The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton

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Macmillan, Mar 9, 2000 - Biography & Autobiography - 413 pages
3 Reviews
When Hillary Clinton spoke of "a vast right-wing conspiracy" determined to bring down the president, many people dismissed the idea. Yet if the first lady's accusation was exaggerated, the facts that have since emerged point toward a covert and often concerted effort by Bill Clinton's enemies--abetted by his own reckless behavior--which led inexorably to impeachment. Clinton's foes launched a cascade of well-financed attacks that undermined American democracy and nearly destroyed the Clinton presidency.

In vivid prose, Joe Conason and Gene Lyons, two award-winning veteran journalists, identify the antagonists, reveal their tactics, trace the millions of dollars that subsidized them, and examine how and why mainstream news organizations aided those who were determined to bring down Bill Clinton, The Hunting of the President may very well be the All the President's Men of this political regime.
 

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User Review  - quantum_flapdoodle - LibraryThing

A decent, easy to read look at the campaign to find something, anything, with which to impeach Bill Clinton. In spite of the length, it really is a relatively quick read, and although the topic may seem somewhat dated, many of the names are still prominent on the world scene. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Devil_llama - LibraryThing

A decent, easy to read look at the campaign to find something, anything, with which to impeach Bill Clinton. In spite of the length, it really is a relatively quick read, and although the topic may seem somewhat dated, many of the names are still prominent on the world scene. Read full review

Contents

CHAPTER 1 The Ghost of Lee Atwater
1
CHAPTER 2 A Crazy Person Like Larry Nichols
14
CHAPTER 3 Jean Lewiss October Surprise
30
CHAPTER 4 The Larry Case Tapes
46
CHAPTER 5 Justice Jim Rides Again
67
CHAPTER 6 A Pig in a Poke
83
CHAPTER 7 The Scandal Industrys Secret Sugar Daddies
99
CHAPTER 8 A Truly Independent Prosecutor
116
CHAPTER 11 Senator DAmatos Long Goodbye
183
CHAPTER 12 The President of the United States Is Not on Trial
216
CHAPTER 13 All They Wanted to Talk About Was Women
256
CHAPTER 14 Spinning the Widows Web
277
CHAPTER 15 Impeachment for Fun and Profit
308
CHAPTER 16 The Bastard Should Be Exposed
323
Afterword
369
Sources
375

CHAPTER 9 The Reverend Jerry Falwell Seoul Man
136
CHAPTER 10 Inside the Arkansas Project
160

