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Portents of the Hillary Campaign

Apr 14, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 29 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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The Scrapbook has an announcement to make: Hillary Clinton will run for president in 2016. She may not necessarily win the election, but she will definitely run. And The Scrapbook is absolutely confident about this. How do we know? By a complicated process of induction, deduction, instinct, and experience, triggered by a traumatic event.

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The traumatic event took place on the morning of March 26, when The Scrapbook turned the front page of the Washington Post to find, on the second page, the face of David Brock spread across four columns. “A converted man,” read the headline over the story: “Onetime adversary David Brock returns to Arkansas as one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest backers.”

For the uninitiated, David Brock is the slightly peculiar​—​or creepy, depending on your point of view​—​ex-American Spectator/Heritage Foundation staffer who became briefly famous​—​or notorious, depending on your point of view​—​in the early 1990s for his hostile coverage of Anita Hill, but who, a few years later, wrote a sympathetic book about Hillary Clinton that seems to have pulled him leftward. Where he remains today, running a Soros-financed (or “liberal-leaning,” in Postspeak) media watchdog website and a new site, called Correct the Record, “which has become a rapid-response war room operating on Clinton’s behalf” (Postspeak again). 

The Scrapbook was alternately horrified and mystified by the Post story. Brock, it seems, had been invited to speak at the Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas, where he described his brief period as a right-wing polemicist and subsequent crusade “to ‘blow the whistle’ on what he sees as the right-wing’s ‘obsession’ with the Clintons.” In the audience were veteran Clinton functionaries, all of whom remembered the old Brock with dismay but were gratified by his present incarnation. Ex-White House lawyer Bruce Lindsey, for example, told the Post that he “completely agreed” with David Brock’s analysis of the vast right-wing conspiracy.

Yet what mystified The Scrapbook was the story itself. Brock’s “conversion” from right to left took place in the mid-1990s, and as readers might guess, was closely chronicled at the time in the pages of the Washington Post. And Brock himself has been discussing it publicly, sometimes at considerable length, since the previous century as well. In 1998, for example, he was photographed by Esquire bare-chested and lashed to a tree, to represent his martyrdom at the hands of indignant conservatives. 

Which is all very interesting, and no doubt pertinent to full understanding of David Brock’s psychology. But the story is 18 years old! At first, The Scrapbook concluded that the reporter, Philip Rucker, might not be old enough to remember Brock’s book, The Seduction of Hillary Rodham (1996), or stories in the Post about Brock’s ideological switch (see, for example, “David Brock: The Genuine Article?” by Howard Kurtz, March 10, 1998). The Scrapbook considered, as well, the Post’s institutional tendency to revisit favorite stories for indefinite periods of time. (Friendly warning: The 42nd anniversary of the Watergate break-in arrives in June, and Ben Bradlee, Bob Woodward, and Carl Bernstein are available for interviews.)

Then we took a second look at David Brock. Up until very recently, the 51-year-old Brock combed his hair in a kind of retro Mad Men style: Not too long, carefully parted on the left, heavily brilliantined and matted down. But standing behind the lectern at the Clinton School last week, he presented a vision from a stylist’s catalogue: The hair, now silvery gray, had been blown into a glorious bouffant, the part subtly migrated from left to right, the slicked-down strands now a vertical wave. It was as if David Brock’s close identification with the Clintons​—​especially Hillary’s husband​—​is more than political.

Which takes us back three decades to 1980, and Jimmy Carter. It is nearly forgotten now, but when Carter was elected president in 1976, his tousled hair was carelessly parted on the right, and slightly longer than usual for national politicians. But in early 1980, when he was fighting off Edward Kennedy for the Democratic nomination, and girding himself for the fall reelection campaign, he abruptly changed the part in his hair from right to left, cut it shorter, and smoothed it down for a slick, authoritative, presidential look. 

It didn’t work, of course​—​but it signaled to the world he meant business. So what else can Brock’s makeover portend? If your mission is to dedicate your new life to the Clintons, and command a “rapid-response war room” for candidate Hillary, then David Brock’s new camouflage can only mean one thing.

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