Jewish World Review March 10, 1999 /22 Adar 5759
(http://www.jewishworldreview.com) Smith: Something that I’ve noticed in the last week is that a lot of liberal pundits have flipped on this issue. Richard Cohen in The Washington Post, for one... He essentially was for acquittal of Clinton. In a column of Feb. 23, he said, "It takes more than a village, it takes chutzpah." He was amazed about the rape charge. Stephanie Salter of the San Francisco Examiner wrote, "It is with a heavy heart and not a little nausea that I resign from the Bill Clinton defense team." The Boston Globe on March 3 said that "...while her story is no longer legally relevant after 21 years, it is still morally relevant, for it concerns the man elected to lead a nation. It’s time for Bill Clinton to tell us who that man is." For the Boston Globe to do that—
It is amazing.
Smith: One by one, they’re falling. What do you make of that?
You can’t get on the wrong side of this question. That’s what I make of it.
Smith: In the mainstream press, you started this.
Well, I think it’s fair to say that I edged it out [into the mainstream]. But I think that you have a woman here who’s special. I mean, if you look at "Conventional Wisdom" in Newsweek this week, it actually has Juanita Broaddrick up. That’s new. The old conventional wisdom was that if you talk no one believes you. The new is, if you talk they believe you. Meaning they believed her. She presented a coherent and credible case... We have this incredibly persuasive, pained vision before us. A woman, reluctantly, piece by piece, thrown out into the world to tell this story, who never sought any outlet for this until she was forced by this gossip....
I also think...what this President has done, by the troubles he has brought upon himself, is forced people to violate their own logic and reason and standards, in order to keep him in office. The New York Times editorial page being a classic example, having chased the President, bitterly and terribly and with the most eloquent prose, suddenly spent the last two months reversing itself. That must have taken quite a toll. So all of a sudden you finally get another case, and it just comes out of you: "I have had enough." The excuse-making stopped.
I can’t imagine what she means. Well, a person with very strong feminist ties, shall we say, has got to say, "I take this very seriously." You can’t be caught saying, "I don’t take a rape charge seriously from this credible source." So we can understand that part. That’s the mantra now, "Take it seriously"… I think their minds [being] under stress from working for this President, and their willingness to abide every piece of chicanery, and to excuse it, and to excuse it... I think that this has probably caused their brains to kind of go into a paralysis. They don’t know what they’re saying, there’s a kind of automatic mumbo jumbo that comes out, and you’re expected to understand what they mean. That’s it. It means nothing.
Smith: Why do you think no cabinet members have resigned?
Because we live in a new age. We’re not the nation that we used to be.
The idea of honor—the idea that you can be an Archibald Cox or Cyrus Vance—is simply not a part of this culture. This is such a loyalist-adversary culture, so steeped in its own...
Well, and look what they get. They’re lifted out of their well-deserved obscurity—they have been hacks in their little jobs—and all of a sudden this forward-looking couple propels them to this kind of stardom where they can run around and say, "I’m for women. I’m for good. I’m for truth and beauty." They are not going to give it up, because being in power is really all that matters to them. That’s always been true of a great many people in politics. Are they going to give this up because something has been violated, like truth and justice and—nonsense! They’re not going to give up their place next to Clinton, and everything that the White House brings to it. And that’s the cruel logic of it.
Just look at Madeleine Albright. This yenta walking around, prancing.
We were once another country, a country with really different values.
"If I stay in this post, my name is forever besmirched. I believe in something." If you ask these people what they believe in they haven’t the faintest idea. There isn’t anything, in fact, that they believe in, so that’s why they lack this internal sense of violation. It isn’t there, you know, to be violated.
Smith: What did you make of your exchange with Alan Dershowitz on the Today show?
I accepted him as the second guest. I refused to go on with Susan Estrich, and so they gave me Alan... There are certain people whose views simply don’t rise to the level that one should pay attention to. So how many more times do you have to hear about her rape?
Dershowitz lapsed into demagoguery at the end. He cannot not do that. And so he screamed, "This is gossip! This is gossip!" Well, it’s not gossip. He will say, "Dorothy, you made yourself part of the story by telling Broaddrick to go to The New York Times." No matter how carefully I explained why I made it possible for The New York Times— Smith: Not that they did anything with it. And he never admits that he’s been at dinner parties with Clinton.
