the clinton years

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interview: john podesta

photo of john podesta

As deputy chief of staff from 1997, he coordinated the White House's responses to Kenneth Starr's Whitewater probe. He became chief of staff in November 1998.

Interview conducted September, 2000 by Chris Bury

The president began the second inauguration by quoting from the Book of Isaiah and talked about being a repairer of the breach. Did you have any conversations with Bill Clinton about that and about what he was trying to accomplish with that kind of language? That was actually his theme for the first few weeks of the second term.

I think that in two ways he was trying to move the country forward. As you know, the period especially in late 1995 and then into 1996 was a period of great partisanship in the country, with the government shutdown, et cetera. And I think he wanted to move the country out of that period and into an era in which we could work together between parties to get something done for the country. I think that the 1997 balanced budget agreement, which contained so many of the president's initiatives, was part of that.

More fundamentally, I think he was also talking about the great challenge of bringing people of different races, people of different sexual orientations, together all around one table, and to build one America, which as he noted, was the country's strength and, not its weakness, especially in this globalized world.

And I think he wanted to make much of his second term oriented towards that, both domestically and around the world.

At the White House, did you also have to deal with a breach within your own party? I mean, the president was elected in '96 on this triangulation strategy, and Dick Morris had been, until the convention, anyway, sort of the apex of his power. And when you took office there were still a lot of hard feelings among Democrats on the Hill that essentially they had been sacrificed for the president's reelection effort.

Mercifully, I missed most of the Morris era, having been at the White House earlier and then left and came back.

I think that we ended up trying to work at the center to move the party towards the president's vision, to work with the leadership on the Democratic side. That was one of my principal responsibilities, to go up there and reach out to Democrats of all stripes.

Were relations strained at that moment?

I think that there were people in the party who felt that the language of the so-called triangulation had set them outside. But in the end, I like to say we're all New Democrats now, because I think the president really was able to forge a bond with Democrats across the depth and breadth of the party.

And I think that you saw it in 1998 where, for the first time since 1822, the Democrats -- the party with the president in his sixth year in power -- actually picked up seats in the Congress.

The first sort of mini-scandal that you had to deal with as chief of staff was the fundraising allegations that came up in '97 with the Lincoln Bedroom sleepovers and so on. What was your thinking about how you would control the damage from that? Because you knew it was going to be a damaging story.

our ability to bring people together in a bipartisan way on Social Security,
...was interrupted by the impeachment.  And we never really were able to get
back to it.Again, we tried to get as much of that information out as early as possible to deal with the allegations as they arose. As you know, the DNC turned back some of the money that was that was questionable.

But I think our strategy from the get-go was to try to just get the information out, put it out in the public, let the public judge. The reality is that both parties have trouble with the massive amounts of funds that are raised to run campaigns nowadays, and I think the president's proud of the fact that, at least at this point, we have a unanimous caucus in both the House and the Senate in favor of campaign finance reform. And I think we've brought that along. But, ultimately, something needs to be done about this system, and...

We're not going to really get into a debate over campaign finance reform, but when you were dealing with that issue in 1997, was your defense essentially one, well, everybody does it, the Republicans do it, too? I mean, you put out who had stayed at the Bush White House and so on.

You know that hypocrisy is an art form in this city, and I don't think we wanted to let our people, who we thought were using this largely just for partisan political purposes, get away with suggesting that the president had done something that people in their party hadn't. Right now we're talking about the fact that Dick Cheney hosted fundraisers at the Pentagon during the Bush administration in the context of this campaign.

So I think that there was an element of that, but I think most importantly, we wanted to get the facts out, get the information out. If mistakes were made, we wanted to correct them and move on. We didn't think that the president had done anything wrong or the vice president had done anything wrong or senior White House people had done anything wrong. And as it turned out, I think that's proven to be the case.

Looking back at 1997, you were suggesting that your sort of signature accomplishment of that year was the balanced budget. What do you recall about that event?

In 1996 he had embraced the notion and the vision of the balanced budget, but I think he really wanted to do it the right way. And I think that there were a couple of elements that were really critical from his perspective, and I remember Erskine and I briefing him. Erskine Bowles, my predecessor, who had led the negotiations, with the Republican leadership, especially Newt Gingrich, at that time. But there were a couple of things that were really critical to the president, and one was this child health insurance program which is part of it. And the other was the expansion of college aid; that was a centerpiece for us as in trying to balance the budget but do it the right way.

I think that the Republicans had agreed pretty much to the programs that dealt with higher education that we were pushing, but they were very resistant on the other point, and just time after time the president sending us back to say this is critical; this is the element that's got to be the centerpiece of this.

When finally an agreement was reached, I remember we were going down to the Senate retreat, which I think was over in Maryland, and it was a good day because we got something that was important to the country, pursuing the path of fiscal discipline but doing it in the right way. And we finally go that crown jewel that he was after, and he was very proud of that.

Was part of the pride for the White House that you were able to put back into the budget some of the things which had been taken out for welfare reform which had been so heavily criticized, even among some leading Democrats and people inside the...

Yeah, that was something when the president signed that bill in 1996. I think he said that he made a commitment that we needed to go back and fix the excesses that were in the bill, especially dealing with people who were legal immigrants in this country. And we were able to repair some of that. We've kept working at that over the course of the years, but it's something that, if you know Bill Clinton, he keeps that kind of list in his head.

A scorecard?

Things he's promised, things he's said he'd try to work on, things he'd try to get done, and he never loses sight of that; that was one of the things. He thought that, on balance, the welfare reform bill was a good bill and he was going to sign it. That the bill both rewarded work, and encouraged work, And it took care of the children of the people who were moving from welfare to work, but that it was unfair especially to legal immigrants and he wanted to go back and fix that part of it; that was a critical priority of his and one that we have continued to work on.

Coming up into early '98, you knew a few days before the Lewinsky story broke that something was going on because Drudge had been out, Newsweek was working on it and so on. Did you talk to the president about it at that time?

I think the first time I talked to the president about it was after the Post broke the story, which, my recollection of it, happened on a Wednesday. It was about a week before the State of the Union address and a couple of days after the time you are referencing.

When the story broke in the Post, did you ask the president if it was true?

Yes. I was there with Erskine Bowles, the chief of staff, and Sylvia Matthews. And the president said to us that, well I can't remember precisely his words, although they've probably been written down many times in many books, but that the gist of the story wasn't true and we needed to move on and deal with it.

You did deal with it, and you had to come up with a strategy. Was this different from any other kind of crisis you had dealt with in your experience?

