Jewish World Review May 17, 2004 / 26 Iyar, 5764
Bill Clinton & Me
I can't remember the last time Bill Clinton sent me an e-mail.
No, wait, I can remember.
It was: Never.
I do remember the last communication of any kind that we had.
It was in 1998 when Clinton was wrestling with the Monica Lewinsky affair and impeachment and I was a White House correspondent for the Chicago Tribune.
So our last exchange was probably something like:
ME: "Mr. President! Mr. President! Mr. President!"
CLINTON: (to Secret Service agent) "Have that one killed."
Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I awoke this Wednesday, checked my BlackBerry (isn't that what everybody does as soon as he awakes?) and saw there was a message from the former president.
And in the subject field were the words: "We can't rest now."
I didn't recall having ever rested with Clinton, so I knew he was not turning down a specific request of mine. But I was curious.
I knew that Clinton had just finished his autobiography, that it would be published in June and that it was reportedly 900 pages long.
A word about 900-page books: Ouch!
That is the sound they make when they fall on your foot.
If you have small children, pets, or Ross Perot around your house, you have to make very sure that you do not keep Bill Clinton's new book on a high shelf where it could fall off and squish somebody or something.
How big is a 900-page book? Well, Amazon.com is selling a very nice King James version of The Holy Bible, both Old and New Testaments, and it has only 796 pages.
On the other hand, Clinton's book might cover more ground.
Its first printing will reportedly be 1.5 million copies, which is a whole bunch of books.
I have written four books and the total sales for all four of them amounts to somewhat fewer than 1.5 million copies.
Clinton also got a reported $10-12 million to write the book, which means the publisher was betting that Clinton would write a lot more about sex than about Social Security and the environment. (I'll bet the publisher loses that bet.)
The book will be titled: "Hillary's Husband: Bad As I Wanna Be."
No, I am making that up. The book has the somewhat more mundane title: "My Life."
According to Amazon, the publisher is going to charge $35 per copy, but you can get one from Amazon for $21. It is already their No. 4 bestseller and it hasn't come off the presses yet.
As the short title might indicate, Clinton finds writing a painful process.
Tuesday, he gave a speech at a fundraiser during which he said, "For three months I have done nothing but try to finish the story of my life. That was hard enough to live the first time."
"I've got to finish the book," Clinton went on. "I need my life back."
And if I lived Bill Clinton's life, I would want it back, too.
In any case, he is clearly done with his book and now has time to send me deeply personal e-mails.
"Dear Roger," he began, which I thought was a promising beginning. " 'Good for you. Now get back to work.' "
This stopped me cold. I did not understand it at all. I should get back to work? I have been at work. Where has Clinton been except writing books at $10-12 million a pop?
"Should we be proud of the extraordinary grassroots accomplishments of John Kerry's campaign so far?" Clinton went on. "Of course, we should. But, if we're serious about winning, we've got to realize that the true test of our commitment is ahead of us, not behind us."
Wait a second, I thought to myself. Maybe this wasn't a personal message from Bill Clinton after all!
"In fact, it's staring us right in the face," Clinton went on. "We knew that the Republican attack machine was going to come after John Kerry hard. But, I have to say, even I have been surprised by how vicious they've been."
At this point, I knew the e-mail had been written by somebody other than Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton has never been surprised by anything in his life (except getting caught - - and that happened only once.)
"Let's fight back," the e-mail went on. Then it invited me to contribute to the Kerry campaign.
I was crushed. This was not a personal e-mail after all. It was just another political campaign solicitation masquerading as a warm and personal note.
Only at the bottom of the e-mail, did the Clinton personality shine through:
"Please," the e-mail said, "do not reply to this message."
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