Look, he plastered himself to Clinton when Clinton visited the Vineyard. Never left his side. He would have been elevated to the highest realms of ecstasy if Clinton picked him as one of his aides or lawyers. Alan Dershowitz is, I do believe, in the last stages of dementia—social dementia. (laughter) There is no hope for this. His whole demeanor is of a man socially out of control, and I really don’t think he can help saying... Every once in a while when you are talking to Dershowitz you see a glimmer of the old, civilized self, of a mind sort of working with facts and judging. But then comes the glaze of battle and he is once again that media person. The person who cannot get enough of it. There was a snowstorm in Boston the day I came on the Today show, and for one wild moment I thought, "Well, Dershowitz won’t make it to the studio."
What does she have to say?
Smith: "Feminists in particular have nothing to gain, and much to lose, by rallying to the President in this matter. It’s one thing to distinguish carefully between sexual harassment and sexual hi-jinks in the Oval Office; rape is something else again. What feminists should do now is to stop playing to Bill Clinton’s agenda and step up the pressure for our own. Women should turn up the heat for mandatory health insurance coverage of contraception, swift passage of the Violence Against Women Act II and, above all, justice for Clinton’s other victims—the women and children pushed off public assistance by welfare reform. Perhaps the Republicans who called Anita Hill an erotomaniac with ‘proclivities’ would like to prove the genuineness of their sudden conversion to the anti-violence-against-women movement by joining in."
Hmm! Yes, that is the tack they take... It’s just become too much, defending this man... It’s like Stalinism, it really is. The last holdouts. So he’s done this, so he’s done that, but he is the women’s president. I never understood it... I don’t follow women’s issues, I just don’t do it. It doesn’t interest me. I don’t pay any attention to it, I don’t even know what they are. I vaguely know that it has to do with abortion. But I have no idea how he got to be this person who is a women’s president.
Smith: He is the first woman president.
Our op-ed page today has a piece by [former sex crimes prosecutor] Cynthia Alksne ["Clinton Insults All Rape Victims," March 5]... Now, I have to say that over the year watching MSNBC, just sitting there listening to the endless, repetitive defense of Clinton by Cynthia Alksne on anything—this was too much for her. And she has written the most vituperative piece.
Smith: Another example of another person flipping... Why do you think Juanita Broaddrick went to that Clinton campaign rally shortly after the alleged assault?
It wasn’t a campaign rally, it was a fundraiser. I don’t even think he was there. She went for 15 minutes. She knew he wasn’t going to be there... It’s what happens when you have suppressed—I don’t mean forgotten, I mean suppressed—the impact on you of [such an] event. I have come to know in recent days lots of women who’ve had events like this take place, and it’s the worst [when the attacker is] someone you know and have had respect for. Shortly after the event you’re still dealing with it, you’re putting it away. To control your rage. As time goes on the true meaning of the aggression against you becomes a live force. Maybe the next year it’s possible to confront this fury—"I let him do this to me! And he had the power to do it on me."
So my answer to you is, it was rather close to the time, her life was settling in, she went to a fundraiser. I also think that there’s a psychological dimension to it, a need to be in contact with the source of the aggression. "What’s going to happen?" you’re saying. "If he’s there will he know me? If he’s there what will he say to me?" She said she got quite ill after 15 minutes, being there, and she had to leave. Smith: Did you watch the Monica interview?
I did. I thought she was...that her medication was working. Her medication, and her publicist, were working very well, and I don’t think she could possibly understand how much harm she did herself in that interview. She advanced her book, but...
Strausbaugh: It’s interesting to me the way that your past work and now this new story converge on the notion of sexual predation. People who are still defending Clinton at this point are at a very curious stage where they have to say, "Yes, we know he’s a sexual predator, but then aren’t all great men? Aren’t all great leaders sexual predators, these men with these very strong sex drives?" It seems the last defense.
Yeah. It’s very hard to deal with... All year long, hearing them drag Franklin Roosevelt’s name into this. "Oooh, he did it with Lucy." It drove me absolutely wild. Franklin Roosevelt had an affair with Lucy Mercer in 1920. 1920! He was assistant secretary of the Navy. And that was that. It was a deep and profound relationship, yet that didn’t stop people, like the execrable Lanny Davis from getting up on television and saying, "Why wasn’t Franklin Roosevelt brought up on charges? Why wasn’t Dwight Eisenhower brought up?"... That stuff went on for weeks. That was the most maddening thing. I don’t think people really can believe that every great man does this kind of thing. I think the effort to excuse Clinton is behind it. I think it is a semi-conscience effort.
And it’s interesting that all of the women who are so quick to excuse Clinton’s predatory behavior with women are the very ones screaming about how we must pursue child abuse prosecutions at all costs. I have good reason to know that one of the reasons I didn’t get the Pulitzer, and certainly one of the reasons the entire effort to liberate these people who have been falsely accused of child abuse is so attacked by the feminists—is their belief, their programmatic belief that behind every door lurks a predator with an upraised penis, and if you don’t believe that you’re setting the war on child abuse behind. The whole war that started with protecting battered wives, it all came in this big bundle in the 80s, and it produced a lot of jobs for interrogators with two years of social work training, and a big baggage of complaints. It’s a very interesting reversal now, that they would excuse all of this molestation by Clinton—who is, of course, giving them their abortion rights.