I think he'll be known as a guy who could take a punch, who never got
completely down on the mat, who always came back, who fought for what he
believed inIt was more intense. Both at the beginning, then obviously there was a kind of lull in it, and then through the period starting with the grand jury testimony and leading up to impeachment, and then finally the Senate trial. It was certainly more intense.

And it was also different in the sense in that it was so personal with the president. The legal team, the White House counsel and his private lawyers handled most of that matter dealing with the independent counsel and ultimately dealing on the Hill.

What we needed to do was to try to keep our focus, but obviously there was a feeding frenzy at the beginning in this town. You probably have a better sense of the count of stories and issues that were raised and counter-raised, some of which turned out not to be true. From a press perspective, we were constantly battling with the fact that it was difficult to talk about anything else or that Washington's attention was totally focused on the Lewinsky matter in early 1998 and then, of course, into the fall.

How do you run a White House when the capital is consumed with a particular scandal?

I think that one of the reasons that the American public stuck with the president was that he and we were able to keep our focus on the people's business. He was able to both keep working on the issues that were important to the public. During that year, for example, we did a trip to China, which proved to be an enormously important trip. It laid the foundation for establishing a different relationship with China that ultimately led to the vote we just had recently on permanent normal trade relations with China.

If my memory serves me, the Good Friday Accords occurred during that spring, so we were also focused on the peace process in Northern Ireland. We were still trying to get our budget priorities through the Congress, which at the end of the day we did a pretty good job on.

The people in the White House who weren't primarily charged with working on [the Lewinsky case] were, in fact, charged with trying to do the people's business. And there was a certain camaraderie that developed, I think people stayed, people worked hard, and we developed a kind of tough hide and a pretty good sense of humor, and...

You were in the trenches together.

...And we were in the trenches together. And people felt like we were still getting things done. We were still on the right side from the public's perspective. And my sense is that the public kind of sensed that and respected it. Some people have mentioned to us, and in this new book out by Mr. Baker, there are reports that the president's attention understandably was suffering and that at certain meetings he seemed to drift off. Do you remember that?

Yeah. I've seen the reports of that. But primarily I don't think that the president's attention drifted off. There were moments, especially at at the earliest days when the story first broke and at the time of the grand jury testimony where that was the focus of his attention.

But if you recall, it was just six days after the story broke that the president walked into the House of Representatives, delivered, I thought, a masterful State of the Union address, really set the terms of the debate on fiscal discipline versus the tax strategy that Governor Bush is still pursuing, and set the terms of that debate and he did it I think with great dignity and he did it with great power. And that was six days after the story broke.

So this was a guy whose attention was on the business at hand, which was to fix on his legislative program and his program for the country to be able to deliver that speech and get up and do it, and I think did a pretty good job with it.

It's also a time in which several former members of the administration have said he was lonely and isolated, particularly in the evenings when the day's work was done.

That's something that he'll probably reflect on after he's out of office, but I think that it was personally a difficult period. And it's a time in which you know who your friends are and you seek them for comfort. There was an intensity to this and a kind of feeding frenzy to this that you couldn't completely ignore.

However, when it counted, Ireland, China, the budget, and the State of the Union, et cetera, there was a guy who got up there and he did his job. And that's really what he told all of us to do.

At some level, I think it's one of the most important aspects of who he is, who his personality is, why he's been able to do a good job for the American public, which is that he could roll out of bed in that kind of an atmosphere and go to work, and go to work for the people.

That ability has been recounted a lot. Another characteristic of Bill Clinton that people are talking about is that--he gets himself into trouble a lot--that he lurches from crisis to crisis, so, therefore, he's got to pick himself up and focus. What about him do you suppose leads to this characteristic where there are a lot of crises, if you look back all the way from the campaign into this year ...

Actually I'd dispute a little of that. I think a lot of it has turned out to be phony and manufactured by his political opponents. We just had the Whitewater report that found out that they didn't do anything wrong. A bunch of these so-called pseudo-scandals were generated by his opponents, fed by the media, and then ended up to be much ado about nothing.

He will find himself in a spot and he'll realize that he's got to apply himself and he'll work at it and he'll work on it and move on. From a policy perspective, one of the things that I greatly admire about him is the guy never gives up. He'll meet a difficult block and rather than just completely throwing it aside, he'll get back up and say "Well, if we can't do that, what can we do?" I think the classic example is health care in 1994. And we passed Kennedy-Kassebaum and this child health insurance program. Now we're working on Medicare and prescription drugs. He's kind of the Terminator. I mean, he just keeps going and going and going.

In August, it emerges that the president was not telling the truth and that he did have a relationship. When did you find out and how did that strike you personally?

Well, I think like the rest of the people who were close to him, I was disappointed by it. And I found out, perhaps even the day of the grand jury testimony as we were preparing for that evening, exactly what he was going to say in his grand jury testimony. And, you know, he's a friend. It was disappointing. Again, it was a situation in which we needed to pull up our socks and move on, and that's what we did.

There were several discussions in the White House that day about how he should address the nation and what kind of a tone, how conciliatory he might be, how contrite he should be. Where did you weigh in on that?

I thought that he had made a mistake; and he should be conciliatory, and let the American people know that. It took us a while to get that message across. But I think that was the right tone, and obviously he understood personally that he had done something wrong and he wanted to atone for that and move on.

Were you disappointed that the speech that night wasn't more conciliatory?

At least in retrospect, it probably didn't have the right balance, and it wasn't until...

By the right balance, what do you mean?

I think he was still dealing with anger about the way this whole independent counsel matter had taken. He was dealing with the anger of what he thought, and I think, was a politically motivated lawsuit, which was at the underpinning of this--the Paula Jones case--and which was thrown out.

In retrospect it probably was a mistake to talk about that to let that be his message to the American people, because I think his message to the American people was that I made a mistake and I want to move past it and continue to try to be a good president.

I think that the American people, quite frankly, are pretty forgiving if you put it on those terms, and ultimately I think they did understand that he was doing a great job for them and they wanted him to keep doing that and that's why he still remains in office.

Was there a time when you really worried about his ability to stay in office? We've heard reports now that there were a couple of instances, one where some Senators called Gregory Craig and expressed a concern about whether they ought to come over and talk to the president about resigning and that Harold Ickes talked to some people in the House about the same thing.

When we came back in September--and of course this grand jury testimony occurred during a congressional recess--we were on the phone with people. But you never know what will happen when they're together, they act differently and they talk differently than when they're separately talking to you on the telephone. So we didn't exactly know what to expect when we came back to town. There was great anxiety about what this was going to mean; what would it mean politically, what would it mean substantively, could we continue our work, et cetera.

There was certainly anxiety expressed in both Houses, and in a funny way, the terms were set fairly early when the Republicans in the House handled the matter in an almost purely partisan way. I think that kind of galvanized people and made them realize what was going on and that our legal team did a pretty good job of explaining the underlying facts, but also the standards for impeachment, what they really ought to be.

However I think ultimately what really set the terms was that the exercise on the other side seemed partisan and driven. And to beat him in this way, in a way that they couldn't have beat him when it came to policy, I think that kind of galvanized both caucuses, and it became a more

But before that, before the House managers...?

Those first couple of weeks it was anyone's guess as to exactly how this was going to play out. We felt strongly that it was wrong to pursue it, given the fact that this was not...

Was there ever a point where you worried personally that this president might not make it in office based on what you were hearing from key Democrats? Did you feel it was close?

No, I don't think I ever felt like it was hanging by a thread or close to tipping the other direction. But there was plenty to be worried about in those days.

After the Starr report was released that first weekend, the political people didn't want to go out on the Sunday talk shows and defend the president. That's when the lawyers went out. Were you one of those who didn't want to go out and defend the president that first weekend?

No, I think we thought it was important to send the lawyers out. And if you remember, I was the next person to go out after the lawyers got the hook. They decided that the American public couldn't quite understand all the legalese, and so I became the surrogate and tried to go out there and explain this matter in ways that maybe ordinary people could understand. And so the following week I got to sit in the dunking tank while your colleagues threw baseballs at me.

In October, once the House begins, the Wye River negotiations are going on...At the same time, so you have this incredibly dramatic moment where the House is considering impeaching the president and the president is also involved in Middle East peace talks. What was it like at the White House running both those parallel...

We were doing that, plus the Congress hadn't done its work for the year, so we were trying to come up with a budget agreement right at the end. That's my recollection of the timing of this. There were definitely a kind of three rings going on. At that point, the president, spent almost full time on the negotiations at Wye. Erskine and I were negotiating the budget deal with the speaker and Senator Lott in which we made some substantial achievements on education and environment and other places.

Then the House was kind of wrapping up its work, and kicking it over past the election about how they were going to handle the matter. And then, of course, they did come back in that lame duck session and vote to impeach him.

After the election, which goes well for the Democrats... You have some kind of an epiphany. Do you remember what that is?

Yes, I think everybody felt like the voters had really rendered a judgment about whether they thought the president should be removed from office. As I said--it was really a historical election. The Democrats actually picked up seats in the House of Representatives. And I think that most of the folks who were Congress-watchers thought this thing was going to be over, that the public clearly was not interested in spending more time on this matter, and they didn't want the Congress to be worried about it. [The public] wanted them to be worried about their business, that this thing would melt away, that [the Congress] would figure out some way of disposing of it, perhaps through a censure motion or something of that nature.

I could sense at some point that there was an effort, led by the whip in the House, Tom DeLay, that that wasn't the way they were going to go, that they were going to go ahead and really pull out all the stops to impeach the president.

But I remember that virtually nobody thought that. And I was thinking about the people who we were sort of counting on and the Republican members who we were counting on to vote against impeachment and that we could never quite get them to publicly say that this was their position.

We took off for Thanksgiving, and I was running in Rock Creek Park, by myself, long run, and I said "This thing is over, they're going down the track. They're going to impeach him. They got the clout to do it. They're not going to let their members off the hook. They're going to beat and beat and beat on them until they vote for impeachment." And...

So you knew you had to let everybody else...

I came back in on Monday, and I'm viewed as not exactly having a sunny disposition to begin with. And I came in and I was sort of the Prince of Darkness that morning, and I said, "Let's get ready for this, we got to figure out what we're going to do, and then we've got to figure out how we're going to deal with the Senate, because I don't see how we're going to get this off the track of impeachment. "

In the 1998 State of the Union speech, the president makes an announcement which is later seen as a master move which sandbagged the Speaker. Can you tell us a little bit about how that came to be?

The save Social Security first message; we had thought about how we were going to position ourselves as the budget was moving from deficit into surplus, and we wanted to use that money to do important priorities, education, Social Security and Medicare and others.

You could see that the surplus was going to loom as a huge...

We saw the surplus just beginning to loom as an issue. Now, it ended up picking up strength as a year or two went by. They had a strategy, obviously, of trying to take the [surplus] and using it as an excuse to cut taxes, which we thought was going back and reversing all the progress we'd made. We fixed on the save Social Security first, and we managed to hold that. We surprised everyone when we stood up and said it.

As a result of the Lewinsky story having broken a few days earlier, the Republicans weren't sure what they were going to do. They finally decided to go to the State of the Union, which was in question up until I think the day of the State of the Union, but they were basically sitting on their hands during the president's statements and applause lines, et cetera. The Democrats were standing up, the Republicans were sitting on their hands.

Finally, when he came to the part of the speech when he started talking about the fiscal posture of the United States, and he said the thing we need to do is to save Social Security first, the Democrats just erupted in applause and the Republicans sat silent. And, finally, Newt Gingrich stood up and the Republicans had to stand up.

I think we put them in a corner from the fiscal perspective that they remain in today, and I think the public is still rejecting. I think they still want this hard-earned surplus to be used for the things that the president outlined in that very 1998 State of the Union.

At the same time he didn't get what he wanted that year, and I guess he now concedes that the two policy casualties of that year were Social Security and Medicare. So to what extent...

Leading up to that period in 1998, and in 1999, we tried to work in good faith to build a consensus for Social Security reform, and we never were able to do it. So I think that...

Did Lewinsky have a policy cost for the administration? And if so, what was it?

In the end, I wouldn't put Medicare in that category. However, our ability to bring people together in a bipartisan way on Social Security, not in that year but then in the following year when we were beginning to build some consensus around some reforms, was interrupted by the impeachment. And I think we never really were able to get back to it.

Sort of disjointed here, but going up to back to the grand jury, you have information about Osama bin Laden, and there is a missile strike ordered. The cynics in Washington thought this was one of those political acts. Tell us what it was like as chief of staff dealing with that.

It was, I think, two days after.. Or maybe on Thursday. Obviously the embassy bombings had taken place in Africa. We had information linking the UBL network to the bombings. We had information about where their training camps were in Afghanistan and the links to the factory in Sudan. And so we met and met about what we ought to do about it and whether we should take action, which in light of the human toll, the cost to American lives and lives of the nationals of the countries where those bombs took place, we thought it was appropriate.

That was done completely within the context, of the national security environment that was separate from thinking about Lewinsky and what was going on there. And I think that...

You must have worried about how the timing would be perceived.

