Keepers of the faith

Despite dwindling time and numbers, the anti-Clinton movement won't say die.

Published July 26, 1999 8:00AM (EDT)

President Clinton can still turn 'em out.

As impeachment becomes a distant memory, and most politically minded Americans look forward to the 2000 election, 300 members of Free Republic, the Internet-based organization that has been at the forefront of the anti-Clinton crusade, continued their low-intensity war against the president.

During the height of the Clinton sex scandal, Free Republic became the online home for the anti-Clinton crusade, with its "latest posts" page drawing 50,000 individual visits per day. Today, its traffic is reportedly down to less than half of what it was a year ago. Free Republic's fragmented and fringe conservative message may be the reason for a recent decline in public support. When information surfaced recently that Free Republic allowed messages with racial slurs to be posted on its site, Matt Drudge and Lucianne Goldberg removed links to the site. Free Republic's founder, Jim Robinson, has been sued by the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, and a visit to the site today will reveal a list of conspiracy theories tying former President George Bush to drug dealing by the CIA.

While its numbers may have diminished, there is still a loyal core in the organization that turned out to take another shot at Clinton. On Saturday, the group gathered for its "Treason is the Reason" rally in Washington, ostensibly to protest the Clinton administration's ties to China and the facts surrounding the transfer of top-secret military technology to the Chinese government -- but in fact it was more of the same.

The 300 people who showed up at Saturday's rally fell far short of the turnout at past events, where crowds had grown to 4,000. Some members of the crowd walked away disappointed, sensing an ebb in momentum from the glory days of the Clinton impeachment scandal. But Paul Rice, a Free Republic member from Virginia, said he still believes in Free Republic and Judicial Watch's pursuits against the president. "My bottom line is that no one is above the law and we have to hold all people equal to the law," he said, but added that he does not agree with the underlying conservative tones of the organizations.

The Freepers, as they call themselves, gathered first at the exit of the White House tour route to hand out pamphlets and chat with passing tourists. The official rally was co-sponsored by Judicial Watch, a Washington public interest organization currently involved in 31 legal cases, most of which are related to the Clinton administration.

"Monica Lewinsky can't nuke Los Angeles -- at least not yet," said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, in his opening remarks. "As the result of Bill Clinton looking the other way -- we think in exchange for campaign contributions -- China now has the greater ability to destroy our cities, to destroy our children and harm the United States, and there is no one investigating this except for Judicial Watch."

Larry Klayman, chairman of Judicial Watch, came to the stage with a standing ovation. After a moment of prayer for John F. Kennedy Jr., the crowd listened intensely to Klayman, who is seen as the leader of this last effort to bring down the Clinton administration.

"Our ancestors did not come to this country to permit the wholesale bribery and corruption that exists, not just in the White House, but right up there on Capitol Hill -- among both political parties," Klayman said as rain dampened the stage and lightening flashed in the sky.

This strange confluence of fringe conservatives and sworn Clinton enemies rallied behind a neo-Cold War banner, honing in on Communist China as the new red menace. In addition to being the largest threat to our national security, China was tagged by Steven Mosher, president of Population Research Institute, a human rights organization working to end population control, as a savage land of forced birth control and moral turpitude.

"You've heard about the one-child policy," Mosher told the heavily pro-life crowd. "What you may not know is China's one-child policy is enforced by means of forced abortions, forced sterilizations and forced IUD insertions."

The crowd listened quietly as Mosher told graphic stories of forced abortion, infanticide and religious persecution.

But after the tangential China references, the protesters focused on the core issue -- Clinton himself. With the relatively small crowd, the rally felt like winter league baseball -- a sort of political dress rehearsal in the political off-season to get in shape for the upcoming campaign. But it was still a great chance to get some anti-Clinton ya-yas out.

One middle-aged Freeper with a distinct Southern accent asked, "Would you like
some information? The president is a rapist ..." The elderly woman she was
speaking to emphatically replied, "absolutely not!"

