The Clinton Wars
AUSTIN, Texas -- Watching some dipstick the other day on Fox News carry on with great certainty about Hillary Clinton and her evil motives -- and I don't think this guy actually spends a lot of time tete a tete with Mrs. Clinton while she reveals her deepest thoughts to him -- I wondered, "Lord, when are these people going to get over it?"
I think the answer is never, because most people have a very hard time forgiving those whom they have deeply wronged. I know that's sort of counterintuitive, but think about some of the bad divorces you have known. When we have done something terrible to someone, we often need to twist it around so it's their fault, not ours.
So we continue to suffer this deformity in our public life because of what Sid Blumenthal calls "this perverse episode," the scoundrel time.
Just last week, The Wall Street Journal, reminded of the Vince Foster suicide by Mrs. Clinton's new memoir, "Living History," wrote a nasty, callous, defensive editorial. It's a classic of the genre of exculpating yourself by blaming others. Since Foster named The Wall Street Journal in his suicide note, you might think the paper would, if not acknowledge responsibility, at least have the common decency to express some regret.
I had to force myself to start Blumenthal's book, "The Clinton Wars," because I'm still exhausted from the whole megillah, but then I couldn't stop reading it. It's perversely fascinating. The year this country wasted on the impeachment was the most tawdry, the nastiest, the ugliest, the sorriest chapter I've ever seen in politics.
I watched it from my vantage point in Texas and naturally concluded -- as did everyone else in the country with a lick of common sense -- that everyone in Washington, D.C., had completely lost their minds.
I'm still ambivalent about it. The late, great Billie Carr of Houston -- a woman who had taught the baby Bill Clinton how to do politics when he came over to Texas in 1972 -- was invited to the White House in the middle of the Monica Lewinsky mess. Billie got all gussied up, sashayed up to Clinton in the receiving line and said to him, "You dumb son of a bitch." Thank heavens, I always thought, somebody said to him exactly what every American wanted to say. (Clinton started laughing as Billie proceeded to tear him a new one, and said, "I knew you were gonna do this, Billie.")
On the other hand, Clinton is one of the most brilliant natural politicians I have ever observed -- I put him in a category with Lyndon Johnson and the late Texas Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock. That his presidency could have been so seriously damaged by what was, in fact, a vast right-wing conspiracy is a horrible indictment of politics in our time.
The most depressing thing about Blumenthal's book is that it keeps reminding you that these nasty little ideological zealots set out from Day One to commit the Politics of Personal Destruction. They had no honor, and they had no shame. They were just out to get him any way they could, and when sex proved a convenient route, they used it -- hypocrisy, be damned.
Blumenthal, who was in the center of that cyclone, has accomplished something remarkable -- he has actually written a rather detached account of it all. If I had been that close to it -- and received that much personal abuse -- I doubt I could write without anger, even now.
A couple of times Blumenthal cites some advice Hillary Clinton gave him: "Remember, it's never about you. Whatever you think, it's not about you."
This is not to say there is not some score-settling in this book: The number of reporters who allowed themselves to be used by Kenneth Star and his ideological wrecking crew is a depressing tally in itself. Blumenthal shames the press corps simply by being meticulous himself. "Here is what he would have found if he had bothered to check ..." is his general method. I found only one error in the book -- it was George W. Bush who repeatedly failed in the oil business, not his father, who made $6 million back when that was real money.
"The Clinton Wars" has been criticized for not being more balanced about the flawed presidency -- the Clintons themselves are almost entirely blameless in this account. But if that's what Blumenthal had set out to do, he would have written some other book.
I've heard many people say, "But they made it so easy for people to attack them." That may be true, but it's still blaming the victim, isn't it?
The Clinton wars reflect no credit on anyone, but I still think it was journalism, or what passes for journalism these days, that most disgraced itself. We should all be required to read this book.