Well, sure I was. I got paid to worry and think about things like that. But this was a case in which Secretary Cohen, for example, was very strong, and it mattered, both his credibility, and the fact that he is a Republican. It made everyone realize that this was on the level, that there were no politics involved with it, that we shouldn't talk about politics in the room and we should try to make the best judgment we could and recommend it to the president. That was the only way to deal with it.

To have tried to hedge it the other way would have been would have been a terrible mistake, both from a policy perspective and politically. So everybody kind of sucked it up , decided that we had to give the best advice we could and try to keep blinders on with regard to the other thing and make the recommendation to the president, and the president took it.

In December, there's a similar situation as the House impeachment vote debate is about to begin. The president is about to bomb Iraq. Tell us about that.

Saddam had thrown out the UN inspectors. We went through some brinksmanship in November in which he said he would accept the UN inspectors. The planes were actually in the air in November and ready to start an operation to try to degrade his ability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction. And he came out with a statement--Tariq Aziz, as I recall, came out with a statement that said they were going to let the inspectors back in, et cetera. So we paused, we pulled back. The planes came back. Then it turned out that he really wasn't moving forward with that.

So we recocked the gun, if you will. And there was a conversation, most of the people were in the air flying back from a historic trip the president made to Gaza and to Israel and where he addressed the Palestinian national congress, and some of us were in Washington. I didn't go on the trip. [During that meeting] we decided we needed to move forward. The Secretary felt very strongly about it, but the whole national security team did, Madeleine Albright, et cetera. I got the job of doing some of the congressional notifications, and I thought that this was going to start taking

In this case, I knew that there was the potential for great criticism of the timing, if not the action. And I think that everybody on the national security team was really quite strong and willing to stand up and say, look, we have to do this, it's in our national interest, it's the right thing to do.

Nevertheless, I envisioned what the reaction was going to be to these congressional notification calls, and it was the only time since I've been in my office where I had to sit down and take some deep breaths before I could actually pick up the telephone and call people.

I reached the Democratic leaders out in their districts. The Senate was obviously in recess, and the House was just coming back.

I was kind of a stunned silence at the other end of the phone, and I said, "Look, this is the right thing to do, we've got to make the right call." And eventually they stuck with us. Secretary Cohen went out there and defended the action, and there was some criticism, obviously, from some of the members, but I think at the end of the day it was both the right thing to do, and in retrospect was perceived to be the right thing t do.

It was done with the knowledge that this impeachment inquiry was going on around us, but without really an option to let that bleed over into the decisionmaking.

When you made those calls, did you get a "Are you out of your mind?" kind of response?

After the 30-second pause, that was probably the first reaction. I think they had to take their own deep breaths before being able to say, "Are you out of your mind?" But I walked through the logic, and I walked through the fact that this was a unanimous decision, and I think people accepted it.

On the Saturday morning of the House vote, the Speaker Livingston makes this dramatic resignation. Did that cause some concern with the president when Livingston resigned? Was there a thought that, well, I might have to resign, too? Was that going through the White House at all?

No. I don't think so. By that time we felt like this was almost a totally partisan exercise, and we were battling against what we thought was an exercise that really had kind of lost its constitutional underpinning You were watching with the president as the vote was going on......later that day. How was he? Was he terribly angry?

He was just subdued, I would say. [He] didn't say very much, watched it. Doug Sosnik was in the room with me, and we just watched it and none of us said very much. We just watched the vote take place.

Later that day, the White House holds this rally with congressional Democrats on the lawn. Why did you do that?

It began really that morning. I was up early in the morning. I went with Mrs. Clinton to the Democratic Caucus. And I think the Democratic Members of Congress thought this really, really had gone awry and was the wrong thing to do for the country. They were very emotional, they were very angry, they were very upset. Probably to a person, they thought what the president had done was wrong, but what the Republican majority was doing was very wrong. So there was a lot of emotion in the room.

The first lady spoke to that group, and at the end Charlie Rangel said, "When this is all over, we all want to come down there and be with the president." ...On the spot they agreed to do that, and they all did come down.

Was there concern about whether that would be appropriate?

There was a sense that people wanted to make a statement. Part of it was a statement of support. Part of it was a statement suggesting that this had been a kind of partisan hijacking of solemn process. And it seemed like an appropriate thing to do, actually.

That was an incredible vote. Did that hit you like a hammer?

Well, we knew it was going to happen because just prior to that, the senators had all adjourned to the old Senate chamber and they had agreed on a resolution.

When the Chief Justice of the United States calls the Senate to order and they go on with this solemn march, what was going through your mind?

I'm a creature of the Senate. I worked there for nine years. And it was a solemn moment. At some point, I just took a deep breath and said we're going to have to work our way through this, and we're going to have the right outcome. However we're going to have to work on this day-by-day, in a serious way, and in a way that respects the Senate as an institution, and that they will do the right thing in the end.

In the end, the day of the acquittal, do you remember what he was like that day or what his mood was?

He had written out a statement, and I remember going over. He was up in the residence, and we sat together, and actually there was no real sense of relief or of happiness. It was just that this thing was over. There was one more thing to do, which was to talk to the American people, to reiterate the fact that he was sorry that he had made a personal mistake, but to say that we had to get back to the people's business. He had worked on a statement, and he was still working on it.

He writes almost all the important speeches he gives. Anything that he's handed by somebody else is all scratched out and he's handwritten in...On this occasion he actually wrote the first draft, and then it was worked on. He was still reworking it right 'til the end. We just talked a little bit, and he said, "Okay, I'm ready to go." We got up and walked back over to the Oval Office, and he came out and read the statement by himself, and then we went back to work.

No characterization of beyond "we're ready to go"? The substance of that?

On that vote occasion, we knew basically what the votes were. There wasn't any suspense in the outcome, if you will. But it was a somber moment. There wasn't a sense of relief, it was just...

I remember at the time the White House spokesman, Joe Lockhart, declared this is going to be a gloat-free zone. Was there a concern that there would be an appearance of gloating after the acquittal?

I think that we have a keen sense of how the press reacts to us. And I don't think that at all was the atmosphere amongst the senior staff and the people that had lived through that. There was a sense that it was good that this was over.

But, obviously, there's a big broad staff there, some of the people are young, and I think that we were concerned that anything that was viewed as gloating or high-fiving or whatever would be taken out of context, no matter if it was a junior person or whoever. So we kind of laid the law down.

By February of that year, we heard the first rumblings that the first lady might actually be interested in a Senate seat, how did that come about? And did the president encourage that from the very beginning?

