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Dear Bill Clinton,

Dear Bill Clinton,

By James Poniewozik

Your Middle East peace efforts crumbled. Your health-care plan vanished with grunge rock. But now you can build on your most lasting legacy: obliterating the line between politics and entertainment. Last week you met with NBC to discuss hosting a daytime talk show to the reported tune of $50 million a year. Respectable commentators urged you to pass. Now even your own people are knocking down the idea. But don't listen to the naysayers.

Their first objection is the silliest--that the demands of taping a show are too great. Right, pulling all-nighters over a budget impasse is a cakewalk. But interviewing "teens who are too young to dress so sexy"? Now that's work!


Their idea that you would sacrifice your remaining dignity misses the central lesson of your presidency: dignity is overrated. Serenading us on Arsenio, talking underwear on MTV, emoting at town meetings--your entire national career was a talk show. You won two terms because you knew that in America power flows through the barrel of a video camera.

That infidelity-and-impeachment hiccup might seem to be a handicap--but only to someone who has never watched daytime TV. From Oprah to Rosie, America likes its talk-show hosts flawed and challenged. Personal woes? You got 'em. Troubled childhood? Check. Weight problem? You'll have fries with that! And the daytime-talk audience, heavily female and black, is the closest thing to your natural power base outside Chappaqua. You were already, in Toni Morrison's words, "America's first black President." Isn't America ready for its first black female ex-President?

The critics will laugh, but in an era when national security requires that we pretend our President is a sage who would never say nuke-yoo-ler, we could use a national leader we're allowed to laugh at. And when you're running your book club and reaping the profits from B Magazine, you'll be laughing back.




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