They say that journalism offers the first draft of history. If that's true, we're about to be subjected to a second draft on the Clinton presidency, and it's a draft suffused with all the same Clinton mythology we heard throughout the Decade of Deceit.
You know the journalism drill. In the year 1992, America made a bold, intriguing choice for president by electing the man from a place called Hope, who felt the pain of working Americans suffering from the injustices of The Economy, Stupid. This was a man with a brain so large it could leap large libraries of policy wonkery in a single bound, a man so compassionate and tender with women, and yet so hounded by that ruthless, sex-obsessed Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.
In two massive tomes you wouldn't want to drop on your foot -- Sidney Blumenthal's The Clinton Wars, and then Hillary Clinton's Living History -- we are promised an "inside" look at that tumultuous presidency. We'd be better served if braced to expect about 1,200 pages of spin control and few isolated outbreaks of anything new and positive. After all, is there anything Sid and Hillary would have kept to themselves during their White House years if it made them look good?
Blumenthal, a former Washington Post reporter and political writer for The New Republic and The New Yorker, marked himself early as an utterly servile Clintonite. As the Gennifer Flowers saga unfolded in January of 1992, he composed this still mind-bending sentence that demonstrates the degree to which this crowd would shamelessly spin in search of political points: "While George Bush -- all whiteness -- talks about 'family values,' the Clintons demonstrate them by confessing to adultery."
The political agenda was so obvious that even Howell Raines, then of the Washington Bureau of the New York Times, warned his reporters to steer clear of Blumenthal and fellow traveler Joe Klein. Raines told the Columbia Journalism Review: "When reporters go around campaign planes criticizing reporters who refuse to cheerlead, that's unhealthy."
In a Blumenthal sneak peek in the New York Review of Books, former New York Times executive editor Joseph Lelyveld has already outraged Clinton apple-polishers by suggesting Blumenthal's elongated take has little that's new and often feels like a preview of the his-and-hers Clinton memoirs to come: "Familiar narrative corners are cut in familiar ways; obvious omissions are not remarked upon; and presidential self-pity flows between the lines."