The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

16 June 2005

Clinton Talk Show Discussions Confirmed

Move Over, Franken!

Could A Bill Clinton Radio Talk Show Debut Soon?

Will former President Bill Clinton soon take to the nation's airwaves?

This potentially earth-shattering radio industry announcement was buried in a lengthy Business Week report on the future of Clear Channel Communications, America's largest station owner and program syndicator.

Bill ClintonReporter Tom Lowry was able to get confirmation to back up speculation that Bubba himself might be the next liberal talk radio offering for the company's stations.

Bill Clinton has consistently turned down talk show offers in the past. BBC library photo, 2002.

For reasons unknown, the report so far has been virtually ignored by the rest of the media, even the radio trade press, save one new All Access report (note new updates below).

In the past, Clinton has turned down many offers to host both radio and television talk programs, which began before he even left office. NBC and CBS both courted him aggressively with TV show proposals in 2000, using prominent FOB's (Friends Of Bill) as lobbyists.

A brief exception was made in 2003, to appear with Bob Dole on "60 Minutes" for a point-counterpoint debate segment, that wasn't well received by viewers.

But he always left the door open for the right future opportunity. From a 2002 BBC report:

In an interview on the CNN show Larry King Live, Clinton said he would not be hosting a chat show in the near future, but did not rule it out completely.

"Maybe some time later in my life I'd like to do it," said the 56-year-old. "It would be intriguing to me because I like to talk to people."

However, he added that he would have to give up too many of his current commitments to take on such a job.

"You have to be here every day, and a lot of the work I do requires me to travel," Clinton said.

"I really believe I should always spend more than half my time on public service, so I just don't see how I can do it."

Clear Channel is using NBC's previously unsuccessful approach, utilizing Hollywood friend Harry Thomason in an undefined go-between role, but perhaps the timing is different now, or maybe Clinton's priorities have recently changed.

Clinton has always craved public attention, perhaps he isn't getting enough these days? What about his recent health concern, has that left him with a need to finish his "to-do" list?

Where in the past Bill turned down public offers for talk show positions, this time, his people have been conducting private talks with Clear Channel execs. That would appear to suggest more interest on his part, or they wouldn't be taking place.

And, it's Thomason himself indicating that a deal is likely, not something that would not be done in public without Bill's official seal of approval.

The new report raises many questions and provides a few answers, about liberal talk's future path, as well as what appeal it might have for Clinton himself.

For one, it gives us a clue as to why Clear Channel has so stubbornly hung on to the idea of liberal talk radio, even as stations report lackluster, or even zero ratings presence.

Obviously, the company is looking at obtaining what it sees as a virtual nuclear weapon, as conventional firepower misses its target.

Instantly, everything Air America is doing will be obliterated and Al Franken will cease to exist in the eyes of the liberal mainstream media.

Now, they'll have a Clinton show to tout endlessly, while Clear Channel will be able to put together an entire lineup of "progressive" talk shows, none of which will originate from Air America's studios.

What's in it for Bill? Other than another chance to take the spotlight, as so much attention is focused instead on Hillary's presidential ambitions, it's actually a fairly risky undertaking.

What if he isn't any good? A big question is whether Bill Clinton has the potential to be entertaining. His book was ridiculously long and he was never known for speechmaking brevity, either.

Can he deliver an interesting and compelling program, while listening to callers and having the agility to discuss a wide range of breaking news and developing stories? Most ex-politicians can't, that's why they fail in talk radio.

If Clinton crashed and burned, like other liberals, wouldn't that be quite an ego bruising? What both parties are obviously counting on, correctly, is that a huge curiousity factor would bolster initial ratings results. If he turns out to be any good, enough of that audience could remain, giving him staying power.

When would a Clinton radio show kick off? So far, Thomason isn't specific about a date, saying, "There's definitely a place for the former President on radio at some point," according to the Business Week report.

Remember that in the past, Clinton shot down talk show proposals outright, so clearly something's in the works this time.

Get ready for liberal talk's nuclear weapon. If Clinton tries and fails, however, it should signal a permanent end to their constant effort to counter conservative talk radio.

10am Update : John Mainelli of the New York Post now has a story on this, citing the same Business Week report.

Mainelli tried to get more details on the report, but Clinton's office hasn't yet returned calls. Mainelli says Clear Channel's refusing comment and industry folks are telling him Clinton could potentially be heard after Rush, a move I find doubtful. The leak is so far confined to FOBs.

The Radio Equalizer can't imagine Clinton being featured on Limbaugh stations, it's obvious his program would be designed to bolster the company's liberal talk outlets.

Update: Some talk shows discussed this today, including Glenn Beck's.

