Flashback: David Brock Warns of Clinton’s ‘Dangerous Character Flaws’ in Book

David Brock
David Brock / AP
September 10, 2015

Liberal activist David Brock, who is on tour next week to promote his latest book about the "right-wing plot to derail Hillary," has been one of Hillary Clinton’s most vocal defenders and runs the Clinton-supporting Super PAC Correct the Record. But in his first book on Clinton, The Seduction of Hillary Rodham, published in 1996, he painted an unflattering portrait of the presidential candidate, calling her response to scandals "Nixonian" and warning of her "dangerous character flaws."

Brock, who was a writer for the conservative American Spectator at the time, still credits his research on the book for turning him into a Clinton supporter. Even after he officially moved to the left, he has continued to defend Seduction, which was criticized by some conservatives for allegedly going too easy on Clinton.

"As I did my reporting [for Seduction], I came to see what Hillary Clinton's admirers saw in her, what I think we all see in her today: a steadfast commitment to public service and a deep desire to affirm the good and the virtuous in politics," said Brock during a speech in Arkansas in 2014.

And during a speech to a progressive group in Arizona during Clinton’s last presidential run, Brock said he "approached the Hillary Clinton book much more as a journalist than an ideologue."

In Brock’s 2002 book, Blinded by the Right, he disavowed most of his previous work as a conservative journalist—but defended the accuracy of Seduction.

"It felt amazingly good to have acted freely [while writing Seduction], I was stronger for having endured the controversy, and I had no regrets about the editorial decisions I had made," wrote Brock. "Aside from conservatives, on the whole, reviewers had found Seduction to be fair, well-balanced, and accurate."

"I was proud of the book," he added.

While the book paints a nuanced portrait of Clinton, it is hardly kind to her. Coming from one of the Democratic candidate’s current top supporters, the allegations in it are striking. Below are 10 of the most unflattering accusations Brock leveled against Clinton in Seduction.

1. ‘Decided to go Nixon’

Hillary was understandably reluctant to apply these lessons [from the Watergate scandal] to her own situation. So she went in the other direction, perhaps deciding simply to go Nixon one better in battening down the hatches. It seems fair to suggest, in retrospect, that the lesson Hillary drew from her Watergate experience was that stretching and manipulating legal procedures could produce victory on the political battlefield. Stonewalling, artful dodging, the benefit of a press corps that shared her politics, and a little luck might do the trick … By any measure this was bad lawyering. At worst, it suggested that the Clinton White House viewed itself as above the law. [p. 304-305]

2. ‘Dangerous character flaws’

[Hillary Clinton] set up a bogus advisory committee [while working on education reform in Arkansas] and staged an elaborate public consultation process to validate a preconceived initiative. She gave the appearance of working very much within the established political process, building consensus and seeking votes, while short-circuiting debate within her own advisory group. She also discovered the usefulness of identifying an enemy and demonizing it to galvanize public support. Thus the idea that the failure of health care reform was largely due to Hillary’s political inexperience cannot be sustained. … Unfortunately for Hillary, the same tendencies and characteristics that had worked for her in Arkansas, and appeared there as strengths, when tested now in a truly partisan political environment, would reveal not just surprisingly poor judgment on her part but character flaws of a particularly dangerous and self-destructive sort. [p. 329-330].

3. ‘Calculated secrecy’

Hillary’s incipient distrust of the press had intensified [after media focus on the Clintons’ financial and personal scandals], ironically becoming more Nixonian. The close scrutiny of the press irritated Hillary, who had previously operated only in the narrow confines of the legal services community and in one-party Arkansas, never developing an appreciation for openness in democratic politics. This coercive approach had functioned very well up to the time she moved into the White House, and she was not about to reverse course now. The decision to operate in secrecy, then, was not a blunder but a calculation. Now that the administration was planning to push through legislation that would not only be damaging to certain special interests. [p. 346]

4. ‘Employed questionable means’

Thus while many have concluded that Hillary, in her naiveté, simply didn’t expect strong political opposition, the opposite view seems much more plausible. Hillary needed to protect a plan she must have known was far too progressive to be put through the normal political process. She wanted to move the ball farther than she could within the rules of the system, so she employed means that were questionable in a democracy. Once the ends were in place and health care was available for all, the public would see its wisdom over time. [p. 346]

5. ‘Serious infringement of public trust’

Whether or not the defensive tactics of Hillary and her White House protectors amounted to criminal obstruction of the investigation into Foster’s death has been under examination by the Whitewater special counsel. There can be no question, however, that their conduct was a serious infringement of the public trust. White House lawyers are supposed to protect the interests of the presidency, not act like mob lawyers, asserting tenuous legal claims to deflect legitimate inquiries. [p. 397]

6. ‘Misused White House counsel’

The White House counsel’s office, meanwhile, continued to be misused to assist the Clintons’ private defense effort on Whitewater. Political work for the president may fall into a gray area, but beyond a certain point political fixing and spin control is not the work of the nation. Nevertheless, it was typical of the Clinton crowd, accustomed as they were to the insider dealing and concentrated power of imperial Arkansas, to fail to make the crucial distinction between their personal business and the official business of the United States. [p. 399]

7. ‘Stonewalled investigators’

In the next two years, White House lawyers stonewalled the Republican investigators and shielded documents from public disclosure, asserting various claims of privilege. The assertions of executive privilege for political protection exceeded the similar claims of the Nixon White House that young Hillary had once condemned. [p. 407]

8. ‘Disdain for compromise’

Her efforts to end-run the democratic process exposed her disdain for real compromise with opponents she saw as morally corrupt, and she adopted a Hillary-knows-best philosophy in implementing her ideals that ultimately trumped her well-honed pragmatic instincts. [p. 415]

9. ‘Never accepted legal and ethical structures’

Significantly also, Hillary has failed because she never really accepted the simple truth that legal and ethical structures and standards of accountability exist not just to protect us from the ambitions of the wicked but from the hubris of the good. [p. 415]

10. ‘End-justifies-the-means philosophy’

Whether in violating the character of the Legal Services Corporation to defend the agency against Ronald Regan; telephoning a regulator appointed by her husband on behalf of a client who was a political supporter and business partner; imprudently destroying documents at the Rose Firm; thwarting public access to the health care task force; holding onto her health care investments while she designed the overhaul of the system; impeding the Justice Department’s ‘unfettered access’ to Vince Foster’s office; or concealing her role in Travelgate—Hillary gradually put Alinksy’s end-justifies-the-means philosophy into practice. Indeed, one must finally ask whether Hillary really believes that the profound moral vision that inheres in our system of divided government has any value apart from the perceived morality of a particular political agenda. [p. 415-416]

While Brock continues to defend Seduction, he is not as tolerant when it comes to tough coverage of Clinton from other journalists.

In his latest book, Brock allegedly blasts the New York Times for reporting on Clinton’s email controversy and the questionable practices at the Clinton Foundation.

"As it concerns Clinton coverage, the Times will have a special place in hell," wrote Brock, according to Politico. Brock also accused the paper’s Washington bureau chief Carolyn Ryan of unfairly targeting Clinton because, according to a quote from a supposed unnamed Times source, "she has a hard-on for Hillary."

The Times brushed off the claims.

"David Brock is an opportunist and a partisan who specializes in personal attacks," spokesperson Eileen Murphy told Politico on Thursday.