Giuliani’s War Zealot & The War Zealot’s Candidate

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giuliani twn.jpg
Jacob Heilbrunn, author of the soon-to-be-released They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons, has a devastating critique of the mutually exploitive relationship between co-czar of the neocon establishment, Norman Podhoretz, and former New York mayor and presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani titled “Norman’s Conquest.”
There are two clips in particular that I want to highlight, but I highly recommend reading the entire piece.
First on neither Podhoretz or Giuliani having any substantial foreign policy experience at all:

In June, the former New York City mayor named Podhoretz a senior advisor to his campaign. It is no ceremonial post. Podhoretz speaks regularly with the candidate and trumpets their association.
“As far as I can tell there is very little difference in how [Giuliani] sees the war and how I see it,” Podhoretz told the New York Observer in October. And indeed there isn’t much daylight between what Podhoretz has written and what Giuliani is saying on the stump. Podhoretz has judged the war in Iraq an “amazing success”; Giuliani in November declared that he “never had any doubt” about the wisdom of invading Iraq.
On Iran, Podhoretz has said, “The choice before us is either bomb those nuclear facilities or let them get the bomb.” Giuliani told an audience in October: “If I’m president of the United States, I guarantee you we will never find out what [Iran] will do if they get nuclear weapons, because they’re not going to get nuclear weapons.”
As a foreign policy guru, Podhoretz is hardly an obvious choice for Giuliani. The mayor has virtually no direct foreign policy experience, and neither does Podhoretz — he is an editor, polemicist, and literary critic who has never worked in government. Podhoretz is certainly a prominent hawk, and Giuliani needs hawks in his camp to help insulate him from attacks on the right, particularly from social conservatives.
But there are plenty of foreign policy heavyweights who could play that role, from Henry Kissinger to Robert Kagan. And if the candidate wished to put some distance between himself and the unpopular current occupant of the White House, Podhoretz is no help; his son-in-law, Elliott Abrams, is Bush’s deputy national security adviser.

And then this exceedingly juicy exchange between Newsweek International editor and leading realist Fareed Zakaria and Podhoretz:

In short, arguing over the finer points of foreign policy doesn’t especially interest Giuliani or, at this point, his advisor. Like George W. Bush, they don’t do nuance, and both men are less about debate now than about attitude. Increasingly, Podhoretz has been making his points by resorting to tired analogies and questioning the character of his opponents.
Appearing with Fareed Zakaria on the NewsHour With Jim Lehrer in late October, Podhoretz said, “I want to say that I think the attitude expressed by Fareed Zakaria represents an irresponsible complacency that I think is comparable to the denial in the early ’30s of the intentions of Hitler that led to what Churchill called an unnecessary war involving millions and millions of deaths that might have been averted if the West had acted early enough.”
Zakaria responded, “Norman, perhaps instead of calling me names, you could just explain why the arguments are right or wrong.”
Zakaria was wasting his breath. Real men don’t explain. They seek to intimidate and cow their opponents into abject submission — which is why Podhoretz and Giuliani were probably fated to join forces. In becoming Rudy’s maven, Norman has made his greatest conquest.

Again, this is why I really hope, though doubt, that Giuliani wins the Republican nomination. There is no one better to have a genuine battle with over the future of this country’s national security direction.
– Steve Clemons

Comments

16 comments on “Giuliani’s War Zealot & The War Zealot’s Candidate

  1. pauline says:

    Rudy deserves that special torturous place in hell.
    “Former New York City mayor and Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani talks to George Stephanopoulos about accusations that firefighters died on 9/11 due to radios that Giuliani himself knew weren’t suitable for use.”
    “Giuliani has been personally blamed for the deaths of firefighters on September 11, 2001, including by NYFD Deputy Fire Chief James Riches, whose son, also a firefighter, died at Ground Zero. Giuliani is not only accused of providing faulty equipment, but also of ending the search for survivors too early.”
    “I feel very bad about that,” responds Giuliani. “I mean, I feel very bad about the whole situation.”
    “Myself,” he continues, “and all the people that are involved in this have been very hurt by this, and it creates a lot of pain. It creates a lot of suffering. And, if they’re angry at me, so be it. I did everything I could–I did everything I could think of doing in that situation to help.
    “I think I made mostly the right decisions.”
    Says Giuliani about the radios in question: “Well, the radios that you’re talking about weren’t put online for three, four, five years after, so it would have been impossible for me to have those radios ready.
    “It took the city two, three more years.”
    Responds Stephanopoulos, “But they had a malfunction in 1993.”
    “As Think Progress points out, it wasn’t impossible for firefighters to have working radios when entering the twin towers, had the no-bid contract with Motorola produced a product that worked properly after the 1993 malfunctions; the faulty replacements were decommissioned in March of 2001, leaving the firefighters using the same radios inside the World Trade Center in 2001 that they had in 1993.”
    “One Think Progress commenter, identifying as “Comrade Rutherford,” says that New York City might be continually equipping firefighters with radios that aren’t suitable to begin with:”
    “As a amatuer (sic) radio enthusiast I was flabbergasted to learn (back in the day) that the NYFD were on VHF, but the NYPD was on UHF. The higher frequenices (sic) of the police band at 460 MHz can get out of buildings better than VHF, making for more reliable communications from *inside buildings*. The fire dept was on 154 MHz for many, many years (are they still?). This frequency range has larger dead areas inside buidlings (sic) meaning that you have to carefully move around to get your radio into a hot spot to be able to communicate reliably. If you move at all, you lose the signal. Now imagine having to do that while the building is burning around you and the message you need to send is of life or death. Many other cities have long ago moved their emergency comm to 800 MHz, and digital radio is now here. But wasn�t it Giuliani that made a sweet-heart deal with Motorola for the Radios That Didn�t Work?”
    see-
    http://rawstory.com/news/2007/Giuliani_impossible_for_911_firefighters_to_1223.html

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  2. kotzabasis says:

    PrahaPartizan
    To have read history is not enough unless you have excogitated and drawn out its profound lessons. And it’s obvious that you have not! The “rapacious series” brought in their wake a GREATER ROME, which spread and embedded Judeo-Greco-Roman civilization to the European and other continents.
    I’m talking about the reality of geopolitics and the harsh laws of war. While you from your reading of history attempt to build ideological and IDEALISTIC CONSTRUCTS that cannot survive in the Aeolian winds of reality.

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  3. capitalistpig says:

    Hypocrites deserve to be exposed. That includes religious, homosexual, and all other forms of hypocrites. Let us hope that the repugnant repub is outed and is seeking reelection in 2008

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  4. erichwwk says:

    Sorry. mea culpa.
    Dr. Burroughs talk on “Auschwitz to Trident”, AS captured on youtube is at:
    http://tinyurl.com/yvktqz
    cheers

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  5. erichwwk says:

    While I generally agree with POA in terms of the degree to which America today resembles the authoritarian government of Germany at the height of the Third Reich (but am troubled by the “tone”) I also feel that if somehow we could have an honest, open discussion of the historical role of nuclear weapons that Steven advocates, America might be diverted from its inevitable disastrous outcome of eventually being trashed in the same manner Germany was during WWII. Those of us that recognize the true nature of nuclear weapons, have advocated that even before the first weapon was dropped. As Joe Rotblat said “Remember your humanity, and forget all the rest”.
    But I’m not holding my breath. Rather than reading Podhoretz, I suggest folks read those who understand that nuclear weapons are a more advanced concentration camp, and a far crueler and barbaric manifestation of human consciousness and amplification of a thousand holocausts. One could do worse than read Richard Rhodes new book, Arsenals of Folly, which gives one a sense of what nuclear weapons really are, and the extent to which their essence has been spun, and that spun accepted, by a large part of the American population. Nuclear weapons, and our defense policy in general, if understood, would make Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo seem like a church picnic. Rhodes does a decent job of explaining all that, and the reader review.
    While even disarmament agencies like the The Friends, are claiming that the step Congress took in the recent appropriations bill to NOT allow expenditures on the “Reliable Replacement Warhead” (a marketing label that does a warhead that is ANYTHING BUT THAT) they do not seem to recognize the BUILDING for making the warhead WAS FUNDED, and that Domenici’s wish to turn Los Alamos into a Nuclear Weapons Factory is still moving ahead. (More on that after the holidays).
    Podhoretz has been at the heart of this. The seeds were planted with the decision to build that weapon in the first place, although folks like Andrew Marshall, AlbertWohlstetter, Ed Teller, Richard Perle, and Richard Pipes are perhaps more responsible for advocating America become the new holocaust nation, and pursue what ALL major decision makers call “Nuclear Primacy” (See the Council of Foreign relations, eg.) Do read Ashutosh Jogalekar’s review of Rhodes book on Amazon, to get a sense of the divergence between what citizens want by a more than 90% margin, and what U.S.politicians bent on world dominance ala Hitler give us.
    http://tinyurl.com/2af92n
    For a more recent video clarifying what nuclear weapons really are, try watching from “Auschwitz to the Trident” by Dr. John Burroughs, Executive director of the Lawyers Committee on nuclear Policy. Since multiple links don’t seem to make it past the filter, the link to that is on the URL on my aka.
    In that sense, I am also harkened by the extent to which economists are finally coming on board, albeit decades late. More on that, later as well.
    Happy holidays, and may peace conquer violence, and love conquer hate, and courage conquer fear.
    “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” — Mahatma Gandhi

