Saturday, March 16, 2002

HE SAW THE LIGHT: Does anyone remember the author David Brock? He wrote such seminal conservative works as “The Real Anita Hill: The Untold Story” and “The Seduction of Hillary Rodham Clinton.” Well, it seems that Mr. Brock has had an attack of “morals” in his new book “Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative” (Crown; $25.95). If an amazon.com rating is any indication of a book’s popularity, his book currently has a ranking of 4, and a four and 1/2 star review of readers. Amazon.com notes that those who purchased this book also bought “Stupid White Men... and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation,” “The Betrayal of America: How the Supreme Court Undermined the Constitution and Chose Our President,” “Supreme Injustice: How the Supreme Court Hijacked Election 2000,” and “The Bush Dislexicon: Observations on a National Disorder.” Mr. Brock’s epiphany stems from his fin-de-siècle disillusionment with the Washington scandal mill. As a student at the University of California at Berkeley and reporter for their student newspaper The Daily Californian in the early 1980s, David’s conservatism came as a response to what would later be characterized as political correctness. Indeed Mr. Brock was an admirer of Bobby Kennedy and even voted for Carter in 1980, but his article in support of the decision by President Reagan to invade Grenada led to a campus-wide protest against him personally, and an awakening as a conservative wunderkind. Upon leaving Berkeley, David Brock took an internship at The Wall Street Journal where his career would have been set except that a hiring freeze at the Journal prevented him from being hired permanently. Thus begins Mr. Brock’s long seduction by the right. Because no job was available at the Journal David took a job as a writer for “Insight,” the weekly magazine published by Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Washington Times. From Insight Brock moved to The Heritage Foundation, and finally ended up at the nascent American Spectator. While at the Spectator in 1992, Mr. Brock wrote a long article denouncing Anita Hill, in which he coined his famous phrase, calling her “a bit nutty, and a bit slutty.” The resulting book led him to shoot to the top of the Times best-seller list, and made him set his sights on bigger targets. In an article entitle “His Cheatin’ Heart,” Brock used unsubstantiated gossip from Arkansas Highway Patrolmen to paint President Clinton as sleazy, a remarkable accomplishment indeed. Finally, in 1996 Brock took aim at the president's wife, Hillary. In his book “The Seduction of Hillary Rodham Clinton,“ he showed her as liking big government, but basically wrote an autobiography, and portrayed her as a basically well-intentioned, good person. Following the not so bad portrayal of Mrs. Clinton, the right began to distance itself from Mr. Brock. Then David Brock began to feel bad about the damage he had done. Not since “The God that Failed” has such a momentous political conversion occurred! Mr. Brock as part of the Third Generation of modern conservatives (after Goldwater and Reagan), believed in lower taxes, more defense spending, and less re-distribution of wealth, which drew him to conservative causes. His new book “Blinded by the Right” explains how after the collapse of the U.S.S.R., the conservative movement was left with out a core enemy, so the enemy became Democrats, environmentalists, feminists, liberals as Mr. Brock calls it “abortion rights, gay rights, feminism, liberal judges, pornography, multiculturalism, affirmative action, and sex education in schools.” In his mind, Mr. Brock never really fit in with the new conservatives. He was openly gay at Berkeley and his homosexuality put him at odds with the Christian-conservatives. Also, he was uncomfortable with the way that some conservatives do not refer to liberals as ideologically wrong, but rather as evil (i.e. Grover Norquist). Also, President Clinton's impeachment stemmed almost directly from the article Brock wrote, in which Brock had set a perjury trap for the President with the “troopergate” incident. Ultimately, Brock feels he was seduced by the power and notoriety he received by destroying well-intentioned liberals. Brock was also upset with the Pandora’s box that his article on Ms. Hill opened up. It led to Pittsburgh billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife offering to reward those who found evidence of wrongdoing by the Clintons (either sexual or financial) and invited a whole host of “unsavory characters” to write hurtful things about the Clintons. Also, he felt guilty because Vincent Foster committed suicide after a number of editorials written about anti-Clintonites appeared in The Wall Street Journal. This led to the Spectator making a naive British author write an article suggesting that Foster was murdered by toughs loyal to Clinton. In the end, Mr. Brock’s real conversion came when he determined that he was being careless with the facts. Mr. Brock wrote in his piece on Anita Hill “that [Clarence] Thomas had [never] rented even one pornographic video, let alone that he was a ‘habitual’ consumer of pornography.” Two Journal reporters proved this to not be true, and Mr. Brock finally realized the error of his ways. In 1997, he wrote in Esquire “Confessions of a Right Wing Hit Man,” and estranged himself from the conservative movement. Finally, in 2000, to make his self-flagellation complete, he voted for Al Gore. The New Yorker praises Mr. Brock’s new book calling it “...not an apologia, [but] something rarer, and it is something that is owed not only from its author but also from the political cadre he has so spectacularly served and forsaken: an apology.” Wow. I feel better about just contemplating such a refreshing political cleansing.

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