I have not read Bill Clinton’s new book yet.
Oh, I will, but as a matter of principle I’ll wait until it is in the $2.99 cutout bin at one of the Borders Bookstores which distributes this newspaper. Based on the ridicules hype, the publisher undoubtedly overprinted the run and cheap copies will be coming soon to a bookstore near you.
But I have a habit of reading a lot of stuff and no matter how bad the critics have panned the jottings of our dysfunctional 42nd President I will slog through the 900+ pages of self-indulgent blather just so I can quote it the next time he tries to rewrite history. And he will.
I did watch his interview with Dan Rather and I’m left with the impression that what he is telling us is that, “I got away with it, I’m proud of it, my failings as a human being are my mother’s fault and the result of my upbringing and it’s all the fault of Ken Starr and a vast right wing conspiracy.”
The truth is that Bill Clinton is a very smart guy. He knows damn well that he left a stain on the presidency (not to mention Monica’s blue dress) which will take years to erase. He knows that while he may have served two terms in the nation’s most powerful elected office, he will never have the respect of a majority of Americans.
And he wants desperately to rehabilitate himself.
His problem is that he can’t. He doesn’t have one scintilla of remorse for the totally indefensible Animal House antics which marked his political career.
He told Rather that he engaged in the affair with Monica Lewinsky for “the worst of all possible reasons. Because I could.”
In fact, that appears to be the whole reason for his book and the hype. Because he can.
What he left out was that he got away with an awful lot and now wants to blame his conduct on everybody but himself.
When real people in the real world screw up, they don’t turn to spinmeisters like James Carville and Dick Morris to get them off the hook. They stand up take their medicine like men and women and move on with their lives.
Richard Nixon was one of the world’s best instinctive politicians. He could have easily won an impeachment trial. But he chose to resign because he saw that Watergate was making it impossible to govern effectively. Gerald Ford probably forfeited his chance to be elected in 1976 because he made the decision to pardon Nixon from charges which had not even been brought because he felt the nation needed to move on.
Clinton said that he never even thought of resigning.
That, frankly, is because he is one of the least classy people ever elected to public office.
He doesn’t really care. He got a $13-million advance and he’s living large.
If he really wants history to treat him better, he should look to Nixon for an example. By the time Nixon died, he had written several very fair and scholarly works. If you visit the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, you’ll see an intensely unbiased exhibit on Watergate and the downfall of the Nixon administration. We can guarantee you that Nixon himself approved just about everything in the library including that exhibit.
Richard Nixon never shied away from historical fact and, more importantly, he never blamed anyone else for his own problems.
If Clinton is really seeking absolution—and I have a hard time believing that he’s seeking anything except book sales — than he ought to act a little more like Nixon and a little less like the self-indulgent jerk he was in the oval office.
It’ll never happen.