Washington Prowler

A Southern Threat to John Edwards

Plus: Hitchens and Clinton's ex-girlfriend: old news?

By 2.5.03

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NOW THAT HE'S HISTORY
After successful heart surgery last Friday, Florida Sen. Bob Graham is gearing up to make his final decision on whether to make a run for the presidency. "Had [John] Edwards performed better in the national spotlight, this might not be a serious consideration," says a Graham supporter in the Florida Democratic Party. "But the guy has choked, and Graham has the Southern connection and the heft to pull it off. He could be the Southern player in this election for us."

Edwards has his failings, but fundraising isn't one of them, and for all of his rookie mistakes, he remains viable in many polls. He runs a distant fourth (in a virtual dead heat with Dick Gephardt), for example, in New Hampshire polls that show him trailing only favored regional sons Sens. John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and Howie Dean. Not bad for a newcomer.

But Graham has to be looking at how the South will be in play for Democrats, at all of the potential fundraising he could do in his home state, and how the press is already playing up his foreign policy and intelligence know-how, and be thinking he could make a big dent in the plans of some of the other Democratic presidential hopefuls.

The best evidence he got recently that he might be able to make a serious run was a fundraising swing Kerry made through Florida, in which he attempted to draw off a number of old-line Clinton and Gore donors looking beyond Lieberman for a place to put their political dollars. While Kerry had a couple of successful fundraisers, the bigger message he got from bigtime donors and fundraisers was that before they could commit to him, they had to wait to see what Graham was going to do.

"If there were another Southerner in the race with some real experience and name recognition nationally perhaps Graham doesn't think about it," says a DNC fundraiser. "But there's only Edwards, and Graham beats Edwards on just about everything but looks. Graham might not play well in New Hampshire or Iowa, but he plays well in a lot of states where the other guys don't. He could make things more interesting than they already are."

IN SECOND GREER
In one of her priceless "Short Cuts," Lucianne.com yesterday took note of the latest involving an evolving neo-rightist and his insights into our nation's top impeached ex-president. She wrote:

"Although Clinton bashing isn't the sport it used to be -- and it is truly old -- the redoubtable Christopher Hitchens hasn't finished playing the game and dusts off some cuttings from the 'No One Left To Lie To' writing room floor. He's claiming BJ was a 'double' for the CIA during his Oxford years and that they both slept with the same future radical feminist during that time. Hitch gagged when we asked if it was Germaine Greer."

We can't help on the CIA front -- though we do recall a visit to our old offices a decade ago from an American businessman who'd done business in Eastern European and insisted he'd come across people with evidence Clinton had actually offered his services to the KGB -- but we are in position to recall what we published in June 1993 issue of The American Spectator. It was a piece by Stuart Reid entitled "Clinton's Ex-Pats," which included this:

"...What is less well known is that among Clinton's close friends at Oxford was a fellow American Mandy Merck, who became an archetypal professional expat and a minor success in such journals as the New Statesman and Marxism Today. Theirs was no a sexual relationship. As Ms. Merck said last year: 'Bill was the first boy I ever "came out" to. In fact, he was just about the first person outside my circle I ever felt I could tell I was a lesbian.' One wonders what Clinton might have done to persuade Ms. Merck to come out.

"Whatever, Ms. Merck was not a woman to mess with. She proved her toughness when she joined the radical events magazine Time Out in the seventies and, as 'Mother of the Chapel,' helped organize a series of strikes that ended in 1981 when the entire staff was sacked. With the help of a loan of £80,000 from the Greater London Council, then run by 'Red' Ken Livingstone, the ex-staffers started a rival (and even more radical) events magazine, City Limits, which earlier this year went into liquidation. A key element of the final dispute at Time Out was that management wanted to pay some staff more than others, on the old-fashioned principle that some staff are worth more than others, while Merck & Co. insisted that all staff should be paid the same wage. Tony Elliott, who owns Time Out, now talks of 'bloody Mandy Merck.' She was, he says, 'undisputably the prime mover in all our troubles, a classic case of a dilettante radical -- bright and manipulative.' Remind you of anyone?

"More recently, Ms. Merck has produced gay and lesbian programs for both the BBC and Channel Four. In February, the feminist publishing house Virago put out a collection of Ms. Merck's essays under the promising title, Perversions: Deviant Readings. Pity the kids at Cornell, where Ms. Merck is now a visiting professor in feminist ontology, or some such."

Could Ms. Marck be Mr. Hitchens' mystery woman? We await the definitive biography of either principal -- or better yet, the memoirs of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Someone is bound to remember something from those good old days.

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