Bill Clinton mentioned Monica Lewinsky in his bestselling My Life. Richard Nixon put Watergate into his presidential library exhibit. So how does one-time 1988 Democratic presidential front-runner Gary Hart treat the gal-pal scandal that derailed his political career in The Thunder and the Sunshine, his upcoming memoir? Here's a hint: He doesn't mention model Donna Rice, the Monkey Business yacht the two frolicked on, or the Miami Herald, which broke the story.
Instead, he writes: "The circumstances are too well known, and to some degree still too painful, to require repetition. And for most they would be beside the point." Well, not really, because over the next few pages he continues his 22-year lashing of his media judges and suggests that if the press and nation would have a "small margin of tolerance" for messy relationships, apparently of married folks like him, then maybe we'd get better leaders. "If we actually choose not to judge others whose private lives we can never know, not only would we not be equally judged, we might actually improve the caliber and quality of those who seek to lead us, as we were in our prejudgmental history."
You want examples? "Perhaps we should be led by those who are morally superior," explains Hart, "but that would have eliminated Presidents Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson, just to name a few."
As for the press, he disputes ever daring any reporter to investigate his affairs. "This is simply not true," says Hart, who writes that he was so friendly with some reporters that he traded holiday gifts with them.
And about being driven from the presidential race by the scandal, Hart says not true again. "The events as viewed through my eyes caused me to choose not to continue," he pens in the book, due out September 1.
Fulcrum Publishing says Hart doesn't plan to address the Rice affair any more, despite the former Colorado senator's call in his preface that every life requires some kind of accounting. "We feel it is a closed and minor topic," says the publisher.
So what's left to talk about on his speaking tour to promote the book? Lots, especially the Democratic Party's favorite whipping boy, former President Bush, who gets written off in a simple statement: "Barack Obama's life is certainly more extraordinary than George W. Bush's." Also Karl Rove and Dick Cheney get slapped around. Then there are insights into national security in the telling of a life story that takes inspiration from Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem Ulysses and Homer's The Odyssey.
Illustration by Ed Wexler for USN&WR.