Merely from the whines and howls of his numerous enemies on the right, you can tell that Sid Blumenthal has drawn blood in his book, "The Clinton Wars," within which many pages are spent detailing what his pal Hillary Clinton famously referred to as "a vast right-wing conspiracy." The only word I'd quarrel with here is "vast," since the prime players seem to have numbered under 20. And, of course, these days, Senator HRC rather strongly resembles a largish right-wing conspiracy herself.

            Blumenthal's is an awfully long book, but the chapters that I have thus far worked my way through do make a pretty good case in buttressing HRC's claim. Blumenthal's chapter on the Hitchens affair is vivid, too, on the latter's disgusting behavior.

            Prime among the whiners and howlers is the right-wing agitator (and, long ago, former leftist) David Horowitz, who lashes out at "Sid Vicious." I have to say that the endless claims on the right that Sid Blumenthal is some sort of heavy, or thug, have always made me laugh. I don't know him that well, but Sid has always reminded me more of Bernie Wooster's descriptions of Gussie Fink-Nottle.

            Horowitz says plaintively that Blumenthal has been beastly to him ever since Horowitz and Collier staged a "Second Thoughts" conference in Washington in the fall of 1987, designed as a sort of ideological hospice for renegades in the same stage of transition from left to right as themselves.

            Horowitz charges that it was Blumenthal who urged left-wing bullyboys such as myself to attend and then to deride the proceedings in print. I can't speak for the others, but in my case, Horowitz has it all wrong. I was visiting Washington, D.C., and had better things to do with my time than go to the Second Thoughts affair but got dragged along by Hitchens.

            When I entered the hall, Horowitz was delivering the keynote to a sparse crowd of 200 and was visibly nonplussed at the sight of potential hecklers. He lost his train of thought, rambled inconsequentially, then plunged back into his childhood, recalling the upbringing of his sister and himself in a Communist family, where as so often happened the children observed and resented the long hours their parents spent away from them doing "party work."

             "My sister will never forgive them," Horowitz wailed to the audience of some 200, then depicted the abyss of his own deprivation. He had never been allowed to go to Doris Day and Rock Hudson movies, but rather was forced to sit through uplifting Soviet features.

            If only he'd been allowed to watch "Pillow Talk" ... And of course, among the ironies is that Horowitz and Hitchens are now pillow-talkers themselves, tucked up in the same ideological four-poster.

            Horowitz mentions what he calls Blumenthal's "vindictive" libel suit against Matt Drudge, who had published the charge that Blumenthal was a wife-beater and then failed entirely to sustain this damaging libel. Blumenthal sued. Horowitz continues, "I have myself once or twice used the threat of a suit to deter particularly scurrilous charges and to avoid the kind of damage that libel suits were made for. Alex Cockburn, for example, spent a lot of time at cocktail parties in the 1980s spreading the rumor that I was a CIA agent. In fact, I have never had contact with a CIA official or operative to my knowledge, or worked for any government agency or -- with three exceptions -- any outside employer for that matter."

             Now, it's true that in May of 1989 Horowitz did send me a letter accusing me of making "false and malicious statements," but it had nothing to do with the CIA. I can imagine the Agency being capable of almost any infamy or folly, except that of hiring Horowitz as an agent. It's curious that Horowitz should have misrepresented, or misremembered, why he was jumpy enough to threaten legal action.

            If he looks in his files, or consults page 101 of his copy of my 1995 diary of the Reagan/Bush/early Clinton years, "The Golden Age Is In Us," he'll find he sent me the following epistle: "Dear Alexander Cockburn, It has come to my attention that you have been making false and malicious statements about my interviews with the late David Kennedy. I have consulted counsel about this matter and advise you to stop doing this. I am sending this letter to you to serve notice to you that if you intend to publish this, you and your publisher do so at your peril. Sincerely, David Horowitz, Los Angeles."

            Nothing here, as you can see, about the CIA. So far as I can recall, Horowitz had formed the impression that I had repeated a story going the rounds at the time among friends of the Kennedy clan that this same clan entertained a particular loathing for Horowitz and Collier on the grounds that while researching their book on the Kennedys, they had helped satiate David Kennedy's craving for drugs, in return for inside stories about the Kennedys. An obviously outrageous and baseless charge, as I'm sure all will agree.

            Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at COPYRIGHT 2003 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.