Late at night at the Accuracy in Media ball on Oct. 18, I looked out a window of the Army-Navy Club and saw a good-looking young man in a fine jacket walking in and out of the lamplight by a park, and envied him his lightness of his step and air of intrigue, that weirdly watchful sexiness that repressed Washington oozes.
The people in the ballroom for the 25th anniversary of the conservative AIM Report were none of them sexy or light of step. Accuracy in Media was born of anticommunism and the anti-60’s, and a lot of the people on the dais were nostalgic for wars nobody I know cares about. A cash bar at the reception, no wine with dinner and Phyllis Schlafly in a pink dress and blond beehive, holding the line against women’s lib and porn.
Does anyone care about women’s lib? Didn’t we come out of women’s lib’s rib?
AIM is the creation of Reed Irvine, a valiant scold. He’s 75 now; he stood at the podium at dinner making jokes about his plumbing.
“Do you not know that I’m an old man. When I rise I must leak!” he cried, faintly echoing the most famous thing ever said about him, 19 years ago when Ben Bradlee called Mr. Irvine a “carping, retromingent vigilante.” Retromingent means pissing backwards.
I sat at Table 8 next to my guru in scandal, the bearded, high-foreheaded Hugh Sprunt. Now and then-maybe when the entertainer Paul Shanklin was imitating Louis Farrakhan singing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” and using a fake ghetto accent, even as black waiters moved among us serving prime rib-I looked over and Hugh’s eyes were shut. Hugh has one keen interest, the death of Vincent Foster.
“Hugh, did you ever think, Well, I’ve chewed this one over enough, time to jump on to T.W.A. 800?”
Hugh Sprunt’s eyes glinted warmly. “No. The deeper I get, the more interesting it is to me.”
Earlier that day, I’d walked past him in alcoves, surrounded by a circle of fresh disciples.
“But you see, that happens typically in a hanging, but there’s no evidence from the medical examiner-”
I guess they were talking about the semen found on Foster’s shorts.
Then someone would say, “Our theory with the car is the killer leaves in the blue car with the keys and only later, when he’s on the plane to Argentina, does he realize-”
“All right: the car,” Hugh says, gearing up.
Hugh Sprunt is glamorous to me because he’s never insisted on solving the Foster mystery; he knows what he doesn’t know and revels in it. He loves intellectual puzzles even when I ask him about sex.
“What did Woody Allen say?” he said. “A man just needs a place, a woman needs a reason?”
“What does that mean, Hugh?”
“You live in New York, you should be explaining Woody Allen to me,” he said-Hugh Sprunt lives in Farmers Branch, Tex.
Other glamorous figures at the AIM ball were no-shows or half-shows. New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir slipped out after his short speech to get the shuttle. Former White House counsel C. Boyden Gray was nowhere to be seen. And as for Pierre Salinger, Pierre Salinger was in Paris, he didn’t even call with regrets, Mr. Irvine said.
Many of the other partisans seemed superannuated, men of the Cold War era who gave bizarre, Dr. Strangelove-y speeches or got tearful talking about their grandparents. The concessions table was loaded with busts of Ronald Reagan.
I’m a fellow traveler with these hard-righters because I share their view of Bill Clinton’s corruption. I appeared on a Vince Foster panel the spry Mr. Irvine ran with precision. He sat with a stopwatch, and when you got past your seventh minute, he’d drop a folded card in front of you with the number 2 on it, then a minute later 1, then a third scrawled time . I talked about how independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s report on Foster’s death is so thin and shabby, he didn’t even put his name on it. It dismisses serious questions-like the harassment of Patrick Knowlton, an inconvenient witness at Fort Marcy Park the day Foster died-and offers sweeping psychological conclusions on the basis of superficial evidence. It has no surprises and little intellectual honesty.
