BY ANDREW FERGUSON
The aging fops and dandies who edit Esquire magazine—yes, it still comes out, check a newsstand if you don’t believe me—devoted a chunk of their issue this month to Bill Clinton. It was an unusual move. Typically, under the motto “Man at His Best,” the editors concentrate their attention on those fabulous new chukkas Donna Karan just introduced, or the optimal thread count for Ralph Lauren Egyptian cotton sheets, or the yummy new clover-accented absinthe imported from Azerbaijan at $33 an oz.—or even, when el machismo oversweeps them, a superhot new starlet in slingback spike heels with off-color stitching and a simple but elegant choker. What I mean is, when these gentlemen put a politician, even an ex-president, on the cover and a long interview with him inside, you know something’s up.
So there he was on the cover, spookily lifelike, legs akimbo, head cocked, eyes moist, his large, experienced hands fairly gleaming from the exquisite manicure. “Bill Clinton and 78 other things we can all agree on,” read the headline. We may seem like a divided country, the editors were telling us, but at least we can all come together around the Man from Hope: “He has become the rare consensus figure in a country that has lost all sense of consensus.”
The consensus is so solid that the editors don’t feel obliged to explain what it is. But pretty soon you get the idea. In a patty-cake interview many thousands of words long, Clinton and his interviewers explore “why he’s now the subject of such public and surprisingly bipartisan affection.” We as a people have come to agree that Bill Clinton is a vaguely flawed but always well-meaning fellow, a great president whose greatness was stunted by a lunatic opposition, and who now, having emerged from the fires of Republican defamation, is universally recognized as a visionary of unalloyed beneficence, a statesman, a sage.