Vanity Fair Article Takes Us Back to the Clinton '90s

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Hillary Clinton may not get the chance to return her family to the White House this fall, but Bill Clinton made sure we got one more flashback last week. When asked about a Vanity Fair article titled "The Comeback Id," which cites anonymous sources fretting over Mr. Clinton's "dubious" associates and "bachelor" buddies, Mr. Clinton blew up. He called author Todd S. Purdum "sleazy," "dishonest," "slimy" and a "scumbag," language for which he would later apologize.
'Comeback id'? Vanity Fair has Bill Clinton boiling mad.
'Comeback id'? Vanity Fair has Bill Clinton boiling mad. Credit: Brian Baer

But it was this part that really set off our Wayback Machine: "He's just a dishonest guy -- can't help it," Mr. Clinton said. That reminded us of an episode from 1996 in which then-President Clinton took severe offense to a William Safire column calling the first lady "a congenital liar."

"Columnists have the right to write what they want to, even when it's an outrageous personal attack that has no basis in fact," answered White House spokesman Mike McCurry. "The president, if he were not the president, would have delivered a more forceful response to that on the bridge of Mr. Safire's nose." Ah, the vitriol; how we miss it.

At least one dynamic apparently reversed itself since the '90s, when Monica Lewinsky, Gennifer Flowers and Kathleen Willey all alleged misbehavior or worse by Mr. Clinton. Almost as soon as Vanity Fair's article came out, actress Gina Gershon sent her lawyer barking that she and Mr. Clinton had not gotten together.

"Through the innuendo-laden assertion that Ms. Gershon has been 'visiting' with President Clinton in California, the article outrageously insinuates that Ms. Gershon has had an inappropriate sexual relationship with President Clinton," her lawyer wrote. "This is absolutely false."

Vanity Fair said the article "does not indicate" that Mr. Clinton had an improper relationship with Ms. Gershon. But Mr. Clinton long ago gave us too many reasons to read the article just that way. It was too easy for the New York Post to paraphrase Ms. Gershon's complaint, after all, with the headline: "I did not have sexual relations with that man, Mr. Clinton."
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