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Jewish World Review August 21, 2001 / 2 Elul 5761

Linda Bowles

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An open letter to former President William Jefferson Clinton -- Dear Bill:

You are off to a very bad start with the $10 million agreement to write a book about your life and career. Frankly, for once, the literati and the average potential reader are saying the same thing: everything about you worth knowing is already known, right down to your underwear, and if you add anything new to jazz up the book, it is likely you are not telling the truth.

Furthermore, you have confounded your problem by agreeing to write the book yourself, under the direction of a notorious "editor," Robert Gottlieb. It is true that Gottlieb has had considerable success in editing books written by many notables, but he is more than an editor. He is a personality, and a strange one at that.

According to an article in The New York Times, Gottlieb has certain Bohemian affectations. He collects kitsch, that is to say, art objects of conspicuous bad taste, such as one might find, as he does, at flea markets. His specialty is plastic handbags. His first book written in 1987 was titled, "A Certain Style: The Art of the Plastic Handbag." He refers to his writers as "dear boy." When he was fired from his job as editor of the New Yorker in 1992, he told reporters he was the "happiest girl in town."

My dear Mr. Ex-President, my dear boy, how long are you going to be able to suppress your renowned and explosive temper as you deal with a man who has worked for years to perfect his annoying eccentricities? And, aside from the potential problem of personal chemistry, Gottlieb's skill is in coaching his clients to be absolutely forthcoming and honest. Dear boy, how compatible is that with your goal to preserve and enhance your legacy and cast the best possible light upon your dysfunctionality? Are you really going to tell the bare truth, for example, about the rape of Juanita Broaddrick, or are you going to explain how you defended the Constitution from destruction by your right wing enemies?

Let's talk specifics. I have an idea about packaging the book in such a way that people will want to read it. Here are three options: display the book in a brown manila envelope, shrink-wrap it in a transparent condom, or enclose it in a cover with a zipper that can be opened but cannot be closed. This will motivate that majority of Americans who have developed a gluttonous appetite for cultural trash.

Your book should have a theme. Here it is: our lives and all of human history can be understood in terms of a struggle between good and evil, between that which is the best within us and that which is the worst. The rise and fall of civilizations mirror the ebb and flow of this struggle. So does the career of William Jefferson Clinton.

What happened to you is not a story of sleaze; it is a story of the ebb and flow of the struggle between the noble impulses of your frontal lobes and the irrepressible, pants-dropping impulses of "Mr. Happy," operating below the belt, with a mind and a will of his own.

Every best-seller has blockbuster material in it. It is too easy to leak to the media that you discuss being "hit on" not only by Prime Minister Tony Blair but by the queen herself. While injecting those kinds of sensational revelations into your book to jack up sales is not beneath you, it is trite and overdone.

Instead, announce your intention to run for the presidency in 2004. Yes, I understand that the Constitution says you can't do that, but working your way around constitutional constraints is a talent you have demonstrated time and again. I suggest you develop the point that you are now not the same man who served two terms as president.

Do not claim this is so because you have "reinvented yourself" or because you are a "new" Democrat." Rather, take the tack that you have been "reborn" in truth, given a new heart and a new way of thinking. You have experienced a new hairdo. It is a transmigratory miracle. You are literally not he who was; you are he who is. This segues beautifully into the title of your book: "IS."

You must change your name. You are now Abdullah Babu Cleanton, candidate from Harlem to become president of the United States. The past is prelude. You know the drill.

Comment on JWR contributor Linda Bowles' column by clicking here.

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© 2001, Creators Syndicate