When Lawrence O’Donnell limned President Clinton!


Previewing the Big Dog’s address: Sometimes, Lawrence O’Donnell makes useful observations.

Most of the time, he doesn’t.

Tonight, he’ll be confronting a large bugaboo—his loathing of all things Clinton. We thought this might be the time to review an earlier disquisition by Lawrence concerning this very bad man.

In early 2003, Lawrence was writing a new TV series, Mister Sterling. He appeared on Fresh Air to promote the new program.

The TV program would be short-lived. Lawrence’s comments belong to the ages.

After discussing the fact that he himself was a type of European socialist, Lawrence recalled his days working for Senator Moynihan—and with “that man,” President Clinton, the dumbest guy in the room.

Lawrence spoke with guest host Barbara Bogaev. Consider this a bit of comic relief from a very strange, very weird hombre:
BOGAEV (3/6/03): How does Senator Moynihan enter into your thinking when you're writing for television? Do you ever think—say, if you're writing about President Bartlett when you wrote for The West Wing, did you think, “Well, what would Moynihan do here?”

O'DONNELL: I'm now—he is so much in my brain all the time that I never really think, “What would Moynihan do here?” I did at The West Wing, because I have to say— When I started at The West Wing, I had real trouble conceiving of an honorable president. I had never witnessed one in my adulthood, you know, which in presidencies are my consciousness, which in presidencies really span from Lyndon Johnson through to Bill Clinton. And I worked with Bill Clinton fairly closely, and so just ended up through that having a kind of lower opinion of him with every professional encounter. But that's a whole long story which has nothing to do with Monica Lewinsky or political ideology and everything to do with just effectiveness and professionalism in the workplace which he was not great at.

And so I just didn't admire presidents. There was not one in my life that I admired other than JFK when I was child. And so I didn't know how to write the admirable president. And so, yes, every once in a while, I would say to myself at The West Wing in the first year, “What would Senator Moynihan do?” because in Senator Moynihan, and working with him for seven years, I met and worked with and in every real kind of way lived with for seven years the most honorable person I have ever known.
Poor Lawrence! He just couldn’t admire presidents because he’d seen Clinton up close! None of this had a thing to do with that woman, Miss Lewinsky!

A bit later, Lawrence explained how dumb Clinton always was:
BOGAEV: Well, this [was] during the Clinton years. Did you identify with the policy wonks of the Clinton administration, with the tenor of that staff?

O'DONNELL: That's a hugely exaggerated notion, that either President Clinton was a policy wonk or anyone working in the West Wing was a policy wonk other than Gene Sperling. And that's just the wrap. That's the image they wanted for themselves and the positive wrapping they wanted for that president. He was no more of a policy wonk than any other presidents. In my experience being in the Oval Office with Bill Clinton, he knew about an index card worth of material.

I'll put it this way. I was never in a meeting with Bill Clinton and senators where Bill Clinton was not the single most ignorant person in the room. And I don't say that as a criticism; that's the way it's—that's normal. He's from out of town. He's just coming from a governorship. He didn't have Medicare under his jurisdiction in Arkansas. He didn't have Social Security. He didn't have trade. So they don't know anything.

These governors that we make president—you know, it's like taking the president of Avis and making him the president of Warner Brothers. What do you think he knows on the first day? Nothing. And, you know—but the image that Clinton easily achieved was that he knew more than most presidents. That's because up against the White House press corps, that's a really easy thing to achieve because no one's allowed three follow-up questions in a row. If they were, you'd discover that, “Hmm, I guess he has that one rap on Medicare, but he doesn't have anything else, does he?”
According to Lawrence, Clinton was always the dumbest guy in the room. Though he didn’t mean that as a criticism!

We’re just showing you what Lawrence said, preparing you for this evening’s address. Continuing directly, the Hollywood harlequin started to gush about the greatness of George Bush’s White House:
BOGAEV (continuing directly): What are your impressions of White House culture in the Bush administration?

O'DONNELL: I'm hugely impressed by it. I have to tell you I envy it a little bit because, you know, I think, you know, you get to work with one president in your lifetime. Everyone does, don't they? Well, you know, I certainly was only going to get to work in one White House; that is to say, come into a White House and do business with it. And it turned out to be the Clinton White House, which was a disastrously messy, badly run White House because all organizations resemble their head. And you know, the head of that organization was just nutty, and I think we all now know that through various House investigations about what he was doing in his spare time.

And Bush is so disciplined. This is totally policy aside because I really don't, you know, find myself in personal agreement politically with the Bush administration on much or anything that I can think of. But it's an extremely disciplined place, and it runs in a wonderfully efficient way. And Karl Rove has brought such a smart, organized intelligence to the overall political view and the political interconnectedness of everything. And, you know, the rest of the staff there have made—Andy Card has run the most stable West Wing that we have seen possibly since they built the West Wing. And he's a completely egoless White House chief of staff who does a tremendous job and knows how to do it.

And I would love to have come into that kind of White House to do business instead of coming into a White House where people feared who is going to tell this bad news about this vote count to the president's wife because no one wants to do that, because if they do they will be perceived by various people as an enemy. You know, it was madness. It was just madness and unprofessional, and rampantly so. And, you know, it was bad as any Hollywood studio I've ever had to deal with.
For someone who didn’t care about Miss Lewinsky, he seemed to allude to her rather quickly as he snarked about what Clinton did “in his spare time.”

At any rate, poor Lawrence! The Clinton White House was just as bad as those Hollywood studios! He never got to work with organizational giants like Bush and Rove!

You should keep this ridiculous session in mind whenever you watch Lawrence discussing the Clintons or Gore. Some of our children just never grow up.

Lawrence is one of those children.

