All that has made much of the American electorate sour on the media and the political process is now on display in the current issue of Vanity Fair. In a very lengthy article that can only be described as irresponsibly vengeful, the magazine and the author attempt to systematically smear the reputation of Bill Clinton and one of his most trusted aides and friends with a series of anonymous quotes, hearsay, and insulting subtitles.
As a Republican and conservative, the article made my skin crawl. As I told several friends, had this type of innuendo, character assassination and rumor mongering been employed against Ronald Reagan or either President Bush, we would have been marching on the magazine with pitchforks and torches.
Wrong is wrong and every Republican or Democrat who wants to elevate the process from its resting place in the gutter, needs to speak out against this type of "journalism." If we can't unite and agree on this, then the American people are certainly correct to believe that much of politics and the media is now more about cheap shots, partisanship, and traveling the low-road, then it is about adult leadership and working together to solve very serious problems that threaten to cripple our way of life.
I have known President Clinton and Doug Band (the president's friend and counselor and co-target in the article) for over ten years. I first met both when I worked for former Senator Bob Dole and spoke with them from time to time at the White House. From there, I worked with both when then former President Clinton and Bob Dole very ably co-chaired "The Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund" in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. The cowardly anonymous quotes, gossip, and out of context stories directed at both men, not only don't reflect the Bill Clinton and Doug Band I have come to know, but other than to titillate and inflict pain on real people, serve absolutely no purpose.
Doug Band and I are friends. When I was with former Senator Dole, anytime we asked something of him, he delivered. Since I left the employ of Senator Dole, anytime I've needed to talk to him or get a question answered, he's been there. In many ways, I've walked in his shoes. Working with a high-level politician who has grown into celebrity status can be challenging at times. Doug has done an exceptional job and if people don't believe that, then I suggest they ask President Clinton.
I don't pretend to have a friendship with President Clinton. I see him now once or twice a year at various events and we always chat for a few minutes. For the last decade, both in print and in private, I have talked of my admiration for his intellect, political skills, and very good heart. Clearly, there are a number of things we are never going to agree on, but so what. There are also plenty of Republicans I disagree with at times. Does that mean we can't talk, be friends, and work together?
At least from the Democratic party perspective, if President Clinton were going to get credit for the good he has done over his political and private career, it would require many more pages than those dedicated by Vanity Fair to besmirch his name. From a purely personal perspective, as one who grew up in abject poverty and was homeless off and on as a child, I have especially admired the former president precisely because he fought his way out of a dysfunctional and impoverished childhood to capture the highest office in the land. Unless you've been there, you can't imagine what he had to overcome just to escape that which drags down so many others.
Bill Clinton and Doug Band are owed an apology from Vanity Fair. More than that, the American people deserve better than this.
In too many ways to count, our world is spinning out of control. If the media and our politicians from both sides of the aisle now view this type of "reporting" as the norm and relevant in these turbulent times, then shame on them.
If we, as readers, viewers and voters, continue to let them get away with it, then shame on us.
Douglas MacKinnon is a former White House and Pentagon official and author of the forthcoming novel, The Apocalypse Directive.