Paul Greenberg

But why should this particular piece have inspired such brittle, Clintonesque rage? Here's my theory: He might easily have let it pass if something like it had appeared in the usual outlets of right-wing criticism - in the Weekly Standard, say, or National Review. But this showed up in Vanity Fair, the kind of magazine that the ever-fashionable, upscale crowd pay attention to.

These are the Beautiful People who compose just the demographic, as the admen say, that Bill Clinton has so longed to dazzle, or at least milk for donations, book contracts, speaking fees Š all the usual post-presidential baksheesh on a grand scale. These people are now his crowd, his natural prey, and along comes this smoothie out of L.A., of all with-it places, and queers the deal. That's what must have done it.

There's a lot of speculation in this smoothly written article - it's smoothly written even while trashily thought - about the effect of Mr. Clinton's heart problems on his emotional attitudes. Including speculation by a cardiologist. Which is interesting enough - and unseemly enough. Doesn't the patient, even a famous/notorious one, deserve even a modicum of respect for his privacy? This much I know, or at least trust: The physicians who actually treated him wouldn't engage in this kind of talk.

It isn't easy being Bill Clinton these days, if it ever was. Here is someone who's always been the very incarnation of The Candidate, and he's no longer The Candidate. Now he's just part of the supporting cast. Even if emotionally he's still Bill Clinton - the main attraction and not an opening act, the Broadway lead and not an understudy at Plymouth Playhouse. And when the suspicion grows that he's no longer the hot act he used to be Š it's hard to bear. And hard to watch.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.