Saturday, January 25, 2003

The Horse is trumpeting some falsehoods in the book review of Susan McDougal's new book. Mentioned by the Horse, and in the review, is the book Blood Sport. Throughout the whole Whitewater affair, there were various moments of press coverage that were so egregioiusly bad that you couldn't help but realize the entire press corps had taken the red pill on this one. One of the biggest ones was Jeff Greenfield's cut-and-pasting of footage of an interview with Hillary Clinton which deliberately turned what she had said upside down. Another was the surreal moment on Nightline when James Stewart, who had just written this breathless tale of Arkansas corruption, was asked the $64,000 dollar question by Ted Koppel (on the March 11, 1996 show):

TED KOPPEL: What then, do you conclude, that- I mean, try and give it to me in a broad sense. What is it that you would say if you were obliged, in 15 or 30 seconds, to summarize what is troublesome about Whitewater and what will still come back to haunt the Clintons?

So, the man was given the opportunity to say concisely just what the Clintons had done wrong - legally, ethically, morally, whatever. The *worst* thing.

What does he come up with?

JAMES STEWART: Well, I think the Whitewater investment and the story of that is important because it shows many things about the Clintons. It shows their willingness to hold themselves to the standards that everyone else has to meet. It shows their willingness to abide
by financial requirements in obtaining mortgage loans. But I think, most of all, it shows their willingness, while in Arkansas, to accept the favors of people who were regulated by the state. Their attitude to this, which bordered on the negligent in the beginning, clearly
indicated a mindset which said, 'Somebody else will take care of us because of our power as highly elected officials in the state of Arkansas.'

TED KOPPEL: In a sense, Jim, that's a negative way of saying the same thing we heard Mrs. Clinton say at the beginning of this broadcast. In other words, let somebody else take care of this. She put, in a more positive sense, i.e., 'We had nothing to do with this. If Jim
McDougal came and said, 'You owe so-and-so-much in interest,' we paid it, but we never saw documents, we never had an active role in this Whitewater affair.' To which you would say what?

JAMES STEWART: Well, that simply isn't true. I think it may have been true in the very beginning of the investment, when there were still high hopes that this would make money and the McDougals could handle everything, but by 1986, when the McDougal empire was
crumbling, it was not true. At that point, Mrs. Clinton essentially took, singlehandedly, the control of this investment. She was the one who negotiated the loan renewals with the bank that held the mortgage. She was the one who handled all the correspondence. She was the
one who went over all the numbers. She had possession of all the records.

TED KOPPEL: It is your contention that she vastly inflated the value of the Clintons' interest in Whitewater.

JAMES STEWART: That's correct.

TED KOPPEL: Correct?

JAMES STEWART: As I'm sure anybody who has ever applied for a mortgage knows, you have to disclose your assets in such a financial disclosure statement, and there are warnings on these forms to be honest about this, to be accurate, to be careful, not to use uncertain
judgments, because to inflate that can be a federal crime. And yet Mrs. Clinton valued Whitewater at $100,000 on a 1987 financial disclosure document, right after the bank itself had visited the property and concluded the most generous estimate for their half-interest would
be $52,000.

TED KOPPEL: So when you're talking about a $100,000 evaluation, you're not talking about the value of the whole property, but the Clintons' half-interest?

JAMES STEWART: They valued their half-interest at $100,000.

TED KOPPEL: I ask you this question advisedly, reminding our viewers that you have some experience as a lawyer. Is that a crime?

JAMES STEWART: It is a crime to submit a false financial document. In fact, their partners, the McDougals, are on trial in Little Rock this week for having submitted false financial documents to financial institutions. But to prove a case like that, a prosecutor would have to
prove that it was knowingly a false submission. We haven't heard an explanation from either Mrs. Clinton or the President about that document, and that ultimately would be a question for a prosecutor and a jury to decide.

A supposedly fraudulent loan application. So, a few hundred page book gets distilled down to a fraudulent loan application.

Which, of course, we know was only "fraudulent" because James Stewart was missing a page.

As Conason says:

As it turned out, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author had simply failed to notice that the loan document had two sides -- a back and a front –- and that Mrs. Clinton had completed the document without error, let alone fraudulent intent. Stewart's revelation was merely another of
many, many ominous but ultimately phony insinuations that stoked public suspicion.