When I used to manage a cookie and muffin distribution center in the 1990s, we were pretty far removed from the corporate office in California. I ran a good center, but the corporate management wasn’t very good at rewarding the employees for their hard work (3% of $7 an hour isn’t much of a yearly raise), so I played a little fast and loose with the rules to give them some off-the-books compensation for their considerable efforts. They kept me looking good, and it was just the right thing to do.
Of course, we were all adults and whenever the corporate bosses were in town, everyone knew to keep mum about the free cases of cookies, the unreported days off, the gratis overtime, and the screwups I would quietly sweep under the rug and handle in-house. All of us except one person: Mitch. Mitch was a 35-year-old convenience store lifer who had lucked into a driver’s job on my crew because I was desperate after firing a lunatic 22-year-old washed-out Marine who addressed his on-the-job grievances with thinly-veiled threats on my physical safety.
Mitch didn’t have much luck with women, with jobs, or in life in general. Mitch’s mother used to replace his meager wardrobe every Christmas, and those were the only clothes he would ever own. He had a sexual obsession with a UPS driver whom he used to follow around on his days off and watch her making deliveries from his car, but he was harmless and such a nice guy that I began referring to him as “Mitch the Friendly Stalker.”
Whenever my regional manager or another boss from corporate was in town, they used to pull each employee aside in the fishbowl office and talk to them about how they liked their jobs and how I was doing as a manager. Lovable as he was, Mitch was as dumb and eager to please as a Labrador with a history of falling head-first out of pickup trucks. Whenever Mitch would be pulled in for his debriefing, the tension among the crew would always elevate precipitously as we watched him wide-eyed and smiling and gesticulating to the very interested corporate managers, sure he was going to say the wrong thing and queer our patch but good. My warehouseman and I used to joke about playing Rock-Paper-Scissors to decide who was going to sit outside the windowed office with a deer rifle, ready to put a bullet in Mitch’s brain the second it looked like he was innocently outing my arrangement with the employees.
It was always said in jest, but there wasn’t a one of us who didn’t secretly wish we could chloroform him and lock him in the back of one of the vans for the duration of the corporate visit. As well meaning as they might be, there are just some people who need to be protected from the damage their mouths can do themselves and the people closest to them.
Of course a deer rifle or chloroform are out of the question when it comes to Bill Clinton. There’s way too much Secret Service, and it would be impolitic to kill or disable a former President. But Hillary still has an army of lawyers (if she’s still paying them). I know they don’t have money to spend, but if they do, it would be well worth their time and sawbucks to slap a gag order on the former President. Every time he opens his mouth Hillary’s already road-ravaged campaign express gets another door dent or a broken headlight. The whole campaign would be better off if he spent his time on the stump waxing nostalgic about the best fellatio he’s ever gotten out of wedlock. “Yeah, y’all’ll love this one. I remember this one brunette, with a little mole, right here. She looked like, uh, that girl from that George Segal show, with the Condoleeza teeth. ‘San Jokomo’ or something. What was her name? Anyway…”
If there is anything in this campaign that Hillary might want to take back it would absolutely be the Bosnia debacle. It’s called a fish story and you can get away with it if it was just you and your two drunken buddies up in the mountains, because Jim was passed out in the canoe and Tom was so pie-eyed and lachrymose he won’t dare challenge you lest you bring up his crying jag about his mother.
It’s another thing entirely if you’re the First Lady of the United States with a constant media entourage in tow to document every moment of your journey, not the least of which is your celebrated arrival–which would certainly be even more celebrated and photo-/film-worthy if it involved the principles having to dodge gunfire. It was bad enough that Hillary told this once and thought that the collective memories and archival photos and footage of the entire delegation and media corps from that 1996 trip would bend to her version of events. It was worse that she continued to tell it three, four, and five times, as if repeated retellings would make it so. I didn’t take much Psychology in college, but there’s surely some sort of pathology to ascribe to this behavior.
She has to answer for that one, and she’s tried a number of ways, from joking on Jay Leno about being late because she was taking sniper fire, or explaining candidly that she was sleep-deprived and didn’t remember the incident correctly (which doesn’t explain the other three or four times she offered up the story). There’s no explaining it at all, and the best you can hope for is that Senator Obama does something similarly foolish (as he did in San Francisco recently, which just came on the news this afternoon and will be the subject of tomorrow’s VeepsBlog 2008) or that the story just goes away on its own.
You don’t need your chief surrogate, your spouse, tearing off the Band-Aid and digging a butterknife into the wound, wanting to reanalyze it in his own befuddled context (he said, incorrectly, that she did it once, and, incorrectly, that she did it at 11:00 PM after a long day on the campaign trail), and taking it one inept step further by writing it off as a pre-senior moment of his 60-year-old wife.
Rick Klein and Mike Elmore of ABC News report “Former president Bill Clinton is the latest to hand out a juicy fib — circling back to Bosnia to cram four falsehoods into 23 words: His wife, he said, “one time late at night when she was exhausted, misstated and immediately apologized for it, what happened to her in Bosnia in 1995.”
They note that 1) The trip was in 1996 and not 1995; 2) She apologized a week later, and not immediately; 3) It wasn’t late at night. It was about 10:00 AM; 4) And it wasn’t one time, as I’ve previously said. It was four or five times.
Let’s understand one thing: This is not the man we elected President in 1992 and re-elected in 1996. He’s off his game. And as an Elder Statesman, he’s the mostly-lovable but unpredictable Labrador that Mitch the Friendly Stalker was. Clinton confessed today that Hillary issued a cease-and-desist on Bill’s discussing the incident with the press. “Hillary called me and said ‘You don’t remember this. You weren’t there, let me handle it.’ I said, ”Yes ma’am.”‘” If there are two words that he can understand and commit to memory that can help his wife become President, it’s “Yes ma’am.” We’ll see how well that plays out.