Dale Bumpers, former Arkansas Governor and Senator, lived a long life, most of it spent in "public service". But it is strangely apt that he should have died as his protégé Bill Clinton's serial abuse of women returned to the news. Until Trump came along, Republicans had steered clear of Clinton's sexual pathologies for the entire millennium thus far, following the mordant advice of my own senator, Bob Smith. ("He's won. He always wins. Let's move on.") If one had to date precisely the moment when it became clear that Clinton had won against multiple accusations any of which would today sink anybody else, it would be the speech Dale Bumpers gave during the Senate impeachment trial in January 1999.
I was present in the Senate that day and felt queasy for a good 48 hours afterwards. Few self-respecting men, even senators, could have given that address with a straight face, but Bumpers, a courtly southern slicker, did so with accomplished ease. God evidently had more difficulty than I in keeping his lunch down, marking the historic occasion by afflicting Clinton and Bumpers' native Arkansas with a barrage of freakish tornadoes. The Almighty is, of course, not a US senator, lacking the necessary gravitas, solemnity and dignity. If He were a senator, He would have recognized Bumpers' sticky goo of Ozark swamp gibberish for the stroke of genius it was: an awesome invocation of senatorial self-importance. "Oh, colleagues!" wailed the former senator. "You have such an awesome responsibility!"
What a masterly move to sign up Bumpers for the defense's closing speech. Senators profess to revere this great republic, its constitution, their storied body ...but mostly they revere fellow senators just like them. "One of the finest performances I've ever seen on the Senate floor!" cooed Iowa hack and trial saboteur Tom Harkin, as ol' Dale outlined his admiration for the President apropos Monica Lewinsky - one of the finest performances ever seen on the Oval Office floor.
The President, Bumpers explained, had been devastated by his betrayal of the "wife whom he adored and a child he worshiped and for whom he would happily have died to ameliorate her shame". Mr Bumpers, alas, was speaking figuratively, not proposing a compromise solution.
Bill Clinton has discussed his boxers and briefs on TV; taken his penis along to a naval surgeon to be examined for the Paula Jones suit; and had his semen processed by the FBI crime lab. And yet, then as now, the truth of their marriage is more unknown and unknowable than ever. Is it really, as Bumpers suggested, that Hillary was blissfully unaware of Bill's lapses until the Monica business broke? As his teary peroration neared (unlike the President) completion, the old Arkansas hogswill peddler roared that the First Family "has already been about as decimated as a family can get... There's been nothing but mental agony, sleepless nights..."
Or maybe back home Bill and Hill were watching ol' Dale, slapping their thighs and weeping with laughter.
After the speech, Bumpers felt obliged to revise his bleak portrait of pain and agony in the Clinton household. "I'm sorry that people took that literally," he said. "Based on my observation, I think they're coping pretty well." As his friend and president would say, it depends what the meaning of the word "decimated" is.
But the hogwash worked its magic. "We all have a little Clinton in us," wrote Time's Margaret Carlson in a somewhat infelicitous formulation. And now it seems, notwithstanding his indifferent reception in New Hampshire only reported in the British papers, that it is time for us to all have a little more.
For Dale Bumpers, it was just taking care of business, even if it was the business of a sociopathic gangster and an enabling wife who gleefully destroyed the women her husband abused. But it worked - to the point that an entire generation of pajama-boy know-nothings now thinks Bill Clinton's extracurricular sex life was just one consensual blow job rather than a lifetime of groping, biting, pants-dropping, and, yes, bloody violent rape. I don't suppose Bumpers gave his showstopping exculpation another thought, even as his wife-adoring child-worshiping pal Bill spent much of the 21st century jetting off on convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein's Lolita Express to an island resort filled with underage "sex slaves" - and the court eunuchs of the US media as usual looked the other way. We all have a little Clinton in us, whether we want it or not.
Unlike most of the Republican senators in that impeachment trial, Trump is scared neither of the Clintons nor the approval ratings. If Hillary is so cossetted as to think she can run as an "advocate for women", he has determined to remind America that she is, in fact, the co-conspirator of a violent abuser. Contra Bumpers, their marriage is a cold, hard business arrangement that necessitated the trashing of Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones and anyone else who got in their collective way. Dale Bumpers was close enough to Clinton to know the truth. Wherever he is now, I hope he is ashamed of the part he played in saving their racket.