Jewish World Review Jan. 22, 2003 / 19 Shevat, 5763
Next to Bubba,
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Frum remembers an Oval Office meeting in which Bush would "let fall in the course of the conversation at least one jaw-droppingly candid remark - a brutally frank assessment of some foreign leader or an expression of doubt about some program to which he was publicly committed."
Clinton, battered by leaks to the media, told me that "I have learned never to say anything when there is more than one other person in the room." On Whitewater, Clinton said, "Hillary and I have decided never to talk about it with anyone other than one another." This normally extroverted man, accustomed, in Arkansas, to thinking out loud, had altered his usual style to become an introvert, doing his thinking behind a public poker face in the quiet of his own mind - driven there by leaking.
In Frum's account of the Bush administration, there is virtually no leaking. So extraordinary is the discipline that he cites a leak to Robert Novak about global warming as a solitary example of staff leaking. Clinton's White House lived by the leak. When the questions we had asked in a focus group ended up on the front page of a Sunday edition of The Washington Post, an irate president called screaming at me early in the morning demanding to know "who did you tell" about the research.
"I didn't tell anyone," I said defensively, "only George [Stephanopoulos] and Rahm [Emanuel]."
"You only told George and Rahm?" the president repeated, his voice rising in sarcasm. "You only told George and Rahm?" he repeated. "Why didn't you just issue a f- - -ing press release?" he yelled, his voice reaching a high C.
Frum's casual mention of the fact that Vice President Dick Cheney "employed only a single communications aide" is also incredible to any veteran of the Clinton-Gore administration. Reflecting the vice president's absence of political ambition, a vice president serving only the needs of his boss will be as refreshing as it will be novel to historians.
When Gore was pressing Clinton too much to have his own people put into key jobs in the second term, Clinton asked me, "Are you still close to Al?" Assuring him that I was (this was back in January 1997), he told me, "Tell him to back off. He'll inherit it all anyway, tell him to cool it on always pushing his people." When I told Gore, his only response was to ask, "Did he really say that?"
George, you don't know how good you have it!
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