WASHINGTON -- During the current hysteria about sexual harassment within elite circles, one of the most revered of our elites, former President Bill Clinton, has been hiding under his bed. He has not been seen in public for eight months.
Now he has emerged with a sidekick from the realm of belles-lettres, James Patterson, the novelist with whom he has written a novel. Incidentally, how does one co-write a novel with a novelist? Did Bill and James episodically write every other page? Which of these two clowns wrote the first page? Which wrote the last page? One thing I know for a certitude: If the book contains any lies, Clinton is responsible for them. The phrasing of the lies, the plotting of the lies and the entire metaphysical oomph of the lies would most certainly be his doing.
At least in setting up each of the book's lies, Clinton's contribution would be colossal, causing the book to rise to the level of true literature, as "Mein Kampf" once did. Possibly he will follow Bob Dylan by becoming America's next winner of the troubled Nobel Prize. He is a master of the lie, large and small.
Decades ago -- after all, we have had Clinton as our persona con guffaw for some 30 years -- I, in explicating the mystery and wonder of the Virgin President, drew a difference between mere b.s.-ing and laying out a genuine howler. B.s.-ing is, for instance, bragging about the size of one's hands, let us say, or exaggerating the number of hot dogs one consumed at the Arkansas State Fair. Clinton has really big hands -- though they are quite soft -- and a tremendous capacity for junk food. B.s.-ing is annoying, but it is usually trivial. Telling a true lie is the telling of an untruth that is consequential, say, costing the public treasury millions or deceiving vast numbers of people about something that matters, like saying, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky," or urging the passage of Obamacare and saying, "you're going to be able to keep your doctor."
This week on NBC's "Today," Clinton whined that the victim of his affair with Lewinsky was ... well, he himself. Not Lewinsky. The reason? It cost him 16 million big ones to defend himself. Well, I would want to see the accounting of those 16 million big ones, but I can tell you it is a pittance compared with the money he and his foundation have socked away from speaking fees, multimillion-dollar kickbacks and other forms of graft in which the Clintons have engaged.
During the interview, he introduced a new kind of lie, at least for him. He turned on the interviewer, one Craig Melvin, and said accusingly, "you typically have ignored gaping facts in describing this" -- the Monica Lewinsky scandal -- "and I bet you don't even know them." Well, poor Melvin did not seem to know that he did not know some of the facts related to Clinton's sexual antics.
He apparently did not know Paula Corbin Jones, who accused Clinton of propositioning her in a Little Rock hotel room. During that episode, Jones said, he exposed himself to her and she resented it. Years later, the result was his impeachment. Melvin did not know Kathleen Willey. She was the Democratic operative who sought an interview with Clinton for a job. Her husband had committed suicide. She said that Clinton groped her and grabbed her breast. My guess is that she is not a Democratic operative any longer. Melvin did not know Juanita Broaddrick, who accused Clinton of having raped her in 1978. And Melvin did not know Leslie Millwee. She was an Arkansas reporter back in 1980 when Clinton sexually assaulted her, she says. If Melvin knew of these ladies, he never mentioned their names.
I say this is a new kind of lie that Clinton introduced during his interview because I do not recall him ever attempting it on anyone before. He was asking the interviewer to display a knowledge of Clinton's nigh unto infinite sexual adventures. Naturally, Melvin was overwhelmed. He was about as green as a spring spruce, but that is the kind of interviewer Clinton was expecting NBC to send over. I bet Clinton had a good laugh backstage after his encounter with Melvin. Patterson probably laughed, too. He had defended Clinton, saying he should not have resigned during the Lewinsky business because former presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson acted similarly. Hey, what about throwing in the name Warren Gamaliel Harding? And was there not something about Grover Cleveland?
Actually, I think that NBC had a better choice than Melvin for the Bill Clinton interview. That would be Matt Lauer. He is a man with similar tastes, and I am told he even uses similar cologne. Ah, but alas, NBC let Lauer go last autumn for "inappropriate sexual behavior." The greenhorn Craig Melvin was about the best NBC had left. The pickings are getting rather sparse these days in the world of network news.