World

THE RAUCOUS RIGHT

ANDREW PHILLIPS February 9 1998
World

THE RAUCOUS RIGHT

ANDREW PHILLIPS February 9 1998

THE RAUCOUS RIGHT

Try this on: Bill Clinton and his cronies are behind dozens of murders, perhaps as many as 50. His victims include an Arkansas investigator who had proof of his extramarital affairs while state governor. The former deputy White House counsel, Vince Foster, did not commit suicide in 1993 after all. He was murdered—and he was Hillary Clinton’s lover. Onetime commerce secretary Ron Brown was killed as well; the 1996

airplane crash that most people believe claimed his life was staged to cover up the deed. And Clinton associates smuggled drugs through a small airport in Arkansas.

Such claims may be literally incredible, but they have long been common currency among a network of fanatical activists dedicated to vilifying the Clintons. When Hillary Clinton lashed out last week at a “vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president,” she plainly had them in mind. But there was more. The White House has claimed for at least three years that such far-out stories seep into the consciousness of Americans through what it calls “conspiracy commerce.” A 332-page report compiled in 1995 by a White House aide attempted to document how seemingly wild accusations can start on Internet postings, fringe newsletters and talk radio, but ultimately end up in mainstream newspapers.

The Cl inton-bashers include littleknown figures like Arkansans Larry Nichols and Gary Parks, who claim they

have been persecuted for years by the former governor’s political allies. More important are conservative activists such as Jerry Falwell, the fundamentalist preacher whose Liberty Alliance has sold more than 60,000 copies of a video called The Clinton Chronicles, linking the President to murder and drug smuggling. Right-wing magazines, led by The American Spectator and its pugnacious editor, R. Emmett Tyrrell, add their voices. In 1994, the Spectator published an article titled “His cheatin’ heart,” which first accused Clinton of using Arkansas state troopers to procure women for him, and Tyrrell has continued the attack through such books as Boy Clinton, a scathing portrait of the President’s alleged immorality.

A conservative legal foundation, the Rutherford Institute led by lawyer John Whitehead, is part of the purported conspiracy: it is financing Paula Jones’s sexual harassment suit against Clinton.

Such groups have been nipping at the heels of the First Couple for years. But Hillary Clinton’s most controversial accusation was that Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel investigating her husband, is part of the plot. Starr himself immediately labelled the idea “nonsense.” Still, he does have many links to conservative groups and individuals that are antagonistic to the Clintons. The right-wing Sarah Scaife Foundation in Pittsburgh, for example, has funded inquiries into Foster's suicide and is a financial backer of the Spectator. Last year, it offered to finance a legal chair for Starr at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.— a move he eventually postponed until his investigation is complete.

And even in the Monica Lewinsky case, various figures, including Starr, have common links to right-wing groups. Starr is a member of the Federalist Society, a legal group with several hundred members bound by an interest in conservative and libertarian ideas. So are George Conway of New York City and James Moody of Washington, two lawyers who arranged for Linda Tripp, Lewinsky’s sometime friend, to take her explosive allegations and tape recordings to Starr. All that, of course, may not add up to anything—let alone a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” But it did give Hillary Clinton something to throw at her enemies.

ANDREW PHILLIPS in Washington