Carl Hiaasen: Why They Call Bill Clinton 'Big Dog'
Hiaasen, Carl, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
BC-HIAASEN-COLUMN:MI - op-ed xst (900 words),0931
Carl Hiaasen: Why they call Bill Clinton 'Big Dog'
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By Carl Hiaasen
The Miami Herald (MCT)
In avoidance of the political conventions I turned to a character named Ernie Brown Jr., who is known to his millions of fans as the Turtleman.
Described as a Kentucky woodsman, the Turtleman has his own show on cable TV. In exchange for a fresh-baked pie or a jar of homemade jam, he'll come to your home and remove unwanted opossums, snakes, skunks, raccoons or snapping turtles (his specialty).
In one unforgettable episode, the ceiling of a crawl space gives way, dumping a nest of squirming rats on the Turtleman's head. On another show he submerges in a pond of reeking manure to grab a rogue turtle that's been biting cows on the ankles.
You can understand why the Turtleman is a superstar.
Personally - and I speak for many Americans - I'd rather watch a man flop around with wild rodents in his hair than listen to another political speech.
Unfortunately, the Turtleman's time slot is early in the evening, so while flipping channels late I occasionally stumbled into convention coverage. Usually I paused to see who was speaking and hear what they were saying.
Then, when my gums began to bleed, I moved on.
The other night something unexpected happened when I came across the Democratic National Convention on CNN. Bill Clinton was talking on stage, and he was every bit as compelling as Ernie Brown Jr.
I put down the remote and watched. It was intriguing not just because of Clinton's obvious gifts as a speaker, but also because of what it says about the American heart.
Remember that this was a guy whose horndog ways almost torpedoed his second term of office, handing the Republicans enough ammunition to stage an impeachment trial that derailed his agenda and sapped the nation's energy for many long, infuriating months.
Who knows what else Clinton might have accomplished if he'd been content with just a peck on the cheek from Monica Lewinsky, or at least hadn't lied about what happened.
Yet even after the scandal he walked out of the White House as one of the most popular presidents ever, and he's even more popular now. The most recent Gallup poll, conducted before last week's convention, put his favorability rating at 69 percent - much higher than either of the presidential candidates.
Which is basically the political equivalent of a Beatle.
Ex-presidents typically are held in higher esteem, but Clinton's aura is different. It's true that he's done good things since leaving office - his work in Haiti is one example - yet Jimmy Carter has done lots of good things, too, and nobody was clamoring to hear him speak in Charlotte. …