Fair-minded people who are alarmed by the terrible force aimed at Bill Clinton have gathered on high ground: A person has the right to lie about a sexual affair. It is an honorable principle, and it works in John Updike novels and Jeremy Irons movies, but in the context of the Clinton political operation it’s a touch too highly evolved. The central issue is not the right to lie about an affair, it’s forcing others to lie about sexual affairs, it’s omertà .
What liberals have blinded themselves to about the Clinton operation is a long history of commingled sex and violence and, specifically, the threats experienced by anyone who has even thought about airing the President’s dirty laundry.
Dolly Kyle Browning, a lawyer who says she was Bill Clinton’s longtime lover, testified in the Paula Jones case: “My relationship ended with him when I warned him about the Star magazine article coming out and he threatened to destroy me …” The threat was through an intermediary; Ms. Browning did not cooperate with the Star .
Sally Perdue, a former Miss Arkansas who claimed to have been Bill Clinton’s lover in 1983, has been quoted saying that during the ’92 campaign a Clinton ally warned her that she better not talk about the affair because she was known to go jogging and “we can’t guarantee what will happen to your pretty legs.”
Trooper Roger Perry: “Buddy Young called me–and I’m under oath here, and I swear on my mother’s life–the man threatened me … ‘Let me give you some advice. If you do [go public], you will be destroyed, and I represent the President of the United States,’ exactly what the man said.”
Gennifer Flowers: “I felt vulnerable and scared–and for good reason. My apartment had been illegally entered on three separate occasions, and my life was threatened … I’ve seen what has happened to people who try to cross Bill Clinton. As in the case with Mafia dons, it is never the No. 1 man who directly makes threats, much less commits acts of violence.”
Lately, Kathleen Willey was reported in Newsweek to have told F.B.I. agents that two days before her testimony in the Paula Jones case, a strange man “suddenly came up behind her and called out her name,” before asking threatening questions about incidents in her life and telling her her children’s names.
And now Linda R. Tripp, in her statement at the Federal courthouse, says that on the basis of having worked for the Clinton Administration between 1993 and 1997, she became “increasingly fearful that this information [about illegal behavior] was dangerous, very dangerous, to possess.”
These people may dislike Mr. Clinton (Daniel Ellsberg didn’t care much for Richard Nixon, either), but they’re not crazy. They know the political culture Bill Clinton came from.
In her book Sleeping With the President: My Intimate Years With Bill Clinton , Ms. Flowers says that she was moved to go public (for big bucks from the Star ) out of fear. As so many in Arkansas do, she cites a Faulknerian case that took place in March 1985: the vicious attack on Wayne Dumond.
The previous fall, a teenage girl living in the Delta town of Forrest City accused Wayne Dumond, a mechanic, of raping her. The girl was cousin to then-Governor Clinton and the daughter of the town’s leading citizen, and weeks before Mr. Dumond was scheduled to go to trial, his sons came home from school to find him hogtied on the kitchen floor, two-thirds of his blood leaking across the linoleum, castrated. For days after that, the St. Francis County sheriff, a political ally of Mr. Clinton’s, displayed Mr. Dumond’s testicles in a fruit jar on his desk before flushing them down the toilet. Thirteen years later, Mr. Dumond is still rotting in prison for a crime he says he never committed. Meanwhile the hideous crimes against him have never been investigated, never prosecuted.
As Gennifer Flowers observes, it’s not that Mr. Clinton authorized such acts. It’s that he comes out of a primitive, one-party political structure that uses violence, and he has always looked the other way.
Linda Tripp’s statement about danger is the most provocative, because, unlike Watergate, there is a body in Whitewater, and Ms. Tripp was one of the last people to see that body alive. Deputy counsel Vincent Foster Jr.’s demise eerily parallels the first rumblings of Troopergate, which begat Paulagate, which begat Monicagate.
In the weeks leading up to his death, Foster was under enormous pressure. Friends have described him as grim-faced and displeased with the President and First Lady. He was having anxiety attacks at night and consulting books about ethics. He had become paranoid, and felt that his phone was tapped.
Simultaneously, team Clinton was surely aware of a burgeoning sex crisis. Back in Arkansas, the Troopers were talking about going to the press, and the Administration had confederates who were close to them. “We started talking about how many people of this country would love to know the true colors of the man they elected President,” Trooper Roger Perry said.
On July 21, 1993, the day after Foster’s death, Bill Clinton appointed R.L. (Buddy) Young, then head of the State Police unit that guards the governor, to a high-paying Federal job, heading a region of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in Denton, Tex. Buddy Young was Mr. Clinton’s cat’s-paw among the Troopers–the man who allegedly dangled jobs for silence. “There’s no question in our minds that Young was a participant in the effort to suppress bimbo eruptions and suppress the Troopers,” said James Fisher, Paula Jones’ attorney.
The same day that he promoted Mr. Young, Mr. Clinton addressed the White House staff about Foster’s death and issued an oblique warning: “What happened was a mystery.… I hope when we remember him and this we’ll be a little more anxious to talk to each other and a little less anxious to talk outside of our family.”
The coincidence of Foster’s death and a sexual crisis may merely be coincidence. But the sinister view is held by the survivors of another former Clinton aide who met a violent death soon after Foster’s.
