Albion Monitor /Commentary

Willey and the Beast

by Alexander Cockburn

Couldn't Ed Bradley, so eager to inquire exactly what precise level of physical arousal had been reached by the president when he supposedly guided Kathleen's hand weenie-wards, have asked some simple questions -- such as the actual purpose of her visit to the White House?
The phrase that struck a chord in every male heart was surely Kathleen Willey's recollection of what her commander in chief murmured in her ear as, she claims, he stroked her breasts and guided her hand down toward the presidential member. "I've been wanting to do this for a long time."

Bill woos by the book. But is it likely that Kathleen Willey didn't know what was on the agenda when she obtained that private interview with her commander in chief? Patricia Ireland, head of National Organization for Women, has now said that it's no longer a case of importunate or unwanted Clintonian advances but of assault. In other words, the bodyguards in the White House are protecting the wrong person and should be mustered around every female visitor in case the president makes a dash at her.

Even though I'm certain Bill is an incurable groper, it all needs clarification, and this brings me to Ed Bradley. His conduct of the "60 Minutes" interview with Kathleen Willey was a sad moment in the history of journalism, which means, now as always, the history of entertainment. There were 20 million viewers out there with pressing questions, and Bradley, in his allotted role as genteel father confessor, denied himself the chance to ask any of them. Maybe "60 Minutes" had struck a deal with Willey's lawyer that Bradley wouldn't vex her with even the mildest interrogation.

Take the chicken soup episode. Willey alleges that in 1992, Clinton sent someone to get her phone number at a Richmond airport rally and later called her from Williamsburg, suggesting that it would be great if she delivered chicken soup to him personally (as noted above, Bill woos by the book). Willey declined because, as she told Bradley, "my instincts told me he wasn't interested in chicken soup."

But if her instincts were so keenly honed vis a vis the chicken soup menace, how come she was so stunned in that later White House encounter, when the Leader of the Free World suddenly finds time to clear his desk, put all business on hold and schedule her in for a quiet chat?

Why didn't Bradley give his vast audience -- while sharing for the first time in the history of American television a detailed description of a presidential pass by a participant -- any sense of context?

Here's Kathleen Willey, married to Edward E. Willey Jr., a real estate lawyer and son of a big shot in the Virginia state assembly. He's a pal of Al Gore, and the Willeys become Clinton contributors and mighty fund-raisers. One local lawyer in Virginia remembers that Kathleen never had any difficulty getting through to Bill Clinton's office in Little Rock.

Early in November, Kathleen is driving to her volunteer work with Meals on Wheels when she gets a call from her husband, Ed. He tells her to come home and then discloses he's stolen $274,000 from clients and that they've threatened all manner of unpleasant things, physical and spiritual, to him and Kathleen unless they both sign a note promising to make good on the money within two weeks.

On Saturday, Nov. 27, 1993, the Willey children come home from school for Thanksgiving, and there's a big fight over Ed's thievery. The next day, Sunday, Ed packs his bag and leaves home. This is presumably a pretty bad moment for Kathleen. Yet, we're asked to believe that when she set up her meeting with Clinton for the very next day, all she wants is for Bill to get her out of voluntary work in the social office and set her up with a paid job. Now, that's going to help with the $274,000!

That same Monday afternoon, Ed Willey drives into some woods near the Willey home and shoots himself to death.

Now, couldn't Ed Bradley, so eager to inquire exactly what precise level of physical arousal had been reached by the president when he supposedly guided Kathleen's hand weenie-wards, have asked some simple questions -- such as whether the actual purpose of her visit to the White House was to raise some serious money or seek advice on how serious money could be raised? Or had Kathleen, so far from seeking money for her crook husband, actually thrown him out of the house?

And why did Ed Willey kill himself that same afternoon? All reports stress the fact that neither Bill nor Kathleen knew this was happening simultaneously with their encounter. But did Ed know of Kathleen's White House meeting, and was this a factor in his decision to kill himself? Was it the thought of his wife having an assignation with Clinton that drove him over the edge? Did he think Bill and Kathleen were having an affair?

Then again, what were Kathleen Willey's emotions when she got home to the husband-less mansion to be told, the day after, that Ed's body had been found in the woods? If she'd told him on Sunday before that she was throwing him out and going off to get a full time job with Bill, she probably would have felt pretty awful.

None of these questions came up, and even when the "60 Minutes" producer flashed up a post-grope photo of Kathleen running up the White House steps, looking pretty happy at the sight of Bill at the top, Bradley didn't ask why she looked so light-hearted at the sight of the Beast. Her fond post-grope letters to Bill raise the same issue.

So, yes, Bradley should feel ashamed of himself. So should Bill Clinton. Not because he's spent his life telling women he's been waiting a long time to do "this" and then groping them. He's far beyond shame on that count. He should feel shame at hiring such an obvious bozo of a lawyer as Robert Bennett, supposedly retained to represent Clinton on television. Here's a $500-an-hour attorney who doesn't even know he has to look into the camera. The Clintons should sue him for incompetency of counsel.

© Creators Syndicate

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Albion Monitor March 31, 1998 (

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