The Dog That Didn't Bark


Todd Purdum on Bill Clinton, in the forthcoming Vanity Fair:

Over the last few years, aides have winced at repeated tabloid reports about Clinton’s episodic friendship and occasional dinners out with Belinda Stronach, a twice-divorced billionaire auto-parts heiress and member of the Canadian Parliament 20 years his junior, or at more recent high-end Hollywood dinner-party gossip that Clinton has been seen visiting with the actress Gina Gershon in California. There has been talk of a female friend in Chappaqua, a woman in a bar at a meeting of the Aspen Institute, and a public sighting of Clinton, Bing, and a ravishing entourage in a New York elevator that, a former Clinton aide told me, led a business leader who saw them to say: I don’t know what the guy was doing, but it was so clear that it was just no good.

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.

It's interesting that Purdum and VF are coming out with this piece now, with Hillary Clinton's campaign more or less finished, since this sort of gossip has been in circulation for a while - to the point where if you'd asked me nine months ago to list the major roadblocks to Hillary's near-inevitable nomination, I would have put her husband's possible tomcatting right up there with her Iraq War vote. In the event, the Big He did end up having an impact on the race, but it was public gaffes that mattered, not his private vices. I'm not sure what to make of the lack of coverage on this front: It could suggest that there's vastly more smoke than fire where Clinton's post-Presidential priapism is concerned; it could suggest that Clinton's handlers are really, really good at putting out the fires in question (though it doesn't sound that way from Purdum's piece); or it could suggest a conspiracy of silence on the part of the media, based on the fear that pulling the trigger on such stories could get them accused of gossip-mongering or invading the Clintons' privacy. (If the third possibility is the correct one, it's a pretty remarkable testament to the MSM's ability to keep the lid on a story, even in the age of Drudge and TMZ and Gawker Stalker ...)

Photo by Flickr user Franz88 used under a Creative Commons license.