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Shoot the Messenger, or Just Ignore Him?

The ConWeb is taking one of two approaches to “The Hunting of the President”: Nitpicking irrelevant points or pretending the book doesn’t exist.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 5/5/2000

How can you tell conservatives are rattled by “The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton,” the new book by Gene Lyons and Joe Conason? They’re either ignoring it completely or engaging in hysterical, irrelevant attacks.

On the attack front, John LeBoutillier of NewsMax starts the festivities in his March 14 column by somehow wranging an invitation to the celebration party for the book (he doesn’t say how). After botching the title of the book (he calls it “The Hunting of Bill and Hillary Clinton”), he starts in on the attacks, calling it “the most left-wing new book of the Millenium.”

LeBoutillier also asserts that “it should be listed in the fiction category.” His evidence? “Conason claims (apparently Lyons had nothing to do with this passage) noted journalist and CEO Chris Ruddy went around Arkansas with a gun and with the Wall Street Journal’s Micah Morrison. Ruddy has not yet read ‘this piece of trash’ as he puts it, but says none of it ever happened!” (Exclamation point his.)

Conason and Lyons have apparently touched a nerve here, because Micah Morrison weighs in on the same subject in the April 20 Wall Street Journal. Morrison’s self-congratulatory article, “Clinton Revisionism,” dismisses the book as “Arkansas tales and media critiques recycled from columns in their home publications, the New York Observer and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette,” and “well worth ignoring.” But he also says in his own defense, “...This writer never was ‘swaggering’ around a Hot Springs fishing camp carrying ‘semiautomatic pistols’ or ‘making noisy public displays’ of dislike toward President Clinton in ‘public places’ -- or anywhere else for that matter.”

What’s the hubbub all about? That section of the book focuses on Caryn Mann, who lived with Parker Dozhier, one of the prime Arkansas-based sources for the American Spectator’s “Arkansas Project.” the Richard Mellon Scaife-funded digging into the president’s background. Here’s the passage from “Hunting,” on page 163:

    The more (Mann) saw of Dozhier and his Arkansas Project colleagues, however, the less credible she found their stories. (No stranger to speculation, Mann was something of an amateur astrologer.) To her there appeared to be a strong element of paranoia and make-believe among Dozhier’s crowd. Although the guns frightened her, she also found it fairly comical to watch Chris Ruddy and Micah Morrison swaggering around the fishing camp, carrying the semiautomatic pistols Dozhier furnished them on the pretext that their lives were in danger. Morrison in particular, she said, was prone to making noisy displays of his dislike for Clinton in Hot Springs restaurants and other public places.

Note that Morrison doesn’t deny having any weapon at all at the fishing camp -- only a “semiautomatic pistol.” He denies his displays of dislike toward Clinton were “noisy” and “public.” And I guess it depends on what the definition of “swaggering” is. Then, he attacks the credentials of Caryn Mann as “a Tarot-dealing Hot Springs astrologer.”

In other words, Morrison does precisely what Clinton-haters accuse the president of doing -- parsing his words and denigrating his opponents.

“If the authors had bothered to check this claim,” Morrison writes, “they would have been told it was false.” Of course. Micah’s no fool. That's exactly what he would have told them, parsing and all.

Ruddy, on the other hand, got the specific allegation wrong, so it’s hard to know what he’s denying.

Morrison also rips apart Jeffrey Toobin’s book, “A Vast Conspiracy,” in the same article, while at the same time puffing up the Journal’s role in perpetuating the Clinton scandals. A sample of the self-congratulation: “Our commentary, collected in five bound volumes and continuing, has had many critics and equally effusive praise.”

Strangely enough, Morrison quotes more from Richard Posner’s “An Affair of State” than he does the books he was ostensibly reviewing, demonstrating that he apparently did not read them thoroughly. That is a step up, however, from the review in the Washington Times, in which the reviewer showed no evidence of having made it past page 2 of the preface, as the Daily Howler pointed out.

The only other mentions of “Hunting” of note appear in two editions of the Media Research Council’s daily “CyberAlert,” which points out interviews the authors did on news shows. It quotes from the interviews, but at MRC, quoting from interviews means MRC disapproves of what is being said. And MRC takes care to refer to Lyons and Conason as "left-wing journalists."

Ignoring the book completely, on the other hand, are WorldNetDaily and Accuracy in Media. A search on the Conservative News Service turned up only a 1999 “humor” article by David Burge about the “first annual Toady Awards” to celebrate “remarkable achievements in sycophancy, credulity and unctuousness in the journalistic arts.” It states that Lyons couldn’t make it because “he had a prior engagement busing tables at the International House of Pancakes in Conway, Ark.” Besides demonstrating the state of conservative “humor,” there is no IHOP in Conway, Ark.

So this is the best they could come up with -- despite smearing the book as filled with, as Morrison put it, “half-truths, omissions and attacks,” the only response they can muster is, you guessed it, half-truths, omissions and attacks to fend off questions about their own questionable behavior.

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