Meanwhile, a news/talk program director from a big southern city told me this afternoon, "I think Clinton is the one guy who would transcend right/left radio and work on any news/talk station. He'd get ratings alone on marquee value."


  • I wonder why his preference for radio over television?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 16 June, 2005 03:32  

  • Good question, if the door is now open to radio ideas, it probably is to television as well.

    Maybe Clear Channel's radio offer is simply more lucrative, plus the TV networks may have given up on him, assuming he wasn't interested.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 16 June, 2005 12:09  

  • "And preparation is a pretty important factor in ANY kind of radio program"

    I agree but those who don't prepare have call in shows and cite talking points, such as Bill Oreilly.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 16 June, 2005 23:22  

  • First off, previous commenter Frost is absolutely right that Clinton would not have the discipline, which is an absolute if you want to do a talk show. (I used to be a radio guy (not talk though) in Philly and had to do a ton of prep.

    Let's now look at this honestly. What are the positives of Clinton doing a talk show? NONE. If he is successful, he'll get bored fast. If he fails, his legacy takes a huge hit, and his aura of invincibility to Democrats will be shot.

    Let's say he did this. His ratings would be like the XFL. Huge week one, down half week two, in the tank by week 5. Really, who could listen to him ramble on and on? Who could tell him, "Look Bill, how about going this direction instead?" How could he possibly take callers?

    Here's the real deal: This rumor is nothing more than that: a rumor. And Clinton loves it. It gets him huge publicity without any effort or risk. It'll never happen.

    By Blogger Brian, at 16 June, 2005 23:32  



    "Bill is a hard dog to keep on the porch." (Hillary)

    "I can tell you with 100% certainty that Norman Hsu is NOT involved in a ponzi scheme. He is COMPLETELY legit." - Samantha Wolf, Hillary's former West Coast Finance Director, June 2007

    "I don't have time to stay home and bake cookies." (Hillary)

    "I'm not some little woman, standing by my man, like Tammy Wynette." (Hillary, on 60 Minutes). (She later apologized to Wynette, who then campaigned for Bill.)

    (to a group of children) "Would you tell your parents something for me? Ask them, if they have a gun in their house, please lock it or take it out of their house. Will you do that as good citizens?"
    A Criminal Hill-Raiser
    Hillary calls her big donors -- the ones who not only donate the maximum, but "bundle" (corral) max donations from dozens of friends, like Bush's Rangers -- her Hill-Raisers. At least one of them is a flat-out criminal.

    Norman Hsu was one of Hillary's biggest fundraisers -- raising over $850,000 for her -- right up to the day he surrendered to California State Superior Court on a Grand Theft conviction; he had been a fugitive from justice for 15 years, since he failed to appear for sentencing after pleading no contest. His crime was raising over a million dollars from investors for a business scheme that didn't exist. (Hsu also gave $18,000 to Barack Obama, and $37,000 to Bill Richardson.) After Mr. Hsu's colorful background became public, Clinton's campaign donated his direct contributions -- and later those of the people he bundled -- to charity.)

    He has an interesting, if murky background. Hsu graduated from top-notch schools (Berkeley and Wharton Business School), and friends describe him as having a magnetic personality -- friendly, social, and impressive. Hsu tells people he makes his money in New York's garment industry, but key players interviewed there by the Wall Street Journal have never heard of him.

    In 1990, police in a San Francisco suburb stopped a speeding Toyota at 3am one night. Inside were Chinatown gang leaders including Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, who said Hsu owed him money, and Norman Hsu himself, who told police he was being kidnapped. (This is not something that happens to random nice people in San Francisco.) The gang leaders were arrested. After he fled his sentencing, Hsu apparently lived in Hong Kong until 1998 -- when he went through a series of bankruptcies there -- before quietly returning to the United States.

    He is under investigation for possibly donating illegally high amounts of money to Clinton and others using straw men. For example, his ex-wife, his son (a student), and an entire family, led by a mailman, have all given the federal maximum amount of money -- $4,600 -- to Clinton's campaign, often at nearly the exact time that Hsu gave similar amounts himself.

    You have to give Hsu this much -- he's consistent. When his criminal background was made public by the Los Angeles Times, Hsu turned himself in to authorities, posted $2 million bail -- and then skipped town without turning in his passport as required. In the meantime, he Fedexed "suicide notes" to several prominent people he knew. 2 days later he was arrested by the FBI at a hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado. He had flown by charter airplane into Oakland, promising to surrender to a Bay area court, but ducked out and hopped on an Amtrak train heading east to Chicago.

