A VAST LEFT-WING CONSPIRACY?|
1-25-1999 SAM DEALEY
WHEN Larry Flynt went public with the ''hypocrisy'' of Rep. Bob Barr, exposing him as a past adulterer and one of the ''biggest horn dogs in Congress,'' the Georgia Republican seemed certain the White House was in part behind the matter. ''I don't think that one can look at this situation with the close ties ... between the private investigators, the White House, between Sidney Blumenthal and these folks on the outside and come away with any other reasonable conclusion other than the fact that this is part of an overall scheme,'' Barr said. Other Republicans chimed in.
But, as it has with similar charges these past few months, the White House denied the allegations and demanded that Republicans produce proof. ''If they've got evidence, they ought to bring it forward,'' said presidential spokesman Joe Lockhart. ''If not, they ought to knock it off.''
Reporters, too, questioned whether the president's inner circle was passing on dirt. Were White House aides involved? they asked Flynt. ''The only connection that I have got with Bill Clinton is that I voted for him twice. I've never met the man. I've never been to the White House.'' Presidential pit-bull James Carville? ''Well of course I am friends with James, we made a movie together ... But I've never discussed what I am doing with James.'' How about Clinton dirt-digger Terry Lenzner? ''No.''
But asked if he knew Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, Flynt said, ''I haven't seen Strobe Talbott in years. ... But he is married to a sister of a very good friend of mine.''
Surprisingly, that red flag went unnoticed.
So who is Talbott's brother-in-law? His name is Cody Shearer, and a review of his White House connections reveals the possible workings of a new plumber operation.
A self-styled ''free-lance journalist'' (although he hasn't published in nearly a decade), Shearer is a former business associate of Terry Lenzner's Investigative Group International - the premier opposition-research firm that Dick Morris calls ''the White House secret police.''
Lenzner's connections with Clinton go to the seamier side of politics. The Clinton campaign hired his firm in 1992 to do ''opposition research,'' a euphemism for dirt-digging. Since '94, the president's personal lawyers have had Lenzner on the payroll, reportedly searching under the beds and sniffing through the panties-drawers of Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky and members of Hillary's ''Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy,'' including Starr's team.
Lenzner and Shearer are also old tennis buddies from Washington's tony St. Albans Tennis Club. Shearer's a close friend of Sidney Blumenthal's, too, according to published accounts.
Could Shearer be passing Flynt the goods on GOP members? Neither Shearer nor Flynt returned calls seeking comment. But if this was the case, it wouldn't be the first time Shearer smeared a Clinton critic.
In 1997, Cody Shearer tried to broker a deal between Lenzner and the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribes to investigate the Senate's Deputy Whip, Don Nickles (R-Okla.), who was a member of the committee probing an alleged shakedown of Indian tribes by the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1996. (Lenzner demanded $17,000 for the job, but tribal leaders ultimately decided not to hire him.)
Shearer has tried to ingratiate himself with this White House before. Last summer, the State Department learned he was doing some free-lance negotiatingwith Serb and Muslim leaders on partitioning Bosnia - all while claiming he had the backing of the Clinton administration. Talbott himself had to write his brother-in-law to tell him to knock it off.
The Shearer connections with the White House don't end there. Cody's twin sister Brooke - Strobe Talbott's wife - has been a friend of Hillary's since their college days. Brooke used to work for Terry Lenzner as an investigator, where her specialty was dumpster-diving, the fine art of sifting through the trash, and she reportedly remains in close contact with her old boss.
Brooke joined the Clinton's 1992 campaign as an aide to Hillary. ''Sometimes at the end of the day, when Bill telephoned,'' she reminisced of the campaign, ''we'd be laughing so loud, doing imitations and carrying on, that he'd say, 'You guys sound like you're having a lot more fun than I am.''' After the campaign, she headed up Hillary's White House fellows program, and later moved on to become a senior advisor to the Interior Department.
The Shearer family has yet another relative close to the president: Cody and Brooke's brother, Derek, an old Oxford chum of Bill's. They've kept up over the years: Derek Shearer played an instrumental role in the 1992 campaign. After serving on the transition team, he took a job at the Commerce Department, and was later awarded the ambassadorship to Finland. ''I want to be known as the ambassador who brought Ben and Jerry's to Finland,'' he said.
And then there's Strobe Talbott himself. He also roomed at Oxford with Bill Clinton while they were both Rhodes Scholars, and went on to Yale Grad School when both Clintons were at Yale Law. Prior to joining the Clinton administration, Talbott was a Time columnist who carried a lot of water for his old pal's 1992 presidential campaign.
Days after the Lewinsky story broke, ex-Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos first warned of a possible scorched-earth defense: ''The president said he would never resign, and I think some around him are willing to take everybody down with him.''
Could this be the makings of a not-so-vast left-wing conspiracy, or is it all Shearer coincidence?
Sam Dealey is assistant managing editor of The American Spectator.