A June 5 article in the British Mail on Sunday suggests that the forthcoming attack book on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) is equal parts Swift Boat Veterans For Truth and Gary Aldrich.
The publisher of Edward Klein's The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She'll Go to Become President, the conservative Sentinel imprint of Penguin Putnam, has made no secret of its goal, declaring: "Just as the Swift Boat Veterans convinced millions of voters that John Kerry lacked the character to be president, Klein's book will influence everyone who is sizing up the character of Hillary Clinton."
Now, the Mail on Sunday article shows that the book is not only a Swift Vets-style political attack; it's also a lurid Gary Aldrich-style stew of sexual rumor-mongering and gay-baiting innuendo.
Thus far, U.S. media coverage of the content of the book has been limited to an excerpt in Vanity Fair and a few news reports focusing on Klein's ho-hum claims about Clinton's relationship with former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and his wife Liz -- claims that the Moynihans' daughter, Maura, has refuted.
The apparent leak of the book's claims of "revolutionary lesbianism" to the British media follows a time-tested strategy of Clinton antagonists in the 1990s, who often used Fleet Street as a dumping ground for ludicrous claims that the mainstream U.S. media would not report. Often, such claims eventually made their way back to the States through right-wing outlets like the New York Post and talk radio.
Thus, the Mail on Sunday report is instructive not for what it reveals about Hillary Clinton, but for what it reveals about what Klein is really up to:
Hillary Clinton is facing astonishing allegations that she 'embraced' revolutionary lesbianism when she was young and tolerated her husband's philandering because their marriage was a largely sexless political convenience.
The claims are made in The Truth About Hillary, a book by ex-New York Times journalist Edward Klein.
'She was a mother, but she wasn't maternal,' says Klein, reporting that rumours were rife that she was a lesbian after she became First Lady in 1992.
'She was a wife, but she had no wifely instincts.
'She said she was passionately in love with her husband, but many of her closest friends and aides were lesbians. Everything was ambiguous.' Political analysts say the book could be a devastating blow if, as expected, she runs for the White House in 2008.
Klein claims 'the culture of lesbianism has influenced Hillary's political goals and personal life since she was a student at Wellesley, an elite college near Boston, from 1965 to 1969.
'There was a long tradition of lesbianism at Wellesley,' he writes.
'At least two women who were close to Hillary would become out-of-the-closet lesbians.' The book charges that the Clintons' marriage in 1975 was a sham, designed to further their liberal ideological aspirations.
There is also the explosive claim that Chelsea Clinton was conceived as a ploy to cover up Hillary's sexuality.
Klein's "reporting" brings to mind Aldrich's Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House (Regnery, 1996), which was, according to CNN, "filled ... with second-hand, unsubstantiated sexual rumors about and bitter attacks against President and Mrs. Clinton ... virtually all of his charges about them are unsubstantiated."
Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz described Unlimited Access in a June 29, 1996, article:
He writes of his unease at seeing "oddly dressed new personnel" in "jeans, T-shirts and sweat shirts; men with earrings and ponytails; and every manner of footwear except normal dress shoes. One young lady was dressed entirely in black -- black pants, black T-shirt, black shoes, even black lipstick. ..."
"There was a unisex quality to the Clinton staff that set it far apart from the Bush administration. In the Clinton administration, the broad-shouldered, pants-wearing women and the pear-shaped, bowling-pin men blurred distinctions between the sexes. I was used to athletic types, physically fit persons who took pride in body image and good health." One top female aide was "wearing a very short skirt and ... kept ostentatiously crossing and uncrossing her legs."
Several of those named in the book yesterday disputed Aldrich's account. The book says, for example, that attorney Lloyd Cutler convinced Hillary Clinton to stand by her husband after the 1992 allegations of infidelity by Gennifer Flowers. Cutler said he knew the Clintons only "casually" at that time. "I don't know where the hell he got the thing," Cutler said. "Obviously it wasn't a reliable source."
White House social secretary Ann Stock said in a statement that "it is simply not true," as the book charges, that drug paraphernalia and sex toys were put on the White House Christmas tree.
In a July 1, 1996, article headlined "Book's Clinton Rumors Test Media; Journalism: Ex-FBI Agent's Unverified White House Gossip Is Being Picked Up By Some News Organizations. Critics Question Their Judgment," the Los Angeles Times reported:
"One would expect the press to use more judgment in deciding which parts of this book should be aired and printed and which parts should be discarded," said Larry Sabato, author of a new book on media and politics called "Dirty Little Secrets."
"But, no, they're using terrible judgment in this case. Where is the proof? Where is the evidence? Just because it appears in hard, cold print doesn't mean there's any evidence behind it. It's very easy to get anything printed in the United States anymore."
We'll soon see if the U.S. media exercises better judgment in the case of The Truth About Hillary -- or simply decides to discard the whole thing.