Time’s Up for Comeback Kids Charlie Rose and Bill Clinton
As the ex-president strikes out on softball questions, the ex-talker is headed to a Sun Valley meeting of the moguls. Enough.
Just weeks after being outed and then fired as a serial sexual harasser in the workplace named for him, Charlie Rose tried to launch a second act with a TV show in which he would welcome alleged sexual harassers like himself who feel unfairly abused by an unforgiving public. There, the misunderstood could share their stories in a safe space and feel better about themselves.
That died after a story revealing that Tina Brown rightly refused to have any part of it. Weeks after that, Rose is at it again, slated to attend the festivities at Sun Valley in July, according to Bloomberg News, the annual summer camp for billionaires in the hard-to-reach-except-by-private-jet mountain resort in Idaho where Rupert Murdoch, Warren Buffett, Tim Cook, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg are regulars. Harvey Weinstein was there last year.
You can see why Rose would want to land a spot at the invitation-only event. He was once King of the Mountain, a celebrity journalist giving long-winded answers in the form of questions to other notables. To be back drinking aged whiskey and hobnobbing in an Allen & Company windbreaker would be secular absolution. His show might be bankable, after all.
But before he goes, Rose should remember the awkwardness of the dinner I was told about where the Manhattan hosts didn’t want to rescind invitations but had to comb the guest list for a woman willing to sit next to him. Then, Rose should watch former president Bill Clinton’s brutal interview on the Today show and another follow-up at the New York Public Library Tuesday night to see how showing up in Sun Valley might work out. Not so well, actually. The past you think you’ve shed sometimes clings like a damp bathrobe.
For the putative Comeback Kid, past is present. Clinton wanted to be treated as the once commander-in-chief as he promotes The President Is Missing, the beach read he’s credited as co-authoring with James Patterson. Instead, Clinton was treated, however gently, like the impeached former president he is, one who it turns out never apologized personally to “that woman,” Monica Lewinsky. He’s filled with pity, not for a 20-something whose adult life could hardly get off the ground, but for himself and the people peppering him with unfair questions about it. In Clinton’s telling he wasn’t fighting impeachment as much as defending the Constitution so fiercely that he left office $16 million in debt. While crying that his questioner was “omitting facts,” he didn’t mention that the Clintons have made $240 million, in Forbes’ estimation, since he left office.
You’d think Clinton would have a prepared answer by now for what happened between him and Lewinsky. He has. This is it.
Clinton is now making appearances to correct appearances, much like he did when he played the saxophone on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show to make a near career-ending monologue at the 1988 convention go away. On Tuesday night, Stephen Colbert offered Clinton another do-over, asking him if he understood why some people thought he gave “a tone-deaf response” to NBC’s Craig Melvin in light of the #MeToo movement and how he “might reflect on your behavior 20 years ago.” First Clinton blame-shifted to unfair editing by NBC but then gradually admitted it wasn’t his finest hour, that the Monica Lewinsky affair was painful, something “he’s had to live with the consequences every day since.”
Next do-over, he should pull out the sax again and feel less of his pain and more of others. That’s hard to do for Clinton or Rose who see themselves as victims, not perpetrators, that what they did doesn’t amount to a whole hill of beans in this crazy world. No one died, after all. Besides, they are proponents of women, hiring binders full of them and helping many, including those they didn’t press for sex. Where’s the thanks for that? They’re both bitter about a double standard. Why, oh why, are they treated so harshly when our current president is so much worse?.
Both Rose and Clinton are seeking the stage even as others accused of similar things are unemployable and destitute, with some in ankle bracelets or jail. Both these men continue to lead enviable lives, not stymied in their upward trajectory until relatively late in life when there were no concerns about money. Rose has multiple apartments in New York and Paris, and a house on the ocean in Long Island. Clinton doesn't have quite as many residences but lives larger than he ever thought possible.
Clinton’s ice-cold anger comes from losing something he thought he was owed, a third term in the White House, despite his conduct and his wife's complicity in it. She stood by her man on 60 Minutes and through every bimbo eruption, as his female staff called them, ever since. It’s not the only reason Hillary Clinton isn’t president but it’s certainly one.
The one thing most liberals have going for them is that they repent for blindly supporting their leaders when they are wrong, unlike conservatives who loathed Clinton but are blatant hypocrites when it comes to Trump’s behavior. No matter what Trump does--pay for an abortion for a porn star (on Fifth Avenue perhaps), the president of the Susan B. Anthony fund said her members would stick with him.
Not so the Democratic women who stood by Clinton during impeachment. Many have the decency to regret it, some with unfortunate overcompensation. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand now sees Clinton for who he is. Clinton complains about that, but he’s not hurt nearly as much as Sen. Al Franken, whom Gillibrand forced out to expiate her original, Clintonian sin.
As for their own sins, Clinton and Rose care less about repentance and more about being restored to a modicum of their former glory. How many normal people, after being exposed in front of the whole country for shameful behavior behind closed doors, would push their way back into our lives, as if we don’t know how many lives they ruined?
These two men seek forgiveness and acceptance in all the wrong places, among the swells of Sun Valley, by climbing the bestseller list on Amazon, in any setting that puts a camera on their faces and a microphone in front of their mouths.
There are better ways to make amends, if only they wanted to.