In this era of outsiders seeking the presidency, a notorious huckster has taken self-aggrandizement to a new level, challenging a bona fide Republican candidate to a debate.
David Brock — a confessed character assassin of liberals who has found religion in that camp — now shills for Hillary Clinton, one of his old targets, in her bid for the 2016 Democratic nomination. He has called on Jeb Bush to take him on in a battle of emails, in response to Mr. Bush's recent publication of an ebook.
Of course the gimmick is no more than a blatant needling of the embattled Mr. Bush. But the infamously self-promoting Mr. Brock elevating himself to the stature of a presidential candidate would be laughable if it weren't so preposterous. The insult to the whole process makes one wonder why Hillary Clinton would have such a smarmy hack representing her campaign, even indirectly.
Unless, that is, Mr. Brock's well-established fund-raising campaign talent, along with his ability to worm his way into the Clinton political and personal fortress, is too appealing to reject. Mr. Brock, it may be remembered, was the author of the classic hatchet job in 1993 on young lawyer Anita Hill, who testified to having been sexually harassed by then Supreme Court candidate Clarence Thomas.
Mr. Brock, after an early romance with ultraconservatism that included attacks on Ms. Hill and on Bill and Hillary Clinton, did a spectacular one-eighty, confessing to fabricating his story on Anita Hill and becoming an unvarnished cheerleader for the Clintons. Ever the promoter, Mr. Brock created his own truth squad called Media Matters aimed at conservative news media, particularly the Fox News television empire.
He also spearheaded an offshoot called Correct the Record that bird-dogs critical stories on the Clintons and other liberal figures, and currently is in full cry in defense of Hillary's presidential campaign against her would-be Republican challengers in the 2016 race, in which she is the clear Democratic front-runner.
When Jeb Bush's campaign, struggling against his stumbling in the polls, decided last week to release an ebook of replies to emails he received as governor, titled "Reply All," Mr. Brock got a brainstorm.
In a letter to Bush gushing in faux cleverness, he wrote: "It takes a certain kind of politician to attempt to electrify a low-energy campaign with an electronic textbook full of 10-year-old emails, but I'm not here to second-guess your strategy. Indeed, I'm countering with an idea that may bring some pizazz to your otherwise humdrum effort: You and I should have a public debate on the email and transparency issues and your record vs. Hillary Clinton's." Mr. Brock closed: "Let's have the debate. You bring the low energy, I'll bring the hair. I can't be more fearsome than Donald Trump, can I?"
Did Hillary really want this sophomoric message reading like a schoolyard taunt to go out representing her serious effort to become president of the United States? Did she really know this campaign functionary was taking it upon himself to challenge one of the real Republican candidates as her surrogate? Even as a gag, albeit a childish one, one must conclude that Mr. Brock was assuming a role well above his pay grade.
Hillary Clinton already has enough of a distraction coping with all the publicity siphoned off by the controversial — some would say conspiratorial — intrusion of her shadowy pal, one-time reporter Sid Blumenthal, and his offers of information on affairs Libyan. Her second bid for the presidency was supposed to have freed itself of mistakes and criticisms of her staff generated in the first go-around in 2008, but maybe not.
The sheer effrontery of Mr. Brock the provocateur offering himself as a surrogate for her in taking on Jeb Bush, even in jest, is superfluous, inasmuch as Donald Trump has already done an effective job in cowing the latest heir in the Bush dynasty into a defensive crouch on the campaign trail. Hillary, for her own good, should bring this particular dog to heel.
Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power" (Smithsonian Books). His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.