WASHINGTON -- What if you had a 12-year affair with the president of the United States, posed nude for Penthouse, wrote a very explicit book about it and nobody cared?
This is the dilemma now facing Gennifer Flowers.
She is currently engaged in that most fundamental of American rights: the right to cash in.
Under this right, it does not matter if you are a villain or a victim, a hero or a hellhound.
In America when you are well-known for being well-known, there is money to be made.
For a while.
But considering that the voters knew all about Bill Clinton's alleged affair with Flowers and still elected him president, what difference does it make today whether he liked to blindfold her, paid for her abortion or had pet names for their naughty bits? (One was Willard and the other was Precious. I will leave it to you to sort out which was which.)
Why anyone should care is what I wanted to ask Flowers when she came through Washington on a multicity book tour, a tour that has generated scant publicity so far.
Although Flowers' book is called "Passion & Betrayal," I could not find examples of either in it.
After reading it, the single word that comes to my mind about their relationship is: banal.
Which, I admit, would make a lousy book title.
In 12 years of allegedly dating, they never went to a restaurant, movie, concert or play. If they ever had a meaningful conversation about anything, it is not recorded.
When she met Clinton, Flowers was a hotel lounge singer who simultaneously became a TV reporter because it was so easy.
"I had taken a journalism course in high school," she writes. "And I thought, 'How hard could it be?' Not hard at all, as it turned out."
(This, by the way, is the single valuable insight I found in the book.)
According to her account, Clinton hit on her at an airport news conference in 1977 and shortly thereafter the earth began to move.
In person, Flowers is reasonably attractive, but not a head-turner. (Which could also describe Bill Clinton.) We met for breakfast. She was dressed in a red suit jacket, black and white blouse and black skirt. She seemed entirely pleasant.
Me: Are you a bimbo?
Flowers: I am not a bimbo!
Me: How would you define one?
Flowers: A shallow, dingbatty-type woman, not too bright. And blonde. I am sure I will never escape that image to a lot of people.
Me: What are you then?
Flowers: I am a hard-working individual in a difficult business, who has enjoyed a lot more success than the average bear. I am a talented performer and singer.
Me: I can't think of a male equivalent for the word bimbo, though it is clear from your book that you think Bill Clinton is one.
Flowers: Mimbo. I just invented it. Bill Clinton is a mimbo. A male nymphomaniac. His motive is to stroke his ego.
Me: Your book is very explicit. Doesn't it embarrass you a little?
Flowers: [laughing] I've done Penthouse. It's hard to be embarrassed after that. Though I won't let people open that issue in my presence. If they want to open it in front of me, I say, "In that case, you get naked, too."
Me: Paula Jones, who is suing Bill Clinton for sexual harassment, says he has "distinguishing characteristics" in his groin area. This is a major part of her legal case. Do you know anything about such characteristics?
Flowers: (shaking her head) No. But he might have gotten them since we stopped seeing each other.
Me: Why should anyone care about your affair with Clinton?
Flowers: If he finds it easy to lie to his wife, to cheat on his wife
and on Chelsea, he will find it easy to lie to you, Roger, and [motioning to a waiter] to this man here. He broke the most important vow in his life. We need a man of integrity as president.
Me: Are there any politicians you feel have integrity?
Flowers: Newt Gingrich.
Me: There is a picture in your book of your father that bears an uncanny resemblance to a young Bill Clinton.
Flowers: My daddy has that same look in his eye, just like Bill Clinton. My daddy was a womanizer. They say women seek men like their father. Naturally, I didn't have sex with my father.
Me: Doing any sightseeing while you're in town?
Flowers: I would love to take a tour of the White House.