Monday 26 August 2019

Clinton, Tubs and a post #MeToo reality...

Presidential love-in: Ryan's adoration of White House residents is well-known
Presidential love-in: Ryan's adoration of White House residents is well-known
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

We all know how much Ryan Tubridy hearts US presidents. He's written books on JFK, frequently reminds his radio listeners he once took a selfie with Meghan Markle at the White House, and gets giddy with excitement at the mention of America's Founding Fathers.

Funnily enough, current President Donald Trump doesn't get Tubs quite as riled up as his predecessors. But then Trump is a different kind of world leader.

Ryan prefers his presidents to be solid family men who talk earnestly and intelligently. In fact, he doesn't just prefer them like that, he seems concerned to show that they fulfil that ideal. So he was practically beside himself when President Bill Clinton appeared on his radio show this week.

Clinton was full of chat about his new thriller, The President is Missing, which was co-written with bestselling author James Patterson.

The book focuses on President Jonathan Lincoln Duncan - yes, it does sound strangely similar to William Jefferson Clinton - a "progressive Southerner with the common touch" who goes undercover to solve a terrorist threat.

Billed as "the publishing event of the year", the 500-page book has been so far met with lukewarm reviews.

According to The Washington Post, it reveals as much about the inner workings of "the US government as The Pink Panther reveals about the French government".

More compulsive than any of the novel's plot twists has been Clinton's bungling book tour.

He's appeared on a plethora of US chat shows, where the conversation has often returned to Monica Lewinsky.

Not surprising given a) the president in the book also faces impeachment and b) we live in a post #MeToo world.

On top of that, this year Lewinsky wrote a powerful piece for Vanity Fair in which she admitted suffering from PTSD after the affair.

While her relationship with Clinton was consensual, Lewinsky said it had been littered with "abuse of authority, station, and privilege".

NBC Today show host Craig Melvin didn't veer away from the topic when interviewing Clinton and asked if he should have resigned because of his relationship with the White House intern.

"I think I did the right thing," Clinton bristled. "I defended the constitution."

Clinton also spoke of the financial hit he took because of the affair, and admitted he'd never apologised in private to Lewinsky - and didn't intend to do so in the future.

While US broadcasters have addressed the issue in some detail, it seemed as if the topic hadn't so much as crossed Tubridy's mind on Tuesday morning.

Instead, he praised the book for showing both the magnitude of the president's office, and the compassion of the individual who holds it. "I got the awesomeness of power and the humanity of decisions made," the broadcaster told him.

Tubs didn't question either Clinton or Patterson's claims readers would learn "more from the president in this book than from any memoir".

Excuse me? I know memoirs give a one-sided version of history, but that statement is palpably untrue. The President is Missing tells the story of a rugged war-veteran widower who has remained devoutly loyal (read: celibate) to his dead wife, and moonshines as a terrorist-fighting action hero.

How could that possibly be a more accurate reflection than a memoir? Ryan didn't question it. He also didn't push Patterson when he made it clear he wanted to avoid discussing Trump or "getting political" while plugging a political thriller.

Instead, Ryan moved things along to Clinton's favourite conversation topic: the Good Friday Accord, before reminding the president how much Irish people love to read.

The interview reminded me of the press tour Ryan conducted prior to the release of his last book on JFK. He described the president as a rock star hanging out with the Rat Pack.

When Kennedy's extramarital affairs were brought up, Ryan replied: "But Kennedy could quote Latin and poetry. He had such a mind...

"The salacious element and the assassination bore me senseless… I don't look at that side of the story with any interest".

Early-morning radio slots don't have to involve guns-blazing grillings. But shouldn't Ryan give us more than a presidential puff piece?

Shouldn't he acknowledge the impact of the #MeToo movement and Lewinsky's recent revelations? As the country's biggest broadcasting star, shouldn't he factor in the desires of his audience and give them what they might want? Even if it does bore him senseless.


The ginger emoji

Finally here - redsters rejoice.

Women on the Verge

Sharon Horgan's new comedy for RTÉ.


A university education

More people applied to be on ITV2's Love Island than applied to Oxbridge. Academics are aghast but spending eight weeks on an all-expenses-paid sun holiday does sound a bit nicer than four years in a flat-share listening to undergraduates discuss Proust.

The Cream is over

Salad Cream re-branded as Sandwich Cream. Sounds very unappetising.


Sexist conspiracy or messy mix-up?

Goodie bags are always a weird hotchpotch of largely useless tat.

The anticipation of what they may contain is often better than the reality.

So I was a bit confounded so many participants of the Women's VHI Mini Marathon were horrified by the contents of the race bags doled out at the finishing line.

Along with chocolate and rice (a curious combination but hey-ho!) there was some Persil detergent, and a Sun dishwasher tablet.

Enraged runners took to social media chastising organisers for their inherent and institutionalised sexism.

Dr Christina Cleary, a TCD academic, was quoted in one newspaper as saying the race bag sent out a clear message that women should "get back in the kitchen".

"We'd be foolish to think that repealing the eighth meant we'd entered into a new paradigm overnight," she added.

Others harrumphed about outdated stereotypes.

I doubt the organisers are really women-hating Luddites who think we should be chained to a sink.

Perhaps they thought that after running around in leggings in the baking heat, people might want to throw their knickers and sports bra in the wash.

And perhaps after a delicious post-marathon meal of microwave rice and chocolate, they thought participants may need assistance in cleaning the plates.

I'll admit that maybe the contents weren't inspirational or the reward many walkers, runners and plodders felt they deserved after 10K, but there's a difference between minor incompetence and sexist conspiracy.

It seems a bit much - given they have raised more than €210m for women's charities since they blew the starting whistle in 1983.

It's also free. Don't like it? Don't take it home.

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