THURSDAY, JULY 28, 2022
When did The Crazy appear?: American life has been wracked by assertion of The Crazy, and belief in The Crazy, over the past few years.
That said, it didn't start with Pizzagate! This phenomenon was already well underway when Gary Aldrich's book hit the best-seller lists in 1996.
Gary Aldrich wasn't a Secret Service agent. The leading authority on his life and times describes him as shown here:
Gary Aldrich was a special agent with the FBI for 26 years investigating white-collar crime. He spent the latter part of his career working in the White House as a background investigator providing clearances to White House staff during the George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations.
Aldrich retired from the Bureau in 1994. He wrote the 1996 book Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House (published by Regnery Publishing), which was highly critical of the Clinton administration.
Aldrich wasn't a Secret Service agent. But it was the same rough idea.
In 1996, Aldrich hit it big with a major New York Times best-seller. In October 2016, when people were still assuming that Hillary Clinton was going to win the White House, Amanda Marcotte recalled one part of the lunacy in this report for Salon:
MARCOTTE (10/24/16): Decorating the Blue Room Christmas tree with penises and coke spoons might seem like an ill-advised move even for someone who is having crazy pagan sex orgies nightly in the Lincoln Bedroom. But many people on the outer fringes of the conservative movement apparently believe Hillary Clinton's freakiness was so overwhelming she simply couldn't help but desecrate a Christmas tree for the sheer hell of it.
While most urban legends about the Clintons start somewhat small and then grow in the telling, this one appears to have sprung fully formed from the deranged imagination of Gary Aldrich, a former FBI agent who worked on the security team for the Bush and Clinton White Houses. Aldrich had an unending contempt for the Clintons, who he clearly viewed as a couple of dirty hippies with their Fleetwood Mac records and daughter named after a Joni Mitchell song. After he left, he decided to cash in on that hatred with a 1996 book entitled "Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House."
Unlike some Clinton haters of the era, Aldrich seems to have realized that accusations don't need to be plausible in order for them to be eagerly snatched up and believed by huge swaths of the conservative book-buying public. So he went hog-wild in his book, claiming that Hillary Clinton's Christmas decorating team decided to deck the tree with drug paraphernalia, condoms and cock rings.
Aldrich goes on at length about what is clearly an event that happened only in his head, but I've clipped some highlights from the book for your perusal.
You can click the link to Marcotte's report if you want to revisit this classic bit of lunacy from the "early onset" era.
In truth, this lunacy was already fairly well established by the time Aldrich's book appeared. The very reverend Jerry Falwell was already raking in bucks by selling his lurid film, The Clinton Chronicles—a film which chronicled the many murders committed by Clinton and Clinton or by members of their far-flung criminal gang.
The Internet barely existed yet, but partisan talk radio did. So did the lunatic supermarket tabloids which drove other conspiracy tales about Clinton and Clinton. Rush Limbaugh was already well established in syndication nationwide.
By the summer of 1999, Gennifer Flowers was running a subscription web site devoted to the Clintons' many murders. There were many fewer "cable news" programs at that point, as compared to the present day, but Hardball was one of them.
In August 1999, Chris Matthews gave Flowers a full half hour on the frequently disordered program. During that time, he gushed and fawned about what a super-babe Flowers was, especially as compared to the much less attractive Hillary Clinton.
As for Flowers, her performance on Hardball was so absurd that she was instantly given a full hour on Hannity & Colmes, a Fox News program. During that time, she informed the world about what a giant lesbian Mrs. Clinton was.
No, Virginia, Hillary Clinton didn't decorate the White House Christmas tree with "drug paraphernalia, condoms and cock rings," as Aldrich claimed in his best-selling book. She didn't even decorate the tree with "penises and coke spoons."
That said, as with Pizzagate and the Clinton Chronicles, so too here. Many people were already so tribalized, and had surrendered so much discernment, that Aldrich's claims apparently didn't strike them as transparently crazy, inane or nuts.
So too with Flowers and her unsupported, apparently unsupportable claim that she had enjoyed a torrid, twelve-year love affair with the man she called "my Bill." She was never able to support the sweeping claim from which she had earned giant sums. But by the time of the Clinton impeachment, mainstream pundits were absurdly claiming that they now knew that she had been telling the truth.
In the New York Times, Frank Rich's shaping of this standard though unsupportable script was especially comic.
The Crazy was already seeping through the nation's political culture. From that day to this, the mainstream press has betrayed little interest in exploring the mental mechanisms which lead some people to make such crazy claims, and lead many more people to believe them.
In other ways, it was the mainstream press itself which was inventing and selling The Crazy by the time of Campaign 2000. We recalled one such gong-show report from the front page of the New York Times as we watched two of the networks' "Sunday shows" just this past weekend.
More on that phenomenon to follow.
Gary Aldrich wasn't in the Secret Service. Nothing he said or did should, in any way, be attributed to that agency, or to anyone in it.
But, correctly or otherwise, certain embarrassing claims were widely attributed to Secret Service agents during the early Clinton years. We wondered what planet Claire McCaskill was reporting from when she gushed, last Thursday night, about the way the Secret Service has never been associated with partisan behavior, even as she took the lead in pimping new unfounded claims about the agency.
The Crazy has been active in our political discourse for at least three decades now. It has come from the right-wing machine and from the mainstream press. More on this topic tomorrow.
Number one nationwide: In the Summer of 96, Aldrich's crazy book was a major best-seller.
According to this weekly compilation, it stood at number one on the New York Times best-seller list on four separate weeks that summer. In mid-September, it was finally knocked from the top spot for good by The Dilbert Principle.