Tuesday, September 19, 2006

# Posted 10:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CLINTON, CLINTON AND MORE CLINTON: In days of yore, it was not uncommon for the New Yorker to publish articles that would go on and on and on for more than twenty pages. Last week, the magazine briefly returned to form with a twenty-four page profile of Bill Clinton by top editor David Remnick. [No link, but Remnick did a Q&A about the piece.]

I described the article to my girlfriend as "Clinton porn", self-consciously enjoying the irony of the phrase. Why, I asked, does the world need yet another long profile of the president it has known more intimately than any other? The issue, however, isn't need, but want.

As the war in Iraq grinds on and our current president remains as folksily ineloquent as ever, those who subscribe to the New Yorker yearn for the good old days when there was a worldly intellectual orator in the White House. (Personally, I don't mind Bush's style so much precisely because it infuriates brainy liberals. If it didn't, I'd prefer a change.)

Reading twenty-four pages about Clinton, filled with the president's perorations about every subject from soccer to monkeys, delivers a powerful fantasy regarding what one desperately wants but can never have.

But if I don't have that fantasy, why was I reading the article? Well, I'm curious about Clinton. I was a conscious young adult while he was president, but I feel I know nothing about him. I have clear memories of all the major events of the Clinton presidency, but I never paid close enough attention to any them to have much confidence in what I know.

Sure, I read the papers. But now I know how easy it is to come away with the wrong ideas as a casual consumer of political information.

That said, consider the next few posts, all about Remnick's profile, to be a set of open questions I have about what Clinton meant for the Democrats and for America.
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