home > archive > 2002 > this article
Clinton live at $50 million a year
By C.T. Rossi
Like a B grade horror movie, one can hear the ominous voice-over - "He's back . . ."
But this is not about a movie serial slasher. No, this is about the real life monster, left for dead on a cold and rainy January day in 2001.
Supposedly banished forever, Bill Clinton might have found a way back into your living room. The former president wants to be a talk show host. Reports are that Clinton has entered negotiations with NBC to create a broadcast vehicle that would pay him an estimated $50 million a year. It seems a match made in . . . well, some other realm.
If true, the deal would give Clinton what he craves most: attention and money. Most likely, a Clinton talk show would be a big ratings-getter for the network, if for no other reason than the novelty of a former Commander-in-Chief doing chat.
While the idea of a former president as a talk show host may seem repugnant to some, the idea of Bill Clinton hosting a talk show seems a natural progression. The Clinton legacy is primarily the two-fold story of a man who, on one hand, lived to empathize and "feel pain" and, on the other, was a wrecking ball who systematically destroyed the very dignity of the office of the presidency. A talk show would do nothing but solidify his place in history.
While this news of the negotiations may be met with jeers and derisive snickers in conservative circles, a Clinton show could prove to be the most effective spin machine that the Democratic Party has ever seen, leaving the Left to laugh last.
Try to visualize a studio audience, fevered and frenetic as the host emerges from backstage and caprioles into their midst. The ruckus lessens and Clinton says, "Today on Bill, we will meet with a family who can't afford the healthcare they need." Theme music erupts, graphics flash and a 50 minute info-mercial for the left's cause du jour rolls unchallenged into the homes of 200 million Americans. There will be no GOP rebuttal time, no press corps follow-up with questions. There will be nothing to stand in Clinton's way.
To think that the American viewing public will take the moral high ground and not support a Clinton show is a Quixotic hope. If the former mayor of Cincinnati (Jerry Springer), driven from office in a prostitution scandal, can rise to become the king of TV talk, just think what the Comeback Kid can do. If Oprah can create a best seller by putting a tome on her book list, how much more could Clinton provide with ready-made views to those scores of Americans who can't read - but who can, ironically, vote.
If the Roman Emperor Vespasian quipped that he was "becoming a god" as he expired, Clinton having weathered a natural (albeit messy) political death is on the verge of reincarnation as something that has been his lifelong goal - a media icon, the 21st century version of a god.
In our de facto pagan world, Clinton is assuming his rightful place in the pantheon of counter-cultural heroes. Bill Clinton has achieved the highest public office, a feat achieved by only 43 men. Along the way, he did not deny any desire that arose in his soul. Be it a shady deal, a woman not his wife, or that fourth Big Mac that his dietician warned against, Bill Clinton gave himself over to his every passion and in contradistinction to the moral of every fairy tale, he not only got away with it but he has prospered. He is the answer to the question: What if Elvis had never over-dosed?
To the political gurus who think that Bill Clinton's political legacy was complete when he initiated the era of "the politics of personal destruction," think again. Clinton is teetering on the brink of something monumental. He is poised to show (in a manner reminiscent of his and Mrs.
Clinton's view of White House furniture) that the bully pulpit of the presidency is not a trapping to be left behind when one leaves office but instead is yet another tool to parlay fame and fortune.
Clinton as "talking head" may be the most dangerous use of mass media since their original propaganda possibilities were discovered by the dictators of the 1930's. Armed with charisma, charm and presidential trappings but answerable to no one except the viewer ratings - Clinton may wield an influence on public opinion never before seen.
Be afraid . . . be very afraid.
C.T. Rossi writes about contemporary culture for the Free
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!
© 1996-2021, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.