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The Trivial Presidency By: Dick Morris
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, May 30, 2003


A second term is a terrible thing for a president to waste. Sidney Blumenthal's new book makes clear how totally Bill Clinton wasted it. He was a one-term president who lived in the White House for eight years.

The Clinton Wars speaks not about the war on terror or the war on drugs or even the war on poverty. Instead, it’s about the wars that occupied Clinton in his second term: on Paula Jones, on Kenneth Starr, on the Washington Post's Susan Schmidt, on Matt Drudge, on Clinton's women and the war to get Hillary into the Senate.

For those who haven’t plumbed the depths of the Clintons' denial mechanisms and their obsession with petty revenge, Blumenthal’s book offers a road map into their distorted perceptions of reality. Like an account of a hallucination, he takes us into a world where Monica Lewinsky blackmails Clinton into sex, Whitewater is the epitome of innocence and Starr the personification of evil.

In Bill's and Hillary's world, no accusation is too ridiculous to make against their enemies, no transparent fraud of their own too obvious to attempt to conceal and no justified criticism too reasonable to resent. The roster of those who maliciously attack Clintons' virtue is so long that it makes President Nixon's enemies list seem trivial by comparison. Only the list of the Mikado’s Lord High Executioner is longer.

Hillary’s own book is due out next month. The platitudes that are likely to festoon the former First Lady/presidential wanabee’s book are not the real Hillary: Sidney's book is her true voice. In a world in which ghostwriters assist celebrity authors in their memoirs, this book is an odd role reversal. Here, Hillary is the ghost putting her prejudices, animosities, biases, resentments, fulminations, and paranoid mutterings in Sidney's mouth.

Hillary needed someone to affirm her credentials as a New York Yankee fan, so Blumenthal obliged. She wanted a benign description of her acceptance of the need to have a special prosecutor, so his book portrays her as philosophically accepting it. (By contrast, both George Stephanopoulous and I recall her obstinate refusal and tearful ranting against the appointment.) Mrs. Clinton needed to affirm that she was the author of It Takes A Village so Blumenthal attests to it, despite the fact that her ghost writer was paid $120,000. Hillary wants to grab some undeserved credit for the Irish peace process, so Blumenthal obligingly informs us that her "work" made it all possible.

Anything that needs doing, Blumenthal does in this book, like he did in the White House. This 800-page job application for a job in a Hillary White House shows his willingness to buy any line she hands out and treats it as gospel. One can imagine Sidney as her Bob Haldeman, sitting across the Oval Office desk, willing to do anything she wants, copying down her most delusional and paranoid proposals and seeing them through to full implementation.

Blumenthal’s gullibility is his chief asset. When Bill Clinton says Monica was stalking him, he nods his assent. When Hillary adds, helpfully, that her husband was just ministering to a troubled child, he faithfully parrots her line.

When Clinton asks Blumenthal to comment on my advice to Clinton to tell the truth, he automatically assumes that Clinton is doing so already and says, innocently, how "wacky" it is to admit to something you didn't do.

Blumenthal even quotes Hillary quoting Bill that "we just have to win," as his answer on how to handle the Monica mess. That's the same line Clinton said to me, verbatim, which he claimed not to remember saying in his answer to discovery requests from the House impeachment managers.

Blumenthal is incredibly bright. He knew that he was going to leave journalism after the election and work for the Clintons. Every week or two, he and I would meet and discuss the latest spin to put on events and the campaign debate. He was in regular contact with me and with the Clintons, writing speeches, throwing out ideas, formulating slogans throughout the 1996 campaign. He would even ask Bob Dole key questions and report back his answers. Since I worked with him first hand, it’s hard to believe that he suddenly turned dumb.

What is shocking about his book is how little time he spent using his formidable intellectual powers on anything other than spin, scandal, and sleaze. Apart from coordinating the occasional conference on The Third Way, he seems to have never touched public policy.

We read of his work with Hillary in the White House theater, using taxpayer resources and publicly paid staff to prepare herself to announce for the Senate. But we hear nothing of any work on the people's business. Was he out of the loop? I doubt it. The point is that there was no loop. The White House was closed throughout the second term.

Dick Morris is a former adviser to President Clinton. To get all his columns e-mailed to you, register for free at DickMorris.com.


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