Bill Clinton on 60 Minutes: And So, "The Summer of Clinton" Begins
Bill Clinton is set to break television and book sales records as his very own Summer of Clinton begins. We are right now in the calm before Hurricane Clinton storms the media landscape. Just in time too, as watching Senator John Kerry in "action" (The Corsair yawns) is about as exciting as watching plants produce oxygen. Although I haven't read the book, only excerpts, all accounts of those who have read longer excerpts (or AP which has an actual copy -- those crafties) point in the direction of Clinton utilizing one part down-homey Ozark wisdom suffused with one part simple message of Christian "forgiveness" against the detractors of his life; very Passion of the Christ-like. This, I believe, will be regarded favorably by African-Americans, Latinos and middle class Christians alike, who, historically, have been most receptive to the Christian Beatitudes. The "people of oppression," as Russell Simmons might say. Brilliant strategy, by the way (The Corsair elegantly tips a glass of Grappa in Clinton's direction), affecting the posture of Christ in the face of his enemies, who always seem to rise in direct proportion to Clinton's likeability. His own shadows taking form. Do all world leaders battle their internal shadows in the public arena like Clinton?
But then, Clinton was always precocious. One has to admire the global scale to which Clinton plays The Game, down to his very ground of being he is a political animal, the biggest cat in the jungle, from that handshake with JFK. Make no mistake: The race for the Clinton legacy begins on Sunday, the same day, incidentally, that the Clinton Summer begins.
Once this is all over, Clinton quite possibly might be a sort of Global Preacher to the Oppressed, not inconceivably a future Secretary General of the UN, or, more likely (considering the massive Republican opposition to that concept), an Oprah-esque talk show host, globally syndicated, bringing untold billions to whatever media company acquires it. As CBS's website reports:
"Former President Bill Clinton calls his fight against his impeachment a 'badge of honor' in an exclusive and wide-ranging 60 Minutes interview with Dan Rather to be broadcast Sunday, June 20, at 7 p.m. ET/PT."
Or, as Newsweek's Howard Fineman describes it:
"The rollout is vintage Clinton--charming, down home and completely calculated. In speeches and interviews, the former president has coyly hinted at great revelations amid 'My Life?s' 957 pages. But it?s a tease: he shows just enough leg to make you want to buy the book."
And Reuters reports of the released audio excerpts on his historic handshake with Kennedy:
"... Readers' opportunity to hear Clinton read more enticing excerpts will come in the next few days, as Time Warner Inc.'s AOL releases an excerpt entitled 'I started crying' on Saturday, another entitled 'I loved & forgave him' the next day and 'Marriage remains' on Monday, a spokeswoman said.
"Clinton's choice of opening excerpt, with its references to two of America's most respected presidents, is a way to position himself in a way he wants to be perceived, said John Baker, editorial director of Publishers Weekly.
"'I'm sure he was aware that everyone would be looking for the racy bits, and he wants to come out of the gate first as a statesman-like figure,' Baker said.
But back to CBS's account of the Rather interview:
"In the candid, sometimes emotional interview, the 42nd president of the United States talks about his public and private life ? soon to be revealed in his upcoming memoir My Life.
"He also discusses his Arkansas childhood and family, his times as Arkansas governor, and the triumphs and failures of his presidency."
Unfortunately -- or, fortunately, depending on how you view matters -- today's New York Times focused almost exclusively on the Lewinsky scandal. The Old Gray Lady likes the saucy bits, it appears. That and the endless repetition that Hillary Clinton looked "as if she had been punched in the gut" when she learned the truth. Bill slept on the couch for two months (The Corsair yawns). By next week you will have heard about that about a hundred times, mark my words.
Personally, I'd rather hear about his childhood, his thoughts on Vietnam, Kosovo and the Rwanda debacle.
CBS's site continues:
"'For him to talk about his personal life in these terms is pretty extraordinary,' says Rather of his interview with Mr. Clinton.
"'The interview is explosive, revealing, insightful, and reflective. We've never seen a former president talk about his life the way he's done.'"
Which is why The Corsair cannot wait to see Clinton being New Age Sensitive President on Oprah. You know Oprah, more than Rather, will get Clinton to emote, to look back on his history.
"Mr. Clinton tells Rather he is proud that he fought the impeachment battle that failed to drive him from office.
"'I didn't quit. I never thought of resigning and I stood up to it and beat it back,' he tells Rather.
"'The whole battle was a badge of honor. I don't see it as a stain, because it was illegitimate,' says Mr. Clinton of the impeachment process that he calls 'an abuse of power.'"
The AP, which mysteriously obtained an early copy of the book, amplifies on that point:
"Clinton said his biggest presidential mistake was a 1994 decision that would ultimately lead to his impeachment - asking then-Attorney General Janet Reno to name a prosecutor to look into his Whitewater land dealings.
"He said he was not worried about the prosecutor, because he had nothing to hide. But Clinton observed that he may have been so worn out and upset by the death of his mother that he failed to make what now seems the wiser choice - release the necessary papers, give Democrats a thorough briefing and seek their support.
"The original prosecutor, Robert Fiske, was succeeded by Kenneth Starr, and the investigation was eventually expanded to include Clinton's affair with Lewinsky.
"Writing about his 1998 impeachment, Clinton said Republican leaders were not punishing him for dishonesty or immoral conduct in having an affair with Lewinsky and lying about it under oath. He said he believed the reason was power, and because his political goals were different from theirs.
"He survived the ordeal and remained focused on his job because of the support of the White House staff and Cabinet - even those who felt betrayed by his behavior - numerous world leaders, and encouraging words from both friends and strangers.
"He even expressed gratitude to his political enemies for bringing him and his wife closer together. And once the impeachment process was over, his eviction - of at least two months - to the couch in a living room next to the bedroom ended, too, he said."
The CBS site on the Rather interview continues:
"Mr. Clinton views his economic plan as the greatest accomplishment of his presidency.
"'I kept score, how many people's lives were better off,' he tells Rather. 'I think the fact that we were able to have 22 million jobs and record home ownership and lower interest rates ? people actually had the ability to do more things than ever before.'
"He had many days as president that he counts among his best, including his efforts to help the residents of Kosovo and rid the world of a dictator. 'The day that Kosovar war ended and I knew Milosevic's days were numbered was a great day. I had a lot of great days,' he says.
"The failure high on his list of regrets is the affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky that he terms 'a terrible moral error.'
"The affair?s disclosure put him, he says, 'in the doghouse' with his wife and also threatened to alienate his daughter, Chelsea. The family was able to overcome its terrible effect through counseling, however.
"Hillary, says Mr. Clinton, needed time with him to decide whether she would stay married to him.
"'We'd take a day a week, and we did a whole day a week every week for a year, maybe a little more and did counseling,' says Mr. Clinton. 'We did it together. We did it individually. We did family work.'"
Did this involve Jesse Jackson?
"Why did Mr. Clinton commit adultery? He tells Rather there is no rational explanation. 'I did something for the worst possible reason. Just because I could,' says Mr. Clinton. 'I think that's just about the most morally indefensible reason anybody could have for doing anything.'
"Rather interviewed Mr. Clinton in his home in Chappaqua, N.Y., June 15, and last weekend in Arkansas, where Mr. Clinton took 60 Minutes cameras to his childhood home in Hope, the capitol in Little Rock, and to Hot Springs, where he grew up.
"The interview addresses all the important aspects of Mr. Clinton's life. He speaks about the issues of his presidency, including the war on terror and Osama bin Laden and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, regretting his failure to convince Yasser Arafat to accept a proposal he thought could finally bring peace."
I'm so there for you Dan Rather. So very there.