Saturday, June 11, 2011

Advice from the Big Dawg

(Image Credit: Jack Ohman, The Oregonian, 6/9/11)

No, darlings, there is nothing at all funny about the ridiculous case of the congressman lost in the Twitterverse, but my typist still chuckled over her WaPo this morning when she saw the above cartoon. The sexual/textual relations joke has been made before. If you google the phrase "I did not have textual relations with that woman," you get tons of hits related to former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who had, among many other moral and legal impairments, a bit of a text-messaging problem. Anyhoo, we like the way the revision of Clinton's famous denial works in this instance, because the cartoon succinctly acknowledges Clinton as patron saint of the modern sex scandal, while marking the shift from what already feels like a remote universe in which what mattered was the biological evidence of sexual activity (the DNA left on Monica Lewinsky's blue dress) to the wacky world of Weiner-gate, in which fools are done in by the merely textual traces they leave of their junk. Have we reached the place where bodies matter only in that they are what we use to produce ourselves as texts -- images and films that we eagerly publish, apparently oblivious to the potential harm, to ourselves and others, that might result from doing so?

Not quite, my pretties. This dead dog is here to tell you that bodies still matter, which might help to explain why we can't let go of Bill Clinton. Love him or hate him, Clinton still reminds us of energies and appetites rooted in the body. They can get us into a world of trouble, those incorrigible desires, but they also make us look and feel and be alive. Clinton survived the humiliation of a politically motivated investigation of his sex life at least in part because, for all his denials and apologies, he never seemed ashamed of the deep passions that got him into such a mess. We loved him for that, even if we deplored what his recklessness did to his wife and his presidency (and, believe me, we were furious with him over both of those things back in 1998). Whatever his failings, Clinton got through his ordeal by relying on a joie de vivre that fueled his determination to stay in office when everyone in Washington had declared him toast. We have a hunch that same joie helped repair the damage he had done to his marriage, though far be it from us to speculate as to why or how Bill and Hill have stuck it out together when so. many. other. political. couples. have fallen apart.

We can't let go of Bill Clinton because we don't want to. Thirteen years after he wagged his finger at us and insisted he hadn't done anything "inappropriate" with Monica Lewinsky, we still need his passion, his resilience, his heart, his Aw, shucks, babe, it's good to be a little bad from time to time, isn't it? spirit. That's why he finds his way into every story about a politician with a self-inflicted junk problem. Clinton owns that story, and we are all still reading it, with bated breath, waiting to see how it ends.

Disclaimer: This post in no way condones or promotes infidelity, meanness, or the photographing of one's private parts. Srsly. Swear to dog. No junk photos, please. Why? We'll let Gina Barreca explain.


  1. You got this exactly right, especially about why we still can't let go of the Big Dog. Another reason: memories of prosperity past.

  2. Very interesting and I wholly agree. Among the difference is this: I don't recall the full details of Monica-gate but I don't seem to remember that Bill was quite as idiotically reckless as Weiner. Apart from the Freudian slip of sending the image of his bits into a public Twitter stream, this guy _had to know_ that by texting strangers in this way, and with attachments of his privates, he was going to get caught. Not just eventually going to get caught (as one might say if, say, Clinton had moved on from Monica to some other little gabby starveling). But absolutely 100% guaranteed of getting caught. That certainty of finding oneself really and truly exposed as well as the other weirdly exhibitionistic aspects of W-gate (we may know about Clinton's cigar but we never felt that Clinton wanted us to know about it--that the exposure was the turn-on for him) makes me think of these situations as somehow incommensurable even though yes, it's another Grade A sex scandal involving a Democrat. I don't doubt that there can be a second act to AW's professional life if he plays his cards right though probably not as an elected official simply because of the weird "either you're incredibly stupid or you're hellbent on self-destruction" element.

  3. @Undine: Good point on the prosperity part. That no doubt fuels some of the nostalgia we feel for the Clinton years.

    @Lauren: Love the way you parse the differences between Clinton and Weiner. You're absolutely right that the Weiner tale has elements of recklessness and exhibitionism that the Lewinsky affair clearly lacked, though many howled about Clinton's recklessness and narcissism at the time. I agree that the two events are in many ways incommensurable, which was implied but not developed in this relatively short post. Your comment does some of the work my typist was avoiding on a lazy Saturday afternoon, so thanks!

  4. I agree with Barreca's point that Weiner's transgression was driven by vanity, while Clinton's was driven by lust. The latter can be more easily forgiven than the former.


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