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  6. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Giuliani Snuck 2,000 Boxes of Records Out of New York’s City Hall
    http://www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/71355/
    If you thought Darth Cheney was secretive…you’ll love Rudy
    Let’s see how his campaign responds to this. The AP reports that, while NY government only allows a former mayor to keep a few token gifts when they clean out their desks, Rudy Giuliani would have needed several U-Hauls to remove all the paperwork he whisked out of City Hall, Gracie Mansion and other offices. That doesn’t square with his claim that he believes in “open government.” Or maybe it depends on the meaning of the word “open.”
    Under an unprecedented agreement that didn’t become public until after he left office, Giuliani secreted out of City Hall the written, photographic and electronic record of his eight years in office – more than 2,000 boxes.
    Along with his own files, the trove included the official records of Giuliani’s deputy mayors, his chief of staff, his travel office and Gracie Mansion – the mayor’s residence that became a legal battlefront during his caustic divorce.
    The mayor made famous – and very wealthy – in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks has long described his City Hall as an open book.
    In a Republican presidential candidates’ debate last week, Giuliani asserted: “My government in New York City was so transparent that they knew every single thing I did almost every time I did it. … I can’t think of a public figure that’s had a more transparent life than I’ve had.”
    But the public record, as reviewed by The Associated Press, shows a City Hall that had a reputation of resistance – even hostility – toward open government, the First Amendment and the public’s access to simple facts and figures.
    “He ran a government as closed as he could make it,” said attorney Floyd Abrams, a widely recognized First Amendment authority who faced off against city lawyers when Giuliani sought to shut the Brooklyn Museum of Art because the mayor considered a painting sacrilegious.
    This is a scathing article and a must-read. It documents a man so controlling and paranoid that requests for benign public data having nothing to do with security (such as number of working water fountains in the city’s parks), required a formal request to the mayor’s office.
    And he repeatedly battled other city agencies over access to information that ended up in court, with the city losing almost every case.
    Advocacy and oversight groups long accustomed to easily obtaining information about city services and finances – the Citizens Budget Commission and the Women’s City Club among them – were required to file freedom of information requests for documents, often resulting in months of delays and added legal costs.
    In a slap at Giuliani’s City Hall, a judge in one such case wrote bluntly, “The law provides for maximum access, not maximum withholding.”
    Attorney Eve Burton, who represented the New York Daily News during much of the Giuliani era, said the newspaper submitted more than 100 filings in six years related to information or access requests, appeals or lawsuits involving the administration. In one case, she said, the city refused to turn over the names of people who held gun permits – unquestionably public information – until threatened with a lawsuit.

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  7. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Even as we speak there are people dying as a result of Gulianni’s collusion with Whitman and Bush in hoodwinking the residents of Manhattan into breathing a known toxic stew of carcinigens and poisons.
    It really seems as though the theft of the elections in 2000 and 2004, teamed with the crime that occurred on 09/11/01, were the three events that have completely removed our upper echelon “leadership” from the rule of law, and Guilianni is right smack dab in the middle of these events.
    With their heads firmly buried in the sand about these three events, the insiders, pundits, media heads and spin-miesters keep handing us this red white and blue bucket of sewage, packaged all pretty and nice, seeking to convince us that all is well in Bushworld, and all we need do is march on down to the polling booths and the crimes, corruption, and inhumanity will simply vanish, and democracy, freedom, and “the American way” will rise in their stead.
    Bullshit.
    Steve deftly ignores the past, refuses to recognize the gravity and scope of what has occurred these last seven years. Meanwhile, the Shiffers in our midst, waving pom-poms like there’s no tomorrow, dance in carefully choreographed enthusiasm, confident in their belief that the majority of us aren’t paying attention, and we are still buying this charade masquerading as “the democratic process”.
    The “You-Tube” debates epitomize what a pathetic sham this whole process has become. Over a million dead in Iraq. People tortured in our name. The rule of law, both international and domestic, completely ignored. American jobs, shipped overseas to the very nations that Steve lauds our politicians for seducing. Trillions spent on war, and we can’t spend a handful of billions on our children’s healthcare or educations.
    Wake up you jackasses. Three buildings don’t magically collapse into their own footprints. You do not have a democracy if the laws are only for the peons. If all the signs point to a stolen election, then the odds are the election was stolen.
    If you believe you are about to “elect” your president, then you have not been paying attention these last seven years, no matter how loud Steve cheers, or how many pom-poms the Shiffers wave in your face.

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  8. arthurdecco says:

    kotzabasis said: “…for Iran the acquisition of nuclear weapons is a LUNGE FOR GLOBAL POWER” !?!?!
    I normally let my eyes slide past your posts before they have a chance to glaze over but for some inexplicable reason your latest attracted my attention.
    I wonder, in the real world, do you write for Stan Lee…or Comedy Central? Are you trying to out-Gonzo Hunter S. Thompson…or is it as simple as you needing your medication adjusted or a lock installed on the liquor cabinet?

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  9. PrahaPartizan says:

    “…Since Iran’s LIBIDO DOMINANDI is unstoppable and cannot be frustrated by diplomatic means. the U.S. has no other option but to adopt Cato’s strategy:DELENDA EST CARTHAGO.”
    Kotzabasis, didn’t the The Third Punic War essentially lead directly to the collapse of the Roman Republic, which was replaced by a series of rapacious wealthy, aristocratic war-lords vying for leadership? Are you advocating the same outcome for the United States by drawing such a stark equivalency comparison? Just how much stock do you own in Blackwater?

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  10. rapier says:

    Iran has no navy and no air force to speak of. It has an economy the size of Finland. Take away the oil and they have an economy the size of maybe Nebraska. This isn’t a base for world or regional domination, it’s a joke.
    On top of that their oil production has peaked. They have a gigantic post revolution population bulge which is a growing demographic/economic disaster. There is no doubt that the historical memory of Persian power infuses Iranians with a longing for power and glory. Those days were a thousand years before Islam however. Sunni Islamic states and cultures will never allow Shia Muslims to dominate Islam or the region. Not that they could anyway except in the fervid minds of the Podhoretz ‘s of the world.

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  11. kotzabasis says:

    Zakaria’s argument against Podhoretz is wrong because in his cognitive ignorance, intellectual flabbiness and complacency, and political irresponsibility, he does not realize that for Iran the acquisition of nuclear weapons is a LUNGE FOR GLOBAL POWER, (a) to be the dominant state in the region and (b) ultimately the world leader of Islam.
    Since Iran’s LIBIDO DOMINANDI is unstoppable and cannot be frustrated by diplomatic means. the U.S. has no other option but to adopt Cato’s strategy:DELENDA EST CARTHAGO

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  12. rapier says:

    Be careful what you wish for as far as a Giuliani win. Suppose there is a somewhat significant terrorist event in the US? Could that put him over the top, or any of the GOP candidates. I don’t have a clue but it doesn’t take much imagination to see how it might.
    If Gore had been president and 911 happened I believe he would have been impeached. For sure he would have been blamed, Even if he had done everything that Bush didn’t to guard against it. It wouldn’t mean a thing because the MSM hated his guts.

