When the Clinton Administration goes, who will go with it? Murray Kempton said that journalists were people who sneak out of the woods after a battle to shoot the wounded. The battle still is being fought, but let us look ahead to the happy task. Fellatio feminism . This is a category that virtually overlaps with feminism, but in honor of the individual feminists-Barbara Ehrenreich, Andrea Dworkin-who have bucked the tide, I coin the name to make a distinction.
I speak here of the feminists who believe it is all right for a man of power to be serviced by women in his power so long as he advances their political agenda. So long as the man of power extends their rules over men and women he does not know, they will support his right to extend his rules over women he knows.
If a man of power is for child care, he can be serviced by 21-year-olds. If a man of power is for equal pay for equal work, he can have those who work for him take care of business. If a man of power is for abortion on demand, he can demand regular and convenient release. If a man of power says the right things in public, he can stop women’s mouths in private.
The malignity of the patriarchy depends, it seems, on the patriarch. If a grease monkey hangs a centerfold on his workplace wall, he is an oppressor, but if the President of the United States has an intern kneel on his workplace floor, he is a liberator, and the feminists in question go as gooey as the Chicago Plaster Casters before Jimi Hendrix. Who will ever take them seriously? Men will-they are always indulgent toward the ladies. Maybe, in their hearts, they themselves won’t.
Media pretension . The media is sliding not only down the scale of respectability, but also back toward its disreputable roots. In his classic work The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy , the historian Jacob Burckhardt identified Pietro Aretino, the 16th-century blackmailer and pornographer, as “the father of modern journalism.” Aretino’s method was simple. He published a kind of newsletter with a wide circulation. If you paid him off, he praised you in the most extravagant terms. If you didn’t, he attacked you viciously and obscenely.
Journalism periodically struggles up from those roots, but it never quite detaches itself from them. The half-century just past, from about the 1930’s to yesterday, was a high point of earnestness and respectability. Call it the Age of James Reston. It began when The New York Times and the New York Herald Tribune surpassed the Hearst papers in clout. Its climax was the publication of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. In its warfare against President Bill Clinton, The New York Times is motivated (among many other things) by a desire to recapture the glory days of the 1970’s. But how different is the landscape now, crowded with Internet trawlers and 24-hour television.
Journalism will become trigger-happy, slippery, squalid. It may also, paradoxically, gain some force and pungency. It will attack the powerful like rabid dogs, and the powerful will get down in the street with it. Have you heard of Sally Hemmings? That is because a bottom-feeding journalist, in a time not unlike the one we are entering, broke her story. (The only possible problem with the story is that it may be untrue.) It was also a time when founding fathers wrote in the newspapers. Put in your earplugs, the volume is being turned way up.
James Carville . Goodbye, old nutria hunter. He was fun for a while, if you didn’t mind squinty little eyes, and if you had an appetite for fake populism, and if you were scared enough by bullies to laugh at their jokes.
He will take some of his former media friends down with him. We got a foretaste of what is to come in the summer of 1996, the night the Dick Morris scandal broke. As Mr. Carville spun on the networks, he said, several times, that this was not the first time a politician, or a journalist , had hired a hook-eh. I noted the repetition, and the emphasis. Keep this up, he was signaling, and I’ll rat on some of you. Any boys on the bus who played around, or any girls (unless they played with the patriarch), should expect serpent-head to tell all he knows when the going gets dirty.
The same strategy will be used on Republicans. What do you think the 900 F.B.I. files, cared for by Craig Livingstone the bouncer, were for, if not to provide a data bank for counterattacks? If Mr. Carville wants to malign Newt Gingrich, he doesn’t even have to break the law by referencing F.B.I. files; he only has to read the Vanity Fair profile. When wimpy Hitler was in his bunker, he only shot himself. The Clintonites, made of sterner stuff, will shoot everybody.
I wish just one Republican lawmaker, Representative Hatchett of Jesus Wept, Idaho, would have the guts to say, “I did what I did. But I am not the President and I don’t live in the White House, and if you think that doesn’t make any difference, why not let me live there for a couple of years?” None of them will, which won’t save any of them.
Sidney Blumenthal . Mr. Blumenthal was a good writer once. I have proof that I thought so-I gave one of his books a pretty good review in National Review . He looked as if he might become a minor ironic chronicler-a lesser Harold Nicholson. But there was love in his heart-for the Governor of Arkansas and his wife, and for power. Now he is happy because he gets to wear all those neat tags around his neck, and because he serves his idol.
Along the way, he lost his talent. His style went flaccid, like a deflated blimp, or the President after certain White House conferences. At least Arthur Schlesinger Jr. had written The Age of Jackson and The Age of Roosevelt before he became a flack. Sidney Blumenthal went directly from promise to waste without stopping at achievement.
Look for him as a resident scholar at the Clinton Presidential Library, cataloguing hard copies of the Drudge Report , or working the planchette when Mrs. Clinton wants to quiz Eleanor Roosevelt about Missy LeHand. He is fungible. The republic will never lack for Clintons, or Blumenthals.