act of conscience, to correct the public record on events in which I played a central role and to illuminate for others the dangers that I see in an empowered conservative movement. How a man won a Supreme Court seat that I later learned he should never have won, how a lavishly funded campaign of political terrorism and propaganda disabled a presidency—these are events that may seem to perhaps everyone but me as if they happened a lifetime ago. But the wounds on the body politic from this era are still open. In the course of events that I describe in this book, the bad guys often won and justice was not always done. Many of the same forces, and many of the same players, still exert influence—a payback scheme in which old misdeeds are now being rewarded.
Twice as I tried to put this book to press, I was interrupted with official inquiries into the activities of my former associates. Several months ago, Theodore Olson, perhaps the top Republican lawyer in the country and the man who successfully argued the Bush v. Gore case for the Bush forces that won Bush the election, was nominated to be solicitor general of the United States. During his Senate confirmation hearing, Olson denied involvement in the American Spectator's Arkansas Project, a $2.4-million dirt digging operation against the Clintons funded by right-wing billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. As a four year veteran of the Spectator, I was contacted by the Judiciary committee, and I described what I knew firsthand about Olson's integral role in the project, contradicting his sworn testimony.
While working on Blinded By the Right for the past three years, I stayed out of the news and used the time to attempt to find a sense of peace, emotional balance, and personal integrity that had eluded me during my dozen years in the right wing. I had no plan or desire to speak against Olson's nomination; I was simply answering questions. But when I did, failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork and former independent counsel Kenneth Starr fanned out in the press to vouch for Olson's character, and the virulent right-wing scandal machine, which my own reporting for the Spectator had done much to create back in the early 1990s, went into overdrive to besmirch me. Internet gossip Matt Drudge put up his flashing red sirens and claimed breathlessly that he had obtained a bootlegged copy of this book: "Brock Plans Scorched Earth; Book Outlines Reporter's Rise and Fall in Washington; Threatens Lawsuit Against Drudge." The trouble with Drudge's item was that he didn't have the book.
My last book, a biography of Hillary Rodham Clinton published in 1996, had been widely expected to be as vicious as my first book, my 1993 expose on Anita Hill, The Real Anita Hill. [By the way—this book is some more about the scorching attack on Anita Hill that conservatives got themselves up to.] When the Hillary book, The Seduction of Hillary Rodham, turned out not to be vicious, the right wing was enraged. Now, prompted by my statements about Olson, Norah Vincent, who had been an editor at the publishing house that brought out Seduction, wrote on the Los Angeles Times op-ed page, "If the world ended tomorrow and good and evil fought it out for keeps, I imagine that David Brock would be one of the devil's chief recruits." Lucianne Goldberg, the sometime literary agent and chief provocateur of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, called me a "turncoat twinkie" and suggested that the right wing had blackmail photographs of me.
If the senators believed my account, then Olson was seen to have given false and misleading testimony under oath. Despite my own checkered past, forty-seven Democratic senators voted against Olson based primarily on my eyewitness report. He was narrowly confirmed.
Such is the world I live in.
In August 2001, the Los Angeles Times called, looking for information on another Bush nominee, Terry Wooten, who had been tapped as a federal district judge. While writing The Real Anita Hill in the early 1990s, I searched for the confidential FBI file of Angela Wright, a damaging witness who said she was harassed by Clarence Thomas but never testified, in an effort to smear and discredit her. Wooten, the Republican chief counsel, gave me the file. I gave an interview to the Times about Wooten's illegal leaking, and I filed an affidavit with the Judiciary committee swearing to what had happened. When Wooten appeared before the Judiciary committee for his Senate confirmation in August 2001, he flatly denied giving me the FBI file. One of us had committed perjury.
A few weeks later, in late September, I sat across my dining room table from two FBI agents who interviewed me about Wooten and the Wright FBI file. I told them everything I knew about that tawdry episode. The FBI investigation concluded that while I had obtained confidential FBI material, the evidence against Wooten was not definitive, and Wooten was eventually confirmed. Yet regardless of the outcome, I was a witness to these events, and, as in the case of Olson, I believe there is something salutary to be gained simply by speaking and writing about them honestly.
With the security threats to the nation, which were years in the making, now so painfully obvious, a decade's worth of scandalmongering by the right appears all the more outrageously disgraceful. As the tragedy ushered in a new appreciation of the role of government, the government-hating project of the radical right seemed to suffer a tremendous setback. Yet there was no denying that even in a grave national crisis, some on the hard right did not for a moment suspend their dedication to a zealously intolerant, hate-filled, religious-based ideology.
It was sickening to see conservative commentator Ann Coulter call on America to "invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity"; or to hear the Reverends Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson blame the terrorist attacks on people who are pro-choice, gay and lesbian, or members of the American Civil Liberties Union; or to learn that conservative writer Michael Ledeen had pinned the death of Barbara Olson, a conservative pundit who perished, tragically, during the attack on the Pentagon, on the feminist establishment; or to read on the Wall Street Journal editorial page an opportunistic recommendation that the Bush administration use the crisis to push through another tax cut and confirm right-wing judges.
The need to shine light on the operations and agenda of the right wing has not abated in the wake of September 11. My intention is that the following political testament, offered in a spirit of both full disclosure and reconciliation, will serve as a cautionary tale of lessons learned the hard way. Even from the depths of depravity and desolation, a conversion of politics, morals, and ultimately of spirit is possible.
Washington, D.C. November 1, 2001 [Close quote.]