Sunday's NY Times Magazine featured a cover piece on Bill Clinton titled "The Mellowing of Bill Clinton," but the thing that stood out most was how Clinton is now buddies with one his main defamers from the 90s, while still holding grudges against just about every Democrat who supported Obama.
If you'll recall back to Clinton friend and White House staffer Vince Foster's suicide and the plane crash that killed Clinton administration Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, Christopher Ruddy, at the time working at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, worked diligently to promote his theories that both men were murdered for political reasons, implicating that the Clinton's maybe-kinda-probably had something to do with it in each case. But that's all water under the bridge now for Clinton and Ruddy, who are now a couple of old chums.
Among those he has been friendly with lately is Christopher Ruddy, a conservative journalist who was a chief proponent of cover-up theories involving the Clintons during the 1990s. In his book, "The Strange Death of Vincent Foster," Ruddy rejected official findings that Foster, a deputy White House counsel, killed himself in a Virginia park and suggested the possibility of "a cover-up conducted by people who have, with the help of the press, placed themselves above the law." Ruddy also advanced the notion that Ron Brown, the Clinton commerce secretary who died in an airplane crash in Croatia in 1996, was actually shot in the head.
Ruddy today is the founder and chief executive of Newsmax, a conservative news-magazine. He told me he came around on Clinton after Ed Koch, the former New York mayor, introduced them. That led to lunches and more contacts, and now Ruddy says he was wrong about Clinton. "I do consider Bill Clinton a friend, and I think he would consider me a friend," Ruddy said. "And to think of all the wars we went through in the '90s, it seems almost surreal."
With the passage of time, Ruddy said he came to believe that Clinton was much less liberal than his enemies thought. After all, Clinton overhauled welfare, tamed the deficit and promoted free trade. While still a proud "Reagan conservative," Ruddy said he now thinks the attacks on Clinton in the 1990s went too far. "Did we like and enjoy all the salacious reporting and all the stuff going on in the '90s?" he asked. "I guess we thought, This is just politics. But looking back at my role, I was probably over the top. And if I knew then what I know today, I wouldn't have pursued some of that stuff as aggressively as I did. I did an honest reporter's job. But I have a different take on it now."
Ruddy also attributes his change of heart to Clinton's foundation, which has impressed him and other onetime foes. Richard Mellon Scaife, the billionaire publisher who financed Ruddy's investigations and other anti-Clinton activities, is now a contributor to the foundation. So is Rupert Murdoch, the News Corporation chairman whose Fox News was a regular thorn in Clinton's side. Clinton over the years has also made peace with other former adversaries, like Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich. The elder George Bush told me he now considers Clinton "a real friend." When I asked what changed his view, he wrote in an e-mail message: "I didn't know him personally back then. I knew him, but not up close and personal. Now I do."
So if Clinton is friends with all of his old political opponents, who the hell is he hating on these days? Ted Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy and Bill Richardson and Jesse Jackson and just about every other prominent Democrat who had the audacity to support Obama in the primary against Hillary, that's who!
People close to Clinton said he has largely got over his resentment at Obama but not toward Ted Kennedy and his niece, Caroline Kennedy. As Clinton sees it, they say, he did so much for the Kennedys over the years that he felt they became almost family. Nor has he forgiven Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who endorsed Obama even though Clinton appointed him to two cabinet posts. And the man once called the "first black president" remains deeply wounded by allegations that he made racially insensitive remarks during the campaign, like dismissing Obama's South Carolina win by comparing it with Jesse Jackson's victories there in the 1980s.
"None of them ever really took seriously the race rap," he told me. "They knew it was politics. I had one minister in Texas in the general election come up and put his arm around me." This was an Obama supporter. "And he came up, threw his arm around me and said, ‘You've got to forgive us for that race deal.' He said, ‘That was out of line.' But he said, ‘You know, we wanted to win real bad.' And I said, ‘I got no problem with that.' I said it's fine; it's O.K. And we laughed about it and we went on." The other side is moving on, too. Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, who once recalled an angry Clinton berating him on the phone for criticizing the former president's campaign rhetoric, is letting bygones be bygones, at least publicly. "No fence-mending is needed," Clyburn said through a spokeswoman.