Rule of Law 101 (Re: Hitchens Turns GOP stool pigeon

Tom Lehman TLEHMAN at
Sun Feb 7 16:43:48 PST 1999

Dear Nathan,

I wouldn't make too much out of this "he-said-said-he" between two pals like Hitchens and Blumenthal. It smells like a money making opportunity for both of them, not to mention getting a footnote in the history of the affair. It's part of getting old and wanting to be remembered---the "I coulda been a contender" syndrome. Every big affair has footnotes.

I'll bet if you called either of them right now you would probably get call forwarded to their agent.

Your email pal,

Tom L.

Nathan Newman wrote:

> Okay, I'll try to pull responses to Doug, Alex and Peter into one post.
> I'll divide my points into three broad areas: Monica as victim, Offensive
> character assassination vs. the right to a criminal defense, and finally the
> broader point of lesser-evilism (which ties back to Monica as victim).
> Doug thinks Monica is a victim. The House managers wanted to portray her as
> a victim of a "salacious" approach by Clinton. Monica herself refuses that
> description and, frankly, she seems like a 25-year old who has the right to
> have her choices affirmed as more than victimhood. Clinton's behavior as a
> goaty, sexually irresponsible adultering betrayer of his wife can be
> condemned, while simultaneously acknowledging that Monica was a consensual
> partner in the "encounters" - to use her preferred description. And more to
> the point, she is a consensual partner is politically and legally absolving
> Clinton of pressuring her to lie or obstruct justice. If she felt the nasty
> rumours swirling out of the White House were abusive, she had an immunity
> deal available to take down the "Big Creep." She chose not to for what I am
> sure are a whole host of complicated political and personal loyalties to
> Clinton. But that choice does not make her a victim.
> And notably, the White House quickly put a stop to the initial "stalker"
> rumours in favor of more flattering descriptions of Monica, on the (correct)
> assumption that Monica was likely to voluntarily support Bill. If Monica
> was a victim of pressure that violated her consent, that pressure came from
> Ken Starr who used a host of techniques usually reserved to squeezing mafia
> underlings to extract the dress and her testimony.
> I am amazed that people can even compare a few nasty rumours to the
> full-scale judicial assault on Monica's rights that Starr put her through.
> But the charge is still there that Clinton engages in personal attacks on
> other people. He trashed Paula Jones, he trashed Kathleen Willey, and he
> seemed ready to trash Monica Lewinsky.
> Now, unless we have abolished the right of people to put up a legal defense,
> it is bizarre to deny someone, even the President, the right to conduct the
> most elementary part of a defense, which is to impunge the motives and
> credibility of people who have publicly attacked you in a legal proceeding.
> Politically, Clinton was denied his 5th Amendment rights in the grand jury
> proceeding, since no one else would have ever had to testify in a grand jury
> targetting them. On top of that, he is not supposed to be able to challenge
> the motives of his accusers?
> There is a very real difference between character assassination used for
> political means against one's enemies and challenges to the character and
> credibility of one's accusers in the legal realm. Clinton has done very
> little of the former, while being the object of non-stop rumour and innuendo
> and accusations of murdering political enemies. Yes, he and his legal
> defenders pushed the idea that an Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey's
> accusation might be explained by financial motives, and that Monica's
> accusations might be explained by a rebuffed sexual advance. As far as I
> can tell, there are truths in those views of Clinton's accusers, even if
> there is truth in many of their accusations (which is not uncommon in life).
> But when accused, people have some right to challenge the credibility of
> their accusers: that is a constitutional right to avoid - pardon the
> appropriateness of the historical pun - "Starr Chamber" accusations.
> Starr spent four years looking for evidence of Clinton coercing witnesses in
> Whitewater and he came up empty. Instead, we have plenty of evidence of
> most of Whitewater deriving from paid accusers like Hale and the troopers.
> And what I find disturbing is that Starr has a four year history of
> threatening every person who supports Clinton's view of events with
> imprisonment if they don't recant their support. Susan McDougal must have
> been promised a hell of a retirement package to endure her two years in jail
> and I find it hard to believe Webb Hubbell - even with the consulting work
> thrown his way by the Clinton folks - will come out ahead of where he would
> have been if he had just followed Starr's script from day one. And now we
> have Julie Hyatt Steele having her adoption threatened and a threat of
> imprisonment for daring to challenge Kathleen Willey's story, even though
> even Linda Tripp won't support Willey's version.
> What the hell kind of justice is this where anyone who supports your legal
> defense is threatened with perjury by the prosecutor? I'm sorry, a few
> nasty comments about the opposition is nothing when facing this kind of
> perversion of basic principles of criminal justice. Peter worries that
> maybe laws were broken; unlike him, I don't need to worry. Every day we
> watch Ken Starr shred Constitutional rights, not just of Bill Clinton, but
> of Webb Hubbell, of Susan McDougal, or Julie Hyatt Steele, of the woman in
> Arkansas whose son was deliberately subpeoned at school in front of his
> friends and teachers, or the woman whose business was destroyed as Starr
> threatened everyone around her as he sought Whitewater testimony, and the
> list goes on.
