Monday, March 31, 2008


If all you knew about Hillary Clinton's successful courting of ex-nemesis Richard Mellon Scaife was what you read in today's New York Times story, you'd surely conclude that this is a new development and an unexpected turnaround. It's neither -- and when Scaife himself said of Senator Clinton, in an article about their recent meeting, "Walking into our conference room, not knowing what to expect (or even, perhaps, expecting the worst), took courage and confidence," he was lying through his teeth.

This little dance has been going on for more a year.

New York Times, February 19, 2007:

... as Mrs. Clinton is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, Mr. Scaife's checkbook is staying in his pocket.

Christopher Ruddy, who once worked full-time for Mr. Scaife investigating the Clintons and now runs a conservative online publication he co-owns with Mr. Scaife, said, "Both of us have had a rethinking."

"Clinton wasn't such a bad president," Mr. Ruddy said. "In fact, he was a pretty good president in a lot of ways, and Dick feels that way today."

As for the conservative response to Mrs. Clinton's campaign, Mr. Ruddy said, "The level of intensity and anger toward Hillary is not getting to the level that it was toward Bill Clinton when he was president." He added, "She has moderated and developed a separate image." ...

Newsweek, November 19, 2007:

Bill Clinton is never at a loss for company. When he's not globe-trotting or charming audiences for as much as $400,000 a speech, he's often schmoozing visitors in his suite of offices in Harlem. Last July, the former president sat down with a billionaire impressed with the William J. Clinton Foundation's campaign against AIDS in Africa. The two men chatted amiably over lunch for more than two hours, and the visitor pledged to write Clinton's foundation a generous check. But there was something unusual, if not plain weird, about the meeting. NEWSWEEK has learned that the billionaire so eager to endear himself to the former president was Richard Mellon Scaife....

Bill Clinton now finds himself the unlikeliest of Scaife heroes. Last month Ruddy posted a softball interview with Clinton on the Newsmax site (sample question: "What is the best thing about being an ex-president?"). A worshipful cover story followed in the current edition of the magazine. Clinton, it gushed, is "a political and cultural powerhouse" who is "part Merlin and part Midas -- a politician with a magical touch."

What is going on here? Scaife declined to comment, but Ruddy tells NEWSWEEK he and Scaife believe Clinton's life since leaving office has been "very laudable," and that he is doing "very important work representing the country when the U.S. is widely resented in the world." ...

The magazine story isn't online, but the interview is -- it's here, and yes, it's full of softballs (e.g., "How has your own religious faith played a role in your global work today?").

Mother Jones blogger Clara Jeffery speculated last fall that Scaife, in the midst of an ugly divorce and paying a tremendous amount of alimony (about $24,000 a day) after being caught cheating on his wife in a sleazy motel (The Washington Post has the dirt here), now has a deeper understanding of Bill and his cheatin' ways. I'm not sure I have a better theory -- unless the tax benefits of Scaife's gifts to Clinton's foundation are significantly improving his cash flow.

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