Jewish World Review March 19, 1999 /2 Nissan 5759
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Despite the disingenuous mea culpas served up in All Too Human, Stephanopoulos’ just-released tell-all about his years with Bill and Hillary Clinton, he does achieve at least one thing that’s miraculous.
In describing a small bit of the retail politicking that Clinton mastered better than any politician of his generation, Stephanopoulos relates this anecdote from a campaign stop: "It’s true that no man can be a hero to his valet. But every day Clinton also showed how extraordinary he was. Like when he spent his downtime stroking the hand of a little girl, bald and yellow with cancer, and looked into her eyes until she believed she’d grow up to be a movie star."
It was brief, and I suspended any thoughts of base motives on the future president’s part, but I actually admired the man.
But mostly All Too Human, a poorly written book from which the juicier material was already excerpted in the March 15 Newsweek, is an excuse for Stephanopoulos to make a lot of money, distance himself from a criminal boss and probably meet some cute chicks. Absolution of one’s sins has rarely been so profitable.
As I wrote last week, many of Clinton’s former staffers are excusing themselves, saying, "If I knew then what I know now...," but it doesn’t wash. Stephanopoulos describes strategy meetings about "bimbo eruptions," the First Lady’s wrath over the legal ramifications of Whitewater and any number of lies, trivial and consequential, that Clinton perpetuated during his tenure at the White House. In addition, he rewrites history, blaming the vast right-wing conspiracy theory when the administration’s muddled agenda was thwarted. During the general election Clinton’s War Room made President Bush a symbol of the radical right—a characterization that’s simply wrong—and Stephanopoulos brags, "We accused them of trying to turn Hillary into Willie Horton."
He omits the fact that it was Al Gore, in his aborted ’88 primary campaign for president, who first brought up the issue of Horton.
Strangely, future Clinton dirty trickster Sidney Blumenthal isn’t mentioned in Stephanopoulos’ book, even though he was then employed as an advocate of the Democratic ticket at The New Republic, most repulsively writing a distorted essay about Bush’s heroic service during World War II. But Joe Klein, another beneficiary of Clinton’s scandalous presidency, is given sympathetic treatment, as Stephanopoulos describes how they bonded during the early stages of the ’92 campaign.
Klein, who later went on to write Primary Colors, was writing for New York at the time and is responsible as anyone for the premature anointment of the Arkansas cracker. After a dinner in Chicago where both Clinton and his rival Sen. Bob Kerrey gave speeches, the future president dispatched Stephanopoulos to "Find out what Joe thinks." Stephanopoulos located Klein, "a short, bearded reporter for New York magazine who had his eye on Clinton," and found out that he was "as high on the speech as I was, confirming that Clinton had cleaned Kerrey’s clock. Good news to report."
It gets worse. At the beginning of 1992, Clinton conducted one of his patented town meetings in South Carolina, attended by "progressive Southern Democrats," and was received rapturously by the crowd. Stephanopoulos writes: "Joe Klein and I took it all in from the back of the room with tears in our eyes—moved by the emotional moment, expectation and apprehension. Reporters are paid to be dispassionate, but Joe was either smitten with Clinton or doing a smooth job of spinning me... The campaign was going so well that we slipped into what Joe called a ‘dark-off,’ whispering fears of future misfortune like a couple of black-robed crones spitting in the wind to ward off the evil eye... ‘I come from Russian Jews,’ Joe said. ‘Whenever things are good, we start to hear hoofbeats—the Cossacks.’
"‘Yeah, I know just what you mean.’
"‘Don’t try to out-dark me on this one, George. It’s in my genes.’
"‘Mine too,’ I replied. ‘The Turks.’"
On election night in ’92 Stephanopoulos got an inkling of the "Me Generation"’s penultimate representative. He and Clinton were ticking off the results of exit polls and Stephanopoulos, weary yet exhilarated, wanted to show his appreciation to the man he’d just dedicated more than a year of his life to. He writes: "I tried to thank him for changing my life. Helping him win was the best thing I’d ever done. But he wanted an update on Nevada."
All Too Human is currently selling well, even with Monica Lewinsky’s book, written by the reptilian Andrew Morton, in direct competition. Stephanopoulos, on the whole, has fared well in reviews by newspaper pundits, and the spread in Newsweek—one of NYPress’ female editorial staffers thought the pictures were delightfully pornographic—is one that he’ll keep in his memory trunk. USA Today’s mushy Walter Shapiro advises all aspiring political aides to read every page of the "bittersweet memoir".
The Washington Post’s Mary McGrory, who admits that Stephanopoulos is a friend who’d help her garden, wrote on March 11 that "George shows a marriage [the Clintons’] of true minds, and many hugs and kisses... George was the most talented member of the inner circle, the one most able to read Clinton’s mind." The headline of New Republic editor Charles Lane’s column about the books sums up his feelings: "Now He Tells Us."
As my buddy Mike Gentile would say, Mother McClary, but the Reno family must have twisted genes. While Janet is a mummified yes-woman who doesn’t dare cross Clinton, Robert is simply a creep who can’t distinguish an ambitious, amoral political hack from a sociopathic and dangerous president.
