A Page One story in the Sept. 15 Wall Street Journal by Jackie Calmes and John Harwood reports that the Bush campaign has given up on its strategy to emphasize Character. Instead, it will emphasize Issues. It is, as Al Gore would say, a risky scheme–polls show Gore has the advantage on Issues–but what can they do? The Journal piece quotes an unidentified Bush aide:
This is a campaign that believed it was going to win based on the strength of Bush’s personality and integrity. That was never a sustainable strategy because it was based on something you couldn’t do anything about. It was dependent on Gore, and now Gore is doing better on both personality and integrity. … [W]e have no choice but to fight on the issues, and that means the fight is all on Democrats’ turf.
The trouble, of course, is that the real target of the Character assault, Bill Clinton, isn’t running for president this year. Interestingly, though, this turnaround is coming at a moment when we’re discovering that Clinton’s character is even worse than we thought! The evidence is the revelation, in Peter Baker’s new impeachment book, The Breach, that Clinton made his lawyer, David Kendall, be the one to tell Hillary that he’d had an affair with Monica Lewinsky after all. Here’s the crucial passage (Pages 23-24):
Clinton had not been able to bring himself to break the news to his own wife. … It had to have been the longest walk of David E. Kendall’s life, the journey that night, Thursday, August 13, to the residential part of the executive mansion where he had met with the first lady. … Something had obviously gone on between the president and Lewinsky, Kendall had told the first lady in his soft, understated way. The president was going to have to tell the grand jury about it. Only after Kendall laid the foundation did Clinton speak directly with his wife.
What Baker doesn’t reveal is how, precisely, Clinton put it to Kendall that Kendall had to go tell the little woman. This is behavior so appalling that Chatterbox finds himself incapable of even imagining it! It can hardly be said to reflect poorly on Gore, of course. But still, prurient curiosity compels Chatterbox to ask: How did the dialogue between Clinton and Kendall go? Where journalism cannot venture, playwrighting must. Readers are invited to submit (to firstname.lastname@example.org) a brief playlet depicting this historic scene. Please aim for plausibility rather than broad satire, and keep it clean. Also, be brief. As it is, Chatterbox probably won’t be able to pass along more than two or three of the best entries.