It’s been three years since we last took a look at Lanny Davis, the longtime Clinton family operative and inside-the-Beltway lobbyist and image-massager for several of the world’s worst dictators. When we wrote about him in 2015, Davis was a TV fixture, running from one cable-news studio to another in an effort to put a positive spin on the damaging news about Hillary’s e-mail server.
“Do you ever get tired of cleaning up after the Clintons?” Fox News journo Chris Wallace asked Davis at the time. Salon has called him a “well-known spinster…whom no one trusts.” Some more fun quotes about this creep: in 2012, calling him “a pitchman for warlords” who “carr[ied] the Devil’s water in Washington,” the Atlantic‘s Jon Lovett said that Davis “represents all that is wrong with politics today.” A 2013 piece in the New Republic began: “The last time we heard from Lanny Davis, he was doing what he does best: representing a dictator.” Among his clients: Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbsogo, dictator of Equatorial Guinea, widely known as the “Auschwitz of Africa,” and the Laurent Gbagbo, President of Cote D’Ivoire.
In short, to use a term that has gained currency since 2015: he is the swamp.
This July, after having kept a relatively low profile for quite a while, Davis resurfaced. News was that President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, who is now the target of a federal probe owing to his role in Trump’s payoffs to former mistresses, had engaged Davis’s services. At the Federalist, David Harsanyi offered a timely reminder of Davis’s career history under the headline “Let’s Take A Moment To Remember The Corrupt Hackery Of Lanny Davis,” stating that “it’s going to be fascinating to watch a shyster like Michael Cohen be transformed into a hero of The Resistance.” Still, added Harsanyi, “America—even with all our transgressions—simply doesn’t deserve Lanny Davis. None of us do.”
Davis, explained Harsanyi, “can be properly described as a personification of the cliché, ‘everything that’s wrong with Washington.’ Cringingly slavish to those in power, a consigliere, fundraiser, surrogate, and cheerful liar, Davis was a perpetual presence on cable TV during the Clinton scandals. Few men in history have ever been able to summon his kind of loyalty in the pursuit of shameless, transparent deceit and corruption.” Well, caan’t argue with any of that.
Harsanyi emphasized how ironic it is that Davis, of all people, is now “preaching—without even a trace of irony—the value of integrity and honesty,” contending that Cohen, formerly a two-bit shyster and bagman type, “has turned a corner in his life, and he’s now dedicated to telling the truth to everyone.” After all, noted Harsanyi, Davis played a not unimportant role “in corrupting the value of personal responsibility, civility, and morality in our political culture. His unwavering defense of Bill Clinton’s corruption and extramarital dalliances (and possibly worse) is a valuable reminder of how we got to this place.” Yep.
“For years,” recalled Harsanyi, “Davis told America that what they were seeing and reading was not what was happening. After tapes emerged of the Clintons illegally soliciting donations from big-money donors at the White House in 1997, for example, Davis sprang into action, not only contending that there was ‘no suggestion that there was any solicitation for money’ — despite the fact that the tapes suggested exactly that — but that many of the big contributions of those who had attended the event and only days later donated to the Clintons were merely an ‘incidental’ occurrence.” Now, this same man who “handled” Bill Clinton’s so-called “bimbo eruptions,” “smearing women he surely suspected were telling the truth about President Clinton’s habitual womanizing” (and worse) is making the usual cable-news rounds striving to whip viewers into a rage over “the tapes of a president and his lawyer discussing how to hide an alleged affair.”
Harsanyi’s summing up is right on the money: “Lanny Davis possess a preternatural chutzpah that puts most contemporary partisan hacks to shame. We’re all worse off having him back.”