It’s been a bad week for airline/gym reading. First, the New York that seemed (foolishly in retrospect) like the best option in the gym’s magazine rack when I forgot to put reading material in my bag featured the lengthy Phillip Weiss article sharing with us the news that middle-aged men sometimes feel sexual desire for younger women…even if they’re married! Then there was the New York Times magazine cover story, which let us in on such remarkable facts as that young people will sometimes stop dating one person and start dating another, dating co-workers can create some measure of tension, and sharing things about other people on your blog can upset said individual.
I would like to say that Todd Purdum’s Clinton story is less vacuous. But if so the distinction is marginal, and it’s (really) if anything more annoying. The pattern is established early. After some nice guilt-by-association innuendos about some of Clinton’s associates (you’ll be shocked to learn that some wealthy men have fathered children out of wedlock and dated considerably younger women), we get the only graf you need to read:
In fairness, it should be said that Clinton’s entourage that weekend also included his daughter, Chelsea, and her boyfriend, Marc Mezvinsky, and no one who was there has adduced the slightest evidence that Clinton’s behavior was anything other than proper. Nor, indeed, is there any proof of post-presidential sexual indiscretions on Clinton’s part, despite a steady stream of tabloid speculation and Internet intimations that the Big Dog might be up to his old tricks. On any given visit to London, for example, Clinton is as apt to dine with Tony Blair or Kevin Spacey as with anyone who might raise an eyebrow.
So, in other words, he’s got nothing. But does that stop him from making the implication again? Not when you’re dealing with the Clenis:
Less amusingly, in the run-up to the 1996 re-election campaign, when Clinton took one of his many fund-raising trips to California, I teasingly asked his press secretary, Mike McCurry, whether the president intended to go jogging with Eleanor Mondale, the daughter of the former vice president—as he had on a previous trip—after he was spotted with her (and Barbra Streisand) in the wee hours of the morning. The next day, as we boarded the plane at Andrews Air Force Base en route to Los Angeles, McCurry, whose effectiveness as Clinton’s spokesman was aided by the fact that he never fell in love with him, sidled up to me and told me that he had passed my question on to the president, and that Clinton had responded, in vivid terms he knew I could not print, that I should not confuse exercise with extracurricular activity.
I dunno, it seems to me the Clinton, er, has a point here. And while I grant that I’m no expert in arranging adulterous liaisons, it strikes me that jogging with someone in public probably isn’t the ideal method.
Anyway, this not-quite-an-accusation shtick becomes intolerable pretty quickly. So unless you’re in the market for some reasonable-but-trite observations about Clinton’s slightly rusty political compass and some questions about the financing of Clinton’s post-presidential activities that the article does little to illuminate, I’d give the article a pass. It does serve as a reminder, though, that however problematic some of their recent behavior has been, when it comes to the press they have an entirely legitimate grievance.