Strausbaugh: Prior to the Broaddrick case, you were best known for your work in those child sex-abuse cases. How were you first drawn to those stories?
It’s interesting to me, because I never cared about children, or school issues. I was working in New Jersey at WWOR, and I looked up at the television screen one day in the ghastly moment before you go on the air, and there was this woman—Kelly Michaels [accused of abusing 34 children at the Wee Care Day Nursery in Maplewood, NJ (December 1985).] When you’re a journalist you say to yourself—there’s always a click—"Something is wrong with this story." And I kept thinking for days, "Something is wrong with this story." And at the same time, Debbie Nathan in the Village Voice was confirming, there’s something wrong with this story.
As soon as I raised this issue at the station I was immediately exiled and told, "Don’t ever raise this again. How could you raise this?" Which only enlarges one’s suspicion. If something is an untouchable story it—as soon as you call up some dean somewhere else and he says, "There is no story here," there is a story there. So I looked at this woman who was charged with something like 248 charges—I said, this one woman?
Whatever she was, 28 at the time, she was sent away for 40 years!
I went to see the prosecutor. Now, I already had a reputation as a person who was not exactly at the left, and I was also older than these [young reporter] kids with microphones. It was really wonderful to see all of these reporters who were the products of the disbelieve-authority, they were all post-Watergate mentality, and all of them just swallowed every word the prosecutor said without the slightest skepticism. And you know, my heart sort of sank. And he said, "We know she did it. How dare you come and ask?" What do you mean how dare I come and ask? They couldn’t tolerate the fact that anyone was asking questions about this conviction. They sealed everything. They sealed all the transcripts. The Times made a halfhearted effort to get at the transcripts.
Cut to the chase, I found someone who would give me the transcripts of the trial, and that’s all you needed. You just see in cold, clear print how these children had had [ideas] pounded into them, just how these charges had been brought. These children had been told what to say and what had happened to them. It was a very shocking moment for me. Once you’ve seen an innocent person in prison for the first time, it really is a deeply life-altering experience. I went into this hideous prison in New Jersey...and I see this waiflike young woman Kelly Michaels, and I almost fainted—and I don’t faint. And I listened to her, and I knew...
That was the seminal case that made it possible for all of these other cases to be overturned...
It was the archetypal defense. The children being led [by prosecutors].
We had this wonderful appeals court, it was like something from an MGM movie. We watched these two female prosecutors—you know, almost all of the most dedicated, intense prosecutors determined to make you believe what no sane person would believe about what had happened to these children, were women. These women with these fiery eyes, always like—you have to think of the last person running the mimeograph machine in the 60s, you know, like slovenly, slatternly, sitting there. So suddenly we’re sitting in the appellate court with Kelly Michaels’ mother grabbing my hand... A black judge, a blonde woman judge and another judge. And the prosecutor started the usual, "Your Honor, children don’t lie." And the black judge leaned forward and said, "We are sitting here with an aggregate number of how many years on the bench? Are you trying to bamboozle us?" And all of a sudden these fingers were digging into mine. It’s rare that at the end of a hearing that you know for certain that you’ve won, because this was just the oral hearing, but by the end of it people were just pouring over to shake hands, and it was all over. And that was the beginning of all the rest of them too.
Strausbaugh: That was in ’93. The big McMartin Preschool case in Los Angeles had been dismissed a little before that, I think.
A little before that.
Strausbaugh: Did you cover the trial of the Doggetts’ in Wenatchee, WA? [Mark and Carol Doggett, accused of running a child sex ring in ’94, were released from prison after three years with all charges dropped.] I did. I found that was total madness there, because it came late in the day...
Strausbaugh: Yeah, 1994, that’s well behind the big wave of these cases in the mid-80s.
Yeah, because look, this is a tiny town. People in Washington, you know, they’re not connected to what... By this time the media [was over it], so no one could get the slightest attention to these cases, and Bob [Bartley] said, "Why don’t you go out there?" I really didn’t want to go there, because I had already done the Amiraults in Massachusetts, and all the rest of them... And also, you’re writing the same thing over and over, because all the prosecutors made the same charges. How many children do you think are abused by sexual predators by having jam and ice cream poured over their bodies, with all of these wonderfully bizarre things done to them? It came from the interplay of the prosecutors and "expert witnesses," meeting, passing these stories around the country.
