Ronald Reagan went from show business to the White House, and comments on the journey have never ceased.
Now, it has been reported, there is a possibility that Bill Clinton will make the trip in reverse, proceeding from the White House to show business. Comments have already begun.
Extra, the tabloid TV news program, claims that CBS is seriously considering the former president as a replacement for Bryant Gumbel on The Early Show, its chronically low-rated, two-hour chunk of weekday morning news and drivel. CBS neither confirms nor denies the story; Clinton’s associates say it isn’t so; Extra swears by it.
In fact, Extra believes that show would be an ideal venue for Clinton, because "[h]e lives in New York, loves to wake up early, and has countless hours of TV experience."
Furthermore, Clinton has commented publicly, if jocularly, about the possibility of his coming to television. Extra quotes him as bragging that he has a natural gift for the airwaves, even in those separating-the-men-from-the boys-situations when things go wrong behind the scenes.
"I gave the State of the Union and they didn’t have a teleprompter," he said. "I had to stand up there and fake it for 15 minutes before a hundred million people. Some people think I faked it for eight years before a hundred million people."
Would Bill Clinton would be a good choice for CBS?
He is smart enough to conduct interviews with American political leaders and foreign heads of state, and tacky enough to conduct interviews with sitcom actresses plugging thigh-firmers and movie stars babbling on about their latest summer sequels.
He is handsome enough to attract the ladies, rakish enough to attract the tramps, and as for the inevitable charges that he would bring an ideological bias to the proceedings, well, the man who presently anchors The Early Show is thought by conservatives to be one of the most offensively left-wing newsmen ever to open his mouth on television. Clinton should, in their view, be a step to the right.
He is quick-witted enough to discuss breaking news stories with Jane Clayson, superficial enough to discuss precipitation possibilities with Mark McEwen, and insincere enough to discuss the coordination of tablecloth patterns and placemat designs with Martha Stewart.
He has made enough news to be comfortable with journalists, seen enough sporting events to be comfortable with athletes, and chased enough skirts to be comfortable with tell-all memoirists.
And perhaps most important as far as CBS is concerned, Bill Clinton is a name, a big name; The Early Show’s ratings would almost certainly ascend, at least for a while, if for no other reason than curiosity alone.
Republicans would tune in to despise him. Democrats would tune in to savor him. Moralists would tune in to wring their hands. Libertines would tune in to pick up a few pointers. Dieters would tune in to watch his waistline. Big Mac lovers would tune in to be reassured.
Imagine — the presidency of the United States as a stepping stone to real glory, the starring role in an ensemble cast on network morning television! Imagine — the successor to Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and George Bush now in the same company as Matt Lauer and Katie Couric and Al Roker! Imagine — the conversational confidante of Boris Yeltsin and Yitzhak Rabin and Jiang Zemin now the chit-chat partner of Cameron Diaz and Jason Alexander and the best-selling author of The Wrinkle Cure!
I repeat: Bill Clinton would be a good choice for CBS. Of course, the purists will think that by undertaking the Reagan journey in reverse, Clinton is diminishing the office of the presidency.
He already did that.
Eric Burns is the host of Fox News Watch which airs Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT and Sundays at 1:30 a.m. ET/10:30 p.m. PT, 6:30 a.m. ET/3:30 a.m. PT, and 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT .