Bernie Nussbaum, the former White House Counsel to President Clinton, died earlier this week. The phrase that always comes to my mind in connection with him is from his mother: "He should have listened to my Bernie." (As quoted by Jonathan Mahler in a column that appeared in the Forward of January 30, 1998. "Imagine a strong Yiddish accent here," Mahler wrote.) She was referring to Nussbaum's advice to Clinton not to appoint an independent counsel for Whitewater. Had Clinton taken the advice rather than disregarded it, a successful presidency might have even been more so, and subsequent presidents might have been emboldened rather than constrained. (See Trump and Mueller.)
For those interested in Nussbaum, the Clintons, New York, and politics in general I highly commend Nussbaum's oral history interview available at the University of Virginia's Miller Center. Among other things it reports that Mario Cuomo was offered the Supreme Court seat that ultimately went to Ruth Bader Ginsburg:
Cuomo turned the job down. His son wanted him to take it. I talked to Andrew [Cuomo]. [George] Stephanopoulos was involved. We tried to reach him through Evan Davis. We tried to get Cuomo to accept the Supreme Court. He wouldn't return calls for two or three days. Finally, he did call and told the President he was too busy in Albany. He had some budget—it was crazy, but he turned it down. He would have been an interesting, maybe a very good Supreme Court justice, but he turned it down. So we went on with the process and ended up choosing Ruth Ginsburg.
And there's a passage on the motivation of journalists:
Journalists are not liberal or conservative, they're careerists. This is their main thing. Their career path consists of one, trying to go to a good school and getting into some sort of important media company such as the New York Times, Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and two, trying to write a sensational story or two to get themselves known, so they can go on television and become a talking head of sorts. That's the key. Because once you go on television, you become a celebrity. We have a celebrity culture. Once you're a celebrity, you can make a living. See, a celebrity is somebody who can make a living. ....
I saw some of them who came to the administration. You make a hundred thousand dollars or so on a newspaper, which is a good salary. And then maybe if you go on television you make another $150,000 from the television appearances, but that's not the money. The real money is when you're a celebrity. Then you can start speaking to grocers' conventions or dentists' conventions and telling them Washington stories. Now you can make $15-20,000 or more per speech, depending on how big a celebrity you are. You give 50 speeches or so, you make a million dollars and you can buy fancy houses and send your kids to private schools. That's the career path for journalists, and writing sensible and balanced stories doesn't foster that career path. It doesn't get you on a talking head show or the lecture tour.