- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Crack-ups have been good to Emmett Tyrrell, who has written best-sellers about both “the liberal crack-up” and “the conservative crack-up.” Now we see Bill Clinton cracking up in the luxurious retirement he despises. The beds are soft, but they aren’t in the White House. The limousine is big and black, but it has to stop for stoplights.

Despite the boodle and swag the 42nd president has collected from colleges, American industrialists, Arab sheiks, high-minded divines without congregations, mindless Hollywood glitterati and even British orphans willing to listen to his speeches about himself ($43 million over the first four years alone), retirement has not been kind to the Boy President, as Bob Tyrrell, the editor in chief of American Spectator magazine, calls him. The ex-prez has no focus, drive or access to compliant interns. Twelve of the 14 candidates he campaigned for last year lost.

Bubba is no doubt counting on the Sturm, Drang and frenzy of Hillary’s presidential campaign to put the lead back in his pencil, but Hillary won’t like many of the 292 pages of “The Clinton Crack-up,” published by Thomas Nelson, in bookstores now. All the Clinton disasters, scandals, catastrophes, calamities and assorted misfortunes shared are here, all riotously told, carefully researched and conveniently indexed.

This is the season for books on Hillary, new ones by Carl Bernstein, Jeff Gerth and Don Von Atta, who dutifully recycle rumors, rehash gossip and rewrite the clips, many of them from Mr. Tyrrell’s magazine. “The Clinton Crack-up” has new stuff, told not as the dreary cosmic cautionary tale so beloved by Washington’s chattering class, but as a yarn told by a merry prankster.

Hillary may actually be the doomsday candidate, the dowager Queen of Drear, but she remains inseparable from Bubba. He’s the outrageous baggage, she’s the outrage. The Clintons once told voters to “vote for one and get one free,” and Mr. Tyrrell’s book demonstrates that the doughnut you get free is never as tasty as the one you pay for.

“The Clinton Crack-up” reminds us of how much we’ve missed “the sempiternal turbulence in Bill’s pants,” the wreckage of the dignity of the Oval Office as it becomes the cloud over Hillary’s campaign. In retirement, the Boy President no longer has the consolations of the White House interns who were his comfort women, but good times there are not forgotten. A Secret Service source tells the author that Bubba “will occasionally spend the night at houses of where he was only expected for dinner.”

Mr. Tyrrell likens Bubba in retirement to the Flying Dutchman, calling his retirement “the Ghost Ship,” endlessly circling the globe in pursuit of cash and adulation. In the year 2005, he visited 67 countries; in seven days, he stopped in six countries in Africa alone. Always dialing for dollars, he collected $100,000 from a society to aid children (some of them orphans) in London, $300,000 from an Australian organization fronting for Beijing’s “peaceful reunification of China” (i.e., swallowing Taiwan), $200,000 for shilling for a developer of condominium apartments in China. But he took time to learn how to cultivate intimate friendships as mortal men do, sending (yellow) roses, perfume and embroidered towels to dear friends, and, on Rio’s Ipanema Beach, purchasing three string bikinis for other figures that caught his eye (“none of which has been seen on Hillary”).

Friends of Bill often chide Bubba’s critics of being obsessed with the scandals of the Clinton years. But what else was there? If historians won’t be kind, maybe the Guinness Book of Records will.

“Historians chronicling the Clintons’ lives will have spent more time interviewing lawyers, prosecutors, police officers and federal agents than historians chronicling the lives of any other first family,” writes Bob Tyrrell. “Born without a libido, Clinton would have presided over a much different presidency. To be sure, it would have had an abundance of lesser scandals, for Clinton’s fundamental problem is low character, not high testosterone.”

For all his emotional abuse of his wife, however, Bubba has given her something more useful to a candidate than string bikinis, the sympathetic role of deceived wife. We paid a lot for it.

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.

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