I was plugging my book, Me and Ted Against the World, on Fox News in January of 2001, when I was asked, "What would you do if you were running CNN today?" "I'd fire Larry King and hire Bill Clinton," I answered. The San Francisco Chronicle picked up on it and wrote, "That's not a good idea, that's a great idea!"
Well, it's almost eight years later, and King's still on the air, and with Hillary's appointment as Secretary of State, Bill is still at liberty. It's time to start my campaign all over again. Back in '01, I called Bill's lawyer and asked if Bill would consider it. He asked what I thought the job would pay. I said King was reported to be making $8 million a year, and I thought Bill would be worth twice that. He laughed, and left me with the impression that Bill might be available, so, I called Walter Isaacson, who had just been appointed head of CNN, and left a message to that effect with his secretary. I also left my phone number, and the lawyer's number. Neither of us heard from Isaacson.
In 2001, Fox News was about to overtake CNN as the leading cable news service. King had been around almost fifteen years, and both he and his audience were getting old and perhaps stale. At that moment, Bill had everything, there wasn't a man in the world that Bill couldn't have gotten to be his guest for primetime CNN hour. When I started CNN, it was my idea that at 10pm we would every night have that day's most important news maker on our air to answer questions about what he had done; to advance that news story at least one news cycle -- to give you tomorrow's story tonight. At that moment, no one could have done that better than Bill Clinton.
When CNN didn't pick up on the idea, I thought they had to be the dumbest news organization since the Chicago Tribune made John Dewey President. I've had second, maybe paranoid, thoughts about this. Maybe Time Warner didn't try to sign Clinton because they were afraid of the Bush administration reaction. Time Warner was in the midst of acquiring, or being acquired by, AOL. It was a messy transaction, and the SEC ultimately charged AOL with inflating revenues and security fraud. Time Warner didn't need any more enemies. In any event, Bill Clinton never got a nibble.
Now it's a whole new world. Here's Bill with his wife working for Obama, and everybody in the news business just waiting for him to make one small slip up, take one speaking engagement from a guy who later turns out to be a crook, or consults with one company that later gets a contract from the State Department, what's he going to do for a living? Bill, come over to our side -- be a journalist -- let CNN give you a living wage! You'll double Larry King's ratings, you'll save CNN primetime, and maybe even do the world some good by getting important people to tell the truth about the way the world works.
So, Bill, what do you think, is being King of the Airwaves the next best job after being President of the United States?