Back in 1993, a Washington Post reporter asked me which Clinton was smarter, Bill or Hillary. As a magazine journalist long residing in Arkansas, I’d never covered state government and would have described the president and first lady as friendly acquaintances, nothing more.
I said that we had a saying in the Central Arkansas Beagle Club that you can’t train no dog that’s smarter than you. Since both Clintons clearly topped me in the IQ department, I had no way to judge their relative brainpower.
Needless to say, this was the wrong answer, deeply violative of journalistic protocol. Making glib pronouncements about near strangers is what we do.
So when I read that Hillary told her friend Diane Blair that the press has “big egos and no brains,” I’m neither shocked nor offended. Is there anybody in politics who doesn’t think that?
Anybody in the world?
Nor was I astonished that Hillary admitted to her friend during the 1996 Whitewater media feeding frenzy that “I know I should do more to suck up to the press ... I know it confuses people when I change my hairdos, I know I should pretend not to have any opinions, but I’m just not going to. I’m used to winning and I intend to win on my own terms.”
And so she did.
If you’ve forgotten, 1996 was the year all the best minds in the Washington press, heeding Kenneth Starr’s leak-o-matic prosecutors, were predicting her imminent criminal indictment. To publicize an excerpt from James B. Stewart’s Whitewater book “Blood Sport,” Time published a cover photo of the first lady that looked like a vampire movie poster.
Maybe you remember Stewart, the eminent financial journalist who appeared on “Nightline,” NPR and anywhere else they’d have him, gravely accusing Hillary of bank fraud — all based, as it turned out, upon his own failure to read the second page of a two-page loan document. Last I heard the eminent Judge Starr, once ticketed for the U.S. Supreme Court, was president of some Texas Bible college.