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  13. Kathleen says:

    I never thought I’d have a reason to be grateful to a pornographer, but, sure as shooting, I am…
    Some comments on Rudy by Larry Flynt…
    Curiously, for me, I was recently in the room described below for a Kucinich event. I have to agree about the decor.. an incongruous blending of Mae West and Father knows Best.
    Strange Bedfellows
    The MuckrakerÂ’s Progress
    For decades, Hustler publisher Larry Flynt has been working to catch “family values” politicians in bed with the wrong people, offering up to a million dollars for each hypocrite exposed. He’s eyeing some juicy targets this election cycle.
    by Bruce Handy WEB EXCLUSIVE December 20, 2007 In the spring of 2001, as he was putting an end to his second marriage, Rudolph Giuliani, then mayor of New York City, moved out of the mayorÂ’s mansion and for the next few months bunked at the home of Howard Koeppel, a friend and political supporter. Also sharing the apartment was Mark Hsiao, KoeppelÂ’s longtime boyfriend.
    Six years later, with Giuliani now one of the leading Republican candidates for president, his interregnum with the Koeppel-Hsiaos has drawn the interest not only of suspicious conservatives but also of Larry Flynt, who, not a conservative, has made a good living off of traditional male needs as the founder and publisher of Hustler magazine (not to mention Barely Legal, Backdoor Babes, and the 21 other publications he owns, along with a Hustler video company, a chain of Hustler strip clubs and sex-toy stores, and a small Hustler Casino in Gardena, California). Flynt has granted me an audience—I’m not bragging; it’s not hard to get Flynt to talk—in his office on the 10th floor of the Flynt Publications building, in Beverly Hills. “Let me ask you something,” he says in a voice that might best be described as a slurred croak. “As mayor of New York, would you live in an apartment with three gay guys?” Flynt’s facts aren’t entirely in order, but his train of thought won’t be derailed. “I’m not gay,” he continues. “I don’t hate gays. But I don’t want to live in an apartment full of them. They’ll bitch and cry and all. That doesn’t bother Giuliani. It doesn’t bother Giuliani to put a dress on to do Saturday Night Live. I don’t trust him. I don’t think he’s electable.”
    Um, I ask, what exactly is he trying to suggest? That Giuliani, famous for his three marriages—to women—and for his taxpayer-subsidized philandering, is in fact one of the political world’s most successfully closeted homosexuals? “I don’t know whether he’s gay or not,” Flynt replies with a hint of exasperation, “but I’m saying, if you got four friends, all gay, living in the same apartment, how are you going to know which one’s gay? I’m surprised no one’s even asking that question. Why do you break up with your wife and move in with gay guys?”
    As you are no doubt well aware, America is enduring yet another election cycle, and Flynt, as he has done sporadically over the last three decades, is working hard to insert himself into the middle of it. What that mostly entails—aside from making calculatedly outrageous statements (see above) to Larry King, Geraldo Rivera, and other talk-show hosts—is offering cash bounties to women and men who are willing to dish verifiable dirt on the sort of politician who campaigns on family-values platforms by day and strays from his or her spouse by night. (Or evening, afternoon, or morning.) The immediate goal is a Flynt press conference where said dirt is revealed, followed by more talk-show appearances, and, eventually, an expos頩n Hustler between photos of pudenda. The larger goal, Flynt contends, is exposing hypocrisy. For this reason, he insists, he goes after only politicians whose voting records are at odds with their private conduct. “Hypocrisy is the greatest threat to democracy,” he is fond of saying, though it should be noted that democracy probably couldn’t exist without hypocrisy, unless people are going to be out of the loop. Flynt takes the subject so seriously that he says he is working on a book—his third—to be titled Politics, Porn & Power: An Intimate Look at Sexual Hypocrisy and Its Impact on American Politics.
    At this point in his career, Flynt is arguably the greatest student of the American underbelly since J. Edgar Hoover. Dirt digging and checkbook journalism are passions he first indulged during the mid-70s heyday of naughty congressmen Wilbur Mills and Wayne Hays, whose careers ended when they were found, respectively, in the company of an Argentinean stripper and a blonde secretary from his office who famously couldn’t type. In 1976, Flynt was inspired by those scandals to take out an ad in The Washington Post offering an up-to-$1-million reward to anyone who could provide “documentary evidence of illicit sexual relations with a Congressman, Senator or other prominent officeholder.” Nothing much turned up, at least that became public. (Flynt does have a McCarthy-like habit—or maybe it’s Barnumesque—of insisting he has ripe, drippingly scandalous goods he can’t quite show yet.) A few years later, Flynt published pictures of Representative Larry McDonald, a Georgia Republican, in bed with a mistress; alas, this scoop was undercut in 1983 when McDonald was killed as a passenger on Korean Air Lines Flight 007, which was shot down by the U.S.S.R. when it strayed into Russian airspace.
    Larry Flynt in his Los Angeles office. By Dan Tuffs/Getty Images.
    Flynt finally hit a jackpot in 1998 during Bill ClintonÂ’s impeachment hearings, when a second million-dollar offer in the Post turned up evidence that Bob Livingston, a Republican congressman from Louisiana who had just been elected Speaker of the House, had had a string of extramarital affairs. Alerted that Flynt was about to go public, Livingston tried to get in front of the story by admitting that he had strayed, and then resigning. This remains FlyntÂ’s biggest scalp to date, though he denied himself the pleasure of publishing the particulars of LivingstonÂ’s extracurriculars after LivingstonÂ’s wife, Bonnie, called him up and begged him not to, pleading that her family had been harmed enough.
    Flynt has always had a beef with moralists—that goes with his professional territory—but the rise of so-called family-values politics, epitomized by the Republican Party’s promotion of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, particularly incensed him. To some eyes, it also legitimized him. “Everyone wanted Clinton’s head on a platter,” he tells me. “They all wanted him, even some of the loyal Democrats. And I thought, Here’s a guy who hasn’t done anything anyone else hasn’t done, including the lying about it, because people lie about sex more than anything else. They lie to get it, they lie about it.”
    Flynt offers these comments from the far end of a vast football field of an office that might be euphemistically described as “over-decorated,” what with its floral carpets and chintz, its Tiffany lamps (some real, some not), its huge arrangements of fake flowers, its brocade drapes, its green walls hung with gilt-framed reproductions of old-master paintings (some clumsy, some less so). If Belle Watling, Rhett Butler’s favorite madam, had been asked to redesign the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this is what she might have come up with. The one surface devoted to masculine clutter is Flynt’s big wooden desk. It boasts photos of the publisher with Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and Jesse Jackson along with novelty paperweights, documents, dirty magazines, and a DVD of Not the Bradys XXX, a pornographic parody of The Brady Bunch produced by Hustler Video. Flynt, seated low and hunched in his famous gold wheelchair (he was paralyzed by a 1978 shooting), is dwarfed by his surroundings. His hair is a slightly more natural shade of Donald Trump orange, his mouth is often slack, and his eyes can have a deer-in-the-headlights look, but his conversation is sharp, and mischievous energy plays across his face, along with a puckish grin, whenever he’s about to get off a good line, which is often. Think of Dennis the Menace animating Jabba the Hutt—which is a mean comparison, I know, but pulling one’s punches isn’t part of the Flynt ethos.
    In muckraking terms, 2007 was a very good year for Flynt. In July, his investigators broke the first actual news amid the media frenzy surrounding the escort service run by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called D.C. Madam, who is being prosecuted in federal court on racketeering and money-laundering charges. Having gained access to Palfrey’s phone bills, Flynt’s investigators—competing against reporters from ABC News and other outlets that also had the records—discovered a series of calls from Palfrey to Senator David Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana who had made abstinence-only sex education a signature issue and is prone to calling heterosexual marriage “the most important social institution in human history.” Like Livingston (whose House seat Vitter had won in a special election in 1999 after the Speaker-elect had resigned), Vitter tried to pre-empt the news, issuing a statement before the story broke in which he confessed, vaguely, to “a very serious sin.” At a press conference a few days later, he said he’d been forgiven by both his God and his teary wife, the second of whom was standing beside him, but also denied “those New Orleans stories”—long-standing rumors, some of which had already surfaced in the Louisiana press, linking him to prostitutes in his home state.
