Political Hay

Clinton By the Book

Our turkey of an Ex-Prez treats us to his faves.

By 11.27.03

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Making lists is one of our culture's great passions. So it should surprise no one that along to feed that addiction now comes the nation's Indulger-in-Chief. Bill Clinton, ignoring the notion that former presidents are supposed to yield the spotlight, has just splashed across the news pages by issuing a list of his 21 favorite books.

Did anyone request this?

Repulsive though Clinton is, he is also a mesmerizing creature. And though we all say we would like him to go away once and for all, we are secretly glad that he insists on injecting himself into our lives. His utter shamelessness can be entertaining when we don't have to worry about him selling out national security to the ChiComs or trying to model our healthcare system after Canada's.

So it is the case with Clinton's book list, which provides a valuable look at our 42nd president. A window into his soul, if you will.

See for yourself.

The first thing you notice is that the man is a liar. Hardly stop-the-presses news anymore. That Clinton is a congenital liar is established fact. As president he lied about everything - big things, little things, anything. When caught, he lied about lying. Most of the time, it seemed, he lied just for the fun of it.

With this most recent endeavor, it's strangely comforting to see the old dog keeping his polished form.

How can you tell Clinton's lying? There are two pieces of -- ahem -- fairly unimpeachable evidence.

First, he cites Hillary's Living History as one of his faves. Clearly a lie. No one who has picked up that deadening doorstop can plausibly declare it one of the all-time best. It is patently unreadable, from start to finish. (Except when she calls The American Spectator "the right-wing propaganda publication.")

Now, it's possible -- possible -- Bill was parsing his words in choosing his accomplice's memoir as a favorite. She pulled her punches in that book, and left a lot of dirty laundry in the hamper. Bill is undoubtedly grateful. So maybe it really is one of his favorites, for entirely selfish reasons.

Even if we grant him the benefit of the doubt on that possible sin of commission, there is no escaping his glaring sin of omission.

Peruse the list, which includes The Collected Poems of William Butler Yeats as well as T.S. Eliot's The Four Quartets. What's missing? It's obvious: Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass.

Even the most casual student of Clintonia knows the Arkansas Philanderer courted both Hillary and Monica with Whitman's classic, and likely dozens of other conquests in between.

Throughout the decades, Bill Clinton has had no trustier friend than Walt Whitman. Not his reliable enabler Vernon Jordan, not even loyal Washington lickspittle Sidney Blumenthal.

With Leaves of Grass, Old Walt never let Bill Clinton down.

Reason magazine's Nick Gillespie explained why Casanova Clinton would keep recycling this one to get in girls' pants:

Anyone familiar with Leaves of Grass can understand why the president might deploy it in his romantic intrigues. An undeniably great work of literature, Whitman's poem celebrating "the procreant urge of the world," "unspeakable passionate love," and "blind loving wrestling touch" simultaneously exudes a touch of class and raw sex appeal. Like Ravel's Bolero and Botticelli's Birth of Venus, it has long been a high-end aphrodisiac."

High-end aphrodisiac indeed. Or as I call it, Guttenberg's Rohypnol.

The rest of the list is endlessly fascinating. It is an overly very serious collection, which is ironic because Clinton's presidency was a decidedly unserious affair. But it speaks volumes and volumes about the man. The selection is astoundingly calculated. It is the list of someone desperate to be thought well of. Given who that someone is, it is as shameless as one might expect, and even downright offensive.

How on earth, for instance, can he list Thomas a Kempis's The Imitation of Christ as a favorite? Good God. He really does have no decency.

A glance at the titles on the list begs countless other questions as well.

Politics as a Vocation, by Max Weber. Is Clinton feeling just a tad bit defensive about spending virtually his entire adult life on one government payroll or another?

Bill Clinton derived no small benefit from Toni Morrison declaring him our first black president. So he repays her generosity … by omitting her in favor of Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings?

By picking Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again, is Clinton trying to justify abandoning his home state of Arkansas? I've been to Arkansas. Does anyone need justification to leave?

Did Clinton really pick Reinhold Niebuhr's Moral Man and Immoral Society? Does he really think that highly of himself? Is he really that deluded?

To which I say, Wow.

I also say it because of what's obviously wanting from this list (in addition to Leaves of Grass). Where's The Bridges of Madison County? How about I, Rigoberta Menchu? Where's John Gray? Why aren't there any trashy Jackie Collins or Candace Bushnell novels?

And since The Big He lives in a world where everything really is All About Him, then where, oh where, is Primary Colors?

For these answers and more, I guess we're just going to have to wait for the book.

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