By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Not even 60, Clinton is already running for posterity. Although it’s good for the country to see him out and about, reminding everyone that the right doesn’t have a monopoly on political power, the way he defends his record actually makes him seem worse than he actually was. His narcissism is boundless. He devotes more space to losing a student-council election at Georgetown than to his failure to act during the Rwandan genocide; although he calls his inaction “one of the greatest regrets of my presidency,” the event doesn’t even rate a full paragraph. Laughably, he presents his fight against impeachment as a triumphant struggle for the future of America. The right’s attempt to oust him was dishonest, of course, but it was hardly a coup. If he’d been thrown out, his successor would not have been Newt Gingrich but Al Gore, who’d be in the White House today wondering why he trailed John McCain in the polls.
In pushing his $10 million book — not to mention his personal version of history — Clinton has obeyed the time-honored rituals of famous people who publish lucrative memoirs. He has admitted some sins (“that woman, Miss Lewinsky”). He has revealed embarrassing truths (sleeping on the sofa when Hillary found out). He has even cried, tears rushing to his eyes when Dan Rather showed him an old clip of his late mother. His emotive ability made him ideal for Oprah, who has perfected the confessional mode of modern TV in which the studio audience’s oohs and applause offer absolution by media.
As president, Clinton was often compared to Winfrey, hugging people and feeling their pain; as a guest, he looked comfortable on her yellow couch. She looked even more comfortable. Possibly because she felt no need to prove she’s “serious,” Oprah was the sole American interviewer not straitjacketed by deference in discussing what is essentially a celebrity bio. She talked over Clinton, revealed that he was on the South Beach diet, and posed the down-to-earth questions about Monica others shied away from: “Why would you think you could trust her?” Knowing how to behave in such a therapy-mad forum, Clinton grounded his mistakes in his unhappy childhood and didn’t even mind when Oprah cut off his long-winded answers. How could he? They both knew she’s as big a star as he is.
Clinton saved his rage for the BBC’s David Dimbleby, who drove The Man From Hope into a hopelessly red-faced snit fit with persistent questions about whether he was genuinely contrite over the Lewinsky affair. (Fox News gleefully played the footage over and over.) The interview offered a useful reminder that foreign journalists aren’t always so cowed or polite as our own. Here, our leaders rarely face questions they don’t want to answer, let alone get publicly pressed on whether they’re being honest. Most American reporters don’t want to risk losing their access.
That’s why I was so moved by the moral courage shown by The New York Times, the L.A. Times, Time, Newsweek and numerous other outlets that knocked themselves out scrutinizing the truthfulness of Michael Moore. I mean, just look at the man’s record. Although he claims to be a regular guy, he slashed taxes for the rich (while falsely saying the cuts mainly helped average Americans), passed a huge Medicare program that favored drug companies (while deliberately understating the true cost by $100 billion), used post-9/11 fears to weaken the Constitution and justify a military buildup (another $10 billion this year for that defense industry boondoggle, missile defense), spent months misleading the country about the imminent threat of Saddam Hussein in order to launch a pre-emptive war, and then allowed the Iraqi occupation to become a watchword for incompetence, bloodshed and torture. Given a record like that, I understand why our heroic media would want to question every single thing President Moore says.
I just hope that, if through some unimaginable fluke the controversial documentary filmmaker George W. Bush (Bring ’em On, Is Our Children Learning?) ever became president, our media will give him the same coverage they have been giving The Most Powerful Man in the World.
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