By Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Todd Purdum who covered Bill Clinton for sixteen years wrote a troubling piece in Vanity Fair (I don’t normally read Vanity Fair, but there has been enough brouhaha over it I wanted to read it.).

Is Bill Clinton a asset or liability for Senator Hillary Clinton in her bid for the White House (now doomed I’m sure), and the likely bid they’ll make to get her on the ticket with Barack Obama?

He’s evidently an angry man.

“There’s an anger in him that I find surprising,” one senior aide, who has known and served both Clintons for years, told me this spring. “There seems to be an abiding anger in him, and not just the summer thunderstorms of old. He has been called into question repeatedly by top staff. The fact is, you can only weigh in so often on this stuff. It’s just a huge force of nature.”

His painful departure and transition from the White House.

By most accounts, including his own, Clinton struggled to find his footing in the early days of his post-presidency. “I was lost for three weeks after I left the White House,” he said on the campaign trail this winter. “Nobody ever played a song anymore. I had no idea where I was.” He had ended his administration in a firestorm of criticism over his eleventh-hour pardon of a raft of assorted miscreants, including the fugitive financier Marc Rich, whose ex-wife, Denise, contributed $450,000 to Clinton’s presidential-library fund, approximately $1 million to Democratic causes, including $70,000 to a fund supporting Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign, and $7,000 worth of furniture for the Clintons’ new home in Chappaqua, in suburban Westchester County.

Apparently President Clinton is lacking the appropriate staff to “save him from himself.”

The most pointed criticism of Band (President Clinton’s current personal counselor who is involved in his daily schedule) is precisely this: that he does not possess what Clinton has always needed in a string of strong-willed aides, such as his gubernatorial chief of staff Betsey Wright, or his director of Oval Office operations, Nancy Hernreich—the judgment to save him from himself. The origins of such criticism may lie in the fact that one of his predecessors as personal aide, Stephen Goodin, was cited, together with Hernreich, in the Starr Report as having tried to keep Monica Lewinsky away from the president, while Band, then only an intern, escorted her to a White House party, at her request.

It is sad to think that we have a former president who needs a babysitter to help save him from himself.  But based on his behavior in the White House, this shouldn’t be very surprising.

His commitment to his wedding vows must not have changed much since being out of the Oval Office.

None of these wisps of smoke have produced a public fire. But four former Clinton aides told me that, about 18 months ago, one of the president’s former assistants, who still advises him on political matters, had heard so many complaints about such reports from Clinton supporters around the country that he felt compelled to try to conduct what one of these aides called an “intervention,” because, the aide believed, “Clinton was apparently seeing a lot of women on the road.” The would-be intercessor was rebuffed by people around Clinton before ever getting an audience with the former president, and another aide told me that the effort was not well received by either Bill or Hillary Clinton and that some Hillarylanders, in particular, were in denial about the continuing political risks that Bill’s behavior might pose.

So is Vanity Fair being fair toward President Clinton?  What if the items in this story is true, how do you think that affects Senator Clinton’s political future?

Cross-posted at Red Blue Christians and From Their Own Mouths

Update – 6/4/08: Allan Bevere makes some great points about the Vanity Fair article, and how Purdum mostly relied upon anonymous sources.

Unless you have just arrived from another planet, you and everyone know about Bill Clinton and his constant zipper problems throughout the years. If indeed, the former president has been discretely sexually indiscreet as he has campaigned for his wife, no one would be surprised.

But here is the problem– the article relies completely on anonymous sources. One of the increasingly disturbing trends in current journalistic practice is the reliance on unnamed or anonymous sources in order to trash someone’s name and reputation. All that is needed, supposedly, is that the journalist researching and writing the story, consider the anonymous source to be reliable. Thus we are supposed to accept the “newsworthy” claim (accusation) as accurate because a journalist trusts the person who is providing the information while hiding in the shadows. (Journalists and anonymous sources– now there’s a time-honored recipe for truth and integrity!)

7 comments
  1. What is it that people can’t get over Bill Clinton. He did a great job while president, end of story. Why do people find the need to find out about his private life? Does it matter any more and do we care? The Clinton’s have done more for this country than any other couple that I know of and this is how we repay them? You don’t have to like them but I imagine you will try to benefit from all the good things they do. It’s disgusting that people have such short memories and look for dirt in other’s lives.

  2. What is it that people can’t get over Bill Clinton. He did a great job while president, end of story. Why do people find the need to find out about his private life? Does it matter any more and do we care? The Clinton’s have done more for this country than any other couple that I know of and this is how we repay them? You don’t have to like them but I imagine you will try to benefit from all the good things they do. It’s disgusting that people have such short memories and look for dirt in other’s lives.

  3. What is it that people can’t get over Bill Clinton. He did a great job while president, end of story. Why do people find the need to find out about his private life? Does it matter any more and do we care? The Clinton’s have done more for this country than any other couple that I know of and this is how we repay them? You don’t have to like them but I imagine you will try to benefit from all the good things they do. It’s disgusting that people have such short memories and look for dirt in other’s lives.

  4. Catherine, while I agree with you about digging up the past. It is relevant in how it may have impacted his wife’s campaign.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on his job performance. I do think private lives matter. Character matters. If your own spouse can’t trust you, how am I supposed to be able to? Also what took place in the Oval Office during his tenure left a stain on the office of the Presidency.

    Should he have been impeached? Probably not, but his conduct was worth a congressional censure.

  5. Catherine, while I agree with you about digging up the past. It is relevant in how it may have impacted his wife’s campaign.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on his job performance. I do think private lives matter. Character matters. If your own spouse can’t trust you, how am I supposed to be able to? Also what took place in the Oval Office during his tenure left a stain on the office of the Presidency.

    Should he have been impeached? Probably not, but his conduct was worth a congressional censure.

  6. Catherine, while I agree with you about digging up the past. It is relevant in how it may have impacted his wife’s campaign.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on his job performance. I do think private lives matter. Character matters. If your own spouse can’t trust you, how am I supposed to be able to? Also what took place in the Oval Office during his tenure left a stain on the office of the Presidency.

    Should he have been impeached? Probably not, but his conduct was worth a congressional censure.

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