The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Thursday, May 02, 2002  


Former President Bill Clinton met with executives from NBC yesterday to discuss the possibility of hosting a talk show, reports Sallie Hofmeister in today's Los Angeles Times.

Heaven help us, one and all.

The talks were described as preliminary, but also serious. President Clinton is "demanding" $50 million a year and has aspirations "of becoming the next Oprah Winfrey," according to an unnamed sourced quoted by Hofmeister.

There are obstacles. Industry sources tell Hofmeister they doubt President Clinton would take the job if he had a solid grasp of the demands associated with a regular talk show, specifically five shows a week for 39 weeks of the year.

Maybe so, but 39 weeks of programs implies 13 weeks of vacation each year. Who couldn't handle that? Besides, all the hard work on such shows is done behind the scenes by producers, editors, and researchers.

There are few things more annoying than listening to people who make easy money -- television personalities, models, actors, columnists, flight attendants, dentists, human-resouce managers, and the like -- describe their jobs with such terms as demanding, exhausting, and grueling.

But we digress.

"Most presidents, after leaving the White House, typically sit on corporate boards, take up humanitarian and charitable causes, write books, make speeches and work on their libraries," Hofmeister points out.

This of course is not the typical former president. This is one who craves attention, indeed the spotlight, to a degree that suggests a narcissistic personality disorder. And one who apparently is so insecure about his financial condition or standing that he cannot be satisfied with the $12 million advance publisher Alfred A. Knopf paid for his memoirs and the take from his public speaking fees, which reportedly can run as high as $300,000.

And some of Hofmeister's sources said Clinton would put his status as a "world statesman" [Ed.: Not our words.] at risk by taking on the typical talk-show fare of rape, spousal and child abuse, teen pregnancy, juvenile delinquency, abortion, adultery, adoption, and the like.

"The price he could pay is so much higher than the potential payoff," said Robert Thompson, a professor of media and pop culture at Syracuse University. "Clinton is obsessed with his legacy, and a talk show is not the best way to erase Monica Lewinsky and the impeachment and reposition himself in high school history books for his positive achievements. How does he maintain his dignity if he cashes in on his 'Animal House' presidency?"

But Professor Thompson said Clinton could turn a television career to his advantage by developing a more serious program interviewing world leaders and examining complex geo-political issues. ("Nightline," anyone?) President Clinton hasn't warmed to this idea, reportedly citing conflicts of interest given his wife's position as a U.S. Senator from New York.

Could President Clinton attract and maintain a wide audience, one of sufficient size to support a $50 million annual salary? Hofmeister says television executives doubt it, an assessment we share.

And here's a surprise, Hofmeister reports that, according to sources, a Clinton talk show "probably would be produced by his close friends Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason, sources said. Now there's a "power couple" of whom we've had enough.

We are not Clinton-haters or Clinton-bashers, but truth be told, we have long since grown far beyond tired of this pair. Mrs. Clinton's election to the U.S. Senate was bad enough, forever diminishing our opinion of our fellow New Yorkers. We had hoped, delusionally, of course, that President Clinton would fade into the background, whiling away his hours at his "home" in Chappaqua, N.Y., her home in Washington, and at his office in midtown Manhattan -- wait, make that Harlem.

We know that television has been sinking steadily into a cesspool of sordid and sleazy fare, with some moronic infotainment passed off as "news" and "commentary," even since, well, "Laugh-In." And we realize that "Rosanne" has moved from prime-time to syndication, but really, isn't there enough white trash on the tube already?

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