I’ll finish with words from a March 10 Wall Street Journal editorial, called "The ‘Commentraitors,’" in which the writer states, "The most notable guilty conscience belongs to George Stephanopoulos." The editorial goes on to cite former Clinton enablers who now publicly say they don’t believe him about almost anything, even the Juanita Broaddrick rape charges. Dee Dee Myers, Betsey Wright, David Gergen and Mike McCurry have all flipped to the vast right-wing conspiracy’s side.
The Journal editorial concludes: "Though it has 23 months to run, the Clinton Presidency increasingly resembles the life of another famous man who escaped official conviction. He is free to play golf and give speeches. He can plead that we all ‘put it behind us.’ But nobody believes him anymore. And he must avoid the press lest he be asked something he will have to lie about again. Bill Clinton has become our President O.J."
Al From Baltimore Reports
MARCH 13: HEY, BECAUSE I MISS A DAY or so doesn’t mean I’ve fallen off the face of the Earth. Actually, this has been a very positive week for me; the less time I have to send you e-mails most likely means I’m busy out of the office, which is usually good and I enjoy it. I think I’m in a better mood when I’m focused on work rather than the news. I haven’t been reading the paper much this week. I mean, thank God for work and family; with the impeachment trial gone, why get out of bed in the morning? When there was a real prospect that Clinton would pay for his offenses, it was fun to follow. The Broaddrick story is now just a very sad one. As I told you, I hated Danny Hellman’s illustration of Clinton and Broaddrick in MUGGER two weeks ago because it made me think of the real pain people have suffered and the process is only a game to people like us who are lucky enough just to be spectators.
Likewise, there’s no pleasure to be taken in the whole Chinese espionage scandal. Remember, it’s not just the nukes, but also the missile technology transfer and the money to the DNC that greased the wheels.
Have the "everybody’s done it" stories started appearing yet? So far, the spin I’m hearing is it’s a "bipartisan" (there’s my favorite word again) scandal. WHO CARES? Get rid of or embarrass everyone involved. Republicans have totally blown it by straying from their term-limits principles. We, the people, like the idea of our representatives having family and jobs above and beyond a preoccupation with holding onto office. People should know when they go to Washington it’s an eight- or 12-year gig, period. Republicans need to be the party of limited government, not get rich while in the government. If they can’t maintain that basic distinction between them and the Democrats, who needs them? I love hearing again the stories about Lamar Alexander, who in 1996, at least, ran as an "outsider." Yeah, he was secretary of education, governor of Tennessee, and while governor, saw his net worth increase from about $150,000 to between $1.5 million and $3 million. Get me the name of his blind trust, I want to put my money there. Makes Hillary’s 100 g’s from the commodity fraud look like chump change.
If we are going to become the "Henry Hyde" Republicans, which you seem to endorse, we need to stand on principle more than just when it’s politically opportune.
Now, as for Judge Starr: Has anyone commented on the striking contrast between his behavior and that of Clinton? When there’s an illegal leak from the administration (to pick one, Linda Tripp’s Pentagon application), there’s bluster about getting to the bottom of the situation, but no one’s ever to blame. With Starr, Bakaly was identified and given the boot in just over a month’s time. No stonewalling, no deny, defend, spin and attack. Is anyone giving credit to Starr for this? Or, his passing on the Broaddrick allegations for his reports, despite the fact that he’s a sex-obsessed, out-of-control prosecutor?
When Starr’s standing in the polls starts to rise, then I’ll know it’s safe to start reading the news seriously again.
One more thing. Why doesn’t the media defend the leakers? They write the leaker-exposed stories like the bad guy’s been caught? If the leaker’s the hooker, the media’s the john? Shouldn’t they be attacking Janet Reno now for wanting to nail someone for getting the news to we, the people? By the way, when is she going to be impeached? The highlight of the Rabinowitz interview was her observation about her dog’s aversion to Reno on tv. That said it all.
Well, gtg. Have a great trip, and rule Britannia.
March 15: I saw about 20 minutes of Russert and Pat Buchanan and about half of Sam and Cokie, as I shuttled back and forth between the set and my numerous weekend obligations. Pat is a racist, and that’s coming from me, remember. He really does have a problem with anybody who’s not Christian white. He’s our Jesse and the sooner he shuts up the better.
And his economics are just as bad. He and Gephardt ought to form their own party.
The interview with Schumer on Sam and Cokie was kind of good, where the Clinton/Hillary split was coyly confirmed. Sam and Cokie said that’s what everybody’s talking about. Is that true? I seem to be the only one in Baltimore who’s aware of it. Could be Hillary knows about the next few shoes that are about to drop.
The Gore stuff is getting good. The Internet remark was great, but so
was the federal proposal to disseminate traffic information. Kristol did
love this, for obvious reasons (and he finally gave the Quayle "potato"
defense—exhausted, given a card to read, and read it). If it’s the
beginning of the Gore story—he’s out of touch and way too full of
himself (don’t forget Love Story)—then Gore’s in trouble. Could Bradley
win the nomination? If there’s more heavy Clinton damage (more Jane
Does, more Chinese giveaways) and Gore stumbles, what gives? Doesn’t
seem likely. Besides, we probably won’t have any idea until three weeks
before the election to see what kind of mood "the people" are
03/17/99: Clinton’s a Broken Man: The GOP’s Huge Opportunity