Kevin Kreneck mistresses he had named, Gennifer Flowers. If she was after money, she was successful, ultimately pulling over $500,000 from girlie magazines and supermarket tabloids. Alas, if the poor girl ever possessed any credibility, she came out of this with none. In her book, Passion and Betrayal, she claimed numerous trysts with Clinton between 1978 and 1980 at Little Rock’s Excelsior Hotel which wasn’t built until 1983. If Sheffield Nelson, who by then was chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party, had orchestrated the Flowers story, he did a bum job. Almost every claim in her rsum was easily revealed as false: she wasn’t a graduate of a fashionable Dallas prep school, and had never attended one; she didn’t have a University of Arkansas nursing degree; she had never been, as she claimed, Miss Teenage America. Her “twin sister Genevieve” also turned out to be imaginary. The Flowers/Nichols episode was farcical, yes, but as Conason and Lyons note, it was also ominous in showing how, with the help of the national press, “a pair of rank amateurs with almost no credibility among journalists in their hometown were able to make national headlines, turn themselves into minor celebrities, and earn a substantial amount of cash in the bargain.” It set a considerable political precedent. FRIENDS OF BILL Spreading sex stories must have been satisfying to Sheffield Nelson, but his role in triggering the Whitewater Scandal was much more im portant not in itself, but because it ultimately led to the appointment of Kenneth Starr as independent counsel. Starr, long after Whitewater was dead, kept hanging around and snooping hither and yon, until, voi/ci! he stumbled upon Monica Lewinsky, down on her knees. Though the press kept Whitewater in headlines for years, it didn’t amount to a hill of beans, and didn’t qualify as a scandal at all. Even if there had been some financial shenanigans connected with Whitewater, the authors sensibly ask, “How much scandal could there be in a gravel-road real estate development in which the Clintons had ultimately lost money?” Anyone who, like Clinton, is successful in politics all his life, inevitably winds up with a jillion “friends.” Not all turn out to be so friendly. For Clinton, one of that caliber was Jim McDougal, with whom he borrowed money to buy a piece of land they hoped to sell at enough profit for each of them to walk away with about $45,000. That was nearly a quarter-century ago, in 1978. When they started out as partners, McDougal was teaching political science at little Ouachita Baptist University. But he was a smooth talker, very likable, a natural con man, and he managed to put together enough money to buy a small bank and start up a savings and loan. There were occasions when McDougal did not act rationally \(he shifting money around in fishy ways, and his bookkeeping was atrocious. Accounts became hopelessly muddled. Money disappeared. By the time the Clintons discovered what was happening, their investments had been wiped out and the Whitewater venture was kaput. Ultimately, McDougal’s S&L also went belly up, and taxpayers had to pay for his folly. Federal agents spent years going through his messed up books, trying to figure out what the hell had happened. Meanwhile, McDougal was broke, sick, living off charity, and desperate. He asked Clinton for help. Clinton wanted nothing else to do with him. That made McDougal furious. Enter Sheffield Nelson again, and the plot thickens. In 1992, he learned of McDougal’s fury and, according to McDougal, “gleefully” got in touch with Jeff Gerth, one of The New York Times’ preeminent investigative reporters. Down came Gerth, and McDougal plied him “with documents and canceled checks allegedly showing.the Clintons had taken improper tax deductions” and in other ways had acted unethically. In the past, Gerth had shown considerable savvy in handling investigations involving finances. This time, with the bungling assistance of his editors, he fell on his face. The mistakes, Conason and Lyons demonstrate, began with the headline and continue through the details. For one thing, Gerth wrote that Governor Clinton had dumped See “Arkansas Project,” page 16 JULY 21, 2000 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7
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