The first cheerleaders on this were Charlie Rangel, and other New York Democrats. But Charlie, especially, was really nudging her and pushing her, and talking it up, and talking about it. At first, it was probably flattering, and I'm not sure she took it all that seriously. And then a number of New York Democrats were coming to see her and calling her and really trying to get something going.

I'm not sure whether the president took it completely seriously. I think he thought that if she ran, she'd be a great candidate, and if she won, she'd be a great senator. But it took a little while to get going. Finally she started saying, "Well, maybe I should take a serious look at this and began talking to people. How much time, how much money, what the scene was up there. " And I think the more she--

So it started almost as a lark and developing into something, is that what you're saying?

I'm not sure I'd say that. It started as something that was flattering from her perspective because so many people thought she'd be so good at it. And then the more she thought about it, I think she thought she could make a difference in that role and decided to get out there. She went through that phase in which she traveled around New York, still thinking it through and then she finally made a decision to go ahead and do it.

That summer, the president gives a speech at Georgetown where he talked about a renewed sense of vigor for his domestic agenda. Is there a sense that the president kind of began a new term after impeachment, in his own mind, and did he think that provided him with sort of a clear demarcation point?

I think that the ability to now go back and try to put together bipartisan majorities was something that he had hoped for and clearly was in his mind. [The president] wanted to kind of reset the table, set the agenda, and move forward with something that we were after; and that's why we decided to do that speech. He laid out the items that he wanted to really work on, some of which we've been successful on, some of which are still up in the air at the end of the Congress, and some of which it looks like we're not going to get done.

To what extent did impeachment spur him to have some sense of energy here, that he had this agenda that he desperately wanted to pass? Was this an attempt to burnish his legacy?

I don't see it that way, but a lot of people have suggested that. I think what gives the president energy, frankly, is when he goes out and meets real people. He kind of remembers what he's in office for...I remember traveling with him, even this year after the State of the Union address. We went out to Quincy, Illnois. It must have been about zero degrees, but I think people were pretending it was 10. People had been standing out there for hours in that cold weather, and they were just as pumped and enthusiastic as you could imagine. The president stood out there at that rope line and met people and greeted people. The people on those lines who tell him stories about how their lives have been changed--that's really what revs him up--more than putting points on the board at the end of his presidency, just so some historian a hundred years from now can take a look at it.

In March, the president has got to make a decision that is a difficult one, with first the air war and then deciding whether or not to even threaten the use of ground troops in Kosovo. What about the political calculation of something like this using armed forces for an area where we might have a limited national security interest?

One of the things we did from the get-go on this was that he brought a lot of members up. We held these meetings in the yellow Oval Office of the residence, the Speaker participated, with all the Republican leadership, as well as the Democratic leadership. [The president] really tried to work this through substantively with them, tell them where he was going, tried to build support, tried to keep a bipartisan level of support to turn back the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. And that was successful. The people on the Hill were probably more calculating the politics of it than the president was and more than the White House was.

We couldn't avoid it, Milosevic had expelled 900,000 people out of Kosovo. We were determined to reverse that. And he ordered the beginning of the bombing. There weren't too many people who were not in the administration who weren't second-guessing that decision.

In the first week of the bombing campaign, as people were being criticized-- I'm talking about our senior national security people... I remember the president coming in saying, look, I made the decision; if it goes wrong, it's in my lap. Just do what you think is right, do your job. That kind of calmed everybody down. And then through the course of that time, there was an equanimity--I think is probably the right word--that occurred in the Oval Office and in the West Wing. It was a time in which almost all of [the president's] attention was focused on it. I think whenever you're sending armed forces in to harm's way it completely diverts your attention from what else is going on...

Was there an enormous concern...

At some level --and I'd describe this through impeachment, through the trial, et cetera, from my period in the White House--this was the hardest time...to know that there were consequences to this, there was collateral damage, there were innocent people who were being put in harm's way, but that we were doing the right thing. We needed to persevere and press on. Very, very difficult to go through that, but I think he felt like we were doing the right thing, and he just stuck with it.

During this Kosovo period, given what had happened in Somalia, given the concern in the American public opinion about casualties, was the president worried all the time about what it might mean if the U.S. took significant casualties in the air war? And to what extent did that drive your policy?

I think that you're always worried about casualties, and that the plan that the Pentagon laid out to him was a sound one, and one that was worth proceeding on. There was the dramatic rescue in the early days of the action, but you wake up every morning, worried that given the bombing the night before that a plane might be shot down or somebody might be killed, even in that context; so you're always worried about it. However the president believed that the enormity of what Milosevic had done on the ethnic cleansing warranted the U.S.'s involvement and NATO's involvement.

Over that period of time, the president spent a great deal of time on consulting with the other leaders, the other NATO ally leaders, and making sure that we stuck together, we pursued the course. Ultimately, I think Milosevic understood that we were not going to back off; we were in this thing, we were going to reverse what he had done, and he finally reversed course, and we were able to get the refugees back in.

What was the reaction in the White House to, if not criticism, strong arguments from people like General Clark, who felt that preparations for a land war should have begun much earlier and that Milosevic needed a much tougher threat than even the NATO air campaign, as successful as it was?

The president was obviously in touch with General Clark, and the Pentagon, and the national security adviser were talking to him on a daily basis.

You have to remember at the beginning of this, this was a NATO action that needed the consensus of the parties, and we moved this at a pace that was consistent with a pace that kept the allies together. People began to question tactical decisions or timing decisions, et cetera. We did this with a deliberate pace which kept the allies together, and it proved to be the right pace. We never took any of those options off the table, but we had to do them in consultation with our NATO allies, and we did it at a pace that made sense.

A lot of people in Washington last year wrote that they noticed a change in the president's mood, that he seemed much more relaxed, he was extremely funny at a couple of these Washington dinners. Did you notice a change in the president yourself?

Yes...I think he's still in a pretty good mood, and he's developed a great comedic timing, especially at the press dinners. And I think he is proud of what he's been able to accomplish. He's determined to get as much as he can for the American people out of each and every day. And, generally, I think he loves his job and he loves doing a good job for the American people.

Was he able to relax a lot more during that year? Or what was it that led to this sort of change in mood? At least as the public saw it.

Yeah, I think that even in private he's in a better mood. Obviously with the the impeachment off the table... It was something that hung over us. And then, as you noted, we went right into the Kosovo action, within probably a month of the Senate acquittal.

Finally, he was back to doing what he likes to do, which is to work on public policy. He was able to relax a little bit more. He's working hard now, but he's still in a pretty good mood. You know, he's still throw the cards down if he loses. But in general, he's able to relax a little bit, and again concentrate on the things that he thinks are important and important for the American public.

