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Watching Matt Drudge

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Apparently, even Hillary’s campaign. Drudge has a sneaker for the woman he calls “the Senatress.” When Clinton started wheezing and coughing in a speech in New Orleans in May, Drudge expressed genuine concern for her. “Hillary, dear, take care of yourself. We need you. I need you personally … Take a few days off, what’s this frenetic pace?” He added admiringly, “She was professional. She kept going. She finished the speech.” After a left-wing listener IM’d Drudge to say he wanted Hillary to drop dead onstage, Drudge said, “I need Hillary Clinton. You don’t get it. I need to be part of her world. That’s my bank. Like Leo DiCaprio has the environment and Al Gore has the environment and Jimmy Carter has anti-Americanism … I have Hillary.”

In the latest turn in his noir screenplay, she’s the tough blonde. Although he still throws insults her way. Wowed by “cold, chic” French presidential candidate Ségolène Royal, Drudge said last spring that Hillary was so lacking in glamour she wasn’t fit to hem Royal’s pantsuit. He called her “big-boned,” “obese,” and “an out-of-shape middle-aged cow,” then compared her rear-end shots to the derrière of Royal, “who has birthed four children.” That was all in the moment. A few weeks later, Drudge complimented Hillary on her new look, said she had taken his advice to hit the treadmill, and Donatella Versace’s advice to lose the pantsuit.

“What’s wrong with a makeover, we’re in a makeover society,” he said.

Having once issued descriptions of Bill Clinton’s penis on some pretext, Drudge can’t wait for Hillary to be president. “I’m on the record that Hillary Clinton, she’s already in.” There’s a paranoid frisson to that fantasy. On his radio show, Drudge has imagined the day that cameras will record image and audio on every street so that President Hillary can listen to conversations he had, even years later. What if things take a dark turn, he says. There’s martial law. Hillary’s voice will go out to the people from bullhorns. His words will be fed into a national database, and his opposition to global warming will make him a terrorist. He will be arrested and a chip darted into his skin. The government will meddle in our bodies. “Why don’t they get this over with and start coming door to door and collecting our body liquids,” he grumbled not long ago.

David Sheff of Playboy remembers the moment in a long interview with Drudge when tough questions about Drudge’s sources on the right caused the Webmaster to become very emotional and defensive and get out of his seat. “Literally he stood up and grabbed his famous hat. I wondered where it was coming from. It didn’t seem provoked or consistent with the rest of the interview. And I don’t think that has emerged since then. There’s a lot more control if he’s behind the curtain in the darkened room with all his sources and his e-mail.”

Sheff’s metaphor touches on the left’s assertion that Drudge is gay and closeted. In high school, Drudge was already in a gay scene, dating men, Jeannette Walls reported in Dish. And in his memoir, Blinded by the Right, conservative-turned-liberal David Brock, who is gay, described Drudge coming on to him sexually in 1997, including e-mailing Brock the suggestion that they be “fuck buddies.” Michaelangelo Signorile, a journalist who has broken down many a closet door, calls Drudge “a nasty faggot.”

Drudge has denied that he is gay. “I go to straight bars, I go to gay bars,” he told the Miami New Times. The only thing you can say for sure is that Drudge has tried out many personas. In a sense his journalistic achievement springs from these ambiguities. Drudge upset the Establishment by mixing a very patriarchal and traditional idea of news (Winchell/Cronkite) with a feminine one (box office and gossip). The mistake his enemies have repeatedly made is reducing him and underestimating him.

On my visit to Miami, a neighbor said something interesting about Drudge’s house. The vibe had changed there recently. The pool was on at a different time, at night, and she’d heard Spanish voices in the dark. Drudge might not speak Spanish, but he sure tried. In his book, he used Spanish words. He fulsomely praised European media values, while putting down the United States as tacky and superficial. He knew the international club scene. He’d been in Buenos Aires, Germany, Israel, England.

When Argentina’s First Lady announced for the presidency, Drudge headlined the story MOVETE HILLARY. (“Get out of the way, Hillary,” though he misspelled the Spanish.) In his high-school yearbook, his favorite color was “Caribbean blue.” On radio, he pronounced the Mediterranean island playground Ibiza super-correctly, “Ibitha,” and did the same with Peru (“Pay-ru”). I wondered whether Drudge had a foreign lover.

More likely it was an escape fantasy. One night, speaking of his fears of the coming crackdown, Drudge said, “I’m personally looking for a plan-B offshore that Hillary won’t have any kind of Interpol connections.”

What a grim story line about America he was playing out: the candidates getting ugly with one another, the Google vampires surveilling, a hurricane bearing down, and Hillary at center stage, monitoring our thoughts. Anyone else would shut their eyes. Drudge couldn’t wait to see what happened next.


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