Presidents Day is for lovers: How will you spend your Presidents Day?
Will you go shopping at the mall? Or will you devote yourself to remembering the things which actually matter?
Tonight and tomorrow, PBS will help us recall the tenure of the 42nd president, Bill Clinton. The program comes to us from the brilliant people at American Experience, an enterprise which bills itself as “American’s Most-Watched History Series.”
We ought to be grateful for such gifts. But uh-oh! In this morning’s New York Times, Alessandra Stanley rolls her eyes at the program’s dumb, empty focus:
STANLEY (2/20/12): Monica Lewinsky doesn’t matter anymore.We haven’t seen the program ourselves, but we’ll guess that Stanley is right. And this is what Stanley says: Even on brilliant PBS, you’re being handed a big pile of crap on this big-pile-of-crap program.
It’s remarkable, really, how little resonance that Clinton sex scandal has today. The White House intern who shook the world is barely ever mentioned in the 2012 presidential campaign…
The Monica Lewinsky imbroglio is nonetheless at the center of a two-part, four-hour documentary called “Clinton” that will be shown Monday and Tuesday on PBS. It’s a long, solemn and supposedly reflective look back at the life and times of Bill Clinton that feels as if it were made the day he left office in 2001.
Amid all the furor over the Starr Report, Linda Tripp and a stained blue dress, it was hard back then to see what really mattered. Eleven years on “Clinton” doesn’t try to find out. The documentary is still too distracted by the Starr Report, Linda Tripp and the stained blue dress.
According to Stanley, the program takes “a long, solemn and supposedly reflective look back at the life and times of Bill Clinton.” When she calls the program “supposedly” reflective, she means that it actually isn’t.
According to Stanley, the program focuses on the sexy-time thrills provided by the famous “intern” who wasn’t an intern, the one with thrilling stained dress. Just for the historical record, that thrilling “21-year-old intern” also wasn’t 21; when she first spoke with President Clinton, she was already 22—almost 22-and-a half! Talk of the “21-year-old intern” was maintained to heighten the novelized fun—the fun Joe Klein apparently cites at the end of tomorrow night’s program.
According to Stanley, this PBS program is still all about that thrilling stained blue dress! She says the program skips the things which actually matter:
STANLEY: What the film doesn’t do is give viewers a more compelling reason to go back and relive that epoch. The film hits all the familiar Clinton milestones...without exploring the deeper happenings that turned out to have had a more lasting impact on the world.If Stanley is right, this program gives us an unvarnished look at the empty soul and addled brain of the modern “press corps.” Even at brilliant PBS, it’s still all about that stained blue dress! Sexy-time sex thrills are still what counts! Salaries are good at PBS! The rest of that shit doesn’t matter!
Yet two of the major cataclysms shadowing our times, the Sept. 11 attacks and the 2008 credit collapse, have roots that reach back to the Clinton administration.
The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, which turned out to be a dress rehearsal for Sept. 11, isn’t included in the narrative. The rise of Osama Bin Laden and the failed missile strikes against Al Qaeda training camps in 1998 are noted in passing and presented almost as a pesky foreign policy crisis that briefly distracted Mr. Clinton from the more enduring Monica Lewinsky scandal.
And there is no mention whatsoever of the repeal of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, one of several fateful steps that the Clinton administration—in concert with Republicans—took in the name of deregulation. Some policies, like making home mortgages more accessible, helped fuel the economy, but they also heedlessly left Wall Street and other financial institutions free of adult supervision.
We congratulate Stanley for her spunk, especially since she’s said to be an FOD. (A friend of Maureen Dowd, who lugged a Pulitzer out of this mess.) For ourselves, we will mention a few other “deeper happenings” from the Clinton era which “turned out to have had a more lasting impact on the world” than that exciting stained dress, the dress which still makes tired blood rush to press corps body parts.
Glass-Steagall did matter. So did the rise of Osama Bin Laden. But here’s another “deeper happening” from this era which changed the future shape of the world. During the Clinton era, the mainstream press corps bowed to rising conservative power in its coverage of Washington politics. The mainstream press corps helped create the era of pseudo-scandal covered by the generic term “Whitewater.” And after the Clinton impeachment failed, it staged a war against his vice president—a war which sent Bush to the White House.
You will never be told about those events by the lofty folk at PBS. You will never be told about those events by the rest of the mainstream press corps, including those in its new “liberal” wing. (At least two weeknight hosts on MSNBC were up to their ears in these wars.) You will never be told by our contemporary “historians,” including those who get branded as liberal.
By now, the mainstream press corps has largely backed away from its earlier marriage, its open marriage to conservative power. But its behavior during that marriage has been disappeared.
In her review of the PBS program, Stanley refers to "Whitewater” as one of “the familiar Clinton milestones.” She says this familiar milestone is included in this week’s program. But will the program attempt to explain the way this pseudo-scandal was introduced to the world, through those bungled front-page reports in the New York Times? Will this program examine the way the scam moved forward from there?
Of course it won’t! To understand how the “press corps” behaved, you will have to read Fools for Scandal and The Hunting of the President. The mainstream press corps will never tell you what the mainstream press corps did in that era. And the new “liberal” wing of the mainstream press corps will never tell you about those things either. Too many careers are at stake! Too many “liberals” were up to their ears in the trashing of Clinton, then in the war against Gore.
Rachel Maddow tells us that Chris is one of her very best friends! Joan Walsh kisses his fraudulent ass in much the way other folk breathe!
How empty is your modern “press corps?” If you want to hurt your brain a bit more, read this depressing post by Kevin Drum—and be sure to click on his links. (We will discuss that item before the week is done.) For many people, it’s very hard to understand how empty the press corps’ culture is—how empty are the various folk who prop this Potemkin structure.
Stanley seems to be right as far as she goes, although we’ll have to wait to see the program. A serious look at the Clinton years would consider the ways that era may have led to our present disasters. In our view, it was the press corps’ marriage to conservative power which forms the largest part of that story. But members of the modern “press corps” will never talk about that.
People! Members of the modern “press corps” mainly just want to have fun! Stanley helps us appreciate that point near the end of her piece:
STANLEY: Joe Klein, the author and journalist who wrote “Primary Colors,” a roman à clef about the Clintons’ first presidential campaign, is cited more than most and is also given the last word.Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! They seldom fail to say it!
He disagrees with historians and former aides who say Mr. Clinton squandered his gifts and hobbled his potential for greatness. “I don’t know if you can say of a president who served us well and improved our material good that it was a wasted opportunity,” Mr. Klein argues. “And it was sure a lot of fun to watch.”
Pseudo-journalists just want to have fun! They constantly voice this gruesome conceit, in which they evaluate news events in terms of their own career enjoyment. Maddow does this virtually every night. It’s the worst of her several bad instincts.
Making millions isn’t enough. These horrible people just want to have fun! And chasing that stained blue dress was good fun! It was a lot of fun to watch for the course of a good solid year!
It also sent George Bush to the White House! Over the course of the next two nights, you won’t be burdened with the way that actually happened.