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September 8, 2006

Clarifying McGavick's view of Clinton

Posted by David Postman at 10:22 AM

Mike McGavick is angry at me. He just called to talk about my column in the paper this morning about his character study of Bill Clinton.

There's one sentence that ticked McGavick off. I wrote that his confession about his DUI was an effort at "authenticity," one of the traits he says is largely missing in public life today. And, I wrote, "And in that, Clinton is his model."

"To say I consider him my model is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous," McGavick told me this morning. "The guy was knowingly dishonest and he never, ever, admitted a fault until hounded into that."

McGavick objected to just that sentence. "Model" was not the best word to describe McGavick's study of Clinton. It was one of those cases where a word didn't ring in my head like it did with the person I was writing about. The sentence was on the blog all day yesterday and I wish someone had raised the issue some time before it was in the paper today.

McGavick's certainly right that in the initial DUI confession he was volunteering something the public knew nothing about. It was not a case of being hounded or caught like Clinton and Monica Lewinksy.

My point was that in making a public apology McGavick had given a lot of thought to the issue, and had studied Clinton's "deeper quotient of authenticity" as compared to former UW football coach Rick Neuheisel. He never praised the former president's behavior. But he was interested in how the public reacted to Clinton because of that authenticity. And McGavick described authenticity as being "consistent in exposing your inner motivations ... so there is completeness to who you are."

He told me today that Clinton didn't understand the concept of authenticity as he meant it in his May speech that I wrote about.

"The public had already judged him to be a scoundrel," McGavick said. He said the public was compartmentalizing Clinton's public and private behavior and in "some respects they were OK as long as he did a good job at being president."

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