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Thursday, July 10, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 6/20/2004

The selling of Bill Clinton

The words sung in the Broadway musical by the fictional Evita (Peron), "Don't cry for me, Argentina," could well be paraphrased by Bill Clinton as his much-touted and long-awaited biography, now in the throes of a pre-publication media blitz, hits the bookstores.

Battered by fortune's slings and arrows, and his own remarkably bad judgment, this prince of political Teflon found himself buried deep in public opinion's manure pile. Somehow he emerged with a $10 million book deal around his neck.

As for his much-touted fling with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, he calls it "a terrible moral error," and he talks about it soulfully, voiced hushed, looking directly at the interviewer.

He did a bad thing, the world will hear him say on 60 Minutes tonight. But for Mr. Clinton the moral error extends to motivation as well. It doesn't stop with the deed. Why did he do it?

Because he could, he says, and, in retrospect, he rightly acknowledges, "I think that's just about the most morally indefensible reason anybody could have for doing anything."

True confessions clear the air, but nowhere as well as true repentance. It is impossible to know if Mr. Clinton has it. But he sure manages to convey it, far better than similarly disgraced GOP congressmen Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston ever did. Though their own moral inadequacies did not occur in the White House, and neither was president, they were hypocritical, morally condescending stalwarts when they ranted for his impeachment.

Theirs was an ill-advised political strategy from which Mr. Clinton, his maligned wife, Hillary, now a senator, and even hatchet-man investigative lawyer Ken Starr profited. The Clintons - she got an $8 million advance for her book and a $141,000-a-year seat in the U.S. Senate - will likely continue to fare well. He views his successful political fight against the impeachers as a measure of their folly and a badge of his political honor.

The former president's atonement to his family is likely still going on. It involved counseling with his wife and his daughter, Chelsea. Adultery, like a nest of termites in a house, weakens the foundation of a family.

In the meantime, like the prodigal son, Mr. Clinton will be enthusiastically met and greeted around the country as he goes from city to city to sell his book, denounce the GOP, and campaign for Democrat John Kerry.

For Bill Clinton, his warts notwithstanding, life is still good.



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