In 2000, what above all is his domestic priority? What does he want to accomplish?

When we look back on this--I think holding on to the fiscal discipline that enables this country to use the surplus in ways that are important to the American people, to invest in Social Security and Medicare and education, and to provide some tax relief that's more at the middle class than what's been proposed by the Republicans--I think that's number one, staying on the path of fiscal discipline in the domestic area.

We'd like to pass a patient's bill of rights. We still have a chance to do that. Clearly, we want to raise the minimum wage again, and that's the right thing to do. And I think we'll get that done.

If there's one thing that, more than any that we would like to do--that is a stretch, given the stranglehold that special interests have on this Congress-- it would be to pass a real Medicare prescription drug benefit that doesn't just benefit a few, but benefits every beneficiary in Medicare. I think that would probably be on our list of top priorities.

We're struggling to get that done. We want to continue our investments in education. I think we'll be successful there. We want to make substantial investments in preserving our great spaces in this country. We're doing well there.

We've got a lot of things to do that don't have anything to do with Congress. We're going to implement a strong set of medical privacy rules in the weeks and months to come, and that's a very important issue for the American public. And we're moving forward using all the power and authority that the president has to try to make this a better country.

This past summer, the president personally tried to broker a Middle East peace agreement again, went so far as brinkmanship up until the time he left for his trip, and then he came back and it fell apart. How personally frustrating was that for Clinton?

Clearly, it's the hardest problem to solve right now from a foreign policy perspective, it's the most important problem to solve. But these are tough...

Did he genuinely believe he could have brokered a deal there?

I think that he was always realistic about it. He always knew how tough it was. We're dealing with issues of identity, we're dealing with issues that are not just 50 years old but hundreds and thousands of years old. We're dealing with things that really have never been talked about face to face by Chairman Arafat and the Prime Minister of Israel.

So he knew that this was tough, tough going. I mean, he had been through and successfully concluded Wye negotiations with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Arafat.

Was he personally pretty disappointed that it didn't work out?

Obviously he was...The answer to that is yes. He was disappointed that it didn't work out, but I don't think that made his commitment to keep working on it flag. We're still engaged in it. We're still pushing for it. He was very realistic about how hard this was, and I think that he'll continue to work at it, and if we can make progress, we'll make progress.

Even post-impeachment, scandals keep coming up in one form or another. The judge in Arkansas, Susan Webber Wright, imposed a fine, the disbarment move in Arkansas, the independent counsel Ray convening a new grand jury. The president is said to be angry that this is still going on.

By the New York Times, he's said to be angry. Mostly I think the president has left this to his lawyers, and that's where it belongs.

Now, the truth is that, unless something is breaking or happening, et cetera, Mr. Ray issuing a report or something, he doesn't think about it very much. He's left it to David Kendall and his legal team, if he had to pay attention to it, because they're filing something, he'll pay attention to it. But I think until he gets out of office, it is his view is that he ought to be paying attention to his work, that it's a gift that the American people have given him to be able to serve, and a profound honor to be able to serve. And I think that he wants to make the most out of that.

Does he feel hounded?

I think that he thinks that this independent counsel investigation's gone on way too long. At some level, the fact that the independent counsel's around and that he has partisan critics, and that people are going to use the legal mechanism for kind of partisan political reasons, has become almost a fact of life. You just deal with it.

He met with some ministers outside Chicago a couple of months ago and made more remarks that were interpreted by some in Washington sort of as a search for redemption. Do you see that in him? Is he still seeking some kind of redemption?

Personally, obviously, he's tried to put it back together and deal with the pain that he's caused his family, and I think he's worked on that and been successful at that. However the redemption in that sense is very personal and...you know, he's a religious person. He continues to seek guidance and counseling from some ministers who are friends of his. And in that sense it's very personal and it's deeply rooted in where he is as a religious person. He's always seeking to do what he can in that spirit. So I think it's always a search and a quest, but that's something that's personal that he and I don't really talk about, that he deals with more in a religious context.

At the Democratic convention, the president speaks on the opening night, and there's this incredible entrance where he's down--down below and all the cameras, and there the crowd's going crazy. What was going through your mind at that moment when you sort of saw the president there in the bowels of the Staples Center and making the most out of his entrance?

It reminded me a little bit of the movie "Spinal Tap," when the band comes on the stage. But it was actually kind of a grand entrance in the hall. On the big-screen TVs, they were putting up the accomplishment of the administration, the 22 million jobs, the surplus, the welfare cut in half, et cetera. And people were really, really pumped up. You had to be proud that you were with this guy for the journey because so much has been done, so much good has happened in this country over the course of his term in office. And that he's had such--such a substantial role in making that happen.

I think everybody felt a good deal of pride and I had worked with him on the speech. He had worked on it over the course of the weekend. He had some things he wanted to say, and he had gotten them down to where he almost physically delivered the speech, if you watched it. He really had internalized it and he wanted to give it. He got a powerful reception, in the hall, and for the people who were watching it at home--about what he had talked about in 1992--, and the people he had met along the way in 1992, what he had tried to do for them, what he had meant to their lives during the course of this seven and a half years.

He was very pumped up. The crowd was very pumped up, and all of us who had had the privilege and honor of working with him were pretty pumped up.

You went out to Michigan for that ritual passing of the torch, and then at the end of the day, the president went into McDonald's. What was that supposed to mean?

I'm not sure it was supposed to mean much of anything other than he saw that there was a crowd out in front of McDonald's on the way into town, and he and the first lady decided they wanted to stop and get something to eat. It was quite a riot in McDonald's, even though it was the middle of the afternoon, there was still quite a crowd in there. And people were stunned that he was in there, it actually turned out to be a lot of fun. We all had a good time. Things got a little slow, so I got behind the counter and started punching the buttons, serving the fries. It was a time to kind of let your hair down. We did that and got out, and then got a few days to relax.

The president's going to go to Vietnam after the election. Why is this important to him personally, going to Vietnam? It's a trip he's wanted to make for a long time.

I think it's important to the country. I think it's important to him. Obviously, his generation and my generation, were kind of forged in that period of time, and it was an important opportunity, both to reflect on that, and to try to continue to make progress on issues like finding out anything, we can on MIAs, et cetera. But it's also a time to rebind our two countries... To help Vietnam open up, bring, you know, more openness to that country, and try to get on a better path with a country that has obviously affected the course of our history and the course of, especially, our generation's history. So I think it's important to him.

What kind of an ex-president is Bill Clinton going to be? What's he going to do?

