Suzan Mazur Confronts Carl Bernstein On Mena

Much has been written about the CIA cocaine operation at Mena, Arkansas during Bill and Hillary Clinton’s watch as governor and first lady of that state in the 1980s. So I wondered why Carl Bernstein left it out of his book on Hillary Clinton, A Woman …

“Good journalism requires a degree of courage in today’s climate, a quality now in scarce supply in our mass media. Many current assumptions in America–about race, about economics, about the fate of our cities–need to be challenged, and we might start with the media.”
–Carl Bernstein, New Republic, “The Idiot Culture”

Suzan Mazur Confronts Carl Bernstein On Mena

By Suzan Mazur


Carl Bernstein Booktalk: A Woman in Charge
10/5/2007, Barnes & Noble, 82nd Street & Broadway, New York
(Some of the less glowing excerpts)

“. . .[H]appily I think we have a real biography here and what you end up with is a story and a woman’s struggle that enables you to decide with your own values, I hope, whether or not you think she should be the president of the United States. . . .

I learned that in 1989 Bill Clinton had fallen in love with another woman and wanted to leave the marriage. And Hillary, as Betsy Wright, Bill’s chief of staff in the gubernatorial years, told me, Hillary wouldn’t give him a pass. . . . And Betsy Wright sat down with him and said you have to tell me about the other women and whether or not it is going to cause you and Hillary such harm that you’ll never recover from it. And she told me that she had brought another person with Bill Clinton – a witness – because Clinton had a way of forgetting unpleasant things that he was confronted with. . . .

I first heard of him [Bill Clinton] from mutual friends maybe when I was 30 years old or so. We have many mutual friends. But only Hillary Clinton understood early on his sexual compulsions, as she called them, if they became known — and their effect became known — would make him politically unviable. And so she took it upon herself to try to contain their effect. . . .

So increasingly, she took it upon herself to try and contain and keep him politically viable as more and more of these rumors seeped out. So you have to ask yourself – what does this do to the psyche of a spouse? . . . And it came to occupy more and more — compromising, hiring lawyers, hiring private detectives to find out stuff about the women. And in some cases smearing the women. . .

I say in the last chapter of the book that Hillary Clinton has had a difficult relationship with the truth. . . . What do the missing billing records show? They show that she had a nickel dime law practice and that she wasn’t one of the great lawyers in America.”

[Bernstein also told the audience Hillary Clinton “failed the D.C. bar exam”, the only Yalie of the group of 700 or so to flunk.]


Carl Bernstein’s —– Roger Morris’s


Much has been written about the CIA cocaine operation at Mena, Arkansas during Bill and Hillary Clinton’s watch as governor and first lady of that state in the 1980s. So I wondered why Carl Bernstein left it out of his book on Hillary Clinton, A Woman in Charge, when the argument put forth by Clinton biographer Roger Morris in his book, Partners in Power, was a particularly compelling one about the CIA operation taking place.

I decided to ask Bernstein formally for an explanation about this at his Hillary Clinton booktalk last Friday at the Barnes & Noble bookstore on the Upper West Side, situated a safe distance from the Columbia University and New York University war protest crowds.

Indeed, it was a restrained standing-room-only audience with neighborhood retirees in attendance and one or two street people to give the mix some real New York flavor.

Bernstein told me in essence during the Q&A following his talk that there is no evidence there ever was a CIA cocaine operation at Mena that “Clinton” was aware of.

Roger Morris, however, stands by his investigation of the Clinton Arkansas years. The award winning journalist and former foreign service officer who also served on the senior staff of the Johnson and Nixon National Security Council, reviewed thousands of documents related to the Mena episode and conducted 100 interviews in Arkansas before reaching the conclusion that the “Clintons” knew of the operation from the inception.

My interview with Roger Morris about Mena ran on these pages in July. [Scoop: Deeper Into The Clintons’ CIA Drug Nexus]

Following the Bernstein booktalk, I emailed Roger for his comment on Bernstein’s remarks. Here is Roger’s response:

*** # # # ***

“I may have mentioned to you that I reviewed the CB [Carl Bernstein] book at the behest of the Globe&Mail [ Book Review: The Woman Who Would Be Queen … Or President], a review that was critical but was actually softer than what I might have said about him and the sad decline he represents. . . . [See also… Undernews: The Crash Of The Democratic Party ]

No one came to us with anything. Sally [Denton] got the [Barry] Seal archive from his widow after much hard work and several trips to New Orleans. The archive, which is now at the University of Nevada at Reno, or should be available there, I think, is what it is–exhaustive, unmistakable. The IRS pursued the widow for years. The CIA IG [CIA Inspector General] admitted to operations at Mena (though never drug trafficking, of course, there or anywhere else). Several law enforcement agencies, local, state and federal, had extensive records. I have rehearsed the documentation so many times. That on top of the corroborative/complimentary evidence from LD Brown, the Lasater connections [Dan Lasater, Arkansas bond dealer and Clinton friend convicted of drug trafficking], etc. etc.

Simply to ignore the story, as the apologists and (what grandma called) the fraidycats have is eloquent of the larger problem. And to believe that anything even a fraction of that magnitude went on there without Clinton being aware at some level beggars all imagination. But then Carl was not writing about him, I realize, and his book, among its many failures, is abysmal on Arkansas politics and the system there. Alas, I was a genuine admirer of Carl in the Watergate reporting (and was a source at one point), much beyond his ever-lightweight and subsequent sell-out co-author. Someday, of course, the Mena story will be opened further. But not from the Carl’s, not from this culture. . . .”

*** # # # ***

I first bumped into Carl Bernstein one late end-of-winter night in 1992 at Rocco’s, an Italian pastry shop on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, although I’d seen him some months earlier running around the warehouses just off Hudson Street wearing white shorts and a teeshirt with a towel around his neck — flashing a huge smile — and looking somewhat like a fish out of water in the then – offbeat West Village.

