September 21st, 2020


Pod Help Us All: The Downloadable Clintons

Bill Whalen

By Bill Whalen

Published May 6, 2019

Pod Help Us All: The Downloadable Clintons
Believe it or not, there was other political news this week that didn't involve rocks thrown in Caracas --- or in Bill Barr's direction.

For example, this report in The Blast that has the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation filing a trademark application for a podcast. The working title: "Why Am I Telling You This?"

The report notes: "The filing states the title will be used for, "Downloadable podcasts in the field of creating global economic opportunity, improving public health, inspiring civic engagement and service and the presidency of William J. Clinton.""

It adds: "It's unclear if President Clinton plans on hosting the podcast himself, or will just be providing content and occasional quips about his presidency."

Where to begin?

First, where's David Letterman when you need him – with a top-ten list of other Clinton podcast titles that didn't make the cut: "Why Am I Telling You Doing This?" . . . "Depends Upon What "Is" Is" . . . "The Era of Big Podcasts Is Over."

And that's just the G-rated version . . .

Second, what are the plans for click-bait? Ask yourself: which episode is guaranteed more downloads – reliving healthcare reform with Donna Shalala, or revisiting the government shutdown with Monica Lewinsky?

Third, podcasts aren't the same as commercial broadcasts – there are few time constraints other than the commensurate pressure on vocal chords and bladder systems.

The thought of Bill Clinton with an open-ended mike? Scary.

I do have two serious thoughts to share.

First, what does the desire to launch a podcast tell us about the Clintons' political and commercial status?

The former First Couple has done eight-figure books deals and raked in more than $153 million in speaking fees from the time they left the White House in 2001 up until the time Hillary tried to re-enter the residence 15 years later.

But that was then, this is now.

Last month, the Clintons undertook a six-city "conversation" tour across North America with a considerably more modest pay-out (a soft ticket market prompted one publication to dub the Clintons "the "Spinal Tap" of the political world").

And now, a podcast. Meaning: it likely won't cost you anything to hear the Clintons' thoughts.

It's what comes from being a former Democratic First Couple, but not the most recent former Democratic First Couple (the Obamas looking to make ends meet on their $65 million book advance and $400,000 speaking fees).

On the other hand, those deep Clintonian thoughts would be worth listening to if the former president dared to do what most celebrity-driven podcasts don't: namely, push the envelope and explore outside the host's comfort zone.

Figure it this way: a trip down the memory lane of the 1990s and the Clinton presidency – conversations involving the former president and assorted FOBS, hired minions and fawning admirers – is going to be non-confrontational, non-controversial and probably non-informative if you want to know what the Clinton World honestly thinks.

But imagine a Clinton podcast that has the former president sitting down with the 20 men and women who want to be the 46th President of the United States. Who better than Bill Clinton (one of the few voices in his wife's campaign who expressed concern over white, working-class voters), to discuss message and strategy and how best to reconnect the Democratic Party with Reagan Democrats?

Or imagine a Clinton podcast that that has the former president in deep conversation with the other three living men who held the job for one or two terms (I'm not including the current occupant)?

Finally, imagine a Clinton podcast that has the former president and his wife assessing their impact and legacy – why no other Democrat was able to make triangulation a winning presidential strategy; what it's like to be sitting in the bleachers while their fellow Democrat pick apart their White House record (welfare reform, trade agreements, the 1994 federal crime bill).

Those podcasts might not challenge Joe Rogan, Dr. Phil and crime junkies atop the podcast charts, but they would add some candor and intellectual heft to a political world running low on those supplies.

And the Clintons? After nearly two decades and a relentless pursuit of policymaking and moneymaking, they might find giving it away for free to be a refreshing change.