Thursday, November 29, 2007

Pining for the 90s

Slate's Mickey Kaus is wondering why it is that rumours about Hillary Clinton having a lesbian affair with a staffer are not circulating widely in the USA. Among the reasons one could offer is that the rumour is baseless, apparently based on the observation that one of Hillary's close-knit circle is, nudge nudge wink wink, a woman! Anyway, Kaus has constructed a perfect circle of undeniability so that the rumour is true no matter what Hillary says --

In the new Webby post-Lewinsky world [the rumour is] more likely to surface, which makes the subsequent denial all the more important. Contrary to popular belief, it's not impossible to issue a denial so convincing that even gossip-addicted bloggers drop a juicy rumor ... The trouble for Hillary is that when it comes to sex rumors she and her husband (unlike, say, John Edwards and his wife) have no credibility. They threw that away when the philandering charges they righteously denounced in 1992 and 1998 turned out to be basically true

Over a few sentences he has two links to the Times (UK) which itself only reported the existence of the rumour and didn't have a shred of evidence for it. But check out the logic: the rumour is out there, so if she doesn't deny it, it might be true, except that if she does deny it, no one will believe her.

But anyway, is the rumour really out there? What it lacks is the key ingredient of the Clinton scandal-peddling of the 1990s -- a direct link between a British hack willing to run with the story and right-wing outlets in the US sufficiently Clinton-obsessed to run regular stories beginning with the clause "London's Sunday Telegraph is reporting that ..." Because that was the 1990s trick: Ambrose Evans-Pritchard at the Conrad Black-owned Telegraph would type up the latest shite, and then the American Spectator, Washington Times and Scaife-owned newspapers would get it into circulation in the US citing the Telegraph as their source.

But now that circle is gone. Evans-Pritchard is not on the US beat, it's a post-Black Telegraph, Clinton's impeachment burned more Republicans than Democrats (anyone remember Bob Livingston?), and even George Bush ran against the "politics of personal destruction". Add to that a sense that there's plenty of scope for return fire if we're airing speculative rumours (just go look at a few of the theories about the George W.-Condi-Laura nexus) and the Hillary gossip is likely to sit as a few neglected links at Slate.

UPDATE: Slate being owned by the Washington Post may explain why the Post is using the same tactic regarding "rumours" that Barack Obama is Muslim.

FINAL UPDATE: Maybe Kaus should link to this.

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