I think that his description is the best one I could give, which is that he's going to be a good citizen. I don't think he'll ever run for anything again, although he hasn't completely ruled out running for the school board. But I don't think he'll ever run for anything again. I think he'll dedicate himself to the things that his presidency's been about: building a more undivided country, more one America, dealing with the problems of race, dealing with problems of peace and ethnic tension around the world, dealing with the big challenges.

It seems to me that he's changed in one orientation, in that he's become extremely interested in both the power and promise, as well as the social issues, that are involved in these breakthroughs in science and technology, both the good and the bad. From the good on the ability to find new cures for diseases and to power our economy, to things like invasions of our privacy.

So he's actually become interested in a set of issues as president that he probably hadn't spent any real time on as governor, or before that. And you'll see him continue to think about public policy , to be a leader in terms of this movement that is loosely described as the new democratic movement or the third way movement in Europe--to engage people in trying to marry a more progressive social policy with one that powers our economy.

I think you'll see him out there doing good things, working primarily out of the public policy center and library that he's establishing in Little Rock, but he'll have plenty of time to think about that. He's a very young man.

If you have just one thought, if you were going to write two lines about how history is going to remember Bill Clinton, what do you think?

I think that he was a person who understood the transition to a new age, this age of our information economy, and globalization. He was able to manage that both here and abroad, both in terms of domestic policy and foreign policy, and bring everyone along with it. Fundamentally both his intellect and his ability to manage in that context will be seen as outstanding.

And then I think he'll be known as a guy who could take a punch, who never got completely down on the mat, who always came back, who fought for what he believed in, fought for what he thought was right and kept going and just wouldn't stay down...because he always remembers the people who are out there, who sent him to the White House and he gets energy from that and he fights for them.

Did the historical asterisk--that he is the second president to be impeached--in your view, did that get in the way of something that could have been better?

Oh, I don't know. I think history will have to judge that. And obviously it would have been better if that hadn't happened. But history will judge. Ultimately, things have kind of strange ways of bouncing around and what what that meant--vis-a-vis the position of the Republican Party, and what the Democrats were, and the long-term history--will be something that I think people will chew on a hundred years from now.

First of all, the new independent counsel Robert Ray did release a report in September of 2000 which could not find any prosecutable crime. What was the president's reaction to that?

He said it was kind of a long time in coming. He thought that there was an independent review by Jay Stephens and Republican lawyer in the law firm that the RTC did, and that concluded in 1996 and found the same thing. Starr has kind of concluded the same thing. He thought that it put it to rest, but it was a long time in coming. I guess he was happy that it occurred, but he had never thought any different outcome would happen.

The president has been very active late in his second term in foreign policy, his trips to India and Africa again. You said that he changed in some way in--focusing a lot more time on the transitional economy and questions of science. Did he also change in terms of his perspective on world affairs? I mean, he came into office saying he was going to focus like a laser beam on the economy. He goes out as sort of an elder statesman in the world.

I think that he's obviously learned and grown, as anyone would in the presidency. But the one thing that maybe sets him apart a little bit is that I think he's understood how the world's getting smaller. This phenomena of globalization is happening, and yet the challenges, which include national security challenges, are different than the traditional challenges of at least the post-World War II and the Cold War period.

That's why he's attempted to go to places like India and reestablish our relationship with India and make a better relationship than we've had in many years, to go from an era of suspicion to an era of partnership. That's why he's gone to Africa twice to deal with the threats there from poverty, from the high indebtedness, and from things like infectious diseases, especially HIV/AIDS. And he has tried to focus America's attention on the fact that we live in this kind of increasingly small planet. We have to worry about those things and find ways to promote democracy, to promote growth, to deal with those challenges; because they will affect the way we live as nearly as much as the way that they affect the way people live over there. And there's an enormous amount to learn from those people or cultures, et cetera.

That's been a good part of his presidency, a good part of his experience, and he's enjoyed it very much. I think you'll see him staying in touch with those issues and those countries and those people. The 2000 summer campaign. Some people we spoke with suggested that the president was almost wistful -- that he knew the constitution prevented him from running for a third time. At the same time, he thought he could be out there making a pretty strong case.

I think the president was always pretty realistic. He understands the constitution. I don't think that it ever really entered his mind or his heart that he ought to be the candidate out there. He obviously is an experienced political person and he had ideas about what should be said or how the campaign should take place. He usually expressed those to Mr. Daley through the course of the summer, but I don't think he ever thought he ought to be out there as a candidate.

But did he feel stabled in a certain sense? Some political people have called him the "Secretariat" of political thoroughbreds, and he was really restricted in this campaign. He didn't even campaign in his home state.

I think that his analysis was quite similar to the Gore campaign's analysis, which is that he could be helpful. But ...he really tried to do the work of the presidency, keep moving the country forward. He spent quite a bit of time over the course of the summer and the fall trying to raise funds for Democratic candidates. And he might have been able to be helpful in the last week, but I think he had a very keen sense that people wanted to hear from Al Gore; they wanted to hear from the House and Senate candidates in New York; they wanted to hear from Hillary Clinton they didn't wanted to hear from the president ... I think he was actually quite comfortable with that.

The Middle East. The president had spent eight years [on it], especially at the last set of Camp David talks. To what extent was Bill Clinton personally upset about what happened in terms of the violence that broke out in late fall of 2000?

Well obviously he was extremely disappointed. We had spent so much time and so much effort not just during the summer at Camp David, but over the course of the entire presidency trying to move the parties forward, trying to work on the Oslo process, trying to find an agreement that would provide final status. So he was disappointed, but I think the disappointment didn't lead him to stop trying. And in fact, through the course of the fall, and my suspicion is right up through his term in office, he will continue to try to be a voice to bring the party together to see if they can find a just and lasting solution there.

Hillary Clinton wins the New York Senate race. To what extent does Bill Clinton see that as part of his legacy? He helped her write speeches, he helped her with the announcement speech, he was more a part of her campaign than he was of Al Gore's.

I don't think he thinks that it was about him. I think he thinks that it was about her. I think he is very proud of the way she ran the race, and I think it was unusual from all of our perspectives that as public a figure as she had been, she had obviously not been a candidate. There was that time in the early part, where she was just getting going, when people were questioning her campaign skills. She turned out to be, I think, a brilliant candidate and presented her case well to the people of New York. I was confident she was going to win the race, but I was surprised she won it going away. She just did a great job and I think he was extremely proud of her, but again I think he was pretty clear that [it] was about her and he did what he could to support that effort.

Do you recall the president at the moment when New York was called for Mrs. Clinton?