    That set Flynt up for a second score when, in September, the publisher held a joint press conference in his office with Wendy Ellis, a retired New Orleans prostitute who claimed to have had extensive professional dealings with Vitter; she backed up her story, which her lawyer had approached Hustler with, by passing a polygraph examination that Flynt paid for. “It was just a pure sexual relationship, you know,” Ellis told the gathered reporters about her alleged client. “He would come in, do his business—he was a very clean man, I do have to give him that much—two to three times a week, for four months.” Flynt, who had paid Ellis an undisclosed sum for her story, tried to put matters into perspective at the press conference: “It’s not a question here of muckraking and exposing the perverts. It’s more than that. It’s trying to maintain honesty in government.” In furtherance of this goal, the January issue of Hustler features nude photos of Ellis, taken on a couch in Flynt’s office. She, for one, has nothing to hide. (Except her price for coming forward. “That’s a personal matter between me and Hustler,” she told me, though she acknowledged that her posing for the magazine was from Hustler’s point of view non-negotiable.)
    The advertisement that appeared in The Washington Post this past June.
    ‘We’re getting about all the heads we can put over the mantel now,” Flynt tells me. In June of last year, he placed yet another ad in The Washington Post, again offering up to $1 million for evidence of “illicit sexual or intimate relations” with politicians and other officials; he claims the proposition has borne much fruit. Over the summer, when he began talking to me for this article, he dropped three A-list names—a Republican presidential candidate, a well-known Republican senator, and another prominent conservative official—whose peccadilloes he claimed Hustler was on the verge of exposing, hinting at hooker parties and no-tell-motel liaisons. When we sit down in the fall, these names are off the table, though investigations are said to be ongoing. The ripest target now, Flynt claims, is a closeted gay Republican senator who is not Larry Craig, though last spring Flynt’s investigators were also pursuing rumors about Craig, going as far as putting a surveillance team on him, before his arrest in June for allegedly soliciting sex in a men’s room at the Minneapolis airport.
    “The other shoe’s going to drop any day,” Flynt says, speaking of the other senator. “It’ll surprise a lot of people that he’s gay. And I’ll bet you he resigns the same day and rides off into the sunset. He won’t be as stupid as Craig,” who after an initial vow to leave office changed his mind and instead fought to reverse his guilty plea to disorderly conduct.
    But Flynt’s investigation of this second senator is at a tricky pass. “His boyfriend is in a quandary about selling him out. It’s really somewhat of a pathetic situation. But we also have other boyfriends that he’s been involved with.” These earlier boyfriends are apparently willing to go on the record, and have also supplied Flynt’s investigators with corroborating evidence. “We got some motel records. We got some photographs. They don’t involve sex, but sort of romantic walks on the beach and that sort of thing.”
    While multiple sources are generally deemed a good thing by journalists, for Flynt they can be trouble. “The big thing right now is weÂ’re negotiating money, and itÂ’s always difficult when you have more than one source involved. The guy says, ‘I want a million dollars.Â’ And we say, ‘Well, wait a minute. YouÂ’re the fourth source in the story, so different sources have to split the money.Â’ ”
    It would take a master economist to chart the complex interplay of greed, shame, and revenge involved in settling on a price for selling out a lover or, as the case may be, a client. Or maybe—isn’t this often so where powerful men are concerned?—something in between. Not that calculations aren’t made on Flynt’s side as well. “Look,” he says, “if we can take down a well-known U.S. senator, we’ll pay the money—we’ll pay the million dollars. But when you get down to congressmen, they’re a dime a dozen. If they’re from some remote area of the country, they’re not worth very much—maybe 25, 50 grand. But presidents and senators are really big paydays.” That said, he declines to lay out a detailed price list, though he estimates that over the years he has spent in total upwards of $5 million on such matters, between bounties and investigative costs.
    Here’s a boring question: Is any of this ethical? Checkbook journalism—paying for sources—is frowned on by most journalists and forbidden at most mainstream publications and news outlets. The fear is that, for money, a source will tell you whatever you want to hear, true or not—like waterboarding but with a carrot instead of a stick. Another issue that journalists don’t typically broach is that paying sources opens up a can of worms: If you pay one, do you have to pay all of them? And at a time of shrinking news budgets?! On the other hand, for someone with a book or movie to promote, the publicity generated by an interview, especially a juicy one, could be considered payment in kind. And no one seems to feel that paying former public officials and other newsmakers to write book-length memoirs undercuts their veracity or is in any way unethical. Perhaps what’s good for Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins should be good for The New York Times and even Hustler? I don’t believe that, but you can’t dismiss the question out of hand.
    As for anyoneÂ’s qualms about rummaging around in politiciansÂ’ private lives, that train seems to have left the station a decade ago, if not longer. You could even argue that sexual conduct is a relatively weighty issue in an era when presidential elections can be decided by the loudness of a candidateÂ’s sighs during a debate. For his part, Flynt has long since made his peace with being vilified (if it was even an issue for him to begin with; he has, after all, admitted to having had sex with a chicken in his youth). He recounts a favorite anecdote, about an interview Livingston gave The New York Times shortly after the Speaker-elect resigned. “They asked him what he thought about me, and he said he thought I was a bottom-feeder. So they called me for a comment and I said, ‘Yeah, thatÂ’s right, but look what I found when I got down there.Â’ ”
    Speaking of descent, HustlerÂ’s editorial offices are located seven floors below FlyntÂ’s executive floor. The elevator opens onto an unmarked lobby whose only feature is a large table with a marble top upon which sits a Jacuzzi-size urn full of multicolored fake flowers. Beyond a door, the actual magazine offices are decorated with stained beige carpeting, filing cabinets with pornography piled on top, and battered, generic-issue office furniture. Though the magazine has been edited here for 12 years, the offices have the thrown-together, transient look of a TV production office or the headquarters of a political campaign.
    A word about the magazine’s content. There is a popular conception among those who don’t read it—abetted by the 1996 Miloš Forman film, The People vs. Larry Flynt, which dramatized the publisher’s free-speech battles but downplayed how precisely he was exercising his rights—that Hustler is a slightly raunchier, blue-collar version of Playboy. This isn’t quite true. The magazine, which started publishing nationally in 1974, is much, much raunchier. In an airbrushed, Vaseline-lensed era, it established itself with brightly lit, sharply focused, speculum-like views of the female body. There has been evolution. Today’s Hustler pictorials feature not just genitalia but also penetration, ejaculation, sex toys, sodomy, and pretty much everything else that one or two or more people can do without endangering their health, risking arrest, or involving other species. (Though same-sex impulses are rationed strictly to the ladies.) None of this is unique on contemporary newsstands. What continues to distinguish the magazine from its competitors (in what the magazine industry refers to without embarrassment as the “men’s sophisticates” category) is (a) its calculatingly offensive, aggressively un-P.C., sometimes ugly, sometimes misogynistic sense of humor, a defining part of its editorial DNA, and (b) an increasingly liberal, or at least anti-Bush, political stance, an outgrowth of the magazine’s historic support of nose-thumbing politics. If Al Gore had an id, is this what it would look like? Though Hustler now publishes columns by old lefties such as Nat Hentoff and Robert Scheer, its singular voice, tapping into cultural resentments that more typically underscore conservative politics, is best captured in a recent cartoon that features President Bush ejaculating on Condoleezza Rice’s backside—semen features in a lot of Hustler humor—while comparing himself to Strom Thurmond and using a racial epithet. (Flynt says he usually votes Democratic, except when he’s casting protest votes for Libertarians, which is another way of cross-sectioning the magazine’s point of view.)
    Bruce David, Hustler’s editorial director, has been working for Larry Flynt on and off since the magazine’s earliest days, not long after its birth as a newsletter for patrons of Flynt’s original, Ohio-based strip-club chain. Sour and rumpled, David looks and sounds like a more dyspeptic version of the actor Dan Hedaya. He is talking to me in his somewhat kempt office, which is probably a hundredth the size of Flynt’s and is notable mainly for the sliding piles of Hustlers on his desk. Joining us is Mark Johnson, the magazine’s assistant managing editor and research director, who has been with Hustler for three years. He cut his teeth working as an editor and reporter for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition. He speaks straightforwardly, says he also writes plays, seems pleasant, and gives off an air of not really belonging here. (Though later, flipping through the magazine, I note he also contributes DVD reviews. Hustle and Blow #3 was “underlit,” he maintains.)