Bernstein was returning from NYU when he walked into Rocco’s, having just finished teaching a class in journalism. He was a bit overdressed for the mild weather in a navy cashmere coat.

We introduced ourselves, drank some tea – mint, I think, and talked. Bernstein was interested that I’d covered the Gulf War for Newsday’s editorial pages and for The Economist and that I’d recently been in Santa Barbara attending Prince Mohammed bin Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud’s opening a chair in Islamic Studies at USC–Santa Barbara, the prince’s alma mater.

As the conversation progressed, he asked me if I’d like to see his memorabilia at home several blocks away. (His place would later be featured in Architectural Digest.)

It was around midnight and I said no, but told him I was enjoying the conversation and that I’d walk with him in that direction.

We walked along West 4th Street past his AA meeting house, which he pointed out. He commented on how the West Village was the “most tolerant” neighborhood in New York. And we arrived at the Corner Bistro where I had a sherry and Bernstein did not.

It was a short sherry. Bernstein seemed uncomfortable around the drink. He also said something about not being able to sit for long periods of time anymore.

I, of course, could not let the evening end without quizzing him about who Deep Throat was. He gave me the standard answer and then asked for my telephone number, which he entered in his address book as we exited the Bistro and said goodnight.

We had no reason to really speak again until the Friday encounter at Barnes & Noble, which follows:


Suzan Mazur: I was wondering — speaking of omissions — why you left out from the book a discussion of the CIA drug operation in Mena, Arkansas.

Carl Bernstein: Why I left out any discussion of the CIA. . .

Suzan Mazur: Wait, let me finish please. Roger Morris, who’s a Liberal and served on the National Security Council senior staff of LBJ, wrote a book called Partners in Power all about the Clintons. He said, in an interview with me back in July in Scoop, the [independent] news agency based in New Zealand — said that there’s a numbing body of evidence based on

Carl Bernstein: I’m going to ask you to ask the question.

Suzan Mazur: based on 100 interviews he did in Arkansas and 2,000 documents that he reviewed that the Clintons knew from the inception of the CIA drug operation in Mena.

Carl Bernstein: I just want to answer your question.

Suzan Mazur: Well why did you leave it out?

Carl Bernstein: Can I answer your question?

Suzan Mazur: Also, I’d like to know . . .

Carl Bernstein: Slow down a second. I wanted to ask you first of all since you wrote a piece who you are

Suzan Mazur: You know me. We had a drink one night on Bleecker Street.

[Audience laughs and some applause.]

Carl Bernstein: It must have been a long time ago.

Suzan Mazur: About 10 [15] years ago. It was around midnight.

Carl Bernstein: But would you tell the people who you are.

[Fromtheaudience: “Ann Coulter.”]

Suzan Mazur: We had a conversation and you asked me if I’d like to come home with you.

Carl Bernstein: Thank you. Good. It couldn’t have been within the last 20 years. . . . Would you tell us your name.

Suzan Mazur: My name is Suzan Mazur. And I’d like to know why you’re shilling for the Clintons and why you’re burying this story.

Carl Bernstein: Okay, let me try and answer your series of so-called questions as well as plead amnesia.

Suzan Mazur: Everyone else [here] is laying back on the issues.

Carl Bernstein: It’s in bad taste. I don’t know what else to tell you.

Suzan Mazur: Bad taste?

Carl Bernstein: Okay, you’ve made the point already. Let’s try and be substantive here. About the so-called CIA operation in Mena, Arizona [sic]. And, indeed, if one wants to read about the so-called CIA operation in Mena, Arizona [sic] — the place to go is what you cite: Roger Morris’s book written about 10, 12 years ago, I believe. And Roger, who served on the National Security Council staff many years ago, I think, really got taken in for some bullshit.

And I say this with great respect for Roger and a lot of his work — that there is absolutely, as far as I could tell, if you want to know why I left it out of the book, because I don’t think there’s any substantive documentation or even indication that there was a CIA-drug running operation that Bill Clinton had either approved of or knew of as governor [of Arkansas]. I think the story is bullshit.

Suzan Mazur: Well he [Roger Morris] reviewed 2,000 documents.

[The organizers of the event are restless and are getting ready to shut me down.
Bernstein tells them: “No, that’s okay.”]

Carl Bernstein: Well I do want to finish up but I just want to answer your question. I think it’s bullshit.

Suzan Mazur: Well that’s important. . .

Carl Bernstein: Secondly, I don’t think I’m a shill for the Clintons.

Suzan Mazur: Well you are.

Carl Bernstein: I am?

Suzan Mazur: Yes. That’s the way you’re coming across.

Carl Bernstein: Well tell the Clintons that. I think you have no idea what you’re saying — you know what you’re saying, but I think you’re way off.

Suzan Mazur: Well why didn’t you mention that [Mena] in the book? That could have really cleared the Clintons.

Carl Bernstein: I’ll tell you why I didn’t mention it in the book. If you read the book
[One of the Barnes & Noble people comes over to warn me that I “have to stop” with the questions.]

Carl Bernstein: Take it home and read it. You will see. I say in the notes and the sources that when I found things that were not credible, I decided to leave them out of the book.

[Audience applause]


Suzan Mazur’s reports have appeared in the Financial Times (cover), Economist, Forbes, Newsday and Philadelphia Inquirer editorial pages, Archaeology (cover), Connoisseur, CounterPunch, Progressive Review — “How Bush Got Bounced From Carlyle Board”, among others, as well as on PBS, CBC and MBC. She has been a guest on McLaughlin, Charlie Rose and various Fox Television News programs. Email:

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