Jewish World Review July 16, 2004 / 27 Tamuz 5764

Paul Greenberg

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Bubba and the Little People

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Bill Clinton is kinda cute when he's mad, and he couldn't have picked a better guy to get mad at than the teddibly British creep from the once-respected BBC who was interviewing him the other day about his book. ("My Heroic Life," is it?)

The toff must have spent the better part of his time asking questions only about Monica Lewinsky, like a teenager going through a novel looking for the dirty parts. The rest of the interview seemed to consist of leading questions: "You were fighting for your presidency, and you were fighting as you saw it against political enemies? . So it is true that you lied?"

It would have been enough to get anybody riled, and Bill Clinton no sooner gets riled than he makes it ideological: "And let me just say this," he said in that let-me-say-this-about-that Nixonian way he's developed. "One of the reasons [Kenneth Starr] got away with it is because people like you only ask people like me the questions. You gave him a free ride."

Well, Judge Starr may have a different point of view about all that, considering the treatment he got from Bill Clinton's war room and its flacks out in the press. If there ever was a vast right-wing conspiracy (actually, it was only a small one) there was also a medium-vast left-wing one out there aiming to discredit anybody and everybody on the other side.

Remember when Linda Tripp's confidential records as a juvenile somehow found their way into The New Yorker? It wasn't just the right-wingers who had their gumshoes and e-mailers and leakers and gossip-mongers.

Talk about agitprop, Sidney Blumenthal made an industry of it when he was orchestrating all that return fire out of the Clinton White House. Remember how the idea early on was to depict Monica Lewinsky as just a crazed stalker? (Who knew there would be that blue dress? Without it, Bill Clinton might be lying about the whole thing to this day.)

The former president is entitled to snarl back on occasion. This time he'd been baited by this Anglicized jerk for half an hour that must have seemed like half an eternity. So he told the guy off, but not before going into his riff about the Little People:


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"They indicted all these little people from Arkansas-what did you care about them, they're not famous, who cares that their lives were trampled? . Nobody in your line of work cared a rip about that at the time. And that's the difference in me and the people after me. I actually cared about what happened to those people, and I wanted to be president to help those people. And that's what the fight was about."

See, it wasn't all about perjury or obstruction of justice or lying or general sleazinedss. It was about . the Class Struggle, the Little People! Maybe it's a cultural thing the sociologists will explain some day: why, when Republicans lose their temper, they start harrumphing about the Rights of the Individual, especially to his property, but when Democrats get exercised, they inevitably roll out the Little People.

Somehow I never thought of Jim Guy Tucker, a former governor of Arkansas, or Webb Hubbell, who was briefly assistant attorney general of the United States, as little people before they became targets of opportunity in the Clinton Wars.

But surely Bill Clinton didn't have notables like them in mind when he started declaiming about his loyalty to the Little People. Any more than he was referring to the well-named Marc Rich, one of the more prominent beneficiaries of his last-minute pardonfest.

Let it noted that some of those caught up in the Clinton scandals were indeed innocent, but, lest we forget, it wasn't just Ken Starr who was trolling for suspects. Look what happened to the head of the White House travel office-Billy Dale-when he had the bad luck to be found standing in the Clintons' way. He was accused of mismanagement, taking kickbacks, and generally occupying an office that some Clintonoid could have really used. So he was put through the financial and legal wringer every which way for years before he finally got his day in court, and was promptly vindicated.

Nor do women like Paula Jones seem to count as one of the little people in Bill Clinton's book. Remember how James Carville, another great defender of the Little People, dismissed women like her as Trailer Trash? And by now everybody knows how Bill Clinton treated Monica Lewinsky, champion of the Little People that he is.

Still, Bill Clinton can be quite human. By the end of this interview, the bloke from the BBC was asking about the chances of Hillary's becoming president one day. Unfortunately, he couldn't put a foot right when it came to that touchy subject, either. The BBC's man just had to say that, if the missus became president, voters would be "getting two for the price of one."

That's when Bill Clinton sounded most like a real person-with real regrets. "Yeah," he sighed, "we tried that before, and it didn't work out so well. I think I'll just pour tea."

It almost made you want to buy the poor guy a drink. He sounded like any other ol' boy who'd come a cropper. And, worse, had run out of other people to blame for his own mistakes.

Yes, he sounded very human. How could I have confused him with a garrulous bore all those years? You know, the kind it's painful even to think about listening to, whose idea of a conversation is one continuous loop of stale talking points. Surely I was mistaken. But then, as luck would have it, the next morning I caught him talking, talking, talking to some softball-pitching interviewer on NPR . and, alas, it all came back.

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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.

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