Scandals / Whitewater

Evans-Pritchard, Ambrose. The Secret Life of Bill Clinton: The Unreported Stories. Washington DC: Regnery Publishing, 1997. 460 pages.

For more than four years during the Clinton administration, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard was the Washington bureau chief for The Sunday Telegraph. The stories he filed about major scandals were ignored by U.S. journalists, and thrived only on the Internet. The reason is simple: Evans-Pritchard still knows what the words "investigative journalist" mean, and is so good at it that he embarrassed a profession that has been resting on its dubious laurels for the two decades since Watergate and the CIA revelations.


This book is divided into three sections. The first is about the Oklahoma City bombing. Much about this bombing has never been told. It looks like it started out as a federal sting operation through the use of an agent-provocateur, and then the feds lost control. The middle section is on the death of Vincent Foster, and covers material that can be found in another book in NameBase, by Christopher Ruddy. The last section is about the Dixie mafia and drug smuggling in Arkansas, and how various people who knew too much about Bill Clinton's friends ended up dead. Evans-Pritchard's experience from covering Central America during the violent 1980s must have come in handy for this section. If you ever wondered whether Arkansas is just another banana republic, you'll have no more doubts after reading this book.

Morris, Roger. Partners in Power: The Clintons and Their America. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996. 526 pages.

One sport these days is to watch the major media sweat and squirm while they wait for something to go away, and then it just gets bigger. This book is a brisk bestseller as of July 1996, but after a month it still can't get the attention it deserves from the press. The man in the street knows it's hot, while the media pretend not to notice. There are two possibilities: the major media no longer represent a free press, or this book is a reminder for pundits and journalists that they screwed up in 1992 by missing every story. Roger Morris has a doctorate from Harvard, and a widely-acclaimed biography of Richard Nixon to his credit. In 1970 he resigned from the National Security Council to protest the war in Vietnam. Morris writes well, his sources are solid, and he spent three years on this book.

When all is said and done, the Clintons have a major character flaw: again and again, they've sold out everything they've ever professed. For example, Clinton at Oxford claims he was an anti-war protestor, but according to inside sources, he was also spying on other protestors for the CIA. And while governor of Arkansas, Clinton was aware of CIA drug-running and money- laundering in Arkansas; if he didn't inhale it was only because he was too busy snorting. Since this book leaves off in 1992, the big question now is what's been going on in the White House for the last few years.

Reed, Terry and Cummings, John. Compromised: Clinton, Bush and the CIA. New York: S.P.I. Books (Shapolsky Publishers), 1994. 556 pages.

In the 1980s, Terry Reed was a veteran of air force intelligence in Vietnam who had since earned his pilot's license and was itching for adventure, so Oliver North recruited him as a covert operative in his contra support network. Reed trained contra pilots with Barry Seal in Arkansas, and helped Seal launder CIA money to FOBs (Friends of Billary) there. Later he was assigned to Mexico and associated with Felix Rodriguez, the CIA's contra point man at an airport in El Salvador. Reed had second thoughts after he discovered that planes flying south with U.S. arms for the contras were returning north with cocaine. In October, 1986 the entire effort came unglued when a cargo plane with a U.S. crew was shot down over Nicaragua. Reed knew too much, so he was set up on mail fraud charges to keep him out of trouble (he was eventually acquitted).

Reed's story became intertwined with politics during the Clinton campaign of 1992. Time magazine, where FOB Strobe Talbott was an editor, smeared Reed in their April 20 issue. But Reed's credibility is also compromised by his own infatuation with covert cowboy ops -- apparently he still believes that Vietnam was a fun war that ended because bureaucrats in suits screwed it up. Nevertheless, this book shows convincingly that Whitewater is merely the tip of the banana in the Republic of Arkansas.

Ruddy, Christopher. The Strange Death of Vincent Foster: An Investigation. New York: The Free Press, 1997. 316 pages.

Top White House official Vincent Foster was found dead in Fort Marcy Park in July, 1993. The official story is that he had been depressed and shot himself. So far there is no evidence that he was murdered. But there is convincing evidence that the body was moved, and may have even been delivered to the park. And there is reason to doubt that it was a suicide.

The investigation by the Park Police was so botched, that we may never know what happened. The White House staff was informed of the death earlier than they claimed, and quickly cleaned out Foster's office while covering their tracks. The FBI director had just been fired by Clinton, and the new person in charge failed to assert jurisdiction in the case, leaving it in the hands of the humble Park Police. The suicide note appeared a week later in a briefcase that had already been searched, and was eventually pronounced a forgery by handwriting experts. Robert Fiske's staff began leaking the conclusions of his inquiry before any real investigation had taken place, and then an investigator on Kenneth Starr's staff who tried to do a thorough job ended up resigning under pressure. Inconvenient eyewitnesses have been harassed. Here's the question: at what point does the level of purported bungling and incompetence become so unbelievable, that conspiracy is more believable? And why have almost all reporters failed to pursue this?

Whitewater: From the Editorial Pages of The Wall Street Journal -- A Journal Briefing. Robert L. Bartley, ed. New York: Dow Jones, 1994. 586 pages.

This volume is a collection of Wall Street Journal editorials on Whitewater from March 1992 to September 1994. The Journal, which missed Watergate, the savings and loan fiasco, and the 1980s junk-bond excesses, is making up for lost time with Whitewater. At least this is true of their editorial department; the news department has traditionally been free to pursue their own interests, and is inclined to downplay Whitewater. The editorialists, however, have followed Whitewater closely and would like to see an end to Arkansas-style corruption. This corruption is serious; there's no question about it. Either the feds clean it up, or they can sign over the state to some banana republic in South America and forget about it.

If the corruption in Arkansas were more sophisticated and better laundered -- perhaps through Wall Street so that brokers and bankers could get their cut, for example -- or if Clinton were opposed to the regulation of big business, then Journal editorials would be singing another tune. Wall Street feels that once the Democrats take another dive or two, many years will pass before big business has anything to fear. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean that the little guy has nothing to fear from big business. It only means that the Democrats have so much other baggage we'd like to lose, that we'll take our chances with Wall Street rather than with Arkansas.

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