- The Washington Times - Friday, June 6, 2008


The other day an aroused Bill Clinton addressed a lady reporter in South Dakota, shouting a word into her face that the Dictionary of American Slang labels “Taboo.”

As the reporter recorded it, Boy Clinton was “tightly gripping” her hand and “refusing to let it go.” What had aroused him was a story in Vanity Fair that chronicles the excesses - libidinous, commercial and ontological - of his life in retirement and while campaigning for his wife. Among other epithets, the former Boy President applied to the Vanity Fair writer, Todd Purdum, was “scumbag.”

About 15 years ago Mr. Clinton’s famously coarse political aide, James Carville, used the same word in public and it fell to me to educate him as to the word’s meaning. It does not merely mean a despicable individual. According to the aforementioned dictionary, it means a condom, a used condom. After I apprised Mr. Carville of his indiscretion, he never again used this word on television or in any national forum that I am aware of. Now Mr. Clinton has.

After reviewing his recent outbursts while campaigning for his wife, I think I can safely say the 42nd president of the United States has the foulest mouth of any president in American history, at least in public. His outburst against Mr. Purdum alone makes that clear.

What aroused Mr. Clinton’s wrath was a perfectly credible account of the retired president’s life. I know this for a fact because fully 17 anecdotes used by Mr. Purdum were reported in my recent book, “The Clinton Crack-Up.” To be sure, Mr. Purdum never mentions my book, not even when he compares Harry Truman’s comparatively penurious retirement with Mr. Clinton’s posh retirement and reckless financial deals - a comparison I made in Chapter One.

So while I disapprove of Mr. Clinton’s denunciation of Mr. Purdum as “sleazy,” “slimy,” and a “scumbag,” I should mention that when he calls him “a really dishonest reporter,” the ex-president has a point.

Mr. Purdum, at least in Vanity Fair, has been dishonest about his sourcing. Otherwise the chronicle of Bill Clinton that Mr. Purdum reports is right on the money. None of the stories I have reported about Mr. Clinton’s excesses in retirement has been disproved. No reviewer of my book has found any major misstatement.

Now that Barack Obama seems certain to be nominated at the Democratic National Convention, we might review what the Clintons actually achieved in Hillary Clinton’s nomination drive.

People forget that days after the Clintons left the White House they tumbled to rock bottom in public approval and in the eyes of the media. The property they carted out of the White House and the wreck they left it in, with all the practical jokes their young staffers left for the incoming Bush administration, had revealed them as the rogues they have always been.

More damaging were the pardons the Boy President granted, some of which his brother and Hillary’s brothers brokered for cash.

When word got out on those pardons, major newspapers were calling for congressional investigations of them; and at least one, the New York Observer, called for Mrs. Clinton to resign from the Senate.

The New York Times and several former Clinton supporters among the nationally syndicated columnists wrote that the Clintons were actually worse than we Clinton critics had allowed (all of this I note in my book, with quotations properly footnoted). Consequently, in his early days of retirement Mr. Clinton was, as Mr. Purdum writes, deeply depressed. Mr. Purdum cites an anonymous source. I cite an interview my staff did with Mr. Clinton’s friend and political aide, Terry McAuliffe.

Yet the Comeback Kid came back. He spent the next years regaining power in the Democratic Party, enough so that he goaded Hillary to run in 2004 - a point Mr. Purdum seems unaware of. At least when I saw Mr. Purdum interviewed on a cable news show he seemed unaware of the retired president’s role in pushing her to run in 2004.

Mr. Clinton made a fortune with business deals and speeches worldwide, some of the deals being decidedly unsavory. As an antidote to them, he gained a reputation as an international do-gooder through his foundation and other forums. Of a sudden he was repristinated a hero in liberal esteem.

Of course, he still was haunted with the debility that has been with him through his long and remarkably troubled public life: bad character. Some of us tried to alert the public to this when he first ran for the presidency in 1992. Scandals that had marked his governorship suggested as much, and his repeated lies during the 1992 campaign to cover his youthful transgressions reinforced our view of Mr. Clinton’s flawed character. Now Vanity Fair has discovered what we Clinton critics have known for 16 years.

The Clintons both made an epic comeback, but as the country has witnessed once again in this campaign they still engage in dubious fund-raising, bullying and deceitful campaign tactics, and - well - coarse behavior. I for one hope the rest of the media follows Vanity Fair’s lead.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator, a contributing editor to the New York Sun, and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His book “The Clinton Crack-Up: The Boy President’s Life After the White House” was recently published by Thomas Nelson.

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