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Vanity Fair and the new "Friends of Bill" Clinton

June 1, 2008 |  4:23 pm

Todd S. Purdum, former New York Times staffer and current Vanity Fair national editor, lets loose in the July issue of the magazine with a lengthy profile of Bill Clinton after leaving the White House.Bill Clinton profile in July Vanity Affair with Angelina Jolie on the cover  It's getting reduced to sex in some places -- friends worried that he was spending suspicion-raising time with attractive women on the road -- but there's no smoking gun (to stick with political metaphors), and focusing on speculation about a return to form for the former wanderer-in-chief does the article a disservice.

Purdum, who covered portions of the Clinton administration, offers up a deeply reported look at a primal force in politics facing his own dissipation.  Scandal, big-bucks speaking fees, big-bucks pals like Ron Burkle with private planes, but also heart surgery and a clear physical deterioration.  Bill Clinton is no longer the man he once was, though he is still a force -- Purdum describes Clinton as "the smiling, snowy-haired man who is the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral he attends."

Purdum, who is married to Clinton's former press secretary, Dee Dee Myers, writes:

"To know Clinton is, sooner or later, to be exasperated by his indiscipline and disappointed by his shortcomings. But through it all, it has been easy enough to retain an enduring admiration — even affection — for a president whose sins against decorum and the dignity of his office seemed venial in contrast to the systemic indifference, incompetence, corruption, and constitutional predations of his successor’s administration. That is, easy enough until now.

"This winter, as Clinton moved with seeming abandon to stain his wife’s presidential campaign in the name of saving it, as disclosures about his dubious associates piled up, as his refusal to disclose the names of donors to his presidential library and foundation and his and his wife’s reluctance to release their income tax returns created crippling and completely avoidable distractions for Hillary Clinton’s own long-suffering ambition, I found myself asking again and again, What’s the matter with him?"

What's the matter, indeed.

-- Scott Martelle

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