    David and Johnson run the magazine’s investigations of politicians—manning the shovels, as it were. So far, the two men say, they’ve received roughly 350 responses to the recent Washington Post ad. Screening sounds easy. “The majority of the calls are from nut jobs,” Johnson explains. Other callers’ stories have the ring of truth but are “essentially unverifiable.”
    Still, David says, “There’s a lot of information out there.”
    The tips concern members mostly of Congress; a few wriggling administration figures and presidential candidates get caught in the nets as well. All told, Hustler’s investigative team has followed up on approximately 100 leads. While some have come from escorts and rent boys, most of the tipsters are what Johnson calls “kind of straight-arrow people who’ve heard something. And they’re not all anti-Republican, either. We get a lot of calls from people who say they’re conservatives or they’re Republicans, and they’re just outraged by the information they have, and they think it should come out.” Much to their surprise, though, they haven’t received tips in the form of “opposition research” from rival political campaigns. “Why aren’t political enemies calling us?” Johnson wonders. “I guess the Democrats are just too virtuous, or something.”
    Digging dirt, it turns out, isn’t easy, even with cash burning a hole in your wallet. “I got a couple of good stories about someone—you know, places, times, details about the sexual act,” Johnson says. “And it sounded good to me—it sounded plausible. I mean, you can tell if somebody has just kind of made something up or if they’re suffering from delusions. But in this case it happened like 10 years ago, in a hotel. So there weren’t many witnesses—you know, maybe one witness. So what are you going to do? It’s just too easy to deny. And then if we print it we end up looking like we’re just, you know, blogging nonsense. I mean, we consider ourselves a print magazine.” Indeed, Hustler swears it holds itself to a J-school-worthy standard of multiple witnesses or other forms of corroboration before going public with a story. (Says Flynt, “There’s nobody more cautious than we are, because the mainstream media hold me to a whole different standard. And if I’m wrong once, they’ll step on me like a bug.”)
    Unfortunately, sneaking around on oneÂ’s spouse, by its very nature, makes this kind of documentation hard to come by. Even solid leads evaporate. “The sources get a little bit frightened,” Johnson says. “I donÂ’t know if they get paid off, or somebody knows they contacted us. But weÂ’ve gotten a couple of calls, at least, where there have been conversations back and forth—and these are involving presidential candidates—and then IÂ’ll kind of lose contact, or the phone number wonÂ’t work, or theyÂ’ll call back a couple months later and say, ‘Yeah, sorry, I changed my mind.Â’ ”
    Cost-benefit ratios are another concern. “Sometimes you get a good story, but it’s not going to sell any more magazines or move things politically,” David says. He and Johnson tell me about a lead they were working on regarding a state legislator on the East Coast with gubernatorial aspirations. The male politician, who was married, had gotten involved with a woman he’d met through a “BDSM” Web site. (That would be bondage, domination, and sadomasochism.) It was a juicy story—the legislator “liked these fetishy sex games,” Johnson explains—and the source, the mistress, had also supplied the magazine with corroborating e-mails; the legislator had been careless. “But the source wanted too much money,” Johnson says, “and there was a lot of haggling back and forth. And since it was a state-level politician, we weren’t going to pay as much as we normally would.” Eventually Hustler and the woman came to terms, but when she refused to go on the record, the magazine moved on.
    The D.C. Madam’s phone bills proved to be something of a minefield. They were brought to the magazine by Dan Moldea, a Washington-based investigative journalist who had first worked for Flynt during the Clinton impeachment and helped to expose Livingston. (His most recent book investigated the suicide of Vincent Foster, debunking right-wing conspiracy theories, but Moldea is probably most famous for suing The New York Times after a reviewer dismissed a book he had written about the N.F.L. and organized crime as “sloppy journalism”; he lost the suit.) It was Moldea who linked Vitter to Deborah Jean Palfrey’s escort service. After that promising start—there’s gold in them thar hills!—Hustler hired a couple of office temps to start plugging the numbers into reverse search engines and cross-referencing them with various databases. With the bills spanning 13 years, from 1993 to 2006, there were upwards of 50,000 numbers to check (though many were repeats)—a four-month task in the end. As records of Palfrey’s outgoing phone service, they presumably represented her return calls to potential clients. But many of the numbers belonged to hotels—not surprising, but an investigative dead end. Others were innocuous: calls to the dry cleaners and such.
    Of the numbers that could be linked to presumptive clients, most belonged to relatively low-level figures: congressional aides, lobbyists, bureaucrats, local politicians, state legislators and judges in town for conferences, the occasional diplomat. According to Cheryl Smith, the temp who ran most of the numbers—“not my favorite assignment,” she says; Hustler’s atmosphere “kind of wears down on you”—only three post-Vitter numbers could be reliably linked with instantly recognizable names. One of those was the ABC newsman Sam Donaldson. As Hustler eventually learned to its disappointment, Donaldson’s cousin, whose new cell-phone number was similar to Palfrey’s, had apparently left him a message and accidentally gave Palfrey’s number.
    The magazine hit another dead end with Larry Craig. Moldea (who is at pains to make the distinction that when he works for Flynt he is working for Larry Flynt Publications and not Hustler magazine) says Flynt called him last February to ask him to look into rumors that Craig and another senator were gay. “It was a hunch,” Moldea says. “What he proposed was to put a tail on these guys, and that’s a complicated operation, putting a tail on a United States senator.” Moldea hired a surveillance expert he had used during the 1998 investigations—“he nailed someone for us”—with the initial expectation that the operative would put Craig under round-the-clock watch. Fortunately for the magazine’s budget, the operative found a source who alleged he could offer advance warning if Craig was going to have some kind of assignation, eliminating the need for long, high-billing nights sitting in a van and drinking cold cups of bad coffee. By the end of May, however, nothing untoward had been observed. (Despite the assumptions of late-night comics and pretty much all other Americans, Craig has insisted on numerous public occasions that he is a practicing heterosexual.) In June, when Flynt ran his ad in The Washington Post, Moldea’s operative said it was time to throw in the towel. “Are these guys going to go on with their ‘routines’ now that they know everyone’s gunning for them?” the operative asked rhetorically. “No, they’re going to head for the hills.” Or maybe Minneapolis.
    When Trent Lott announced his resignation from the Senate in late November, Hustler got two dozen calls from reporters and bloggers assuming, wrongly, that Flynt had a hand in it. As someone who has worked closely with him for more than a decade says, “Larry is now the go-to guy for this sort of thing.”
    Certainly Flynt has a lot of sleaze at his fingertips. He tells a great story about Richard Nixon’s brother Donald sneaking the then president out of the White House in the backseat of a beat-up old Chevy to visit hookers—a story he claims was told to him by someone who had been an adviser to the Nixon White House. “And he couldn’t get it up,” Flynt says. “And that was the same time he was telling Kissinger to bomb Hanoi. I felt there was a little irony in there: He can’t get it up for sex but he can get it up for war.” Flynt also offers to show me what he says are topless pictures of Jessica Lynch, the soldier who was rescued in the early days of the Iraq invasion and turned into a propaganda figure by the Pentagon; Flynt says fellow soldiers sold the photos to him, and angered by the administration’s exploitation of the war, he planned to publish them until a close associate threatened to quit in disgust, drawing the rare line.
    I ask about the picture on his desk of him with Bill Clinton. Back in 1998, many people claimed that Flynt’s revelations about Bob Livingston marked a turning point in the impeachment case, along with Hustler’s subsequent excavation of skeletons (infidelity; having paid for an abortion) in the closet of Representative Bob Barr, one of the House managers in the impeachment trial. Not that anyone expected Clinton to be convicted and forced from office, but for many people Flynt’s tattle-taling put the lie to the moral case against the president, turning what was already a circus into pure farce. As Frank Rich wrote at the time—approvingly, for the most part—“Larry Flynt is a bull in the china shop of false pieties, empty pretensions, and sexual sermonizing that have brought us to this low moment in American history.”