So I went to Wenatchee and I wrote about it. We were like the bulletin board for these cases. As soon as I wrote about it, then the big media came down and then it would all blow up. The television pieces would be done, on 20/20, and all of that. It’s one of the great untold stories of our times, this mad witch-hunt, it really is.
Strausbaugh: The latest I’ve seen on the Amiraults is that Cheryl was released last summer, but her brother Gerald is— Is still in there. Well, we’re waiting.
Strausbaugh: He’s been in jail now for what, 12, 14 years?
We paid for his defense. As soon as I wrote about the Amiraults, readers called up and said, "What can we do?"
Smith: When you say we, you mean the Journal?
The Journal’s readers paid for it. We did something unparalleled. We set up a little box [in the paper] and said here’s where you can send money, and we set up a tax-exempt foundation, and hundreds of thousands of dollars [have come in]. They did that for the Grant Snowden case in Florida, too [a Miami police officer accused in 1984 of sexually assaulting a young child]. That was really one of the great moments, getting that guy out. Five life terms. Same charges. The Journal’s readers, you know, zeroed in on these cases... Money was everything in these cases. If you’re accused and you don’t have any money you’re sunk. You get a legal aid guy, and they are universally, with some rare exceptions, a disaster.
Strausbaugh: What does this say to you about the notion that prosecutorial powers are out of control?
Smith: Can we talk a little about Journal editorials? How many different people write them?
You know, I was dreading that question, I always do, because I can never figure it out. I mean, there’s a core group that always writes editorials. Like writing the Monica piece today fell to me.
Strausbaugh: So you wrote about her being "a twit"?
Did I say that? I didn’t write that.
Strausbaugh: People "seeing for themselves that the President had clearly taken advantage of a twit."
That was not my line. People will throw a line in, and that’s not a line I wrote. But I would have! I have no problem with it. It’s five people generally, but then we have people from our European edition, our Asian edition...
We just have a lot of—I hate to say this because people say it all the time, but we have a lot of fun in editorial meetings. One of the loudest sounds you hear is the laughter emanating from the editorial office. We spend hours—I don’t like being away from there. I like being there. Smith: Where do you live?
In Greenwich Village... I live with my dog Rudolph... This is true—he walks out of the room only when he hears Janet Reno’s voice. There is something about her... He walks out, really, with such determination. He doesn’t do that with Clinton or anyone else. Some primeval force drives him away.
I think it will be a heavy burden. It already is a heavy burden on him. If you look at his face, it’s the face of a stricken man. He already had the face of a wooden man to begin with. But to endure this past year, as he has done, and to have behaved as he has done, you have to be a block of ice. This is not going to help him on the campaign trail. In general he is not the warmest of presences. I think it will have a very negative effect on him.
Smith: Do you think he will get the nomination?
I think he will.
Smith: Do you think he can win the presidency?
I just don’t know. I think there may be enough leftover rage and resentment to cause people to say, "Well, we’re just going to put Al Gore in." If the statistics are as they’re represented.
I didn’t vote for anybody. I just couldn’t. These guys who have spent so much time protecting themselves...
Smith: What do you think of McCain?
I like him. Though he is another evader of the highest order, but let me tell you that McCain’s war record goes a long way with me. You know, there are these variables. You can say, "Oh yes, John Kennedy ran around, he did this, he did that and the other..." Yeah, but John Kennedy was also a man who had certain appealing attributes, and despite rumors to the contrary, he did have that war record and nobody made it up.
Smith: The book they made up.
The book they did make up, but the war record they did not make up, despite what far-right lunatics spent a lot of time saying about Kennedy.
I don’t know. I don’t think it would have changed the outcome, I really don’t.
Smith: Do you think some votes would have been different? I think some votes would have been different, but I don’t think it would have changed the outcome. There was just too much riding on letting this guy escape. But it would have had tremendous impact as a news program.
Smith: Instead, they ran it against the Grammys.
Absolutely. What NBC did is, if they couldn’t kill it, they buried it. They didn’t promote the show. They wouldn’t promote it on the nightly news—and the nightly news promoted Barbara Walters. ABC, for five minutes, they promoted Monica... They were so superior to all of this... I think I can speak with authority when I say that Tim Russert was probably the only reason that show was on the air in the end.
Strausbaugh: What do you think the show has done for Lisa Myers’ career?
I think it’s done well for her. Don’t you agree? I mean, she’s very
straight. This woman really went after... I wouldn’t go after a story
for two weeks, much less a year. She went after her, she called her, and
called her, and she really likes Mrs. Broaddrick and believes in her,
and she was
02/26/99: Springsteen Ain’t No Chopped Liver; Vanity Press Musings