Eat The Press


by Mary Ellen Mark for New Yorker

What do you get when you send esteemed and erudite New Yorker editor David Remnick around the world with the wildly popular former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, to talk about his life, work, legacy, and not-at-all-controversial-or-in-the-news-lately wife Hillary ? Quite a lot, actually: A massive 23-page story (with photos, poems and cartoons, but still) with anecdotes, frank exchanges, keen insights and some really, really good soundbytes. What you don't get is a link: The piece is not available online. Which means that what you also don't get is any online presence. At all.

Which for a piece like this is saying something. Before I list a few of the gems you'll find if you, too, invest the thirteen hours needed to read it all, I will note one quote from Clinton: "I am sick of Karl Rove's bullshit." Incredibly, one week after publication, a search for "I am sick of Karl Rove's bullshit" on Google will yield one hit: A link to ABC's "The Note" that actually takes you to the wrong link and requires a search through the archives and then moving forward a few pages before a measly excerpt may be had. What does this tell us? It tells us that the New Yorker PR department needs to send their press releases out more widely online (and make it available the next week somewhere other than Google cache), and that the New Yorker can't rely on Remnick's cachet, Clinton's galvanizing popularity and the tantalizing possibility of Republican trashtalk to bring a 23-page article to life in the blogosphere without a little help.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of nuggets from the piece; those looking for a precis can find one of sorts in the New Yorker PR dept's aforementioned 1,066-word account, as well as a New Yorker Q&A with Remnick here.

  • Clinton on Rove: "I am sick of Karl Rove's bullshit."
  • Clinton on the Kerry campaign: "Like a deer caught in the headlights."
  • Clinton on watching the World Cup Final in Berlin: "I'm totally psyched for this."
  • Clinton on the vote to go into Iraq: "I'm sick and tired of being told that if you voted for authorization you voted for the war. It was a mistake, and I would have made it, too....The administration did not shoot straight on the nuclear issue or on Saddam's supposed ties to Al Qaeda prior to 9/11."
  • Chelsea on her father's handling of the AIDS crisis after writing a thesis on the subject at Oxford: "I gave you a grade," she told her father. "What did I get?" Clinton asked. "C-plus." Her rationale: "You didn't do nearly enough. But you did more than anyone else in the world."
  • Clinton on dying: "I've reached an age now where it doesn't matter whatever happens to me...I just don't want anyone to die before their time anymore."
  • Hillary on that weird NYT story about their marriage: "I'm endlessly fascinated by people's fascination with us, but that's not something I'm going to spend much time on."
  • Bill on that weird NYT story about their marriage: "I think it got pretty well the response that it deserved."
  • Apparently, Hillary Clinton loves giraffes; accordingly, her husband bought her a giant wooden one which Remnick estimated was "seven, eight feet tall." (The NYT is no doubt working out the symbolism.)
  • Clinton on WaPo's Susan Schmidt: "A Xerox machine for Ken Starr."
  • Clinton on his inaction in Rwanda, which he said was the worst foreign-policy mistake of his administration: "We never even had a staff meeting on it." (Note: Clinton said that was "why I went there and apologized in '98"; he said the Rwandans said he was the only one who had apologized.)
  • Remnick on Clinton's relationship with Ron Burkle: Apparently, Clinton flies on his plane.
  • Remnick on Ron Burkle's alleged penchant for models and youthful plane guests: Er, nothing, actually. Hey, 23 pages doesn't give you much space.
  • Clinton on puncutality, as expressed in being 15 minutes late to meet with Nelson Mandela, per Remnick: "Astonishingly, he will make anyone wait for him, even a global patriarch who is presumably his moral hero."
  • Clinton on the Bush administration: "It just makes me mad...I just wish I were there trying to articulate an alternative vision."
  • On the fact that he is not: "You have to bloom where you're planted."

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