WASHINGTON -- The other day, an aroused Bill Clinton addressed a female 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, 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 Carville of his indiscretion, he never again used this word on television or in any national forum that I am aware of. Now Clinton has. After reviewing his recent outbursts while campaigning for his wife, I think I can safely say that the 42nd president of the United States has the foulest mouth of any president in American history, at least the foulest mouth in public. His outburst against Purdum alone makes that clear.
What aroused 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 Purdum were reported in my recent book, "The Clinton Crack-Up." To be sure, Purdum never mentions my book, not even when he compares Harry Truman's comparatively penurious retirement with Clinton's posh retirement and reckless financial deals -- a comparison I made in Chapter 1. So while I disapprove of Clinton's denunciation of Purdum as "sleazy," "slimy" and a "scumbag," I should mention that when he calls Purdum "a really dishonest reporter," the ex-president has a point.
Purdum, at least in Vanity Fair, has been dishonest about his sourcing. Otherwise, the chronicle of Clinton that Purdum reports is right on the money. None of the stories I have reported about Clinton's excesses in retirement has been disproved. No reviewer of my book has found any major misstatement.