> That Hitchens would offer anything, anything, to that bastard Starr is in my
> mind no different than aiding Joe McCarthy.
> ---
> At least the rightwing Clinton attackers have a certain consistency in
> seeing him as this malevolent non-stop political and personal betrayer of
> his foes and all that is decent. But left critics want to have it both
> ways: he is the best friend of the establishment, yet is a callous nasty
> attacker of his enemies which seems to be strangely limited to people
> accusing him of crimes. I actually think the first part- being buddy-buddy
> with the establishment - is pretty accurate and it is frankly Clinton's
> failure to be nastier to his enemies that has pissed off semi-Clinton
> defenders like myself. But then, as is noted, he shares too much with the
> establishment to be its enemy.
> So why defend Clinton at all is the big question. Let the bastard rise and
> fall on his own; it's not the Left's issue one way or the other. First, if
> they took out Clinton, it wouldn't stop there. And to the extent this
> investigation is vindicated, it vindicates the police tactics used to get
> the information used. A lot of left Clinton critics sound like your typical
> anti-civil libertarian - so what if the methods sucked; if we catch the
> bastard, the methods are justified. If these methods are seen as acceptable
> in this case, it just further justifies them in broader criminal and
> political proceedings agains those with less ability to defend themselves
> than Clinton.
> The most encouraging thing in the whole Monica affair has been the absolute
> disdain of most Americans for Ken Starr's police state tactics. More people
> have seen Starr's actions as a threat to our liberties than have condemned
> Clinton's possibly illegal actions. This rough-and-ready political
> equivalent of the legal "exclusionary rule" is probably the best
> explanations of polls that have shown most people thinking Clinton committed
> illegal acts, most people thinking such illegal acts could justify removal,
> yet most people also saying the Senate is not justified in removing Clinton.
> Few of the commentators have linked these factors, since discussions of
> civil liberties have not been at a premium in this whole episode, but
> however fucked up, this case is a vindication of a basic civil libertarian
> impulse that the Left should promote and push for widely.
> And then there is Alex's comment that, like Monica, Clinton's whole
> existence has victimized the Left. Unions "stood still for NAFTA"and Gloria
> Steinem offered "a weaselly defense of welfare reform."
> But just as it betrays civil liberties to give even an ounce of quarter to
> Starr's prosecutorial abuses, it is intellectually and politcally stupid to
> explain away all support for Clinton as infantile victimhood. You can
> picture Monica, John Sweeney and Gloria Steinem as a gallery of Clinton's
> sleazy seductions, or you can understand and grapple with the tougher
> realities of consent and hegemony in a complicated world.
> Most progressives - or at least the 99% that voted for Bill Clinton - are
> not victims, but like Monica make choices not in a vacuum but with
> alternatives like Newt Gingrich and Ken Starr dominating the scene. Most
> progressive recognize that Clinton is a Big Creep, but one who is a far
> better alternative to third parties that run candidates who won't campaign
> or starred in B-television shows in the 60s.
> In the real world of unions under deadly assault, Clinton passed NAFTA but
> also has appointed pro-labor NLRB, FCC and other administrative appointees.
> He's barely pushed many labor initiatives, yet has passed key executive
> orders benefitting labor while also blocking truly odious anti-labor riders
> the GOP sought to attach to appropriation bills. Basic reality: if the GOP
> had passed its 1995 budget with its anti-labor riders, I doubt the labor
> movement would have made it to the year 2000 with more than 5% of the
> workforce unionized. Choosing to avoid that fate is not victimhood, but
> tough choices made by grownups.
> God knows, I want someone other than Clinton as President. I'm not a
> liberal defender of Clinton; I'm a socialist looking to abolish global
> inequality, eliminate private ownership of capital, create true gender
> equality and freedom, and transform a white supremacist world into a
> multicultural global democracy. But I recognize it's a long road there and
> wishes are not horses, so we have a long war of position to get to that
> point. I know my desired path to build towards that goal, and it includes
> mostly grassroots organizing and building global union strength. To
> achieve that, we first need a politics that does not assault that grassroots
> strength and blocking the Right is a short-term goal. For other political
> goals, I do see the Progressive Caucus and building up step-by-step a left
> majority as the path to any electoral work needed along the way.
> What I dislike about most Clinton bashers is that, like Hitchens, they are
> articulate in their hates and in their verbal destruction, yet vague and
> useless in painting an alternative. It's "No on everything" and "USA out of
> everywhere" with no positive program. It's third parties with no credible
> battle plan for victory. It's "taking it to the streets" without having a
> street map.
> That is the Left that wants to paint pragmatists as "sell-outs", "liberals",
> or any other hint of abuse, because they frankly don't have any positive
> alternative to offer, only a negative attack on other people's strategic
> choices. For once, I would love to hear an argument against pragmatic
> "lesser-evilism" that makes an argument by accepting the non-victimhood of
> its adherents, yet painting a brighter alternative option. Yes, Clinton
> sucks. So what. Tell me how to get something better. Otherwise, it's all
> just noise.
> --Nathan Newman

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