Washington — My literary reputation is made! This week in the New Yorker magazine I am likened to a member of the Communist Party U.S.A. You might remember that not so many years ago for a writer or actor to be recognized as an American Communist by the “New Yorker” was to be recognized as very progressive. If you were a writer it went without saying that you were an exquisite writer and probably a humanitarian and advocate of early child schooling. All that talk about Soviet prison camps and general repression was presumed to be a lot of anti-Communist hysteria. Communists were essentially soft-hearted folks or “liberals in a hurry,” as the phrase had it. So now it is official; I am a moral and literary colossus.
My sudden literary recognition in the venerable “New Yorker” comes in an adulatory review of David Brock’s new book, “Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative.” The reviewer is Hendrik Hertzberg, who rose to literary prominence many years ago as a poet in President Jimmy Carter’s speech-writing stable. Jimmy is the fellow who campaigned on the slogan, “If I ever lie to you don’t vote for me.” He presided over an administration that saw American international prestige and American economic vitality sink to a post-World War II nadir while he transformed the presidency into a soap box. Naturally the American people thought he was lying and did not vote for him in 1980; electing, instead, Ronald Reagan, a man whom Hertzberg and the other Carterites will still tell you was a dreadful failure.
From the literary plateau of the Carter White House Hertzberg has vaulted from literary Himalaya to literary Himalaya, and now at the “New Yorker” he is touting Brock as heir to Arthur Koestler, author of “Darkness at Noon,” and a writer in the vanguard of the anti-Communist literary movements of the 1940s. In our day Brock himself is in the vanguard of our era’s cutting-edge literary movement. He stands with Doris Kearns Goodwin, Stephen Ambrose, Michael Bellesiles, winner of the Bancroft Prize for history, and — I would guess — scores of other writers in employing such heretofore uncelebrated literary techniques as plagiarism, fictitious citations, made-up reportage, and bold fraud. Brock’s fraud begins in his book’s title, in the phrase “The Conscience of ….” So replete is his book with fabrication that Brock obviously has no conscience.
Hertzberg, writing in his usual spumoni of confusion, is not all that clear as to whether it is he or Brock who has likened me to a Communist, but I am not alone in receiving this gratifying accolade. His “New Yorker” review likens ALL conservatives and most Republicans to members of the Communist Party U.S.A. That means nearly half the citizens of the United States are Communists. Who says the Cold War is over? We Reds may win yet. “Yuppies, you have nothing to lose but your chains.”
There is more confused writing in Hertzberg’s testimonial that touches upon me personally. For instance he claims that “The American Spectator’s” “Troopergate” story (which along with a “Los Angeles Times” story quoted Governor Bill Clinton’s bodyguards as having pimped for the Governor) is now “discredited.” This weasel word may mean many things, but “discredited” does not mean refuted. In fact, Clinton’s subsequent behavior has only validated Troopergate’s gravamens that he is a sexual predator and abuser of power. His perjury, obstruction of justice, contempt of court, and abuse of the pardoning power came later.
Hertzberg’s confusions continue. In the “New Yorker” he seems to be saying that at “The American Spectator” I commissioned “the story” that White House deputy counsel, Vincent Foster, “had been murdered by or at the behest of the Clintons, who were orchestrating a monstrous cover-up.” I never commissioned or published such a story. The piece is a concoction of Brock’s literary art. Both he and Hertzberg are misrepresenting a 1995 review by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr’s report on Foster’s death. Evans-Pritchard’s actual piece concludes thus: “It is not the purpose of this article to explain what happened to Vincent Foster on July 20, 1993. I do not have any answers.” The American Spectator never claimed Foster was murdered and eventually lost the financial support of a major donor for ridiculing a book that argued that Foster was murdered.
Hertzberg, apparently still under Brock’s spell, goes on to repeat Brock’s equally fictional claim that the present Solicitor General of the United States, Ted Olson, wanted the nonexistent Spectator piece published, telling Brock that the imaginary piece “was a way of turning up the heat on the administration until another scandal was shaken loose, which was the Spectator’s mission.” Had Hertzberg asked Olson before publishing this balderdash Olson would have told him as he has said repeatedly of Brock’s claim that as a lawyer it was not his responsibility to interfere with or second-guess the editorial judgment of the Spectator’s editors.
Now, of course, Brock is a self-confessed liar. In fact, he is a self-confessed fraud, he boasts of having published fraudulent claims about Clarence Thomas. He is the first member of this rising literary movement to draw attention to his arty technique. Perhaps Hertzberg aspires to become the New Charlatans’ Professor Lionel Trilling. His next rave review will be for Doris Kearns Goodwin, whose plagiarisms have stirred the country.