July 4, 2004
I was one of the 15 million viewers who tuned in to watch Bill Clinton's interview on 60 Minutes last Sunday. It's hard to avoid him actually, with his omnipresent self seemingly everywhere promoting his book My Life, which went on sale yesterday. Even AOL has a live interview with the former president on June 24th.
The publishing industry is aflutter about this highly anticipated book, and calls it the adult equivalent of Harry Potter. The first printing of 1.5 million copies is already sold out, with a second printing in the works. It has been #1 on the Amazon bestsellers list long before it was available.
Last Monday, a party for 1,000 guests at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art was a fitting sendoff. Hundreds of people lined up in Manhattan yesterday for the first of many Clinton book signings all over the country.
I am an admirer of President Clinton. He is a politically savvy technocrat, one of the most intelligent presidents we've ever had. When he was at the helm, I rested easy knowing that we had a president with a complete grasp of the issues and the ability to comprehend its ramifications. When it came to running the country, no one can accuse him of having been incompetent or inept.
Then came Monica Lewinsky, about whom I am still upset and disappointed to this day. Here was a beleaguered president who just handed his rabid opponents the political bullet to shoot him with. For someone so astute to commit such a foolish mistake and jeopardize his presidency was beyond belief.
However, my disappointment with Clinton's lack of personal scruples is overshadowed by my disgust with the witch hunt that followed. $70 million from the public's coffers was wasted in order to smear and humiliate a duly elected president. Why should we care about his personal indiscretions--a matter which was solely between him and Hillary--if it did not affect his performance of the job for which he was hired? An extramarital affair no matter how sordid is not an impeachable offense. We elected a president, not the pope.
On his 60 Minutes interview with Dan Rather, Clinton was reflective and contrite about his failings but also defiant of those who tried to bring him down. Critics are already panning the book, most notably Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times [registration required] who described the book as "the sound of one man prattling away, not for the reader, but for himself and some distant recording angel of history". Kakutani in turn is debunked by Media Matters for America which charges that the critic did not disclose Clinton's criticism of her newspaper The New York Times regarding its coverage of Whitewater.
Not that it matters, since critics don't decide what books I read. I'm not expecting a literary masterpiece from Mr. Clinton, a politician who wrote the book himself instead of getting a ghost writer like most public figures do. Besides, his personal failings do not define his presidency, and looks inconsequential compared to the quagmire the current administration put us in today. He dealt with relevant national concerns during his watch, of which I'm eager to know about from his own words.
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