Last night Chris Matthews had the credulous Taylor Branch on to talk about his Clinton book, The Clinton Tapes. It sounds like there is a lot of self-pity as well as resentment at the press expressed by Clinton in the book, for distracting the Clinton presidency with Whitewater and other trivial issues. Chris Matthews joined the worshipful Branch by making fun of those who saw dark doings in the death of Vince Foster.
I played my part in the Clinton scandals. I'm not proud of it now, I confess, because the world seems so much bigger than the French farce of the 90s. I have problems with loyalty in life, and I felt little loyalty to the Democrats when I sensed the small-town corruption that hung around Clinton. I wanted to expose it. It was the wrong impulse because as John Homans, my friend/editor, used to berate me, You're arming people who disagree with you on policy matters. Did I help elevate W? Yes. But should Clinton have resigned and Gore taken the presidency before 2000? Probably. And would Gore have kept us out of Iraq? Maybe. That's why I feel bad about what I did.
But let me say a few words about Vince Foster, and what his death meant.
Bill Clinton's problem in the 1980s and 90s was that he had taken political risk through his personal activities (which I could care less about)--but this in turn exposed those around him to a different sort of risk, smears and threats (which I care about). The most important moment in the Monica Lewinsky case is the moment that Lewinsky hears that Linda Tripp has been called by the special counsel to testify-- they are both working at the Pentagon then--and Tripp comes back from lunch to find the "body count" list on her desk, left by Monica. The body count was the notorious list of 100 or so people in Arkansas who had died through one sort of political nefariousness or another that the Clinton-haters circulated, saying it was dangerous to be near Clinton. It was a largely-unreliable list-- having looked into it I can say. Though life in a one-party machine state aint purty.
My point here is that Monica dropped that list on Tripp's desk. This was no joke. The president's lover was making a veiled threat. Or communicating the danger of the Clinton people.
I wish Ken Starr had asked Monica about that, not about what kind of sex she had.
The theory about Vince Foster's death that I find most persuasive is that he also was caught up in bimbo suppression, as deputy White House counsel, and under huge pressure from the Clinton people to do something that summer. A couple of facts: the Arkansas Troopers began organizing in spring 1993 to go public with their disclosures about Clinton's sex life. Clinton heard about this and saw it as an urgent matter. In fact, he dangled a job to one of the Troopers to try and shut them up. And of course when the Troopers went public late in '93, in the American Spectator, it hurt Clinton and I guess led to the Paula Jones case.
More back story. In 1988, Bill Clinton chose not to run for the presidency, in part out of fear of personal disclosure about his sex life. The story goes--and now we are into rumor/recollection, but it's persuasive--that Hillary Clinton was angry that he had bowed out and wanted a divorce. She compiled a divorce file with her friend, lawyer Vince Foster, involving a number of women in Arkansas. Ultimately she dropped the plan. But that file still existed in '93, and the Clintons were scared it would get out. Remember--and this is fact--that on the night of Foster's death in July 93, his office was rifled of files. And the phone records unearthed by Michael Chertoff suggested strongly that Hillary was in on that activity, talking to Maggie Williams and Bernie Nussbaum and as I recall Susan Thomases too, in a series of frenetic calls that night.
Stir the pot: Two months after Foster died, a former Clinton aide named Luther "Jerry" Parks was murdered gangland style as he drove through Little Rock. Parks was a former cop who had been the head of security for the Clinton campaign office in Little Rock in '92. Parks's son told me that his father had worked with Foster to put together the divorce file, and that he kept a copy of that file, and the Clinton people wanted it. There have been suggestions that Parks was shaking people down with what he knew; and he came to a bad end.
We are talking about a situation in which two Clinton aides die of mysterious violent causes inside of 2 months. And the pattern is consistent with what Kathleen Willey experienced, Gennifer Flowers experienced, and Linda Tripp too: If you knew something about Bill Clinton's sex life, that was dangerous information. No wonder there are guns in Primary Colors.
I've never been convinced that Foster committed suicide, or that he was murdered. Don't know. His pager disappeared, by the way, when the Park Police were trying to conduct their investigation. The Secret Service had grabbed it. And yes, his White House office was rifled.
With this set of facts about a Republican president, the press would go crazy. Heck, think what we did with the Joe Wilson-Scooter Libby case, honorably.
No it's not Iraq. I admit, I took that case too seriously. But it was a legitimate question for a simple reason: The Vince Foster case is forever entwined with Bill Clinton's people's methods of dealing with his zipper problem. And that is why there are crazy rumors around the Foster case; because there should be.