Jerry Parks was a private eye who provided security to the Clinton-Gore campaign headquarters in Little Rock in 1992. Parks was a big man and a bully, and two months after Foster died he came to a stop sign in suburban Little Rock and was gunned down by a man with a semiautomatic pistol who then flew off in another car. The Little Rock homicide chief said the gangland hit was an “assassination.”
Jerry Parks’ son and widow have said that he was friendly with Vincent Foster, and that he had created a file on Mr. Clinton’s sexual activities at Foster’s behest, back in about 1989, when the Clinton marriage experienced trouble. “Vince contacted my dad and said, I need you to get this for Hillary, a basic divorce case, and my father began researching Clinton’s girlfriends,” Parks’ son, Gary Parks, has told me (and zillions of right-wing radio listeners). Jerry Parks’ widow, Jane Parks, has said that in the days before his death, Foster called her husband, demanding the file’s return, but that Parks refused. (Jane Parks never agreed to talk to me; she has spoken with the highly enterprising London Daily Telegraph reporter Ambrose Evans-Pritchard.)
These are wild charges, indeed. But five years later, Parks’ murder is still unsolved, we have countless reports of people who say they were threatened with destruction for talking about affairs, and the head of the Little Rock homicide department is defiant about the fact that he has never investigated the family’s claims. “What am I going to do, call the White House?” Clyde Steelman said mockingly, before asserting that the charges were substanceless.
Maybe they are, but Martin Luther King Jr.’s survivors’ assertions about who killed him are treated very seriously. The other day, Mr. Steelman said to me, “That’s the first time I’ve heard Vince Foster’s name [in the Parks context].” The statement reveals a stunning degree of indifference to possible clues. For the Parks family’s belief that there was a Foster connection has been reported widely, in videos and obscure books. And meanwhile Gary Parks says that his mother has often been afraid for her life.
If the threat of violence is a fantasy, it is widely shared among common people who know of shady doings in Clintonville. “I encountered a level of fear and paranoia in Arkansas that I had never encountered before except in crime situations,” said Los Angeles Times reporter William Rempel, who reported on the Troopers. “The thing I noticed, definitely, was a climate of fear. People behaved more like Jews or Christians in a Muslim country than people in a free society,” said Patrick Matrisciana, the maker of The Clinton Chronicles , the video compilation of the right-wing’s accusations.
As I have written here before, my Clinton moment came the night of his 1996 victory, when I stood in the crowd welcoming the President at the Old State House, and two people who said they knew about the famous “boys on the tracks” killings, nine years earlier, refused to talk to me out of fear for their lives. Subsequently, I met a relative of one of the victims in that highly politicized case (which had no sexual component) who would only talk to me at night, in his car in a parking lot, the engine running all the while, and lamented that he had given up any search for justice because “this goes too deep.”
Everywhere Bill Clinton goes, he makes Chinatowns .
When he considered running for President in 1988, he was specifically warned about the women’s names that would come out and decided not to subject his family to the process. A moving moment in the President’s Jan. 17 deposition to Paula Jones’ lawyers was his explanation of that decision: “I wasn’t sure I was mature enough to be President … My little girl was very young. She was about seven in 1987, and I could tell that she was afraid of it.… and we knew that in all probability she’d be the only child we ever had, and I just didn’t, I just didn’t think she was ready for it.”
But in the years that followed, to judge by the Troopers’ accounts, Bill Clinton chose not to change his sexual practices, to run for President, and to deny deny deny (as he told Gennifer Flowers). Even if you believe that his sexual behavior is politically irrelevant–and I am in this camp–you must acknowledge that in the age of Bob Packwood such behavior is a matter of keen social interest. Some may be offended by it, some may want to make something of it, and not just people trying to roll back abortion rights. Joyce Maynard’s affair with a famous and arrogant man 35 years her senior who demanded her silence preyed on her life for a quarter-century. Lately, she discovered the need to talk openly about it, and good for her.
When Dolly Kyle Browning set about trying to publish a fictionalized memoir of Mr. Clinton, she was smeared and threatened. Our sexpig President is surrounded by enablers. When I said that Mr. Clinton was “tough,” former Arkansas State Police director Lynn Davis corrected me. “He’s not tough, he’s ruthless.” Others are tough–the men whom Wayne Dumond remembers pulling on surgical gloves before he blacked out on that day in 1985.
The media have all but ignored Mr. Clinton’s brutalized side because his wonky overachiever side so reflects the reporters’ own overachiever boomer values. His ambitions reflect their ambitions, narcissistically and practically. Have we ever seen such a revolving door between government and the press? And so The Economist in England and the hysterical right-wing Clinton Chronicles made by Jeremiah Films out of trailers in Hemet, Calif., have been more reliable on this score than The New York Times or The New Yorker , or for that matter Mike Nichols’ film Primary Colors , in which the belligerent manner of the Clintonites–Kathy Bates holding a gun to someone’s crotch–is rendered as ha-ha comedy in a cartoon state.
“When somebody takes a cheap shot at us, we ought to knock their goddamn head off. O.K.?” James Carville once said about the Clinton operation. Sometimes these people should be taken at their word.