- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2000

For the photographer to capture the essence of Bill Clinton for the cover of Esquire magazine, he had to shoot from below, focusing at the approximate level of the presidential belt. The eloquence of the angle alone tells much about Mr. Clinton, his designated successor Al Gore and their supporters. But there's more to it than that.

Above the belt, there is the white shirt, the blue tie and the smirk. Below the belt there are the president's two hands resting on his knees, which are spread wide apart. Wide apart as in splayed. Wide apart as in the good old days of the government shutdown, thongs and "Leaves of Grass." As in the good old days before "is" became "was," and That Woman had to sell handbags for a living. As in the days before the Impeachment Day pep rally where Al Gore called Mr. Clinton "one of our greatest presidents."

This quintessential portrait of the president of the United States (see esquiremag.com) may temporarily render readers speechless, as the lurid history of the Clinton-Gore administration returns in an off-kiltering rush. But this splayed-legged portrait of the Big He isn't only about the past. Imagine the impact it would have as a campaign poster for these final days of the presidential race. It just needs a slogan; something catchy, something heartwarming something like, "Win one for the Groper."

No kidding, this photo is one for the books psychology books. Indeed, it might be best to leave its full analysis to the mental health experts. Nonetheless, the thrust, so to speak, is clear. One week away from Election Day (Mr. Clinton now insists he was "faithfully promised" the interview wouldn't appear until after the election), Mr. Clinton is signaling his unbridled contempt for all Americans who have been outraged by his misconduct in office, in particular those Republicans who showed the political courage to oppose him, driven not by an expedient reliance on polls, but rather by an unswerving and, indeed, inspiring allegiance to the nation's founding principles.

It is to these Americans that Mr. Clinton refers in the Esquire interview. With a world view that may best be described as extraterrestrial, Bill Clinton actually suggests that Republicans owe the nation an apology for impeaching him or, as he puts it elsewhere in the interview, for "trying to precipitate this great Constitutional crisis for political advantage."

"Unlike them," Mr. Clinton says, "I have apologized to the American people for what I did wrong, and most Americans think I paid a pretty high price. They never apologized to the country for impeachment. They never apologized for all the things they've done."

The hubris is colossal. What Mr. Clinton suggests is that by having sought to apply the law of the land to his presidential ship, Republicans committed a gross insult against the American people, who, as Mr. Clinton puts it, "certainly didn't deserve to have their president disappear or become diverted." What is this L'etat c'est le Big He? It must be noted that in Mr. Clinton's rhetoric there are glimmers of autocratic delusions.

Mr. Clinton also suggests that, by having grudgingly offered his own apologies those feeble public embarrassments he executed out of political necessity he has absolved himself of his crimes against the dignity of the presidency, not to mention their impact on moral life. "Right now, I think the American people should be focused on this election," said Mr. Clinton, attempting to stymie interest in the interview. Of course, they are focused and this interview is a big help.

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