15 September 1998
Smile-a-while: Revenge of the thong
Synopsis: Gail Sheehy made one of her classic wrong turns when she tried to explore Clintons passages.
Commentary by Gail Sheehy
How bad did the psychiatrizing get over the weekend? CNN even drug out Gail Sheehy! Vanity Fairs reigning queen of blabber turned up, with Gene Randall, for some perspective on the Clinton situation.
Fat chance. To Genes credit, he made a good try:
RANDALL: You have written Understanding Mens Passages. Could that title be applicable to what we are seeing in the Ken Starr report about the presidents behavior?
Readers, what are the odds that theres anything on earthto which Understanding Mens Passages wouldnt be applicable?
SHEEHY: Well yes, I hope so. Except that this behavior is almost incomprehensible to all of us...
Maybe Gene should have called it off there, with Sheehy admitting she didnt comprehend something. No luck, folks--Sheehy soldiered on:
SHEEHY: ...this behavior is incomprehensible to all of us. But in an attempt to comprehend it, some of the things that occur to me is that, as Ive written about Bill Clinton, hes always been the puer eternis...
And maybe Gene should have stopped it there, explaining that CNN forbids use of Latin. Anyway, Sheehy rattled on in her usual manner, offering insights that could have been recited just as well by a high school kid whos read Time for a month. (Weve known for years that hes had trouble controlling his desires and his appetites, whether its for greasy food or sleazy sex.) Finally she got to the part of her speech that our analysts had been awaiting. After enlightening the nation with the standard old saw about how Bill wont resign unless Hillary says to, Sheehy finally got into herspecial zone--she began to limn Bills stage of life. Like hopeful viewers all over the nation, we sat up in our seats, expectant:
SHEEHY: I do think also theres the question of age. I think thats a big factor here. Remember, Bill Clinton turned fifty the summer Monica Lewinsky flipped her thong at him. And for a man whos recently turned fifty, who went through a crippling experience with his knee, whose eyes are going, whose hearing isnt so good, whose hair is getting gray, to have a young beautiful woman lift her jacket and show her thong underwear...
Man! By the time Sheehy got through with her description of Clinton, it was like Bob Dole had been elected to the White House! Until wed had a chance to see Sheehy, we hadnt realized that Clinton had become so enfeebled. We began to wonder if hed be impeachedfrom office, or simply removed on a disability claim. How could he even seeunder Mos dress, as bad as hiseyesight had gotten?
But wouldnt you know it, an analyst rushed in, and he immediately spoiled our fun. We thought we were getting some really deep insights into why Clinton had launched his pursuit of the thong. But then our analyst showed us--right in Ken Starrs report--the actual chronology of Clintons knee injury. And wouldnt you know it? Clinton was hobbling around with that banged-up old knee right at the time he told Mo to get lost:
STARR REPORT: According to Ms. Lewinsky, she had what proved to be her final sexual encounter with the President on Saturday, March 29, 1997...He came in on crutches, the result of a knee injury in Florida two weeks earlier.
Damn! When he got the knee injury, he endedthe sex! Just the opposite of what Sheehy told Randall.
We tried to figure out just what could explain Sheehys highly unusual lapse in comprehension. You know--just when she was helping us learn all about why President Clinton had behaved in the way that he did? Based on his stage of life at that juncture? Then we had it: maybe Sheehy herselfwas having eye problems, and had simply misread this part Starrs Report! And maybe when she attributed eye problems to Clinton, Sheehy was really projecting! So its really herpassages were talking about! And maybe...
Well, OK--maybe youget the picture? How its all just a part of what we do love to call: Life in this celebrity press corps?
From our How many mistakes can she make today? file: Bill Clinton turned fifty in the summer of 96. Monica flipped her thong at him in November 95. He actually stoppedthe sex the summer he turned fifty. Sic semperpassages.