Investigative reporter Chris Ruddy sat next to me, and when he spoke he cracked a joke about Mr. Clinton not being “crooked.” He wasn’t the only one talking about dicks. A little later, Murray Baron, the president of Accuracy in Media, rose to give a wild speech suggesting that Foster had killed himself in a homosexual hideaway, maybe the one linked to Barney Frank.
“Do you think they were having an affair?” the author Dan Moldea, who is writing a book on Foster, asked me at lunch.
The good old Hillary question.
“I do, but there’s no way to know,” I said.
“I believe they were,” Mr. Sprunt said. “Now it may have been long before they got to Washington.” He cited the many rumors.
Later I walked out onto 17th Street to get a newspaper with Larry Klayman, the head of Judicial Watch, that organization that is suing Hillary Clinton over Filegate, that scummiest of Clinton affairs in which hundreds of confidential F.B.I. files turned up in the hands of White House goons. Mr. Klayman hopes to depose the First Lady this fall at the White House. We talked about Foster, and he asked the Hillary question himself.
I told him about evidence in the case that Vince Foster agonized about the rumors showing up in the press.
“Well, he was a handsome man,” Larry Klayman said. “And if you believe reports about what she had to put up with, well, who could blame her.”
The sex talk was still going on back at the Army-Navy Club. After lunch, someone named Judith Reisman was on a panel with Phyllis Schlafly, holding forth against the Kinsey report. Then we went to the ballroom, and F.B.I. agent Gary Aldrich made another joke about Mr. Clinton’s allegedly crooked dick, rudely thanked Phyllis Schlafly for “sharing your cross-dressing experiences” with us-Phyllis Schlafly had given a speech where she told of playing Henry in Henry V -and wondered whether Chelsea Clinton wasn’t a “Foster child.” Vicious.
Ten o’clock, and not a drop to drink. Outside the window that man went by, and I realized how far my new crowd is from real sex and power. The girls at the AIM thing weren’t pretty; neither were the men. The pretty people were elsewhere, heads pillowed on one anothers’ flushed and concupiscent thighs, and it made me want to walk out of the Army-Navy Club. We’re a bunch of gray-haired nuts, combing over events of four years ago, asking people about what car they remember in the parking lot when they can’t even remember the car outside the door right now.
Let the next generation figure out what happened to Foster, if they care. The world has things to do, the world has new lies to tell, fresh thighs to lay its head against, fresh skullduggeries to commit in the name of a 10,000-point Dow Jones.
That’s why the talk kept going to sex. Everyone likes to be where the action is, and right now the action is in the President’s pants. Forget Maureen Dowd’s plea on Oct. 18 that America shouldn’t go there; I can tell you from a day at AIM that America likes talking about the President’s dick. We’re ready to have the President in court and to quiz Paula Jones about how she got such a good gander if she didn’t kiss it.
“Gentlemen Are Requested to Adjust Their Clothing Before Re-entering the Lobby,” the sign in the men’s room of the Army-Navy Club said, but that sign is history. America wants your flies open, gentlemen. We’re ready for male full-frontal at last; we want to see how it hangs. The biggest cheat in Boogie Nights is the fakeout with Mark Wahlberg’s dick at the end. That thing’s a hose, it’s a putty job, it’s Cyrano night at the dinner-theater zipper show. “Men say that they can tell it’s fake from the way he handles it,” my friend Lynn Hirschberg says. I could tell it was doped because it lay there like rubber sausage bought by the yard at Ziggy’s Novelty. Sharon Stone showed us hers, Mark Wahlberg, why can’t you show us yours?
We want the President’s dick because it’s where all the mysteries start. It sought glamour and got it, leaving Paula Jones and the other Ozark mascara cases behind, and with the glamour came everything else, the glory, the lies, the high approval ratings, the F.B.I. files and who knows what, the Arkansas lawyer in Fort Marcy Park.
Vince Foster needed a place, the rest of us still need a reason. The reason’s sex, and sorry, Phyllis, it was true in the 60’s, it’s true now: The Democrats win big.