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Bill Clinton Loses It

Who's the nicest guy in journalism? Todd Purdum. This is the one thing I know for a fact after several decades in the business. If you've ever met Todd, you know he's the Platonic ideal of the Perfect Gentleman. Compared to Todd I'm a thing from the swamp, or one of the internal-organ-eating zombies in Night of the Living Dead. I'm not overstating this in the slightest. If you were to ask Todd to feed your cat while you were out of town, you'd come back to discover that he'd also taken the creature to the vet and mowed your yard and sent your wrinkled shirts to the cleaners.

Todd's a college classmate and has been a friend for nearly 30 years, so I'm biased in this. But in all these years I've never heard anyone say a single unkind word about Todd -- until Bill Clinton flew into a purple rage.

Why the outburst from Clinton? Because Todd, in his lengthy Vanity Fair article "The Comeback Id," declined to paint the former president as a great global philanthropist, political genius and wonderful asset to his wife's campaign. His sources aren't Clinton critics, but rather Clinton's disillusioned associates. Moreover, the article crossed the one line that the Clintons don't seem to tolerate, which is any mention of the possibility that the former president has failed to control his ... you know ... satyriasis, or whatever you call it. Urgefulness. The article concludes that Clinton has been undisciplined in his associations, and has made himself vulnerable to gossip. It also names a couple of names of women whose association with Clinton has sparked rumors.

Although it's understandable that Clinton didn't like the piece, his response seems disproportionate. It also brings to mind the similar episode last year, when HRC and her campaign overreacted to the Maureen Dowd column on David Geffen. To quote from the summary here on the A-blog:

'Here's where Geffen may have stepped over Hillary's line: He called Bill Clinton "reckless," saying he "gave his enemies a lot of ammunition to hurt him and to distract the country." Arguably that is an extremely accurate statement. Wasn't this, for example, the guy who had sex with a White House intern while he was PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA??? Yeah, but then Geffen indelicately upped the ante, implying that Clinton probably remains a wandering sort: "I don't think anybody believes that in the last six years, all of a sudden Bill Clinton has become a different person." '

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Click here to see the official Clinton response to the VF article. Jack Shafer has more. Via The Caucus (what a snooze of a name for a group blog), here's Todd on TV pointing out that Clinton's aides were the ones who raised the notion of a personality change in the former president.

And here's Josh Marshall (another Tiger) [via Memeorandum]:

'I don't mean to write his epitaph. He's obviously got the same shrewdness and political canniness on many levels. But again and again through this cycle, in little ways and big, he's shown he's not quite in sync with this political era, doesn't quite grasp the new mechanics -- both the ideological texture and the nuts and bolts of the networked news cycle. Attacks have backfired. And while Clinton's emotions and impulsiveness have always been key to his character and political sensibility, whereas in the past it was him riding the tiger of his outsized personality and passions, now it's the tiger riding him.'

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Via Romenesko, here's a guy giving our site a B-minus. Tragically, no mention of the A-blog.

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Paul Begala compares HRC to Jackie Robinson.

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Yesterday I saw Arlan Andrews, Greg Bear and a couple of their science fiction colleagues give a talk to a Homeland Security conference at the Reagan Building. They have another appearance tonight. They're part of a group called Sigma -- SF writers who give advice to the government on how to think outside the box on terrorist threats. (Like, what if someone hijacked a space shuttle...) USA Today had a story last year:

'Why offer their ideas to the government instead of private companies that pay big bucks?

' "To save civilization," Ringworld author Larry Niven says. "We do it in fiction. Why wouldn't we want to do it in fact?"'


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Read this piece by DVD in Time on a guy who's own lawyer wanted him executed.

By Joel Achenbach  |  June 3, 2008; 10:47 AM ET
 
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