    Flynt explains that the photo with Clinton was taken in 2006 at a Las Vegas fund-raiser for Jimmy CarterÂ’s son Jack, who ran unsuccessfully that year for a U.S. Senate seat in Nevada. It was the first time the pornographer and the ex-president met. “When Clinton came in, the first thing he did was come over and grab my hand and say, ‘YouÂ’re my hero.Â’ I said, ‘Well, you made my day.Â’ ” According to Flynt, the former president then told him he had erred in not publishing the details of LivingstonÂ’s extramarital sex life. “Clinton was a little irritated about that. He said if IÂ’d known the full story I would have printed it.” Did he and Clinton compare notes on Livingston? “No, because he knew what I knew. We had the same thing. But he realized how horrible it was, and he thought it should have been published.” (Later, I ask ClintonÂ’s office about the encounter, The response: “President Clinton has a different recollection of the conversation. It had more to do with the search for the truth and wasnÂ’t at all about settling scores. He doesnÂ’t believe in that.”)
    I toss a few dutiful questions at Flynt: Does he worry heÂ’s had a negative effect on politics?
    “No,” he says flatly.
    Would he ever use his resources to investigate less colorful kinds of misbehavior—bribe taking, say?
    That one prompts a smile. “I stick to what I do best. The sex business—I know it pretty good. Not saying if I could find someone who was corrupt I wouldn’t do whatever I could to reveal the story. But what we’re doing now is fun, especially the Republicans. When you’re born in a conservative family, raised conservative—conservatives come into life with so much baggage it’s unbelievable. It’s my theory that aberrant sexual behavior is caused by sexual repression, not sexual permissiveness. People have a lot of guilty feelings, a lot of insecurity about their sexual desires and appetites. It’s a never-ending story. I think about this minister that was seeing a gay guy”—Ted Haggard—“and Larry Craig. It’s baggage those people have carried all their lives. And they’ve deceived everyone. They’ve deceived their family. They’ve deceived their country. I don’t believe that these people should be politicians. Not because you’re gay or have some other peccadillo. But because, if you take a public position contrary to the way you live your life, you’re fair game. That means you’re a hypocrite. And that’s what we’re all about. What we’re exposing is hypocrisy.”
    As the episode with Bonnie Livingston indicates, Flynt has a conscience to go with his moral compass. Moldea told me that Flynt once backed off on an expos頡fter it got back to him that the politician in question was on the verge of suicide. I ask him if he ever second-guesses what he does, if it ever makes him feel “bad.”
    “Well, I look at it like this,” he says. “The lawmakers in this country don’t deserve a break, because they have so abused their authority by trampling on our rights and constitutional liberties. It’s just unspeakable the things they’ve allowed to happen, either through their inaction or taking an action on the wrong bill. I look at it like, people go to Washington with the best intentions, and they get their pockets stuffed with money from lobbyists and then their constituents can no longer get anything from them. I’m so angry with the political system that anything I can do to cause them misery I will.”
    Postscript: Figuring I owed something to the memory of a president who birthed the E.P.A. (when not invading Cambodia or blaming his problems on the Jews), I ran Flynt’s Nixon story by a couple of experts. “It sounds totally incredible,” said Carl Bernstein, co-author of All the President’s Men and The Final Days. Robert Dallek, the historian and author of Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power, agreed: “The impression I had was that Nixon pretty much kept it in his pants, that he was a straight arrow, though I suppose where politicians are concerned anything is possible.”
    Bruce Handy is a Vanity Fair deputy editor.
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    Strange Bedfellows
    Publisher Larry Flynt and retired escort Wendy Ellis at a September 2007 news conference where Ellis claimed she had had a paid sexual relationship with Louisiana Republican senator David Vitter in 1999, when he was a state legislator. By Jim Ruymen/UPI/Landov.
    The MuckrakerÂ’s Progress
    For decades, Hustler publisher Larry Flynt has been working to catch “family values” politicians in bed with the wrong people, offering up to a million dollars for each hypocrite exposed. He’s eyeing some juicy targets this election cycle.
    by Bruce Handy WEB EXCLUSIVE December 20, 2007 In the spring of 2001, as he was putting an end to his second marriage, Rudolph Giuliani, then mayor of New York City, moved out of the mayorÂ’s mansion and for the next few months bunked at the home of Howard Koeppel, a friend and political supporter. Also sharing the apartment was Mark Hsiao, KoeppelÂ’s longtime boyfriend.
    Six years later, with Giuliani now one of the leading Republican candidates for president, his interregnum with the Koeppel-Hsiaos has drawn the interest not only of suspicious conservatives but also of Larry Flynt, who, not a conservative, has made a good living off of traditional male needs as the founder and publisher of Hustler magazine (not to mention Barely Legal, Backdoor Babes, and the 21 other publications he owns, along with a Hustler video company, a chain of Hustler strip clubs and sex-toy stores, and a small Hustler Casino in Gardena, California). Flynt has granted me an audience—I’m not bragging; it’s not hard to get Flynt to talk—in his office on the 10th floor of the Flynt Publications building, in Beverly Hills. “Let me ask you something,” he says in a voice that might best be described as a slurred croak. “As mayor of New York, would you live in an apartment with three gay guys?” Flynt’s facts aren’t entirely in order, but his train of thought won’t be derailed. “I’m not gay,” he continues. “I don’t hate gays. But I don’t want to live in an apartment full of them. They’ll bitch and cry and all. That doesn’t bother Giuliani. It doesn’t bother Giuliani to put a dress on to do Saturday Night Live. I don’t trust him. I don’t think he’s electable.”
    Um, I ask, what exactly is he trying to suggest? That Giuliani, famous for his three marriages—to women—and for his taxpayer-subsidized philandering, is in fact one of the political world’s most successfully closeted homosexuals? “I don’t know whether he’s gay or not,” Flynt replies with a hint of exasperation, “but I’m saying, if you got four friends, all gay, living in the same apartment, how are you going to know which one’s gay? I’m surprised no one’s even asking that question. Why do you break up with your wife and move in with gay guys?”
    As you are no doubt well aware, America is enduring yet another election cycle, and Flynt, as he has done sporadically over the last three decades, is working hard to insert himself into the middle of it. What that mostly entails—aside from making calculatedly outrageous statements (see above) to Larry King, Geraldo Rivera, and other talk-show hosts—is offering cash bounties to women and men who are willing to dish verifiable dirt on the sort of politician who campaigns on family-values platforms by day and strays from his or her spouse by night. (Or evening, afternoon, or morning.) The immediate goal is a Flynt press conference where said dirt is revealed, followed by more talk-show appearances, and, eventually, an expos頩n Hustler between photos of pudenda. The larger goal, Flynt contends, is exposing hypocrisy. For this reason, he insists, he goes after only politicians whose voting records are at odds with their private conduct. “Hypocrisy is the greatest threat to democracy,” he is fond of saying, though it should be noted that democracy probably couldn’t exist without hypocrisy, unless people are going to be out of the loop. Flynt takes the subject so seriously that he says he is working on a book—his third—to be titled Politics, Porn & Power: An Intimate Look at Sexual Hypocrisy and Its Impact on American Politics.
    At this point in his career, Flynt is arguably the greatest student of the American underbelly since J. Edgar Hoover. Dirt digging and checkbook journalism are passions he first indulged during the mid-70s heyday of naughty congressmen Wilbur Mills and Wayne Hays, whose careers ended when they were found, respectively, in the company of an Argentinean stripper and a blonde secretary from his office who famously couldn’t type. In 1976, Flynt was inspired by those scandals to take out an ad in The Washington Post offering an up-to-$1-million reward to anyone who could provide “documentary evidence of illicit sexual relations with a Congressman, Senator or other prominent officeholder.” Nothing much turned up, at least that became public. (Flynt does have a McCarthy-like habit—or maybe it’s Barnumesque—of insisting he has ripe, drippingly scandalous goods he can’t quite show yet.) A few years later, Flynt published pictures of Representative Larry McDonald, a Georgia Republican, in bed with a mistress; alas, this scoop was undercut in 1983 when McDonald was killed as a passenger on Korean Air Lines Flight 007, which was shot down by the U.S.S.R. when it strayed into Russian airspace.
    Larry Flynt in his Los Angeles office. By Dan Tuffs/Getty Images.
    Flynt finally hit a jackpot in 1998 during Bill ClintonÂ’s impeachment hearings, when a second million-dollar offer in the Post turned up evidence that Bob Livingston, a Republican congressman from Louisiana who had just been elected Speaker of the House, had had a string of extramarital affairs. Alerted that Flynt was about to go public, Livingston tried to get in front of the story by admitting that he had strayed, and then resigning. This remains FlyntÂ’s biggest scalp to date, though he denied himself the pleasure of publishing the particulars of LivingstonÂ’s extracurriculars after LivingstonÂ’s wife, Bonnie, called him up and begged him not to, pleading that her family had been harmed enough.
