- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 18, 2000

This is a story about the early days of Bill and Hillary Clinton (in other words, pull on your wetsuits and scuba gear to prepare for the descent).

It was Election Day night 1974, and Mr. Clinton had just lost an Arkansas congressional race. A post-election ruckus broke out at Clinton headquarters that is remembered as a window-smashing, book-throwing, recrimination-hurling (so David Brock reported) fight among Mr. Clinton, his campaign manager Paul Fray, Mr. Fray's wife Mary Lee, and the former Hillary Rodham. Another Clinton campaign worker, Neil McDonald, witnessed this main event, which has been cited in several Clinton books, among them the newest to chronicle the lives of the first couple, "State of a Union," by celebrity biographer and former National Enquirer writer Jerry Oppenheimer.

As the latest scribe to attempt to excavate the secrets of Clinton yin and yang, Mr. Oppenheimer has unearthed from the sands muds? of time, a stark, new example of early Hillariana, confirmed by three witnesses. To whit, the first lady is quoted that November night as having screamed at Mr. Fray: "You f Jew b." The echo of these words is now resonating, 26 years later, around the state of New York where Mrs. Clinton is, of course, running for U.S. Senate, and where the Jewish vote is, of course, especially crucial.

"Absolutely false," Mrs. Clinton labeled the charges at a press conference outside her home in New York "her face taut, her voice trembling and her eyes welling with tears," according to the New York Times (which saw fit to hide all the strum and drang, blurbless, on B5). And not only were the charges of ugly talk false, Mrs. Clinton went on to say that she didn't even remember the Fray meeting.

Oops. At that very moment, perhaps, the leader of the free world was taking time out from Middle East summitry to dial up the New York Daily News and defend his wife. According to Mr. Clinton, Mrs. Clinton was at that 1974 meeting, all right (there goes the old memory-lapse defense), but she "has never, ever uttered an ethnic or racial slur against anybody, ever." Mr. Clinton continued: "She might have called him a b. I wouldn't rule that out."

Not exactly a shield-thumping defense according to the chivalric code, but the president was just warming up. According to the Daily News report, after impugning the Republicans the Republicans? for this latest round of "character assassination," Mr. Clinton went on to reject Mr. Oppenheimer as a supermarket tabloid writer, hint at Mr. Fray's "irrational behavior" during the 1974 campaign, and dismiss Mr. McDonald as a "business failure who had to move to Dallas to work for his brother because 'no one else would hire him.' " In other words, the president smeared his wife's perceived opponents in a display of 14-carat Clintonism.

Whom to believe? Truth-challenged Bill and Hill, who didn't even bother to get their stories straight before hitting the boards with his-and-hers soliloquies, or the three former staff members? Once again, the Clintons have become involved in a controversy whose aftermath the rush to lie and to smear is at least as revealing and disturbing as the original charge. The New York Post's Steve Dunleavy has suggested that if Mrs. Clinton wishes to break free of B-gate, she should file a libel suit ASAP against the three witnesses, the book's author and its publisher, HarperCollins. But don't hold your breath.

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