Watching Hillary Clinton On David Letterman In 2003 Is The Perfect Way To Bid Letterman Farewell & Get Ready For Hillary — VIDEO
If you're a fan of outgoing Late Show host David Letterman, you're probably feeling a little miserable this week. Wednesday, after all, marked the final show in the iconic late night host's sprawling career — more than 33 years and 6,028 shows, according to USA Today, and a virtually unlimited supply of needling Top 10 lists. Just as you'd expect, a lot of people have graced his couch over the course of that 33-year reign — including former New York Senator Hillary Clinton, whose 2003 Letterman appearance is worth a look back on.
It's not as though Letterman gave Clinton any lighter a ride than he would any politician. Although it's possible that the annals of American late night could be a uniquely awkward place for Clinton to appear — beyond politicians broadly not getting easy rides on comedy shows like these, the virtually nonstop glut of jokes directed at former President Clinton's infidelities in the late 1990s is hard to forget (a fact which Letterman himself expressed regret for last year).
But, to her credit, Clinton turned in a solid performance.
If you want a little refresher course on how to look casual, professional, gracious, and charming all at once, Clinton does the job pretty well. No surprises there — eight years in the White House as First Lady and a couple years in the Senate will get your media chops in order.
Straight away, Letterman flubbed Clinton's intro, butchering the word "autobiography," leading band leader Paul Shaffer to suggest that he's nervous. After Clinton emerged and sat on the couch, Letterman opened about as casually as it gets:
The last time you were here, you wanted to be a Senator, now you are Senator. How's that going?
Clinton replied "pretty good," which, considering she was in the process of paving her way to a tenure as Secretary of State and two presidential runs, may now seem like a bit of an understatement.
It's not as though Clinton was entirely forthcoming, as is often the case when Somebody Who Matters appears on TV in an entertainment capacity. When Letterman quizzed her about the upcoming 2004 presidential election — this was before the nomination of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, back when former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was still considered a contender — she said that she was confident in the Democrats' chances, but gave a predictably measured answer when asked who she liked.
You know, I like 'em all. ... I know them all, I like them all, I'm gonna support whoever the nominee is. You know, part of it is it takes a long time to get known in the country, for people to meet everybody and for the electorate to tune in.
Letterman then posed a question to Clinton about then-President Bush's perceived invincibility in the 2004 general election, and her reply could easily serve as a cautionary reminder to anyone who takes it for granted that she'll be swearing the oath of office in January 2017.
No. In a democracy, nobody is [invincible]. Obviously he's in a strong position, he's going to have a lot of resources, but eventually people look at the evidence about what's happening in their own lives. And I think this economy, unfortunately, is going to stay in a stagnant position — it's not creating jobs, more people are out of work for longer periods of time, we've got more people falling back into poverty, we've got some real problems.
Letterman also asked her a tactful question relating to her husband's impeachment following the Lewinsky scandal, wondering whether his simply being honest about his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky could've prevented all of it.
I don't know. I look back on that time, and obviously, I think things that are personal and private ought to remain personal and private. But obviously they were put in the public arena, and had to be dealt with. ... I don't know the answer to that, I really don't. I know that it was at the end of a many year effort to try to accuse him, me, many people of various things, and that was the mindset that everybody was in at the time.
The late-night king followed up by broaching a particularly sensitive topic: Did she ever think about divorcing Bill after his presidency was over? And, in a surprising moment of candor given the highly personal nature of the question, she admitted that the thought did occur to her.
Certainly it had to cross my mind, because I was in such a terrible situation trying to figure out what to do. But, what I write about in my book, is a decision that I made along with my husband to work on our marriage, to try to repair it, and it was the right decision for me. I can't say that for anybody else.
If you've got the time available, you should really give the full interview a look — beyond being an interesting view of Clinton, it's also a nice way to wind down Letterman's historic TV career.
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