    Flynt has always had a beef with moralists—that goes with his professional territory—but the rise of so-called family-values politics, epitomized by the Republican Party’s promotion of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, particularly incensed him. To some eyes, it also legitimized him. “Everyone wanted Clinton’s head on a platter,” he tells me. “They all wanted him, even some of the loyal Democrats. And I thought, Here’s a guy who hasn’t done anything anyone else hasn’t done, including the lying about it, because people lie about sex more than anything else. They lie to get it, they lie about it.”
    Flynt offers these comments from the far end of a vast football field of an office that might be euphemistically described as “over-decorated,” what with its floral carpets and chintz, its Tiffany lamps (some real, some not), its huge arrangements of fake flowers, its brocade drapes, its green walls hung with gilt-framed reproductions of old-master paintings (some clumsy, some less so). If Belle Watling, Rhett Butler’s favorite madam, had been asked to redesign the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this is what she might have come up with. The one surface devoted to masculine clutter is Flynt’s big wooden desk. It boasts photos of the publisher with Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and Jesse Jackson along with novelty paperweights, documents, dirty magazines, and a DVD of Not the Bradys XXX, a pornographic parody of The Brady Bunch produced by Hustler Video. Flynt, seated low and hunched in his famous gold wheelchair (he was paralyzed by a 1978 shooting), is dwarfed by his surroundings. His hair is a slightly more natural shade of Donald Trump orange, his mouth is often slack, and his eyes can have a deer-in-the-headlights look, but his conversation is sharp, and mischievous energy plays across his face, along with a puckish grin, whenever he’s about to get off a good line, which is often. Think of Dennis the Menace animating Jabba the Hutt—which is a mean comparison, I know, but pulling one’s punches isn’t part of the Flynt ethos.
    In muckraking terms, 2007 was a very good year for Flynt. In July, his investigators broke the first actual news amid the media frenzy surrounding the escort service run by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called D.C. Madam, who is being prosecuted in federal court on racketeering and money-laundering charges. Having gained access to Palfrey’s phone bills, Flynt’s investigators—competing against reporters from ABC News and other outlets that also had the records—discovered a series of calls from Palfrey to Senator David Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana who had made abstinence-only sex education a signature issue and is prone to calling heterosexual marriage “the most important social institution in human history.” Like Livingston (whose House seat Vitter had won in a special election in 1999 after the Speaker-elect had resigned), Vitter tried to pre-empt the news, issuing a statement before the story broke in which he confessed, vaguely, to “a very serious sin.” At a press conference a few days later, he said he’d been forgiven by both his God and his teary wife, the second of whom was standing beside him, but also denied “those New Orleans stories”—long-standing rumors, some of which had already surfaced in the Louisiana press, linking him to prostitutes in his home state.
    That set Flynt up for a second score when, in September, the publisher held a joint press conference in his office with Wendy Ellis, a retired New Orleans prostitute who claimed to have had extensive professional dealings with Vitter; she backed up her story, which her lawyer had approached Hustler with, by passing a polygraph examination that Flynt paid for. “It was just a pure sexual relationship, you know,” Ellis told the gathered reporters about her alleged client. “He would come in, do his business—he was a very clean man, I do have to give him that much—two to three times a week, for four months.” Flynt, who had paid Ellis an undisclosed sum for her story, tried to put matters into perspective at the press conference: “It’s not a question here of muckraking and exposing the perverts. It’s more than that. It’s trying to maintain honesty in government.” In furtherance of this goal, the January issue of Hustler features nude photos of Ellis, taken on a couch in Flynt’s office. She, for one, has nothing to hide. (Except her price for coming forward. “That’s a personal matter between me and Hustler,” she told me, though she acknowledged that her posing for the magazine was from Hustler’s point of view non-negotiable.)
    The advertisement that appeared in The Washington Post this past June.
    ‘We’re getting about all the heads we can put over the mantel now,” Flynt tells me. In June of last year, he placed yet another ad in The Washington Post, again offering up to $1 million for evidence of “illicit sexual or intimate relations” with politicians and other officials; he claims the proposition has borne much fruit. Over the summer, when he began talking to me for this article, he dropped three A-list names—a Republican presidential candidate, a well-known Republican senator, and another prominent conservative official—whose peccadilloes he claimed Hustler was on the verge of exposing, hinting at hooker parties and no-tell-motel liaisons. When we sit down in the fall, these names are off the table, though investigations are said to be ongoing. The ripest target now, Flynt claims, is a closeted gay Republican senator who is not Larry Craig, though last spring Flynt’s investigators were also pursuing rumors about Craig, going as far as putting a surveillance team on him, before his arrest in June for allegedly soliciting sex in a men’s room at the Minneapolis airport.
    “The other shoe’s going to drop any day,” Flynt says, speaking of the other senator. “It’ll surprise a lot of people that he’s gay. And I’ll bet you he resigns the same day and rides off into the sunset. He won’t be as stupid as Craig,” who after an initial vow to leave office changed his mind and instead fought to reverse his guilty plea to disorderly conduct.
    But Flynt’s investigation of this second senator is at a tricky pass. “His boyfriend is in a quandary about selling him out. It’s really somewhat of a pathetic situation. But we also have other boyfriends that he’s been involved with.” These earlier boyfriends are apparently willing to go on the record, and have also supplied Flynt’s investigators with corroborating evidence. “We got some motel records. We got some photographs. They don’t involve sex, but sort of romantic walks on the beach and that sort of thing.”
    While multiple sources are generally deemed a good thing by journalists, for Flynt they can be trouble. “The big thing right now is weÂ’re negotiating money, and itÂ’s always difficult when you have more than one source involved. The guy says, ‘I want a million dollars.Â’ And we say, ‘Well, wait a minute. YouÂ’re the fourth source in the story, so different sources have to split the money.Â’ ”
    It would take a master economist to chart the complex interplay of greed, shame, and revenge involved in settling on a price for selling out a lover or, as the case may be, a client. Or maybe—isn’t this often so where powerful men are concerned?—something in between. Not that calculations aren’t made on Flynt’s side as well. “Look,” he says, “if we can take down a well-known U.S. senator, we’ll pay the money—we’ll pay the million dollars. But when you get down to congressmen, they’re a dime a dozen. If they’re from some remote area of the country, they’re not worth very much—maybe 25, 50 grand. But presidents and senators are really big paydays.” That said, he declines to lay out a detailed price list, though he estimates that over the years he has spent in total upwards of $5 million on such matters, between bounties and investigative costs.
    Here’s a boring question: Is any of this ethical? Checkbook journalism—paying for sources—is frowned on by most journalists and forbidden at most mainstream publications and news outlets. The fear is that, for money, a source will tell you whatever you want to hear, true or not—like waterboarding but with a carrot instead of a stick. Another issue that journalists don’t typically broach is that paying sources opens up a can of worms: If you pay one, do you have to pay all of them? And at a time of shrinking news budgets?! On the other hand, for someone with a book or movie to promote, the publicity generated by an interview, especially a juicy one, could be considered payment in kind. And no one seems to feel that paying former public officials and other newsmakers to write book-length memoirs undercuts their veracity or is in any way unethical. Perhaps what’s good for Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins should be good for The New York Times and even Hustler? I don’t believe that, but you can’t dismiss the question out of hand.
    As for anyoneÂ’s qualms about rummaging around in politiciansÂ’ private lives, that train seems to have left the station a decade ago, if not longer. You could even argue that sexual conduct is a relatively weighty issue in an era when presidential elections can be decided by the loudness of a candidateÂ’s sighs during a debate. For his part, Flynt has long since made his peace with being vilified (if it was even an issue for him to begin with; he has, after all, admitted to having had sex with a chicken in his youth). He recounts a favorite anecdote, about an interview Livingston gave The New York Times shortly after the Speaker-elect resigned. “They asked him what he thought about me, and he said he thought I was a bottom-feeder. So they called me for a comment and I said, ‘Yeah, thatÂ’s right, but look what I found when I got down there.Â’ ”
