Sunday, June 01, 2008

Vanity Fair Looks At Bubba Trouble


Over the past few months at least half a dozen people have sworn me to secrecy about Bill Clinton's Los Angeles misadventures. I never breathed a word to anyone-- not even to people who told me the same story that three people already had. In my book, he's kind of a private citizen now-- and I hope he stays that way-- and he's entitled to a little privacy. The new Vanity Fair doesn't afford him any at all. Vanity Fair introduces Todd Purdum's piece, "The Comeback Id," with a bang: "Old friends and longtime aides are wringing their hands over Bill Clinton’s post–White House escapades, from the dubious (and secretive) business associations to the media blowups that have bruised his wife’s campaign, to the private-jetting around with a skirt-chasing, scandal-tinged posse. Some point to Clinton’s medical traumas; others blame sheer selfishness, and the absence of anyone who can say 'no.' Exploring Clintonworld, the author asks if the former president will be consumed by his own worst self." I'm still not going to compromise any of my own private sources (some of which are way better than Purdum's) but I'll share a few of his observations.
Bill Clinton’s relevance— and his presence in public life— is as close to permanent as any politician’s can be. Before touching off a string of controversies in his wife’s campaign this year, he was among the most popular figures on the planet, one of only three Democratic presidents in the 20th century to serve two full terms. His looming presence will make him a factor in the Democratic vice-presidential sweepstakes, the fall campaign, and every future presidential election of his lifetime, whatever his wife’s fate.

...To know Clinton is, sooner or later, to be exasperated by his indiscipline and disappointed by his shortcomings. But through it all, it has been easy enough to retain an enduring admiration-- even affection-- for a president whose sins against decorum and the dignity of his office seemed venial in contrast to the systemic indifference, incompetence, corruption, and constitutional predations of his successor’s administration. That is, easy enough until now.

This winter, as Clinton moved with seeming abandon to stain his wife’s presidential campaign in the name of saving it, as disclosures about his dubious associates piled up, as his refusal to disclose the names of donors to his presidential library and foundation and his and his wife’s reluctance to release their income-tax returns created crippling and completely avoidable distractions for Hillary Clinton’s own long-suffering ambition, I found myself asking again and again, What’s the matter with him?

In the eight page article, he attempts to answer his own question in a way that consciously stays as far from tabloid-territory as this kind of story can. Purdum outlines the context of what he calls "appearances of impropriety" and even tries a little armchair psychology: "displaced anger, "cavernous narcissism," "repellent grandiosity," golf cheat, "colossal egotism..."
Over the last few years, aides have winced at repeated tabloid reports about Clinton’s episodic friendship and occasional dinners out with Belinda Stronach, a twice-divorced billionaire auto-parts heiress and member of the Canadian Parliament 20 years his junior, or at more recent high-end Hollywood dinner-party gossip that Clinton has been seen visiting with the actress Gina Gershon in California. There has been talk of a female friend in Chappaqua, a woman in a bar at a meeting of the Aspen Institute, and a public sighting of Clinton, Bing, and a ravishing entourage in a New York elevator that, a former Clinton aide told me, led a business leader who saw them to say: I don’t know what the guy was doing, but it was so clear that it was just no good.

None of these wisps of smoke have produced a public fire. But four former Clinton aides told me that, about 18 months ago, one of the president’s former assistants, who still advises him on political matters, had heard so many complaints about such reports from Clinton supporters around the country that he felt compelled to try to conduct what one of these aides called an “intervention,” because, the aide believed, “Clinton was apparently seeing a lot of women on the road.” The would-be intercessor was rebuffed by people around Clinton before ever getting an audience with the former president, and another aide told me that the effort was not well received by either Bill or Hillary Clinton and that some Hillarylanders, in particular, were in denial about the continuing political risks that Bill’s behavior might pose.

The sensitivity among Clinton’s staff to these questions is such that, after I posed some queries about Clinton’s relationship with Burkle and Co., a spokesman, Jay Carson, e-mailed me this comment: “The ills of the Democratic Party can be seen perfectly in the willingness of fellow Democrats to say bad things about President Clinton. If you ask any Republican about Reagan they will say he still makes the sun rise in the morning, but if you ask Democrats about their only two-term president in 80 years, a man who took the party from the wilderness of loserdom to the White House and created the strongest economy in American history, they’d rather be quoted saying what a reporter wants to hear than protect a strong brand for the party. Republicans look at this behavior and laugh at us.”

Yes... progressives are more idealistic, less cynical and more... bound up in reality. And no one wants to forget that in his wake... not just NAFTA but, even worse: George W. Bush and one party rule.


I've felt vaguely unclean for printing this story last night, even after swimming 20 laps. The more I thought about it, the more I realized Purdam is a sleazy slimy scumbag. Clinton also called him dishonest. I came to similar conclusions when I thought about how he had smeared Steve Bing in the story. I mean, basically, he didn't have anything on Bing at all-- but he had to throw him in there as though Clinton's singular relationship with Ron Burkle has part of a pattern. But there was no pattern, just a weird relationship with Burkle. Clinton certainly knows Purdam. He says "he's one of the guys that propagated all those lies about Whitewater to Kenneth Starr. He's just a dishonest guy-- can't help it." Later in his interview rant, Clinton claimed the Vanity Fair story is "part of the national media's attempt to nail Hillary for Obama. It's just the most biased press coverage in history. It's another way of helping Obama." I bet Purdam breathed a sigh of relief when he read that part.



At 11:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While we're @ it, how about looking into the possibility of Rush Limbaugh perhaps being impotent or otherwise suffering from a loathsome social disease, given his obsessive tendencies towards the eunuch lifestyle and culture?


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