Bad news for all you Clinton haters: The former president is doing quite well. The cover story in the new issue of Newsweek says he lunched one day with Willie Mays, and another day with Robin Williams and Billy Crystal, and then he flew off to Oscar de la Renta’s place in the Dominican Republic with Chelsea and Hillary. Moreover, he is making millions in speaking engagements. As a cheerful, chatty Jonathan Alter writes in Newsweek, Clinton’s “overseas gigs pull in $200,000 to $300,000 a pop.” And all this, according to Alter, is enough “to drive the Clinton haters nuts.”
That Clinton haters are still out there in great numbers, even after they so unfairly maligned the man during his presidency, is now an article of liberal-left faith. It seems to explain so much. If the Clinton haters, right wingers all, hadn’t sullied politics Al Gore no doubt would be president. But sully they did, and led the American people astray. Indeed the American people have not yet recovered. They still seem to be listening to all the wrong people. How else could you explain George Bush’s high approval ratings?
Meanwhile no matter how unfairly Clinton may have been treated, he is putting the best face on it, according to Newsweek, and trying, even if unsuccessfully, to not let his pain show. Alter writes that Clinton is “willfully chipper, perhaps, barely hiding his hurt, but looser and less bottled up.” Alter, I think, is enjoying himself very much. He knows Clinton did some bad things, but Alter is a sophisticate, too, and he is sure the good outweighed the bad, and so he’s happy to grant absolution.
“Why do you think,” he asks Clinton (in an accompanying interview), “the right wing was so obsessed with you?”
“I think because I won,” Clinton replies. “I think the people in the permanent right-wing establishment just thought they were entitled to rule. That’s why they were so traumatized when I got elected. A bunch of those guys never thought there would be another Democratic president. They thought they found a sort of formula to beat us. [David] Brock says they knew all along that there was nothing to Whitewater and nothing to the Paula Jones case.”
Now I have not read Brock’s book, and so I do not know whether he says that or not. I suspect he does not say it, but no matter. The reviews and articles I’ve read about the book in the New York Times and Washington Post all say that while Brock may be duplicitous and even odious, he has now found religion. Personal need, it seems, made him walk on the dark side of politics, but now he has seen the light. As an unscrupulous right-wing hit man, he did great damage to the American way of life, but he regrets that now, and he will never do it again.
Brock’s book, I think, must make liberals, even former presidents, feel better about themselves. They don’t even have to read it. It offers an explanation for why things went wrong. It also makes liberals feel embattled and righteous. They want to take the high road, but the right wing, the Clinton haters, keep dragging them down. The right wing lies, cheats and makes things up. In the Newsweek interview, Clinton does admit to one tiny mistake — with Monica Lewinsky — but says there is not a shred of evidence that he did anything else improper, so there you are.
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