    Speaking of descent, HustlerÂ’s editorial offices are located seven floors below FlyntÂ’s executive floor. The elevator opens onto an unmarked lobby whose only feature is a large table with a marble top upon which sits a Jacuzzi-size urn full of multicolored fake flowers. Beyond a door, the actual magazine offices are decorated with stained beige carpeting, filing cabinets with pornography piled on top, and battered, generic-issue office furniture. Though the magazine has been edited here for 12 years, the offices have the thrown-together, transient look of a TV production office or the headquarters of a political campaign.
    A word about the magazine’s content. There is a popular conception among those who don’t read it—abetted by the 1996 Miloš Forman film, The People vs. Larry Flynt, which dramatized the publisher’s free-speech battles but downplayed how precisely he was exercising his rights—that Hustler is a slightly raunchier, blue-collar version of Playboy. This isn’t quite true. The magazine, which started publishing nationally in 1974, is much, much raunchier. In an airbrushed, Vaseline-lensed era, it established itself with brightly lit, sharply focused, speculum-like views of the female body. There has been evolution. Today’s Hustler pictorials feature not just genitalia but also penetration, ejaculation, sex toys, sodomy, and pretty much everything else that one or two or more people can do without endangering their health, risking arrest, or involving other species. (Though same-sex impulses are rationed strictly to the ladies.) None of this is unique on contemporary newsstands. What continues to distinguish the magazine from its competitors (in what the magazine industry refers to without embarrassment as the “men’s sophisticates” category) is (a) its calculatingly offensive, aggressively un-P.C., sometimes ugly, sometimes misogynistic sense of humor, a defining part of its editorial DNA, and (b) an increasingly liberal, or at least anti-Bush, political stance, an outgrowth of the magazine’s historic support of nose-thumbing politics. If Al Gore had an id, is this what it would look like? Though Hustler now publishes columns by old lefties such as Nat Hentoff and Robert Scheer, its singular voice, tapping into cultural resentments that more typically underscore conservative politics, is best captured in a recent cartoon that features President Bush ejaculating on Condoleezza Rice’s backside—semen features in a lot of Hustler humor—while comparing himself to Strom Thurmond and using a racial epithet. (Flynt says he usually votes Democratic, except when he’s casting protest votes for Libertarians, which is another way of cross-sectioning the magazine’s point of view.)
    Bruce David, Hustler’s editorial director, has been working for Larry Flynt on and off since the magazine’s earliest days, not long after its birth as a newsletter for patrons of Flynt’s original, Ohio-based strip-club chain. Sour and rumpled, David looks and sounds like a more dyspeptic version of the actor Dan Hedaya. He is talking to me in his somewhat kempt office, which is probably a hundredth the size of Flynt’s and is notable mainly for the sliding piles of Hustlers on his desk. Joining us is Mark Johnson, the magazine’s assistant managing editor and research director, who has been with Hustler for three years. He cut his teeth working as an editor and reporter for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition. He speaks straightforwardly, says he also writes plays, seems pleasant, and gives off an air of not really belonging here. (Though later, flipping through the magazine, I note he also contributes DVD reviews. Hustle and Blow #3 was “underlit,” he maintains.)
    David and Johnson run the magazine’s investigations of politicians—manning the shovels, as it were. So far, the two men say, they’ve received roughly 350 responses to the recent Washington Post ad. Screening sounds easy. “The majority of the calls are from nut jobs,” Johnson explains. Other callers’ stories have the ring of truth but are “essentially unverifiable.”
    Still, David says, “There’s a lot of information out there.”
    The tips concern members mostly of Congress; a few wriggling administration figures and presidential candidates get caught in the nets as well. All told, Hustler’s investigative team has followed up on approximately 100 leads. While some have come from escorts and rent boys, most of the tipsters are what Johnson calls “kind of straight-arrow people who’ve heard something. And they’re not all anti-Republican, either. We get a lot of calls from people who say they’re conservatives or they’re Republicans, and they’re just outraged by the information they have, and they think it should come out.” Much to their surprise, though, they haven’t received tips in the form of “opposition research” from rival political campaigns. “Why aren’t political enemies calling us?” Johnson wonders. “I guess the Democrats are just too virtuous, or something.”
    Digging dirt, it turns out, isn’t easy, even with cash burning a hole in your wallet. “I got a couple of good stories about someone—you know, places, times, details about the sexual act,” Johnson says. “And it sounded good to me—it sounded plausible. I mean, you can tell if somebody has just kind of made something up or if they’re suffering from delusions. But in this case it happened like 10 years ago, in a hotel. So there weren’t many witnesses—you know, maybe one witness. So what are you going to do? It’s just too easy to deny. And then if we print it we end up looking like we’re just, you know, blogging nonsense. I mean, we consider ourselves a print magazine.” Indeed, Hustler swears it holds itself to a J-school-worthy standard of multiple witnesses or other forms of corroboration before going public with a story. (Says Flynt, “There’s nobody more cautious than we are, because the mainstream media hold me to a whole different standard. And if I’m wrong once, they’ll step on me like a bug.”)
    Unfortunately, sneaking around on oneÂ’s spouse, by its very nature, makes this kind of documentation hard to come by. Even solid leads evaporate. “The sources get a little bit frightened,” Johnson says. “I donÂ’t know if they get paid off, or somebody knows they contacted us. But weÂ’ve gotten a couple of calls, at least, where there have been conversations back and forth—and these are involving presidential candidates—and then IÂ’ll kind of lose contact, or the phone number wonÂ’t work, or theyÂ’ll call back a couple months later and say, ‘Yeah, sorry, I changed my mind.Â’ ”
    Cost-benefit ratios are another concern. “Sometimes you get a good story, but it’s not going to sell any more magazines or move things politically,” David says. He and Johnson tell me about a lead they were working on regarding a state legislator on the East Coast with gubernatorial aspirations. The male politician, who was married, had gotten involved with a woman he’d met through a “BDSM” Web site. (That would be bondage, domination, and sadomasochism.) It was a juicy story—the legislator “liked these fetishy sex games,” Johnson explains—and the source, the mistress, had also supplied the magazine with corroborating e-mails; the legislator had been careless. “But the source wanted too much money,” Johnson says, “and there was a lot of haggling back and forth. And since it was a state-level politician, we weren’t going to pay as much as we normally would.” Eventually Hustler and the woman came to terms, but when she refused to go on the record, the magazine moved on.
    The D.C. Madam’s phone bills proved to be something of a minefield. They were brought to the magazine by Dan Moldea, a Washington-based investigative journalist who had first worked for Flynt during the Clinton impeachment and helped to expose Livingston. (His most recent book investigated the suicide of Vincent Foster, debunking right-wing conspiracy theories, but Moldea is probably most famous for suing The New York Times after a reviewer dismissed a book he had written about the N.F.L. and organized crime as “sloppy journalism”; he lost the suit.) It was Moldea who linked Vitter to Deborah Jean Palfrey’s escort service. After that promising start—there’s gold in them thar hills!—Hustler hired a couple of office temps to start plugging the numbers into reverse search engines and cross-referencing them with various databases. With the bills spanning 13 years, from 1993 to 2006, there were upwards of 50,000 numbers to check (though many were repeats)—a four-month task in the end. As records of Palfrey’s outgoing phone service, they presumably repre

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  14. Sandy says:

    Wow, thanks for this, Steve.

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  15. Don Bacon says:

    If it’s Clinton v. any Repub (except Paul) there wouldn’t be much of a “genuine battle over the future of this country’s national security direction.” Obama is an inexperienced go-along, with no clear vision except a belief in collegiality which is admirable but not sufficient for what ails us. Overall there is too much vested interest in the America First (and Israel First) policy, which is now an anachronism.
    The American people are increasingly ‘way ahead of these clowns. As the coming recession sweeps the land and US foreign policy becomes more and more of an embarrassment the real action will be in the third party(ies) running in 2008. The two Bigs are dinosaurs.

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  16. MagicGoofball says:

    I just ordered “World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism” by Podhoretz.
    I understand that it can be a good window into what Giuliani’s foreign policy might look like.

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