R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.’s Boy Clinton: The Political Biography had been sitting on my bookshelf almost completely unread for two decades. But then I discovered Arkansas state trooper L.D. Brown’s book with its revelations of CIA drug smuggling through Arkansas’ Mena Airport with Bill Clinton’s apparent knowledge and complicity and was reminded by Brown in his book that Tyrrell was one of the few mainstream journalists who made any effort to push the story forward. A couple of others were Sally Denton, who wrote the Penthouse magazine article, “The Crimes of Mena” with Roger Morris and John Cummings who helped Terry Reed tell his story, Compromised: Clinton, Bush, and the C.I.A, and if we want to count an Englishman as a mainstream journalist, Ambrose Evans-Pritichard in The Secret Life of Bill Clinton: The Unreported Stories.
Tyrrell stood out in particular because, as much as they purported to oppose, and even despise, Bill Clinton, the “conservative” crowd of opinion molders, for the most part, gave the topic a wide berth. Personal experience provides a case in point. Because of my early interest in the mysterious death of Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster, I had made contact with the conservative media watchdog group Accuracy in Media (AIM). My main contact there was a former intelligence officer for Chiang Kai Shek’sKuomintang, Bernard Yoh. We typically talked on the phone several times a week, usually about the Foster case. Once I noted with displeasure to Yoh an AIM newsletter piece dismissing any connection between Clinton and the CIA drug smuggling out of Mena. I had read the Terry Reed book and knew that there was genuine fire behind that smoke. Yoh’s excuse to me was, “Oh, that was written by Joe Goulden, and he’s ‘connected’.” He didn’t need to say any more for me to gather what he meant. That revelation later grew into my 1998 article, “Spook Journalist Goulden.”
I had put Tyrrell’s book aside for the same reason I had grown close to AIM. While AIM’s director Reed Irvine had doggedly pursued the Foster case, Tyrrell, whose main claim to fame during the first Clinton term of office was that his American Spectator magazine had published “His Cheating Heart” about Bill’s sexual escapades while governor of Arkansas, had endorsed the government’s suicide conclusion. “How serious and believable can the man be?” I thought, and his book gathered dust on my shelf.
As it turned out, Tyrrell and Irvine had one big thing in common, which is summed up by Byron York in his 2001 article in The Atlantic, “The Life and Death of The American Spectator.” “A few conservatives—Tyrrell was prominent among them—became possessed by a self-destructive brand of opposition to Bill Clinton, and in their desire to knock the President out of office they ended up hurting themselves more than him.”
With Tyrrell it was Clinton’s connection to the CIA drug smuggling; with Irvine, it was Vince Foster’s obvious murder. York is right in that, on these issues, Tyrrell and Irvine went too far for their own good. He is being the thoroughly cynical American mainstream journalist to the core, however, to say that their purpose was just to “knock the President out of office.” What each of them did was to tell too much truth for his own good.