Regarding that giant, Senator Moynihan? In May 2000, Moynihan was on the front page of the New York Times, trashing Candidate Gore for referring to Bush’s Social Security proposal with the term, “privatization.”

A long list of conservatives were using that term to describe the Bush proposal. But Moynihan was trashing Gore for using that term—and the Times was pimping his complaint very hard, right out on the front page.

In October of that year, O’Donnell savaged Gore on The McLaughlin Group. He invented an utterly bogus "untruth" by Big Liar Gore and echoed Rush Limbaugh’s comments about how bad the silly man’s make-up looked in his first debate with Bush. Lawrennce sat in one of the "liberal" chairs as he delivered this mountain of low-IQ garbage.

As you may recall, the election turned out to be close.

In truth, O’Donnell is one of our genuine nuts. Despite or because of this fact, he was the choice of the corporate gang to represent us liberals! Right there on the TV machine thingy! When we got our own channel!

In the days ahead, we’ll offer more glimpses of Lawrence’s mots. What do you think he’ll have to say about The Big Dog’s address?


  1. What a Clown. Hard to believe he's an even bigger clown now.

  2. OK, you've convinced me. Lawrence O'Donnell is an idiot who single-handedly destroyed the Gore campaign by what he said on the McLaughlin Group.

    Now can we move on to this election?

    1. Doesn't history even matter a little bit? Who but Bob Somerby digs this stuff up? Lawrence O'Donnell and Chris Matthews are two of the biggest fakers in political media today, and no liberals will say so!

    2. History matters a great deal to me. What Lawrence O'Donnell and Chris Matthews said 12 years ago (or even yesterday) does not.

      You see, this is where Somerby goes off the rails. He gives pipsqueaks and numbskulls like O'Donnell and Matthews far more credit for being shapers of public opinion than they deserve.

    3. The Real Unknown Confused IdiotSeptember 5, 2012 at 1:08 PM

      No, I'm too busy in my pretend world.

      "Just a dammn minute, Mom!!!"

      In my world, Somerby's blog has never addressed "this election," coming up in November. Strange, huh? Well, you'll get used to it, because it's always the same here in my world.

      In my world, Somerby saying something accurate about O'Donnell is equivalent to ridiculously claiming that O'Donnell "single-handedly destroyed the Gore campaign."

      Wait for it though -- I'll soon accuse someone else of "false equivalence." That'll be tough for some of you folks to swallow -- but trust me, I'll have no problem with the cognitive dissonance between my two ears.

      Am I just posting to make lowercaseguy look sane by comparison?

      It's a real question, isn't it?

    4. lowercaseguys casemanagerSeptember 5, 2012 at 1:11 PM

      And no, hardindr, I don't mean you!

      lowercaseguy is lowercaseguy through and through, not merely in his handle.

      And yes, there is some reason to think I should be accepting new patients, given the way some Anonymous idiots are making lowercaseguy seem almost ready for the real world...

    5. Well, poor little boy who thinks he's clever by repeating the same schtick every day, you keep pretending that O'Donnell is really important, just like Somerby says he is.

      After all, Somerby has his same schtick every day as well. Why shouldn't his loyal cult?

    6. Sadly some liberals can't help but remind me of a pitiful house dog constantly cuffed around by it's owner, yet always eager to lick it's tormentor's hands. It's as if they actually enjoy having their asses handed to them.

    7. MaxFrost, please go study apostrophes. You're bugging me.

  3. I love this blog, and I have no use for O'Donnell, but I think that Mr. Somerby is being a bit unfair when he writes that O'Donnell said that Clinton was the "dumbest guy in the room." The quote from O'Donnell doesn't say that Clinton was dumb -- just inexperienced in the ways of Washington and the federal issues that he hadn't had to address while Governor of Arkansas.

    The observation may or may not be accurate -- maybe Clinton really was a great "policy wonk," contrary to O'Donnell's statement. However, it's unfair to criticize O'Donnell for saying something that he didn't, in fact, say. I'd even go so far as to suggest that Mr. Somerby's low opinion of O'Donnell has perhaps caused him to overstate the case, in a way that he properly criticizes others for doing.

    1. Saying that Clinton was always the "single most ignorant person in the room" is not just a huge insult, it also doesn't pass the smell test. Really? When Clinton and various Senators were in the room? We can all point to Senators who are bigger idiots and ignoramuses than the drunk guy passed out on the corner. I don't believe for a second that even on Day One of Clinton's presidency he would have been the most ignorant person in the room, merely because he had been a governor of a small state. COME ON. The guy had passed through the primaries and the general election. O'Donnell honestly wants us to believe Clinton didn't know, in depth, about the big federal issues that lay beyond Arkansas? Utter bullshit.

    2. Plus, O'Donnell was in the room.

    3. To this day, Clinton is the only politician I've seen who is able to render complex issues understandable to the common person. Not recite talking points, which some politicians excel at, but actually explain things in a way so that they have meaning. In order to do that, one generally has to have a good understanding of those issues.

      I will also point out that 2003 was near the peak of Beltway Bush worship, and dumping shit on Clinton was one way of building Bush up in comparison, not that Beltway folks ever needed an excuse to dump shit on Clinton. Ultimately, these people are con men and women, and everything they say has to be treated with maximum suspicion -- and that's NOW. Back then, they were even worse. There isn't jack shit O'Donnell said, or says, that I would take at face value.

  4. Boo to the naysayers. I found this post informative and useful.

  5. Why do I have this nagging sensation that Larry O'Donnell was the dumbest asshole in the room?

    1. Because he was. Spending all this time discussing Lawrence O'Donnell with the issues this country is facing is like discussing Whizzo the Clown in the middle of a nuclear attack.

      Not very productive.

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