Thursday, June 24, 2004

Bill Clinton, Friend of Little People, Loses His Shit

In the past few days, we've seen a well-rehearsed version of the old Clinton we all know and love, pasteurized and processed for Dan Rather and Oprah Winfrey. David Dimbleby of the BBC gets the real one: the one who makes owning up to his own mistakes look like an act of martyrdom. It's a a rougher, tougher, more interesting Clinton interview than the one you saw on "60 Minutes." I'm looking at it as I type and it's totally fascinating.

Dimbleby politely but relentlessly hammers Clinton over the same thing everyone else wonders -- why an already vulnerable Clinton handed Kenneth Starr a loaded pistol named Monica Lewinsky. Clinton finally comes unhinged and lashes out in that outraged voice of wounded dignity we all know so well, that kind of self-serving, woebegone, I'm-only-here-to-help response known to politicians everywhere, few of whom are as convincing as he is:

"One reason he got away with it is because people like you only asked people like me the questions. You gave him a complete free ride. Any abuse they wanted to do -- they indicted all these little people from Arkansas, what did you care about them? They're not famous. Who cares if their lives are trampled? Who cares if their children are humiliated? Who cares if Starr sends FBI agents to their school and rip them out of their school to humilate them and try to force their parents to lie about me? Who cares if he sends a woman like Susan MacDougal into a Hannibal Lector-like cell and makes her wear a uniform worn only by murderers and child molesters? Nobody in your line of work cared a rip about that at the time. Why? Because he was helping their story. That's a difference between me and the people that were after me. I actually cared about what happened to those people, and I wanted to be President to help those people. And that's what the fight was about. Now that doesn't justify any mistake I made, but look how much time you've spent asking me these questions in this time you've had. That's because that's what you care about because that's what you think helps you and helps this interview. I care about what happened to the people that I fought for. And that's why people like you always help the far right, because you like to hurt people, you like to talk about how bad people are and all their personal failings.

You made a decision to allocate your time in a certain way. You should take responsibility for that. You should say `Yes, I care much more about this than whether the Bosnian people were saved, whether he brought a million people home from Kosovo, than whether 27 million people had jobs at the end, or whether we moved a hundred times as many people out of poverty as Reagan and Bush. This is what I care about."

To sum up, you: agent of Satan, me: Jesus Christ. I'll easily grant there's truth to it; there were times it seemed that only Salon.com was going after Kenneth Starr. But this response is so typically Clintonesque -- both Bill and Hillary have always seen the press as obstacles to lives devoted only to doing good, and it couldn't be more obvious here.

You can see in his eyes that he feels he's facing the Grand Jury all over again.

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