    The passengers in the sleeper across the hallway noticed a hat, a book and other items spilling into the hall from under Hsu's door. He didn't answer a knock, but passenger Joanne Segale looked in and saw him bare-chested, in a fetal position wedged against the door. Conductors pried open the door of his cabin with a crowbar and found him wedged into a tight space between his sliding door and his fold-out bed -- the kind of place that someone might try to hide. He was delirious and couldn't answer questions, but at one point asked if he was in jail. Segale, helping him to the bathroom, saw “lots and lots of medication in that room. I could see pills on the floor and rolling around.”

    In retrospect, Mr. Hsu may have given an advance hint of his plan to run when his lawyer announced that his $2 million bail "can also be used for restitution to any persons who might still be unpaid" -- as if he were a diner rushing out of a restaurant and dropping some $20 bills on the table to cover the tab. It seems bizarre to post $2 million bail you know you are going to lose, when half of that would pay off everyone you cheated -- unless your $2 million came from shady sources that will soon become known once people investigate you.

    At first, it wasn't clear where Hsu got all his money, leading to lots of conspiracy theories. Since his 1998 return to the U.S., Hsu has invested in several apparel businesses that -- all put together -- gross about $2 million per year, according to Dun and Bradstreet. And he has invested in a several Bay Area properties. That's not a bad source of money, but hardly enough to generate the $1.2 million Hsu has been estimated to have donated to various political campaigns, much less his fancy clothes, charter airplane, top Manhattan clubs booked for splashy parties, etc.

    No one's sure, but it seems likely that Hsu is simply a garden variety Ponzi-scheme con man. Like many, he found that creating an aura of wealth and success is the fastest way to get new investors to hand over money. And apparently he found that giving campaign donations can get you pictures and parties with famous people cheaper than almost any other method.

    One single investor -- Joel Rosenman, one of the entrepreneurs behind the Woodstock Music Festival -- was so taken with Norman Hsu's investments that he created a $40 million investment fund entirely given to 37 bridge loan deals with Norman Hsu, who allegedly was going to manufacture clothes for Gucci, Prada and other designer labels in China and resell them to those labels at a profit. Hsu gained Rosenman's trust by returning 40% on a couple of small, initial investments by Rosenman and his business partner, Ms. Yau Cheng. (She introduced Hsu to Rosenman in 2002.) This is the exact same kind of deal Hsu was convicted for in 1991. Already, checks that Hsu sent to the investment fund have bounced for insufficient funds.

    At least one investor warned the Clinton campaign last summer that Hsu might be running a Ponzi scheme, but in their furious rush to raise money, they ignored the caution. On June 18, 2007, an Irvine, CA businessman named Jack Cassidy heard from a friend who invested with Hsu, and emailed a Democratic Party official to warn them. " There is a significant probability that a man using the name of Norman Hsu is running a Ponzi scheme," Irvine wrote. "The math does not work!!"

    Samantha Wolf, who was Hillary's West Coast Finance Director, wrote the official saying "I can tell you with 100% certainty that Norman Hsu is NOT involved in a ponzi scheme. He is COMPLETELY legit." She no longer works for the Clinton campaign.

    Phony Commodity Options Profit
    In 1978, with no prior experience, Hillary Clinton started trading high risk commodities futures under the guidance of James Blair, a friend. Blair was also an experienced trader who was outside counsel to massive Arkansas chicken processor Tyson Foods (which had business before Bill Clinton, then the governor of Arkansas.) Hillary did very well, improbably well, even given the fact that a major bull market was going on. One possibility, hinted at by trading records from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, is that Blair traded for her and manipulated results to put money in Hillary's pocket. For example, a trader might make a large number of trades in a single day, for themself and for clients. Some of them will do well and some will fail. Instead of allocated the trades between various clients as originally intended, a trader like Blair could reassign all of the successful trades to one client (such as Clinton) and assign the losers to himself, or another client. That way, he would effectively pay her the money without worry about laws against payoffs.

    Whitewater and the Missing Billing Records
    Whitewater was a real estate development in Arkansas that Bill and Hillary lost money in when it went south. Their partners, Jim and Susan McDougal, also owned a savings and loan association (Madison Guaranty) that hired Hillary and her firm, the Rose Law Firm. When the S&L failed, costing taxpayers over $65 million, the Whitewater vacation development collapsed.

    The 3 Whitewater special prosecutors, after 6 years and $40 million worth of investigation, concluded that "This office has determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that either President or Mrs. Clinton knowingly participated in any criminal conduct ... or knew of such conduct." Hardly a ringing declaration of innocence. Hillary stated 99 times under oath in 1996 that she did not recall what work she did for Madison Guarantee. Kenneth Starr, the second special prosecutor had subpoenaed her billing records from Madison, and she reported that she couldn't find them. Two years later, the records turned up in the White House family residence under circumstances that Hillary has never been able to explain. The records showed that she met 15 times with Arkansas businessman Seth Ward concerning Whitewater, but she and Ward denied rememberin any of that.

