First posted in 2004
I couldn’t resist this book when I first heard about it, which was sometime last spring. However, it took me until recently to actually finish it. For those of us who always believed that someone was out to get President Clinton during his tenure leading our country, the evidence is all on paper now. However, David Brock seems to turn on his friends with the same bitterness he once attacked Anita Hill with.
For anyone who doesn’t know who David Brock is, for much of the late 80s to mid 90s he was a highly-regarded Conservative reporter who wrote for such magazines as The American Spectator. He also authored the novels The Real Anita Hill: The Untold Story and The Seduction of Hillary Rodham. It was after the latter novel was published that his star began to fade from Republican Conservative circles, simply because he chose to follow his conscience for a change His own disillusionment with the people he had come to regard as friends comes from the fact that after many years of believing what he had been told about the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill scandal, he discovered that he had been lied to. This, coupled with an ever-increasing discomfort as a gay man in a circle of people becoming more and more ruled by Fundamentalist Christians finally creates an epiphany of his conscience, which he claims he can no longer deny.
The sub-title to Blinded by the Right is The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative. If Brock has developed a conscience, I see little evidence of it in this book. Rather than just setting the record straight on his own sins, he decides to take everyone who knew and trusted him during his years as a star reporter for the right down with him. I think that tone had given credence to those who would question his credibility, especially in light of the hatchet jobs he admits to doing for years on end.
That’s not to say that they don’t deserve it, to an extent. Reading what he has written, even if only half of it is true, our country is currently being governed by some of the vilest people in history. It’s quite disturbing to me that one political party and one man with a lot of money (Richard Mellon Scaife) can set out to undo the results of not one, but two elections. Even Brock claims he didn’t see that this was the ultimate motive of those he worked with. However, Brock seems to take as much glee in exposing the dirty secrets and hypocrisy of the right as he once took slinging mud at the left.
As a student at Berkeley, Brock couldn’t whole-heartedly embrace the liberal movement, so he drifted to the right, despite already knowing his sexual orientation. At the time, however, the Republican Party wasn’t controlled by the religious extremists who currently seem to be dictating policy. He felt comfortable among them, but always had a sense of being on the outside looking in. With that in the back of his mind, he began to write what would please the people surrounding him, regardless of whether it was true or not.
A few times he had attacks of conscience, such as running the story about Vince Foster’s death. He would consult with those around him, and they would urge him to go ahead with the story. To please them and to keep them as his friends, he did what they recommended, pushing his conscience back down again and again.
Brock details it all here – all the lies and the trampling on legalities and ethics by those who wanted to take Clinton down, no matter what the cost. He shows the connections between Kenneth Starr and Richard Mellon Scaife, who spent a great deal of his fortune trying to dig up dirt on Clinton, or create it where it didn’t exist. Brock ties the money all together, and does so in a way that demonstrates just how correct Hillary Clinton was when she spoke of “a vast right-wing conspiracy” out to get them. It’s just too bad her husband actually gave them fodder to do it with.
By the time the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, Brock had already had enough. He excuses Clinton’s affair with an intern by showing how the right was out to get him. No sitting President was allowed to be sued civilly before – a precedent that was broken by those who pushed forward this suit (an interesting fact when we are hearing the current administration hide behind the same argument of precedents now in regard to the 9/11 commission). According to Brock, Starr wanted the Paula Jones suit to go forward because he could then probe Clinton’s consensual sex life, and Clinton walked right into their trap. Is the former President innocent? Absolutely not. But if Brock is to be believed, then there were people out to get him, no matter what it meant for this country.
However, there are times when Brock seems to write just because he is enjoying dishing the dirt on his former friends. Too many times, I felt uncomfortable and had to walk away from the book for a while. This is why it took me so long to finish. There are too many instances where he seems to relish just dishing dirt on the likes of Ann Coulter or Laura Ingraham that just feel like he was doing it as retribution for their eventual rejection of him once he started backing off from the vitriolic stories he once wrote. I think I would have been more comfortable with the book if he stuck to a confessional of his own lies and secrets, rather than feeling the need to expose those of the people around him, even when those lies and secrets had nothing to do with him.
The book also isn’t the most readable political book I’ve ever read. It seemed more as if it was a cathartic experience for Brock, and once he had it on paper he sent it off to be published, without ever looking at its structure. There are paragraphs and pages that could have been left out completely, without doing damage to the book as a confession, which just seems to be there because Brock felt the need to talk about it. That’s fine for a writer’s corner piece here on Epinions, but not so good for a published novel.
I also found it at times to be confusing as I tried to follow the players in the conspiracies going on. I thought Harry Turtledove novels were complicated! This could use the same introductory piece in his novels that details who is who, as well as possibly a few flow charts showing where the money was going and who was answering to who.
Democrats will read this and feel vindicated. Conservative Republicans will deny it and say Brock’s lying. Most other people will either walk away from the novel scratching their heads and wondering why we bother with elections at all after this when it’s seemingly so possible to manipulate what’s going on in this country. In many ways, this novel is poison to the electorate who might just give up entirely after reading it. However, I would hope that I am wrong and that the reaction would be to demand more accountability and try to vote those people out of office.
I am just afraid that is too optimistic a thought.
Categories: Book Reviews