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First Lady Claims 'Right-Wing Conspiracy' Behind Scandals

By Howard Kurtz
The Washington Post
Washington

When Hilary Clinton charged Tuesday that there is a "vast right-wing conspiracy" working against her husband, she had no shortage of enemies in mind.

From the American Spectator to the British tabloids, from Vince Foster conspiracy theorists to television evangelist Jerry Falwell, the Clintons have been under siege by their conservative critics and a phalanx of allies in the press.

The virulence of their animosity toward the Clintons is suggested by radio host G. Gordon Liddy's disclosure that he used pictures of the president and first lady for target practice. The conservative Spectator has depicted Hillary Clinton as a broomstick-riding witch. Other critics have denounced the first couple as immoral and corrupt and predicted their eventual indictment.

At times, the charges have grown so wild that mainstream conservatives have tried to distance themselves from the extreme accusers. Some of the allegations, such as the supposed presidential scheme to sell Arlington National Cemetery grave sites to donors, have been discredited.

But the high decibel level of these Clinton detractors does not necessarily mean they're working in tandem as part of an orchestrated "conspiracy." Nor does it provide an explanation for every charge against the White House, from Whitewater to campaign fund-raising abuses, that has been investigated by prosecutors and the press.

The case involving Monica Lewinsky includes several people who are considered hostile to President Clinton. It brings together the long-running Whitewater investigation of independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, who was called "politically motivated" by Hillary Clinton on NBC's "Today," and the harassment suit by Paula Jones.

But the Lewinsky matter also differs from many of the past episodes in important respects. The news that Starr is investigating allegations that Clinton had a sexual relationship with the former White House intern and lied under oath about it was broken by mainstream news organizations - The Washington Post, ABC, Los Angeles Times and Newsweek - not by the conservative press.

"Blaming a conspiracy seems to be in American politics the last refuge of the intellectually lazy or timorous," said R. Emmett Tyrrell, editor of the conservative American Spectator and author of "The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton."