Now that Obama seems certain to be nominated at the Democratic National Convention, we might review what the Clintons actually achieved in Hillary'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 always have been. More damaging were the pardons that the Boy President granted, some of which his brother and Hillary's brothers brokered for cash.
When word got out about those pardons, major newspapers were calling for congressional investigations of them; and at least one, The New York Observer, was calling for Sen. Clinton to resign. 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, Clinton was, as Purdum writes, deeply depressed. Purdum cites an anonymous source. I cite an interview my staff did with a friend and political aide of Clinton's, 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 Purdum seems unaware of. At least when I saw Purdum being interviewed on one of the cable news shows, he seemed unaware of the retired president's role in pushing her to run in 2004. 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 Clinton's flawed character. Now Vanity Fair has discovered what we Clinton critics have known for 16 years. The Clintons both made epic comebacks, but as the country has witnessed once again in this campaign, they still engage in dubious fundraising, bullying and deceitful campaign tactics, and -- well -- coarse behavior. I, for one, hope the rest of the media follows Vanity Fair's lead.
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