- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2007

Distressed Bubba?

Even author and playwright Norman Mailer is singing the praises of an unflattering new book on the life of Bill Clinton after leaving the White House, written by R. EmmettBobTyrrell Jr., American Spectator founder and editor in chief.

“For a man I disagree with as much as Emmett Tyrrell … I must say that I enjoyed … his book,” Mr. Mailer writes of “The Clinton Crack-Up: The Boy President’s Life After the White House.”

In a nutshell, Mr. Tyrrell exposes, as his book publisher puts it, “the untold story of Clinton’s unhappy post-presidential lifestyle, including his bouts with emotional distress, his endless globe-trotting, his dubious foreign contacts, the nightlife, his role in Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential run, and her apprehensions about ‘the nightlife’ — plus his possible role as America’s ‘first man.’ ”

If Mrs. Clinton were to become president in 2008, Mr. Clinton’s influence — and luck — would first have to change.

“Four years into his retirement, Clinton was beginning to be presented … as a political genius,” Mr. Tyrrell writes in one chapter. “By 2005, journalists were describing him and his wife as … ‘the two most important political figures of their generation.’

“Yet these political geniuses had presided over the long decline of a party that had dominated American politics since the 1930s,” the magazine editor argues. “As for the former president, in campaigning for others, he has been pretty much a failure. In the 2004 election cycle, for example, 12 of his 14 candidates lost” — among them Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, and 2004 presidential hopefuls John Edwards and John Kerry.

Father Machree

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, although you’d think the one day set aside each year for the popular saint had come and gone, what with both Washington and Alexandria already holding their spirited shamrock-and-bagpipe parades.

“This is too early in my opinion,” says Frank Duggan of the Irish-American Republicans. “In New York City, the parade was always held on St. Patrick’s Day, even if it messed up all the traffic on a weekday. It was the biggest parade in the world, and it went all the way down Fifth Avenue, the middle of the city.”

Mr. Duggan obviously has fond memories of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Indeed, his late “Uncle TimCostello was a “dignified” saloon keeper in New York who enjoyed pouring pints for members of the Washington press corps whenever their beats took them to the city.

Jerry OLeary had many a jar in the place, which was inhabited by many newsmen and literary luminaries,” Mr. Duggan says of the legendary Washington Star reporter, who later covered the White House for The Washington Times. “Uncle Tim was one of the few saloon keepers who would cash out-of-town checks, and in thanksgiving Jerry named his son after Uncle Tim.”

A 1969 issue of American Heritage magazine carried a story about Mr. Costello, pointing out that unlike his Washington nephew, he “frowned on most of the usual outbursts of Gaelic sentimentality. The singing of ‘Mother Machree,’ for example, left him unmoved.”

“ ’Nobody ever mentions Father Machree,’ he often complained. ‘The poor man was undoubtedly working himself to the bone, trying to hold the family together, while Mother Machree was gabbing with the neighbor women, and all the dishes piled up in the sink.’ ”

Greener graves

President Bush, who will host a St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the White House East Room this morning, has issued a proclamation recognizing “the vital contributions of Irish-Americans to our nation. Since our founding, Irish immigrants … have helped shape our way of life, strengthened our economy, and contributed to the arts, and protected our nation.”

Meanwhile, Arlington National Cemetery has become greener after the foremost society of Irish-Americans — the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) — hosted several events in recent days, including an annual wreath-laying at the grave of John F. Kennedy, the only U.S. president who was a member of the AOH.

Also, fresh shamrocks from the Irish Embassy were placed at the grave of George Washington’s adopted grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, the father-in-law of Robert E. Lee who was a leading advocate of Irish freedom in the early part of the 19th century.

“He was very actively involved in Irish-American affairs in Washington before his death in 1847,” the AOH states. “Before he died, he wished aloud that someday an Irishman would come by and place a shamrock on his grave and say, ‘God bless him.’ The Hibernians in the nation’s capital have been fulfilling his wish ever since.”

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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