I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

National Review's new blog -- A vile case study in GOP filth-peddling

When Sam Alito’s wife cried, we were subjected to all sorts of solemn hand-wringing and pious sermons about the need for civility and dignity in our political system. And we're hearing some of these same lectures over Hillary Clinton's terribly crass and uncivil description of the Bush Administration as a dissent-squashing plantation. These GOP sermons are delivered by Republicans who are very, very concerned that such incivility will deter good people from entering public life.

Our media stars, always eager to show their serious and nonpartisan side, join in with these condemnations of the mean and uncivil Democrats. When doing so, they apparently fail to remember, and thus never mention, that the same Republicans delivering these dignity lectures spent the 1990s engaging in elevated and dignified discussions of semen stains on dresses, speculation about whether the President has unusual spots on his penis, tales of the lesbian First Lady’s murder of a male political aide with whom she was having an affair and subsequent efforts to make it look like a suicide, and all sorts of other similar sewer-scraping filth that they spewed for an entire decade in lieu of any substantive or political debate.

In one sense, those days seem to be far in the past. But they really aren’t, and the trash merchants who so fundamentally sullied our political life are still lurking like dormant viruses, eager to reclaim their glory days. The long-awaited and vitally important report of the Independent Counsel who spent 10 years and more than $20 million investigating Henry Cisneros’ payments to his mistress was leaked yesterday, a stark reminder of the bottom-scraping obsessions which dominated the national media and infected our political process throughout the 1990s.

National Review has created a museum dedicated to the Republican political gutter of the 1990s in the form of a new blog hosted by two of the trashy lowlifes who worked during the entire Clinton Presidency to turn our national political dialogue into one big Jerry Springer Show. The authors of the blog are George Conway III and his lovely wife, Kellyanne.

In the short time that this blog has existed, we have been regaled with stern condemnations of Jon Corzine’s payments to his girlfriend "a year following his divorce from wife of 33 years, Joanne"; celebrations of "the eighth anniversary of the deposition testimony [in the Paula Jones case] that earned Mr. Clinton his suspension" from the Bar; and a post devoted exclusively to touting a truly despicable article by Accuracy in Media's Cliff Kinkaid regarding Bill Clinton’s public campaign to encourage healthier diets among Americans, which said this:

If Clinton can persuade kids to eat right, that's great. But let's face it: his sexual appetite has been as serious a problem as what he eats. And it's in the sexual arena that he could really perform a public service. He should step forward and campaign against sexual diseases. That wouldn't be a laughing matter.

In fact, Clinton might be valuable in warning young people not to engage in oral sex. Clinton, who exploited Monica Lewinski for sexual gratification, could cite a Swedish study finding that some mouth cancers are caused by a virus contracted during oral sex. The study, conducted at the University of Malmo, found that individuals orally infected with human papilloma virus, HPV, are at a higher risk of developing oral cancer.

Kerstin Rosenquist, who headed the study, said that mouth cancer has been on the rise among young people and that the prevalence of HPV could be one of the factors.
It is a distinct possibility, of course, that more young people are engaging in oral sex and getting mouth cancer because of the example set by former junk food junkie Bill Clinton. But don't expect Mika Brzezinski to do a report on that. That might remind people of how much of a rogue he was.

This is the filth out of which the Conway couple emerged, and in which, along with so many self-righteous Bush-loving moralists, they continue to wallow.

Since the early-1990s, George Conway has been a partner at the prominent Manhattan law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, where he worked with rejected Bush judicial nominee Miguel Estrada (I was an Associate at that firm for a couple of years after law school in the mid-1990s but had minimal personal interaction with Conway and, to my recollection, none with Estrada). Conway came to be celebrated in Republican circles when it was uncovered that, while at Wachtell Lipton, he had been secretly working to bring about the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit (which ended up being summarily dismissed by a federal court as so lacking in evidence that no reasonable jury could ever find in favor of Jones), and had deceitfully concealed his work from his own partners. He also secretly worked with Linda Tripp and helped engineer her initial meeting with Ken Starr.

This great and courageous crusader for his political principles hid his work on the Paula Jones case, covering it up because he was petrified that his corporate clients and law firm partners would discover the company he was keeping. Out a fear of offending them, and knowing that his partners would not approve of the work he was doing, he worked secretly in the dark alleys late at night to bring about the trashy, lowly scandals which became a Republican obsession. As the New York Times article which exposed him reported:

As it turns out, some of the most serious damage to Bill Clinton's Presidency came not from his high-profile political enemies but from a small secret clique of lawyers in their 30's who share a deep antipathy toward the President, according to nearly two dozen interviews and recently filed court documents.

While cloaking their roles, the lawyers were deeply involved--to an extent not previously known--for nearly five years in the Paula Jones sexual misconduct lawsuit. They then helped push the case into the criminal arena and into the office of the independent counsel, Kenneth W. Starr. . . .

