The Clinton era seems long gone now, but when the memories come
back, they're not generally pleasant. For conservatives, the bad memories
surface when CNN has the gall to bring Clinton on "Larry King Live" on
Ronald Reagan's birthday. There he was, to publicize his stage appearance
with the Rolling Stones to raise funds to fight that global-warming monster.
In his typically petty way, this most unpresidential former president
slammed George W. Bush for not spending enough on homeland security while
giving tax cuts to the rich.
Liberals still regret having to drop all the fairy tales about
the admirable Clinton marriage and the president's supposedly reformed
sexual behavior. A few weeks ago, ABC's "Good Morning America" revisited the
five-year anniversary of the Monica Lewinsky story, and reporter Claire
Shipman couldn't help shuddering at the "acid flashbacks" to that awful
moment for Democrats when a Clinton scandal moved the Nielsen ratings
But for a few journalists, the memories of the Clinton
impeachment are becoming sharper than they used to be. Longtime CBS Capitol
Hill correspondent and "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer has a new memoir
out called "This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell You on TV." It seems that
what he couldn't tell you on TV was what everyone already knew: Clinton was
Schieffer confesses that early on he had a "prejudice" in favor
of Clinton, since he corrected the notion that not all wisdom somehow
originates in the northeast United States. He adds, "I come from a long line
of conservative Texas Democrats, but I claim no political party." He says
Clinton established some "remarkable feats," from NAFTA to welfare reform to
balancing the budget -- feats that seem less remarkable when you acknowledge
they were GOP initiatives, not his.
But Schieffer grows agitated remembering Sept. 11, 1998 -- the
day he spent part of his afternoon reading snippets of the Starr Report in
live coverage. He remembers "as the father of two grown daughters, I found
the whole thing depressing."
On that day, he had the ability to express that personal
feeling, but he never did. Reporters express their personal feelings about
everything else, but not this.
Schieffer suggests, "Clinton disgraced the highest office in the
land, and as the tawdry details of his affairs became a part of the national
conversation, he coarsened the culture of the people he had been elected to
lead. That was his crime."
Schieffer never talked about a coarsened culture on TV, either.
What conservatives had so forcefully maintained, and which Schieffer now
concedes was true, was roundly ignored when it was news.
In his book, Schieffer also trashes Clinton for making his
secretary Betty Currie come in on her days off to clear Monica into the
White House, then wait through the sexual escapades before she could go
home. He attacks Clinton for sending Madeleine Albright and Donna Shalala
out to lie on his behalf. He says Clinton "had shown himself to be a user of
women who was not hesitant to take advantage of his friends when he found it
necessary for business or pleasure. Schieffer actually did say a version of
this on television -- on his "Face the Nation" commentary two days after
reading the Starr Report on the air. But he never chided Currie, Albright
and Shalala -- no babes in the woods -- for knowing full well they were
hiding the truth and lying to the American people.
Perhaps the most telling anecdote in his Clinton chapter comes
near the end, where he tells the story of Lanny Breuer. In August 1999, six
months after Clinton's acquittal, Schieffer received an engraved card from
Covington and Burling announcing that Breuer was returning to his old law
firm. But the announcement struck him by boasting that Breuer represented
the White House "in presidential impeachment hearings and trial, four
independent counsel investigations, a Justice Department task force
investigation, and numerous congressional oversight investigations." While
Schieffer thought Breuer "was a good lawyer I had dealt with and come to
like and respect over that time ... that engraved card carried an arresting
and somewhat unsettling message: If you need a good criminal lawyer, get
someone with White House experience."
Schieffer never said that on TV, either. There's no question but
that the pro-Clinton media circled the wagons around this man in 1998. Maybe
Schieffer's memoir is far too little, far too late. But it's better than the
obedient silence from those who continue to deny the shameful performance
from this shameless disgrace of a president.