Beer and a Shot

We received the following message from National Journal columnist Stuart Taylor with regard to Susan Estrich’s remarks about him in yesterday’s Breakfast Table.

Now I know that I can’t have a beer with a friend in a public bar in Washington without being accused of impropriety by one of President Clinton’s ever-watchful partisans. So be it. I’ll make some concessions to the need to avoid imagined appearances of impropriety. But I’ll have a beer with anyone I damned well please.

To put in perspective the conspiratorial inferences that Susan Estrich strains to draw from seeing me with Starr deputy Jackie Bennett at the Jefferson Hotel bar–a block or so from the Washington Post, where I always go when I’m looking for a secure locale in which to do furtive things–perhaps Estrich should know that I also had some beers recently with a member of the Clinton defense team. We were at his home, where no peeping partisans intruded.

To be clear: Jackie Bennett was not “leaking” to me; he was not telling me what to write or say on TV; it was not a business appointment at all. Bennett, evidently troubled and hurt by my former employer Steven Brill’s ugly portrayal of him, had asked if we could get together for a private and personal conversation to help him understand why a man whose fairness I had mistakenly touted to Bennett would write a catalog of falsehoods and distortions about Bennett and Starr, painting them both as criminals. I had readily agreed, because I like Bennett and I felt I owed him the best perspective I could give on Brill’s article, the extreme tendentiousness of which had surprised me. I had asked Bennett whether we should find a spot where he would run no risk of catching flak by being seen with me; Bennett had indicated that he was not going to let the risk of encountering malicious gossip-mongers dictate which bars he could frequent.

Our conversation moved from Brill’s article, to other non-confidential matters like the legal rules curbing what Starr’s office can say to reporters, to matters like Bennett’s sons, my daughters, mutual acquaintances, and other matters that even so creative a mind as Brill’s might have trouble painting as grand jury secrets. After the arrival of Estrich, Bennett and I also wondered idly whether she would seize the chance to misrepresent our conversation as something “unseemly,” about which Bennett should be “embarrassed.” This she has now done.

Bennett was not embarrassed. I am not embarrassed. It is Estrich who should be embarrassed, for having concocted a fantasy to serve her partisan agenda.

—Stuart Taylor, Jr.