Auletta further muddies his argument by focusing extensively on the Clinton-haters of the 1990s, from David Brock (reformed but still insufferable) to Chris Ruddy and Richard Mellon Scaife. The latter two men have now become dining buddies with Bill Clinton, although this appears to be a sign solely of the fact that Clinton has a voracious appetite for turning anyone and everyone into an admirer. Auletta then veers into a discussion about Matthew Continetti, the co-founder of the Washington Free Beacon, which, from Auletta’s account, sounds like a halfway serious news source rather than a laughable and cynical hothouse of paranoia. (If Continetti believes even half of what his site publishes…)
I suppose Auletta wants us to see Continetti’s project as the new American Spectator, out to smash a Clinton run for the presidency. The problem, which the piece never confronts, is that the right-wing conspiracy never did much to imperil any of Bill Clinton’s campaigns. (You could argue that it did cause trouble for his presidency.) Perhaps Continetti is a sign that formerly establishment Republicans (Continetti is Bill Kristol’s son-in-law and a former Weekly Standard writer) have gotten crazier, and that the craziness will travel in the other direction, too: in short, that crazy right-wing ideas will appear more often in the mainstream press. But certain crazy right-wing ideas have always found a way into the mainstream press: just witness many of the 1990s Clinton scandals. If anything, they seem to have had an easier time doing so back then.