The steps and patio setting of Irvine Auditorium on Wednesday night were surprisingly quiet. What was expected to be an event worthy of a #MeToo protest – a visit from former President Bill Clinton and best-selling author James Patterson, celebrating their first collaborative novel, “The President is Missing” – was calm and without such incident.
During the sold-out hour-long conversation between the two authors and moderator Lee Child (renowned author of the “Jack Reacher” series) cosponsored by the Free Library of Philadelphia, both Clinton and “Alex Cross” creator Patterson claimed that cybersecurity was this nation’s greatest threat. “We decided [to write] on cyber-security before the 2016 election,” said Clinton, referring to the troubles with Russia and possible voting booth meddling that plagued the race between his then-candidate wife, Hilary Clinton, and now-President Donald, J. Trump.
Surprisingly, during the Free Library’s Author Events Series discussion, neither man did any real Trump or current administration bashing, save for Clinton stating that he doesn’t take liberties lightly. In fact, the only true trouble came in the guise of a heckler who shouted down the former president about his association with Jeffrey Epstein (a longtime moneyed supporter of the Clinton Foundation) convicted of soliciting sex from a minor, and accused of committing of said crimes with a dozen more. “Twenty six times,” shouted the heckler — referring the supposed number of flights Clinton took on Epstein’s Boeing 727 “Lolita Express” — before being escorted by UPenn security out of the hall.
“Can we talk about the book?” shouted Patterson, as the man was being led out of Irvine.
So they did. Along with Patterson talking about the thrill of writing with a former president (“now that’s a stress-making situation”), and the countless literacy programs he helps fund, Clinton, an avowed thriller fan, claimed that writing this novel, was a bit like working on a jazz song, “where you get a great melody and structure, then ad-lib a little.” Clinton also referred to jazz by claiming that he only got into politics when he realized that he couldn’t be a “better” saxophonist than one-time Philly native John Coltrane.
Clinton also mentioned that though the book is rooted in the cold hard reality of having been a White House habitué, he steered clear of any “panic-inducing information,” that he may have continued to be private to during his wife’s tenure as Secretary of State to President Barack Obama. Beyond that, his main job in the co-writing of “The President Is Missing, was to “create a realistic environment.”
Not long after moderator Child welcomed Clinton to “the dark side,” of thriller writing, Clinton said, “I’m just an old dog learning a new trick.”
Most of the audience left Irvine Auditorium happy and smiling, basking in the glow of two literary holy men (Clinton has several nonfiction bestsellers), and the fact that they got signed copies of “The PresidentIis Missing.” But some were not quite as pleased at Clinton’s appearance.
“At this point, people would have a lot more respect for Clinton if he just owned up to what he did, and apologized,” said Ellen Tiberino, a West Philadelphia sculptor-artist who has marched for the #MeToo movement. “As for the book, I wish he would go away. Him and Hilary. I hope she doesn’t make any moves with the DNC. She stole the last election from Bernie [Sanders]. I hate this superstar politician thing. He’s just filling his coffers. He should do something more worthwhile.”
But the absence of more visible protests during the talk was slightly surprising after Clinton told NBC News anchor Craig Melvin, on Sunday (and Monday’s “Today Show”), that he did not owe a personal apology to Monica Lewinsky, Clinton’s then-22-year-old White House intern with whom he had a consensual sexual affair during the time of his presidency.
For his action, Clinton was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives in December, 1998 for obstruction of justice and perjury related to his relationship with Lewinsky, but survived the resulting trial in the U.S. Senate. “I don’t think it would be an issue [today] because people would be using the facts instead of the imagined facts,” Clinton said during the NBC interview.
Since then, Clinton has been branded as insensitive to all things #MeToo, even though by Tuesday night, and an appearance on CBS’ “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert, the ex-prez added that, “It wasn’t my finest hour. … I was mad at me — not for the first time,” in response to questions of tone deafness.