    At the very best, her actions strongly suggest she was covering something up. At worst, she may have lied under oath and obstructed justice by hiding the billing records. The irony is that this whole episode is amazingly small potatoes. The total money involved from all parties was under $500,000, and the Clinton's lost all but $1,000 of their money.

    Pardons and the Riches
    At the very end of his presidential term, Bill Clinton pardoned a number of people, including financier and convicted tax evader Marc Rich. It's on Hillary's scandal page because a few months earlier, Rich's former wife Denise gave substantial donations to Hillary's senatorial campaign and the Clinton library. While any wife or husband of a politician should be free to run for office, running while the spouse is still in power creates an immediate conflict of interest, and Bill had no trouble repaying the favor to his wife's contributor.

    The interesting part of this story is who else was urging Clinton to pardon Marc Rich. The request was delivered to Hillary personally by none other than Scooter Libby, who was Rich's lawyer and has since been convicted of perjury in the Bush administration's leaking of the identity of arms control spy Valerie Plame. And Rich's application was supported by Israel's then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak. The final twist is that Rich was a suspected middleman in smuggling of Iraqi oil despite the trade embargo. His pardon required him to pay a $100 MILLION FINE before he could return to the U.S. That should give conspiracy folks something to chew on.

    Clinton also pardoned Almon Glenn Braswell for mail fraud and perjury convictions. Braswell and Carlos Vignali paid approximately $200,000 each to Hillary's brother, Hugh Rodham, to pitch their clemency casese. Rodham returned the payments after they became public knowledge.

    $100,000 payment from an Educational Foundation
    This is an obscure story we've been following since it came out in 1996, and little has been made public. On January 10th of that year, New York state's then Attorney General Dennis Vacco (a Republican) announced he was investigating $100,000 in payments to Hillary or the Rose Law Firm from the National Center on Education and the Economy, a charity that was in Rochester New York and has since moved to Washington, D.C. The organization is a prime advocate of standards-based education, which has been promoted by both the Clinton and Bush II administrations (in the No Child Left Behind act.)

    Hillary was on their board, as were Mario Cuomo and Ira Magaziner (two other prominent Democrats), but no other board members were paid. No one has ever been able to find any details or justification for what Hillary did for that money, other than produce a single 12 page report. When this story came out, Vacco announced he was asking for contracts with Hillary or the Rose Law Firm and a description of any work she actually did. Nothing more has come of it, which -- given how thoroughly Bill and Hillary were investigated - indicates that nothing substantial has turned up, either way.

    Tinfoil Hat Conspiracy Theories
    Bill and Hillary are the biggest magnet for conspiracy theories since, well, the Warren Commission. The interesting twist is that several of these conspiracy ideas -- such as the idea that Bill and/or Hillary actually had White House Counsel Vince Foster killed, despite the coroner's ruling that he committed suicide, were fully investigated by well funded, official government commissions with subpoena power and aggressive, Republican leadership.

    The fact that these investigations found nothing to the conspiracies does not stop the conspiracy theories, of course. The 900 page reports just give plenty of details for obsessives to mull over and find intriguing tidbits. Other great conspiracies include: List of Dead Friends of Bill (which will no doubt reappear soon as the list of dead friends of Hillary), Mena Arkansas CIA/smuggling ties, and stories about Hillary being a lesbian, which could actually be kind of hot depending on who she is said to have slept with. Xena/Hillary rough sex? Never mind.

    Or take Norman Hsu. Lots of conspiracists on the right are convinced he was a Chinese spy trying to control Hillary with donations. And yes, Bill Clinton got illegal contributions from a Chinese guy (John Huang) who admitted that some of his money came from Chinese military sources. But that doesn't mean every crook with an Asian name is a Chinese spy. The far simpler explanation -- that he's a con man -- just isn't fun enough for these conspiracists. Never mind that Hsu has plead guilty to running one con, that political donations make perfect sense as a relatively cheap way to establish a phony legitimacy by appearing at parties and in photos with well-known public figures, and that at least one (very White and American) investor has admitted giving Hsu $40 million.

    The bottom line is, play in these murk pits if you like but don't expect to get anywhere. The classic mark of a conspiracy theorist is that instead of giving you facts and statements, they ask questions. "Did you know that Vince Foster blah blah blah?" "If it WAS suicide, why did blah blah blah?" As soon as you hear arguments like that, about any candidate, realize you've left the realm of knowledge and entered the world of mystery.

    As with any conspiracy theory or urban legend, a great place to get a good blast of common sense is the their investigation of the Dead Clinton Friends list, with dates, facts and hotlinks. The report is fair and admits when a death might be questionable.

    By Blogger jc, at 15 March, 2009 11:41  

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