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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Clinton wasn't that bad

So says a key conservative in next Sunday's terrific Times magazine profile:

Yet if Clinton has a powerful memory for slights, he also has a remarkable capacity for reconciliation. He is likelier to find peace with people who hate him the most than with friends who betray him. He focuses his considerable charms on seducing the person in the room he finds most resistant. Among those he has been friendly with lately is Christopher Ruddy, a conservative journalist who was a chief proponent of cover-up theories involving the Clintons during the 1990s. In his book, “The Strange Death of Vincent Foster,” Ruddy rejected official findings that Foster, a deputy White House counsel, killed himself in a Virginia park and suggested the possibility of “a cover-up conducted by people who have, with the help of the press, placed themselves above the law.” Ruddy also advanced the notion that Ron Brown, the Clinton commerce secretary who died in an airplane crash in Croatia in 1996, was actually shot in the head.

Ruddy today is the founder and chief executive of Newsmax, a conservative news-magazine. He told me he came around on Clinton after Ed Koch, the former New York mayor, introduced them. That led to lunches and more contacts, and now Ruddy says he was wrong about Clinton. “I do consider Bill Clinton a friend, and I think he would consider me a friend,” Ruddy said. “And to think of all the wars we went through in the ’90s, it seems almost surreal.”

With the passage of time, Ruddy said he came to believe that Clinton was much less liberal than his enemies thought. After all, Clinton overhauled welfare, tamed the deficit and promoted free trade. While still a proud “Reagan conservative,” Ruddy said he now thinks the attacks on Clinton in the 1990s went too far. “Did we like and enjoy all the salacious reporting and all the stuff going on in the ’90s?” he asked. “I guess we thought, This is just politics. But looking back at my role, I was probably over the top. And if I knew then what I know today, I wouldn’t have pursued some of that stuff as aggressively as I did. I did an honest reporter’s job. But I have a different take on it now.”

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