George T. Conway 3d, a New York lawyer educated at Yale, shared Marcus's low view of President Clinton. When the Jones case led to Ms. Lewinsky, Marcus and Conway searched for a new lawyer for Mrs. Tripp. . . .

Conway wanted his role kept hidden as well, because his New York law firm, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, included influential Democrats like Bernard W. Nussbaum, a former White House counsel. Conway's name does not appear on any billing records.

And as Salon reported:

[Firm spokeswoman Liesl] Noll confirmed that Conway, a 34-year-old conservative activist, had recently informed the firm's stunned partners that he had worked for free and without their knowledge on the Jones case, writing the crucial Supreme Court brief that successfully argued Jones' suit should proceed despite the fact that Clinton was still in office.

And, as set forth below, he was also the individual responsible for the dissemination to Matt Drudge of the story about the spots on Bill Clinton's penis. So that’s George Conway. Isn't it about time to hear some more lectures from him about the need for dignity in our political discourse and about the shame of lawyers who act unethically?

Conway's wife and now co-blogger, Kellyanne, is a perfect match for him. Having spent the latter half of the 1990s (before she married George) peddling herself around as one of the soldiers in the army of young, blondish, mascara-drenched Republican loyalists who made a career for themselves digging into Bill Clinton’s sex life, she now runs around creating groups like "Women for Alito" and mindlessly reciting GOP talking points on Fox.

Bob Somerby at Daily Howler has described Kellyanne as "one of our most disingenuous pundits," and has documented multiple untruths she has spewed. Perhaps most revealingly, Kellyanne - who spent the 1990s along with her husband propagating the filthiest and most scurrilous gossip about the President – actually went on Fox and condemned protest songs against the war in Iraq by saying this:

" is never proper to be so critical of an administration or a President that you look like some anti-American zealot."

It looks like the Conways’ love of the political sewer is matched only by their love of irony.

According to a highly revealing (and highly revolting) expose in Salon, George’s involvement with the Paula Jones circle came as a result of his romantic interlude with Laura Ingraham (before he ended up marrying Ingraham-clone Kellyanne). It was Ingraham, according to the article, who "connected Conway with Matt Drudge during the summer of 1997." This all happened because Conway, who even back then earned well in excess of $1 million each year at Wachtell, Lipton, was:

Short, dark, slightly overweight, and painfully shy, he was also, at the age of thirty-three, unmarried and without a regular girlfriend at the time. He aspired to date tall blondes, preferably of the conservative persuasion.

And during this time, it wasn’t only his own private parts that Conway was obsessing over:

On October 8, 1997, Conway sent a long E-mail message via America Online to Matt Drudge. "Subject: Your Next Exclusive" is the caption on that message. "Remember me?" it begins. "I'm Laura's friend. We talked once about Kathleen Willey ... This is being given to you, of course, subject to your not disclosing the source." (Conway forwarded the same message to Ingraham the following day.)

The main topic of the October 8 message was not Willey but the "distinguishing characteristic," a matter nearly as sensitive as the Willey allegations. Like Coulter, Conway must have realized that with the leak of its details to Drudge, any further settlement negotiations could again be disrupted.

Davis certainly thought so. "Conway's leaking of this stuff certainly jeopardized a settlement," said Davis after examining the Drudge E-mail in 1999. "I had no concept, no idea that they did or would do such a thing [as to leak Willey's name]."

Somehow, in a way I can’t quite put my finger on, this photograph of the Conways tells one everything there is to know about them.

Examining filth-peddling relics of the 1990s like the Conways is not merely an exercise in masochistic nostalgia. As their new National Review blog demonstrates, lowly character smears are a quite current and integral weapon in the Republican arsenal. These gutter tactics and their vile purveyors haven’t gone anywhere. And it is beyond doubt that all of the Clinton smears which lowered our political discourse to the primordial level, along with many new ones, are being kept warming in the oven just in case Hillary gets anywhere near a Presidential election.

But the real reason to remember this despicable filth-peddling is because these same Republicans are being permitted by an amnesic and manipulated media to parade themselves around as the Paragons of Civility and Dignity. That Republicans can deliver dignity lectures to the media, which then dutifully reports them with a concerned face while repeatedly showing video of Sam Alito’s wife crying, is quite compelling evidence of just how wretchedly dishonest Republican moralizing is and, worse, how utterly dysfunctional our media has become.

I think the Conways are a great addition to the blogosphere and have no doubt that they will be generating all sorts of revealing commentary. Where else can you read one day about the mouth cancer that American kids are getting as a result of Bill Clinton’s oral sex addiction and the next day read sterling tributes to the need for dignity in the political process? And where else can you read smug commentary about Bill Clinton’s suspension from the Bar by a lawyer who secretly worked on a baseless sex scandal lawsuit while concealing his work from his own partners?

This nice couple is a lovely little microcosm of sanctimonious Republicans who manage to live in the sewer while sermonizing to the world about the virtues of cleanliness.

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