When a young male Freeper asked tourists emerging from the White House tour, "Did
they take you to the room where Monica and Bill ..." he was quickly cut off by the
father of an African-American family who replied: "Hey, there are children in the
crowd." The Freeper stopped and said he was sorry.

Two Freepers, who refused to reveal their names because they "work for the
government and are afraid of what the administration could do to them," agreed
with the sentiments of the marchers, saying simply: "We're anti-Clinton."

As raindrops began falling, the group of Freepers grew slowly and
eventually moved across Pennsylvania Avenue to Lafayette Square for the organized
portion of the rally.

The program highlighted speeches from Clinton's high school sweetie Dolly Kyle
Browning, Christopher Hitchens, a frequent contributor to the Nation and Salon
News, and perennial presidential candidate Alan Keyes. The ideological breadth of
Clinton's enemies is impressive. Where else but at an anti-Clinton rally would
Keyes and Hitchens share the same bill?

Hitchens was a crowd pleaser. He took to the podium, casually smoking a
cigarette, and recharged the audience amid the unbearable Washington humidity.
"We don't have to allege a conspiracy. We just have here the revelation of a very
sinister and power hungry and dishonest and corrupt official mind," he told the
roaring crowd. "The man in the Oval Office is a rapist, a war criminal, a
psychopathic liar and a man who doesn't just respond to, but solicits offers to
sell his office."

Aside from Hitchens, the bulk of the crowd was rock-ribbed conservatives. "We
are conservative. I am proud of being conservative," Klayman continued. "I am
proud of not being bipartisan, I am proud of Judicial Watch being non-partisan.
Because bipartisanship for the last six years and a half years has been another
word for betrayal."

Klayman went on to detail the progress of Judicial Watch's five-year
investigation of the Clinton administration and remarked on recent allegations of
racist postings on Free Republic's Web site saying: "Well, who is speaking at
this rally -- Larry Klayman, the grandson of Jewish immigrants, and Alan Keyes, a
great African-American."

But the only minorities in the crowd were tourists who happened to stop by the
rally to see what all the commotion was about.

Dolly Kyle Browning's speech was supposed to focus on the psychological make-up of Clinton, but her comments made her seem less like a former Clinton love interest and more like a stalker and media hound. She told the crowd she had skipped a grade in high school "'cause I was so crazy about Billy Clinton that I wanted to be in the senior class with him." She went on to say Clinton dropped out of a high school Latin class after she had told him she had signed up so she "could be in at least one class with Billy in high school."

Kyle Browning also spoke of writing her first novel, "Purposes of the Heart." "I started that novel as a kind of therapeutic journal in 1986 ... when I was beginning my recovery from co-dependency and sexual addiction. Billy encouraged me to write, even about us. Just as I had encouraged him in his political career. He knew about my novel because we were still having an affair at that time."

She also happily announced her next book, "Perjuries of the Heart," a nonfiction take on her affair with the president, which will be out next week.

The final speaker at the rally, Keyes, decried the moral state of the country, asking, "What is it that is going to fire in our hearts and souls, so like generations before we are willing to stand up and do something?"

Speaking recently after New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith quit the GOP, Keyes made a tacit plea for these conservative ideologues to stay with the Republican Party. "I am a Republican, I will stay a Republican. I will fight in the Republican arena to teach the party's heart where it belongs," Keyes announced to a roaring crowd.

The speech also revolved around many of the conservative social issues that mark the Keyes campaign. He spoke out on taxes, education and the issue he talks about the most -- abortion.

"We live in a culture of abortion," he said. "A regime of abortion has been imposed upon us by the wrong-headed judgments of the Supreme Court," he said to strong applause.

The Keyes speech had more of a sermon quality about it, and by the time he finished the Freepers seemed exhausted. Most of the rally participants left the park right after Keyes left the stage.

This rally "was not quite as good as the one I attended in October," said member Paul Rice. "There was too much of an emotional bias and some of the speakers were using language that was somewhat inappropriate."

By Sarah Keech

Sarah Keech is a freelance writer living in Portland, Oregon.

MORE FROM Sarah Keech

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