Opinion: Bill Clinton shares an insight about live microphones

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Bill Clinton offered a nifty defense of Jesse Jackson’s “I didn’t know the microphone was on” moment last week, when the civil rights leader took his crude swipe at Barack Obama.

At a Harlem news conference Thursday, Clinton said, “If all of us lived on live mics, 100% of us would be embarrassed.”

The ex-president ought to know. Clinton himself unleashed an outburst -- one that, he apparently was surprised to find out later was recorded -- against Jackson during the Arkansan’s first run for the presidency in 1992.

As recounted in the New York Observer, a few days after that year’s New Hampshire primary, which Clinton lost, a local television reporter asked him to comment on a (baseless, as it turned out) report that Jackson had decided to endorse Iowa senator Tom Harkin.

Clinton was furious. “It’s an outrage,” he fumed. “A dirty, double-crossing, back-stabbing thing to do. … For him to do this, for me to hear this on a television program, is an act of absolute dishonor.”

And last month Clinton slipped up again. He went on a tirade against Vanity Fair writer Todd Purdum (calling him, among other things, “slimy” and “dishonest” and worse) –- only to later learn that his verbal rampage had been recorded by his questioner and put on the Huffington Post by that amateur Web journalist Mayhill Fowler.


Clinton was far more cheery and diplomatic at Thursday’s news conference, which spotlighted work being done by his foundation.

According to the Associated Press, when the subject turned to Obama -- whom Clinton portrayed as too inexperienced for the presidency during the primary season -- the ex-president said he was ready to campaign for the candidate. “I’ll do whatever I’m asked to do, whenever I can do it,” Clinton said.

-- Stuart Silverstein