‘Why Am I Telling You This?’: Bill Clinton Takes the Mic

By Maggie Reynolds

As president, Bill Clinton was known for repeating the rhetorical question “Why am I telling you this?” in speeches. It makes sense that Clinton, a notoriously talkative and sociable person, used the pandemic as a time to begin a podcast. In “Why Am I Telling You This,” Clinton channels the feelings and memories evoked from his childhood experiences gathered around the radio with his family. 

With episodes ranging in length from 30 minutes to an hour, Clinton delves into topics like jazz in democracy, the implications of the 2020 presidential election and Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s appointment to the Supreme Court. Each week, he also hosts a celebrity or expert on the episode’s topic to foster conversation and bring in a different perspective. Some guests include Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Magic Johnson and Stacey Abrams. 

In the episode “How Facts Can Fight a Pandemic,” Clinton and Gupta discuss the politicization of the pandemic and the potential decrease in respect for healthcare workers as the pandemic continues. They also speak about Gupta’s new book “Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age,” which explores the process of neurogenesis and the idea that the deterioration of cerebral health is not inevitable with age. Clinton strikes a nice balance between asking interesting questions and adding his own thoughts, though Gupta spends far more time speaking than Clinton. Clinton effectively blends topics of politics and science in the episode, discussing Gupta’s research in neural function and his knowledge of Covid-19.

To reflect on the 2020 Presidential Election and January 6 insurrectionist attacks, Clinton hosted political commentator and Rice Professor of History Douglas Brinkley for an episode titled “How History Will View the 2020 Election.” Though there are certainly many overlaps between science and politics, especially amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, the discussion about the implications of the last election cycle is in Clinton’s wheelhouse. Brinkley brings up the symbol of the mask as a key component of Biden’s campaign message, especially in contrast with Trump’s symbolic MAGA hat, and the idea that moving forward, “the only way out of this mess politically is to work our way through [it].” 

Part of Clinton’s aim for the podcast is to provide a platform for storytelling and discussion with people whom he views as having relevance to current happenings. However, especially in this episode, it would have been nice to hear more from Clinton himself. As a former president and long-standing political figure in Washington, Clinton certainly has a unique perspective surrounding this past election cycle.

The podcast also touches on voter suppression and the importance of voters’ rights legislation in the episode, “How to be a Changemaker,” with Stacey Abrams. Considering the important role Abrams has played in the outcome of the recent election, and how much she has fought for guaranteed voter enfranchisement, her appearance on the podcast is exciting. The conversation between Clinton and Abrams flows well, particularly because they have a well-established relationship, and he is able to provide an effective platform for her to speak about the voting rights legislation for which she is advocating. 

The content of Bill Clinton’s podcast is overall varied, engaging and relevant. The big-name figures that Clinton has been able to have on the podcast since its debut show Clinton’s continued relevance in the political sphere and encourage a variety of listeners to be interested in the podcast. In our world of exponentially increasing podcast options, “Why Am I Telling You This?” is a quality podcast for listeners interested in hearing from important figures about current topics hand-picked by former president Bill Clinton.