By Jefferson Flanders

Borrowing a line, once again, from New York newspaper columnist Jimmy Cannon: nobody asked me, but…

AN ASTONISHING QUOTE FROM CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, anti-Clinton conspiracy theorist, surfaced this week in the New York Times. Ruddy, whose “investigations” of alleged “corrupt land deals, sexual affairs, drug running and murder” by Bill and Hillary Clinton were financed in the 1990s by right-wing millionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, now says: “Clinton wasn’t such a bad president. In fact, he was a pretty good president in a lot of ways, and Dick feels that way today.”

Will Ruddy now repudiate his prior mudslinging (including the suggestion that the Clintons were somehow linked to the 1993 suicide of deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster, a theory Ruddy floated in The Strange Death of Vincent Foster: An Investigation)? Don’t hold your breath. The reclusive Scaife, whose money kept the “vast right-wing conspiracy” (which wasn’t so vast) afloat during the Clinton Presidency, might think about donating $2 million (the amount reported spent on anti-Clinton activities) to a worthy charity—perhaps to former President Clinton’s efforts to fight AIDS in Africa—as a gesture of contrition.

THE DUKE LACROSSE TEAM IS BACK on the field, defeating Dartmouth, 17-11, in its first game since the Blue Devils’ season was canceled last spring amid rape allegations against three players.

The rape charges have since been dropped, the prosecutor discredited, and questions raised about the accuser’s credibility, but Sports Illustrated found one on-the-scene observer who believes that the case is far from over, with the three accused men still facing sexual offense and kidnapping charges, which are felonies:

“I think the odds are good that it will go to trial,” says N.C. Central law professor Irving Joyner, noting that the less precise legal definition of sexual offense makes it easier to prove than rape. But, he adds, the alleged victim’s ever-shifting version of events could well override any evidence. “I would not be surprised if the attorney general, after looking at everything, says, ‘We can’t convince a jury of their guilt,'” Joyner says. “But I think there is enough to go forward—and I think they will go forward.”

I think Joyner is wrong. Look for all charges to be dropped in the case, which has spurred a national debate over questions of race, class and the workings of our criminal justice system, because of the shifting testimony of the accuser.

THE MILITARY HAS ASKED THE TV SHOW “24” TO STOP GLAMORIZING TORTURE, according to the New Yorker magazine. This bizarre story has American officers complaining to the show’s creative team in November 2006 that U.S. interrogators might be tempted to copy-cat the torture scenes. Further, they argued the constant portrayal of torture on “24” hurting the public image of America. Executive producer Howard Gordon has since announced that “24” will feature less torture in the future (according to the Los Angeles Times), claiming the shift is not due to the complaints, but because the scenes have become “trite.”

What makes the entire episode passing strange is the suggestion that American soldiers could be influenced by a television show to violate military law to say nothing of their personal morality. What about military discipline? And the idea of the fictional Jack Bauer, a cold-blooded killer, as a role model for anyone in uniform? Let’s hope not.

MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK HAS taken a drubbing in the Boston media for his spending of taxpayers’ money on new office furnishings, a Cadillac DTS lease, and a dedicated scheduling staffer for his wife. Patrick will repay the state for the office redecoration and will contribute to the car lease. The episode led to an amusing correction by the Boston Globe:

Correction: Jeff Jacoby’s column yesterday misstated the number of rooms in Governor Deval Patrick’s vacation home in the Berkshires. The house and a connected carriage house will have 13 rooms and seven bathrooms.

Jacoby, whose column was entitled “Governor Deluxe makes no apologies,” reported that “Cadillac Deval” was building a “24-room mansion.” Did Governor Patrick ask the Globe for the correction? He should have left well enough alone. Learning that the Patrick’s “vacation home” will have 20 rooms, instead of 24 (but include seven bathrooms) hardly makes him look like a man of the people.

COLUMNIST ROBERT NOVAK reports that “Democratic sources believe that the harsh response by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign to criticism by Hollywood producer David Geffen stems from an overreaction by Bill Clinton to any attack on his pardon policy as president.”

Geffen’s support of Sen. Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton apparently stems from Geffen’s anger that President Clinton pardoned financial contributor Marc Rich and not American Indian activist Leonard Peltier (convicted of murdering two FBI agents).

Clinton’s pardon policy as he was leaving office was an embarassment. Pardoning Rich was bad enough, freeing Peltier (whose conviction has been reviewed and upheld numerous times by higher courts through a lengthy appeal process) would have been even worse.

EDWARD JAY EPSTEIN RAISES SOME INTERESTING QUESTIONS about the quality of the intelligence gathered by the CIA in its interrogation of al Qaeda figures after the 9/11 attacks, and whether those detainees lied about links between a Spanish terror cell and the 9/11 attackers.

Epstein’s piece, appearing in the Wall Street Journal, suggests the 9/11 Commission may have been wrong to conclude that al Qaeda engineered 9/11 without outside collaborators (including nation states). Epstein is working on a book on the 9/11 Commission, which will no doubt challenge its conclusions about al Qaeda’s isolation.

ROBOT-DRIVEN CARS WON’T BE WIDESPREAD UNTIL 2030 says Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun, when replacing error-prone humans behind the wheel will improve safety. I drive in Boston and I can’t wait that long to see harmonic convergence on the highways.

THE WORDS FOR THE WEEK come from playwright and reluctant statesman, Vaclav Havel: “The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.”

Reprinted from Neither Red nor Blue.

Copyright © 2007 Jefferson Flanders

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