THE REAL DAVID BROCK. YECCH.

Robert Scheer, a highly respected former investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times, wrote on that newspaper's op-ed page:

"There is no legitimate journalistic excuse for this preoccupation with the previous peccadilloes, real or imagined, of the president. The issue keeps coming up because it titillates the audience. . . ."
It was not until New York Times columnist Frank Rich attacked Brock that things turned white-hot.

I had seen the smarmy Brock fending off critics during television appearances on C-SPAN and on CrossFire, during which he referred to President Clinton, cavalierly, as "a bizarre guy."

On television, the impression Brock gives us is that of a sanctimonious, self-satisfied young man on a dubious holy mission.

The irony is that Brock seems hell-bent on ferreting out not so much evildoing as low-down common sleaze.

To see the prissy Brock interviewed is to want to reach into the television screen, grab him around the neck with two hands and strangle him before Rush Limbaugh or Robert Novak can come to his aid.

Brock, now 31, is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley. He moved to Washington, D.C., and found jobs, successively, at the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Washington Times and at the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank.

This is, coincidentally, the career path followed by one of Brock's great admirers on the local scene, William P. Cheshire, the Arizona Republic's editorial columnist.

Rich, formerly the New York Times' drama critic, has only recently shifted his attention to politics, and now appears twice a week on the Times' op-ed page.

I was interested in the Rich approach, because he had taken the trouble to go back and read Brock's previous article on Anita Hill to see what that might reveal.

Rich wrote:
"His motives are at least as twisted as his facts. It's women, not liberals, who really get him going. The slightest sighting of female sexuality whips him into a frenzy of misogynist zeal."
Rich further pointed to Brock's quoting the Little Rock state troopers as saying that Mrs. Clinton spoke of her "desire to have more frequent sex with her husband."

Speaking of Brock's "rage at women," Rich pointed out the author's admiration for the state troopers, who he described as "tall and trim, with an upright demeanor and closely cropped hair of a military officer."

Rich cited this one passage from Brock's 11,000-word attack on the Clintons in the American Spectator:

"She would phone the mansion from her law office and order troopers to fetch feminine napkins from her bedroom and deliver them to her at her firm."
Rich asked: "Why does Mr. Brock care? Would he have told this story if Mrs. Clinton were fetching aspirin?"

He concluded by saying of Brock, "His animus is so transparent that there will be no need for anyone to write a book in search of the real David Brock."

Nothing in Washington, D.C., journalism ever ends.
The Rich column caught the eye of Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post's media critic. Kurtz contacted Brock for his reaction to the attack by Rich in the Times.

Wrote Kurtz: "Brock, who is gay, strongly objected to the focus on his sexual views."

This brought me up short. I had never known that Brock was gay or that it mattered. And I certainly didn't learn he was gay from reading the Rich column.

"It's ironic," Brock said, "that those who say Clinton's sex life is irrelevant seem to find mine relevant. My sexual orientation has never been a factor in my journalism, and it never will.

"Any sophisticated reader would interpret the Rich column as a thinly veiled 'outing.' I think one has to look at the journalistic ethics of playing to antigay stereotypes.

"It's particularly dismaying that the New York Times decided to publish a vulgar attack, and it will be interesting to see if the mainstream media regard it as acceptable because it is aimed at a conservative."
I admit that much of this Rich-Brock imbroglio is over my head. In reading Brock's articles on both Anita Hill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, I failed to detect that the thrust of his reporting was prompted by Brock's sexual orientation.

Further, in reading Rich's dissection of Brock, I was not sophisticated enough to spot this as a public revelation that Brock was a homosexual.

But I have never been particularly alert to these things. I still remember being in Philadelphia one time with Christina the Lawyer and walking into a bar with her for a drink. There were no seats available either at the bar or on the cushions placed along the floor, so I suggested we go to some other place.

When we were out on the street, she pointed out to me that I was the only one she knew who wouldn't have spotted the place we had just departed as a gay bar.

Once you start talking about gays and straights, you lose me. When I watched the film Philadelphia the other day, it struck me that the two male lovers seemed to have nothing in common and no reason to even hang around together.

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