What should a public figure do when caught in a mistake or telling a lie?
Any experienced political advisor will urge, “Stop lying, tell the truth, and get the whole story out in one fell swoop.”
Further lying or delay in telling the whole story makes it worse. Day after day, the news media’s reports reemphasize and compound the negatives, destroying the troubled public figure’s chances for rehabilitation in the public’s mind.
Lance Armstrong and John Edwards compounded their disasters by delaying acknowledgement of errors and continuing to lie to the public.
Duke University history professor William Chafe, author of “Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal,” agrees. “The cover-up is worse than the crime and it is going to come back and get you. When you’ve done something wrong, ‘fess up.”
For every rule there are exceptions. Professor Chafe describes how Bill Clinton saved his presidency by maintaining and adjusting his untruthful story about his relationship with Monica Lewinski, waiting several months before admitting the truth.
“He buys six months” Chafe told me recently, “and that six months saves his presidency.”
During those months the country got used to the idea of having a president who had an affair with an intern and lied about it. Several things helped Clinton. The country’s economy under his leadership was doing well. Ken Starr, the special prosecutor, and the Republican impeachment team came across to the public as political and unnecessarily oppressive. Most importantly, Hillary Clinton stuck by her husband, even though he had cheated on and lied to her.
How can Hillary Clinton’s extraordinary loyalty to her husband be explained? Chafe’s book takes on the task. Chafe “became convinced that the only way anyone could understand either one of them—and the politics of the 80s and 90s—was by examining the chemistry of their relationship. Their intimate life animated and ultimately determined the roles they played politically.”
Chafe examines the Clintons’ lives from their troubled childhoods through the struggles of a marriage rocked by Bill Clinton’s serial womanizing. He describes how each time Bill got in trouble, Hillary rescued him. When the publicity about his affair with Gennifer Flowers blew up during the 1992 primary campaign, Hillary was rehearsed and ready to join him on national television (Sixty Minutes) to persuade Americans that, although there had been trouble in the past, their marriage was strong and durable.
Why would she do this? Chafe explains, “By doing so, she not only rescued Bill’s candidacy, but ensured that her own power in both the personal and political relationship would increase.”
It was Hilary Clinton’s final and most important rescue that made possible the success of Bill Clinton’s six months of deception. Chafe explains, “After the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke in 1998, Bill Clinton thought for a brief period he would be forced to resign in disgrace, just as Richard Nixon did in 1974. But for the last time, Hillary came to his rescue, standing by him even after he admitted his guilt and faced impeachment. Only this time, by saving her husband — and their co-presidency — she also liberated herself to become her own person in politics.”
Saving her husband’s presidency, Chafe argues, gave her the freedom to chart her own political course. While the Senate was voting on the impeachment charges brought against her husband, she was meeting with political advisors to plan her campaign for a U.S. Senate seat from New York.
The Clintons’ experience was a rare exception. I agree with Bill Chafe about the general rule: when you get in trouble, stop lying, tell all, all at once.
Note: My conversation with William Chafe about “Bill and Hillary” aired on radio station WCHL and is available for listening here.
D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For more information or to view prior programs visit the webpage.
This week’s (January 27, 31) guest is Sheila Turnage, author of “Three Times Lucky.”
A grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council provides crucial support for North Carolina Bookwatch.
What can children and young teens read now that the Harry Potter series has come to an end? Sheila Turnage faces this challenge in “Three Times Lucky” by introducing us to the crime-solving talents of two pre-teens from Tupelo Landing, North Carolina. Mo LoBeau is sassy, charming, and smart. She and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, lead Turnage’s readers through a most entertaining murder investigation.
Bookwatch Classics (programs from earlier years) airs Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m. on UNC-MX, a digital cable system channel (Time Warner #172 or #4.4).
This week’s (January 30) guest is Orson Scott Card author of “Shadow Puppets.”http://chapelboro.com/columns/one-on-one/caught-in-a-lie-what-do-you-do
Just in time for holiday giving, here are some good ideas about a variety of North Carolina related books, one or two of which might be perfect for a last minute gift.
But first a bit of news about UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch’s broadcast schedule. Beginning in January, the program will air on Sundays at 12 noon, with a repeat on the following Thursday at 5 p.m.
Now, back to possible gifts, here is an idea for any beer lover on your list, “North Carolina Craft Beer & Breweries” by Hillsborough craft brewer, Erik Lars Myers. “Once upon a time,” says Myers, “I would have said brewing beer was my hobby. Now, it’s my life.”
In his new book he shares his bountiful knowledge about the history of the craft beer business in North Carolina and where you can go to get the freshest and best local brews at small breweries all across the state. He will share more of that knowledge on North Carolina Bookwatch this weekend. (Friday, December 21, at 9:30 p.m., and Sunday December 23, at 5 p.m.)
For a North Carolinian who is interested in World War II, here is a perfect suggestion: “War Zone—World War II off the North Carolina Coast.” Author Kevin Duffus reviews the first seven months of the war when German U-boats destroyed U.S. ships off the North Carolina coast at will. He also tells some of the human interest stories that accompanied military action in the North Carolina zone of that war. (Dec. 28, 30)
A book that will be important to people who like to read about the Civil War and those interested in the struggle for Civil Rights is David Cecelski’s “The Fire of Freedom: Abraham Galloway and the Slaves’ Civil War.” Galloway was an escaped slave from Wilmington, who became a James Bond-like agent for the Union Army. After the war, he turned his charisma and savvy to politics and ran circles around his white fellow legislators. Cecelski’s great storytelling gifts make this biography better reading than much of today’s historic fiction. (Note: This weekend the schedule will change. North Carolina Bookwatch will air on Sunday, January 6, at 12 noon, and Thursday, January 10, at 5 p.m.)
Cecelski’s friend, Bland Simpson, has a new book that covers the Civil War era from two different perspectives. The first is that of a talented waterman and captain, but one who was enslaved and badly treated. The second perspective is that of a naval officer who had his own set of challenges as he served first the United States and then the Confederacy. It is hard to see how anyone could bring these points of view together in the same book, but Simpson, has done it in “Two Captains from Carolina: Moses Grandy, John Newland Maffitt, and the Coming of the Civil War.” (Sunday, January 13, and Thursday, January 17)
In Emily Colin’s debut novel, “The Memory Thief,” a young woman begs her mountain-climbing husband not to take on Mount McKinley in Alaska. He goes anyway, promising, “I will come back to you.” But, as she feared, he falls to his death. Still, that promise to return is haunting. Learning how it is fulfilled is the backbone of the novel. (January 20, 24)
Finally, an idea for children and young teens if you are wondering what they are reading now that the Harry Potter series has come to an end. Sheila Turnage faces this challenge in “Three Times Lucky” by introducing us to the crime-solving talents of two pre-teens from Tupelo Landing, North Carolina. Mo LoBeau is sassy, charming, and smart. She and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, lead Turnage’s readers through a most entertaining murder investigation. (January 27, 31)
D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Fridays at 9:30 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV until the end of December. For more information or to view prior programs, visit the webpage at www.unctv.org/ncbookwatch/ A grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council provides crucial support for North Carolina Bookwatch.http://chapelboro.com/columns/one-on-one/north-carolina-books-for-last-minute-gifts