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Jewish World Review August 10, 2001 / 21 Menachem-Av, 5761

Roger Simon

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Consumer Reports

Furious yet fascinated -- EVERYBODY I know is furious that Bill Clinton has just sold the rights to his memoirs for $10 million.

"It's absolutely outrageous," one friend harumphed to me. "The man is a liar, and all he is going to do is write lies."

So what? I said. You think "Moby Dick" was real? You think Gregory Peck really was a one-legged sea captain who killed a white whale?

"'Moby Dick' was a novel," my friend said. "Clinton is claiming to write a non-fiction account of his life, concentrating on the White House years. But do you really think he is going to tell the truth about Monica and all the other women?"

Of course not, I said. Bill Clinton is not capable of telling the real truth. But his lies are fascinating. And I would rather read a book by him lying about sex than a book by him telling the truth about world trade policy.

"That's idiotic," my friend said.

Not really, I said. I would rather read Clinton's version of the truth -- "When Monica showed me her thong, I just assumed she wanted fashion advice" -- than the usual presidential memoir: "Canada is a friendly giant to the north, and I was determined to improve our relations regarding the mining of bauxite."

"But $10 million!" my friend said. "The Pope only got $8.5 million for his memoirs. Jack Welch, chairman of General Electric only got $7.1 million! Why does Clinton deserve more than those two?"

First of all, I said, these days an author has to really get out there and push his book. The Pope, who is a great man and spiritual leader, is never going to go on "Oprah" or "Larry King." It's just not going to happen.

But Clinton will do every talk show, radio program and supermarket opening he can find. You buy one book, and he'll autograph it; you buy five, and he'll come to your home and do the dishes. And Jack Welch of G.E. -- who is he? A guy who sells toasters. What's he going to write about? How switching from a 100 watt bulb to a 50 watt bulb can really save you money? Forget about it. Clinton has star quality.

"Ten million is still an obscene amount of money," my friend said.

Only if somebody else is getting it, I said. But look at it this way: Clinton is getting the money from Knopf, which is owned by Random House, which is owned by the German media giant Bertelsmann.

Revenues in 1995/96, the last figures I could find for Bertelsmann, were about $15 billion.

That's billion with a "b."

Ten million is nothing to them. And, besides, it gets the money into American circulation.

"What do you mean?" my friend asked.

Well, instead of that $10 million sitting in some bank in Cologne or Stuttgart, it will be in Clinton's hands. And he will put it into circulation in America and help kickstart our slowing economy.

"You mean ..." my friend gasped.

That's right, I said. The cheeseburger industry in this country is about to really take off.

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© 2001, Creators Syndicate