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HUNTING OF THE PRESIDENT
Chapter One THE GHOST OF LEE ATWATER THE CHANCES ARE that hardly anyone noticed the two political operatives from Arkansas who slipped in and out of Republican national headquarters on an autumn day in 1989. Neither had a famous face, unlike the man they had come to visit. They had flown in from Little Rock to meet secretly with Lee Atwater, the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Discretion was of the utmost importance in this matter. No doubt that was why Atwater had brought his guests to Washington rather than traveling to Arkansas himself, much as he enjoyed pressing the flesh out in the hinterlands. But now he was a celebrity, often recognized in airports and on the street. As the outrageous party animal who ruled the Grand Old Party, Lee Atwater had been featured on the covers of national magazines and on countless news broadcasts. In Little Rock, he would have been spotted right away, and someone there might have realized what he was up to. Honored traditions as well as party rules generally forbid the Republican National Committee and its chairman from taking sides in a state primary. But that was precisely what Atwater was preparing to do in Arkansas, where he was anything but neutral in the upcoming race for governor. The two operatives had come to discuss the prospects of Atwater''s handpicked candidate, a flamboyant congressman and former county sheriff named Tommy Robinson. Elected to the House as a Democrat, Robinson had switched parties only months earlier, and faced a serious challenge in the gubernatorial primary from a wealthy Little Rock businessman who had long been his benefactor. He needed the party chairman''s advice and instructions. Atwater was taking a risk in supporting Robinson. Any proof of his directinterference in the Arkansas primary might be used to embarrass him by rivals in the party hierarchy and the White House. More than a few powerful Republicans were irritated by his swaggering, Blues Brothers style and his lust for notoriety. Many also envied Atwater''s close personal bond with George Bush, the president who had rewarded him with the power and prerogatives of the party chairmanship. But he had not become a national legend at the age of thirty-eight by obeying rules and avoiding risks. In Arkansas he was trying to deal with a problem that dwarfed any nitpicking about neutrality. Though he would never say so publicly, he was worried about the future. "Bush and this crowd are going to screw it up," he had told his former consulting partner Roger Stone a few months earlier. "Bush won''t get reelected." Atwater''s clandestine meeting with J. J. Vigneault and Rex Nelson was informal but businesslike. He didn''t pick up his guitar and start singing, as was his frequent habit in the daily staff meetings. There were no cigars or liquor, either, just Cokes brought in by Mary Matalin, Atwater''s chief deputy. She remained in the room when the door was closed. Atwater didn''t know Nelson, whom he was trying to recruit to the Robinson campaign, nearly as well as he knew Vigneault, a longtime friend and associate who had overseen the successful Reagan and Bush campaigns in Arkansas. After Atwater had taken over as chairman early in 1989, he had brought Vigneault onto the RNC staff as a regional political director, based in Little Rock. It was a sign of Atwater''s concern about the Arkansas race that his protégé Vigneault had abandoned a top party position so suddenly to manage an insurgent campaign in a small, overwhelmingly Democratic state. Nelson, a former Little Rock political reporter who had signed on as Robinson''s campaign press secretary, still remembers Atwater''s blunt explanation of his interest in their candidate. "You boys have to remember, I don''t give a fuck who the governor of Arkansas is," he said. "My only job as chairman of the Republican National Committee is to get George Bush reelected. The media''s full of talk about Mario Cuomo or Bill Bradley. We know how to paint them up as northeastern liberals like Dukakis. That''s easy! What scares me is a southern moderate or conservative Democrat, and the scariest of all, because he''s the most talented of the bunch, is Bill Clinton." As Atwater understood, Clinton possessed qualities of mind and personality that could make him a formidable national candidate. During a political career that spanned two decades, the friendly young governor had established alliances across his party''s ideological divide. Somehow, Clinton had sponsored the creation of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council without injuring his own long-standing ties to liberals, blacks, and women''s organizations. Intellectually fluent in the public-policy issues that bored pols like Atwater,the ambitious, hardworking, opportunistic Arkansan also had the special unteachable gift for remembering the names, faces, and concerns of people he met that is characteristic of the most successful American politicians. For Bush''s sake, it would be prudent to eliminate Clinton before he could exercise those talents in a presidential campaign. "We''re going to take Tommy Robinson and use him to throw everything we can think of at Clinton--drugs, women, whatever works. We may or may not win, but we''ll bust him up so bad he won''t be able to run again for years." Rex Nelson was impressed by Atwater''s political prescience. A native Arkansan with a shrewd knowledge of the game, Nelson understood and respected Clinton''s political mastery. "Lee had his eyes on the prize. He saw Bill Clinton as the real hurdle to Bush''s reelection ... . He spotted Clinton way out ahead of anybody else in the national party. All we had to do was get Tommy into the general election." Atwater''s commitment to this project was total, he told Nelson and Vigneault. "He promised us everything: top pollsters, consultants, media people, money." The reference to Clinton''s alleged "skirt problem" didn''t surprise Atwater''s guests. In Washington as well as Little Rock, insider gossip compared the young Arkansas governor with Gary Hart, another once-bright presidential prospect whose career had been ruined by exposure of an extramarital affair. Some even believed that Clinton would never run for president because he couldn''t withstand the inevitable scrutiny of his personal life. "My friends in the Bush camp dismissed him with a single word whenever his name was mentioned," as consultant Ed Rollins, an Atwater rival, put it. "Women."
In the fall of 1989, Atwater''s allusions to Clinton''s misbehavior were more or less "generic," according to Rex Nelson. "There were no individual women mentioned at all." But when push came to shove, generic rumors wouldn''t stop Bill Clinton, as Atwater probably understood; after all, they had never stopped him before. Whether Clinton''s rumored and real indiscretions came close to rivaling Atwater''s own remained an open question. As early as 1984, the long-married Atwater''s reputation for compulsive, reckless womanizing was so well known, at least among fellow Republicans, that George Bush''s closest advisors had urged Bush to avoid him altogether. According to Atwater biographer John Brady, "He reveled in telling stories of conquests, sharing details with office colleagues ... . Disposable sex without commitment was a huge piece of his ego, a badge of honor." Nothing changed after he was appointed Republican national chairman, wrote Brady, except that Atwater began using his new RNC credit card to pay for weekends with a girlfriend at a Virginia hotel. He told his wife he was traveling on business. In late November 1989, Atwater weathered a brief crisis brought on by hisflagrant misbehavior. A Washington Post reporter confronted him with photographs that showed Atwater at an apartment building where a female White House staffer lived. He was indeed having an affair with the woman, as he admitted to several senior RNC staff members--but the story never ran, Brady wrote, because Atwater "leaned on" the Post reporter with the plea that "innocent bystanders would be hurt." He thus escaped the same wound he was simultaneously planning to inflict on Bill Clinton. In the politics of sexual morality, hypocrisy was a common occupational hazard.
Lee Atwater''s disreputable public image, however, owed nothing to his sexual adventures. He had cultivated a reputation as the meanest and most devious campaign strategist in the business, a man who would do anything to defeat an opponent. It was a persona he cherished, and he had no intention of changing his identity simply because he had reached the pinnacle of party leadership. "I don''t want you to squeal on me," he once told an applauding crowd at a Republican cocktail fund-raiser, "but I''m not going to be kinder and gentler." Kinder and gentler didn''t win elections, a lesson Lee Atwater had learned well and taught the rest of the country by example. Born and raised in South Carolina, he had entered politics as an intern to Senator Strom Thurmond, the former Dixiecrat segregationist who was the first important southern politician to defect to the Republicans. Young Lee''s introduction to national politics came with the 1968 presidential campaign of Richard Nixon, whose darkly negative approach to politics influenced everyone around him. The men who made Nixon president routinely resorted to vicious pranks, spying, and underhanded personal attacks against the Democrats, those dirty tricks that the boyish Watergate trickster Donald Segretti memorably called "ratfucking." During Nixon''s second term Lee had served as executive director of t

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