1995: The year the future began
I went on the “Morning Show” today on WMJI (Majic 105.7 FM) in Cleveland for what was a brisk, lively, and engaging discussion about my recently released new book, 1995: The Year the Future Began.
The discussion with Mark Nolan, the show’s host, and his on-air colleagues, Jimmy Malone and Chip Kullik, covered several highlights of the watershed year — from the emergence in 1995 of the Internet and World Wide Web into mainstream consciousness to the origins of the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky sex-and-lies scandal that ultimately threatened Clinton’s presidency.
I pointed out that the American Dialect Society designated “World Wide Web” as one of the words of the year in 1995. The other was “Newt,” as in Newt Gingrich, the combative Republican congressman who became speaker of the House 20 years ago. The reference to “Newt” prompted a few guffaws; Gingrich proved to be a bumbling leader.
We all concurred that the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal remains mind-boggling in many respects. That Clinton would risk his presidency in a dalliance with an intern 27 years his junior is still almost unimaginable.
As I noted during the conversation, Lewinsky would never have had a chance to pursue her interest in Clinton if not for the government shutdown of mid-November 1995.
The closure prompted the furlough of some 800,000 government employees, including most of the White House staff. Into that breach went many unpaid interns, who took on a variety of tasks to help keep the White House functioning. Lewinsky was assigned to answer phones in the chief of staff’s office, not far from the Oval Office.
Her sexual affair with Clinton began November 15, 1995, on the second day of the shutdown, and continued periodically until March 1997. The president’s trysting with Lewinsky broke in an electrifying scandal in January 1998 and led to his impeachment late that year.
I also pointed out it was amazing that Clinton devoted much time to Lewinsky.
In addition to their sexual encounters, 10 in all, Lewinsky estimated that she and the president spoke by phone some 50 times, usually late at night and early in the morning. As I write in the book, Clinton during his campaign for reelection in 1996 “sometimes called Lewinsky when his wife was not with him. In several calls that year, Clinton and Lewinsky engaged in steamy phone sex.”
We also touched on the Oklahoma City bombing of April 1995 and how at first the news media suspected the attack was the work of Middle East terrorists. The news media rode the angle hard, I pointed out, and were embarrassed when that reporting turned out to be wrong.
The bombing, which killed 168 people, was the work of homegrown terrorists — Timothy McVeigh and his collaborators, Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier.
The attack deep in the American heartland remains the deadliest act of domestic U.S. terrorism. It helped to mold and put in place what I call in the book “a hypercautious, security-first mindset that [has] encouraged the imposition of restrictions intended to thwart the prospect of terrorist attack, a prospect that often seemed vague, amorphous, or abstract.”
Today’s conversation was conducted by telephone and was my second interview on WMJI’s “Morning Show” in eight months. I was interviewed in studio in May, in what was one of my first public discussions about the 1995 book.
Regrettably, we did not have time today to talk about how pivotal 1995 was to Cleveland.
And most agonizingly, it was the year when the storied Cleveland Browns franchise was sent off to Baltimore in a shattering and most traitorous move. The then-owner of the Browns, Art Modell, was rightly reviled in Cleveland for that unconscionable decision, announced in November 1995.
That surely is grist for another Majic interview, at another time.
More from The 1995 blog: