Bill Clinton, the Great Satan
Jude Wanniski
March 16, 1998


Memo To: Maureen Dowd, NYTimes columnist
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The Devil made him do it?

Your column last week suggested the President may have made a Faustian pact with the devil, which is how he manages to escape from one sexcapade after another with his popularity intact. You have probably heard that NBC's "McLaughlin Group" not only devoted an entire segment to your column on Sunday, but also took the notion seriously. Pat Buchanan characterized the President as being "amoral," while Morton Kondracke said Clinton is "a devil with a small 'd'." Eleanor Clift was a bit more generous, saying he is a "charming rogue."

In line with my assessment that you are The Best Political Photographer in the national press corps, I will say that you perfectly captured the dark side of our President. In order to do so, you had to put on your own dark side, which enables you to produce perfect negatives. It was Maureen Dowd with cloven feet, horns and a tail that appeared in the Times, the first time I have really seen that side of you. I'm not saying this to be funny, Maureen, but as a compliment. You don't have the same camera eye for every subject, but a great variety of them, which enables you to choose exactly the right one for each assignment.

Which leads me to suggest that you try another "shoot" of the President from the opposite angle, taking a look at what Abe Lincoln might call the better angel of his personality. There is of course a devil and angel in every one of us. I first learned that from watching Bugs Bunny cartoons when I was a little boy. Elmer Fudd would frequently have a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, each trying to get him to do the wrong or the right thing. President Clinton surely saw the same cartoons and he obviously has the same little devil and little angel on his shoulders, as do all the rest of us. Because he is watched so closely, though, we get a running account of which he has listened to from one day to the next. Think of the thousands of beautiful girls who swooned at him, as Billy Graham reminds us, who he walked away from. Lead us not into temptation, he asks the Father, but when you get to be a Powerful Person early in your life, first as guv, then as prez, the temptation no doubt comes in waves.

If you took a photo of him with your "angel" camera, it would of course only show the good side of him. The angel lens would automatically filter out all the bad stuff. I think that's what the electorate does when it sizes him up and why his approval rating remains high. I don't mean they like the fact that the stock market is going up and the unemployment rate is going down. I think they find that he doesn't like to see people get hurt, and when he has his druthers, he backs away from hurting people. Most recently, it was reported that when his advisors were telling him it was time to bomb Iraq, he asked for estimates on how many innocent civilians would be killed. Now some of my conservative friends who want him to burn in Hell, where devils go, would never think of asking how many civilians would be killed if we bombed Iraq. Some of them say we should bomb Iraq just for the target practice. As far as they are concerned, the President is worse than a devil. He is a wimp!

Anyway, I think you get what I mean, Maureen. Just for the fun of it, how about a column that evangelizes the fellow. Only the good stuff. How he gets out of all the scrapes without a scratch because He is watching over him. Or maybe it's She.

P.S. I watched "60 Minutes" last night, taking in the Ed Bradley interview of Kathleen Willey. It may make your assignment a bit more difficult, finding the angle that will fit this into an angelic picture of the President. Her story is absolutely credible, especially now that we're told Clinton made a pass at her on the campaign trail. I'd found it hard to believe that he would hit on her out of the blue, but can now see that he had flirted with her before, and that she had picked up on his flirting to the extent she turned down his offer to deliver the chicken soup. "My instincts told me he wasn't interested in chicken soup." My assumption is that Clinton, like the Kennedy boys and scores of politicians I've known over the past 35 years, got so used to the fact that his political power acted like an aphrodisiac to use Kissinger's phrase that he assumed Willey would find his advances welcome. He perhaps looks upon this activity as spreading joy throughout the land. What makes your job harder is Clinton's own recollection that the time she spent in the Oval Office was the day of her husband's suicide, which occurred sometime later that day. Clinton himself says he only remembers how distraught she was, how agitated, which is also how she remembers the time spent with him. Did he think he could comfort her by kissing and fondling her, letting her know how her state of agitation had aroused him? What Billy Graham seems to understand is how little time has elapsed since we lived in the jungle.