Yeah, we were in the hotel and we had set up a kind of a war room, where the president had been making phone calls to radio stations around the country to get the vote out, rolling from the east to west coast. And at the time that the polls were closing in New York, he went back to the suite. There were quite a few people that had gathered in the suite: family, mostly friends, and a few staff. And Mrs. Clinton was there and the TV screens flashed her victory and a large whoop was let out by everybody in the room and everybody embraced. And then after that, there was this kind of separate room and the two of them went back there I think to get a little bit of a moment of together without the rest of us being around. It was a great and exciting moment.

Was it a particularly sweet moment for the president given all that Mrs Clinton had been through? She had been kind of a lightning rod early in the administration. She had been in some ways as controversial a figure as he was, and for her to win must have been a particular moment for Bill Clinton.

Well you know, I think that they love and support each other and they've done that for a long time. I think it was a moment of exhilaration and pride and I think for all of us it was an emotional time.

Well Mrs. Clinton won and then for the next 30 odd days we didn't have a winner. What was that period like for Bill Clinton?

Well, it started that night when obviously first the vice president was declared the winner in Florida and it reverted and they declared Governor Bush the winner. I remember the scene when they put up the Governor Bush's picture and it said, "43rd president of the United States," and it was a somber moment, I think. We were watching the vote tally coming down in Florida and the back and forth with Bill Daley and his crew as they were driving over to the site of the speech. And finally [we realized] that in fact the vote total was coming down and that the vice president was not going to concede that evening. I think that he talked to the vice president at 4 o' clock in the morning and said, "keep fighting you're gonna win this thing."

The president wakes up, he's in Ireland at this point, what's his reaction to that 5-4 Supreme Court decision?

I think that obviously there was, for all of us, disappointment in the way the decision had come down. We were hoping for a different result. I think they got him a copy of the decision and through the course of the day he was reading the various opinions. But there was disappointment, and then I think relatively quickly [he] came to the realization, during the course of their day. We were moving into overnight, [and] I let the traveling party know that the vice president was going to make a statement that night. He was, I think, just trying to digest it. The realization hit him that this was finally coming to an end in a way that we'd hoped it wouldn't. He then called the vice president and they talked and [had a]private moment while he was getting ready for a speech in Belfast.

Did the president have some concern about the reasoning of the majority decision of the Supreme Court?

I think we all will be able to pick at that, and I'm sure that he'll have his own views, and he'll probably express those views as we go on. But I think both of them accept the result. It is the Supreme Court. We accept the result and we're going to move on from here and try to do what we can to make the transition smooth. I think that that's where his head is at this time.

To what extent does Bill Clinton see the ultimate defeat of Al Gore as a reflection of his own legacy?

I think he wanted Al Gore to win because he believed in him. He believed in his character to move the country forward and I think he believed in the program that he was putting forward to the American people. It's, of course, a disappointment, but I think he also looks back and he's proud of what the two of them accomplished together. I think in the end his legacy will be built around what they were able to do for this country on the economy, on welfare, on foreign policy. This is a piece of life and we'll take it and we'll move on.

This is a time of peace and prosperity and certainly historians and pundits and so on will ask this question: what does Bill Clinton's legacy have to do with the defeat of Al Gore, who didn't hang on to the White House in a time of peace and prosperity?

...I think people will mull over and pick that over for a long time to come but I think that we're very often sitting in the eye of the hurricane and not the best judge. I think history's judgement awaits. My guess is over time it will change many times. Twenty years from now might be different than 50 years from now.

Does Bill Clinton feel at all responsible for Al Gore's defeat?

I think that just as the president wouldn't take credit for his victory--and again, he got more than 50 million votes, he got a majority of the vote --I don't think he bears the burden or blame of his defeat. They did good things together, they moved the country forward together and I think they share the good times and we'll let others try to figure out what happened in this campaign that ultimately permitted Governor Bush to ultimately emerge as the person that's going to be inaugurated as the next president.

Did the president have regrets about the way in which Al Gore conducted the campaign?

No, I think he thought that he ran a good, solid campaign and I think that when he had ideas, he let the campaign know what they were. I think that the basic thrust of Al Gore's campaign was consistent with where Bill Clinton thinks this country ought to go -- a path of fiscal discipline, a path of what now has been described as a new democratic path, one that builds in the center and moves forward...

How do you see Bill Clinton's ex-presidency? Some people have mentioned the Jimmy Carter model, others see him doing something else entirely. What's your own thought?

I think Bill Clinton's one of a kind [chuckles], so I don't think that any particular model really fits the bill. I do think that, as he has said quite often, he wants to be a good citizen. I think he wants to stay engaged. I think he has plans to build a library in Little Rock, to build a public policy center to try to attract people to pubic service and to stay engaged in the world.

I'm sure he's going to write his memoirs and he'll be in demand around the world. We're getting requests from various individuals and leaders who are asking him to join them in trying to do interesting work and good work. I think other former presidents have a deep sense that you can't have two presidents of the United States at the same time. Whatever you do around the world has to be done with the knowledge that we only have one president and you can't interfere with that. I think he'll look for opportunities to serve. I think he'll try to concentrate on the things that he's been talking about here at the end of his presidency. He's just given a speech on the challenges of globalization, how we deal with development, how we try to deal with issues of poverty and health crises and the HIV crisis in Africa. I think he'll be involved with those issues as well as those things that he's talked about domestically: public service, the role of education and certainly how to build one America and bring all peoples and all races together in this country. I think he'll have a full plate of activity, but as I said, I think he'll chart his own course.

I don't know if this is true or not, but on the night of the election, the first time they pulled Florida from Gore, there was one story that the President actually left the stage after Mrs. Clinton's speech to go check on [it]...

I think that he was back and forth. He was getting five minute updates. He spent the time up until 11 o'clock still calling radio stations trying to get out the vote. I think he made his last call to Fresno, California about ten to eleven. I am not sure who was out in their cars listening in Fresno who might have actually diverted to the poll to get that last vote in. But I think he thought the stakes were big and he was working to do what he could right up until the end to motivate Democratic voters to get out and support the Vice-President. He was getting constant updates--we were sitting in the war room in the hotel and we had a couple of computers up and we were getting the stuff off of the internet. And he said, "boy they are calling that awful early. I can't see that based on the numbers that they're projecting that that they could call this race so early," which now everybody looks back on as being awfully prescient.

But he knows so much about politics and and the ways that votes are cast, etc. He would be able to look at a House race and know which counties come in earlier and be able to make just about as accurate predictions as these computers were about who was going to win a race. With regards to when they took the race from Gore--I think he was back and forth in that room constantly working on it, worrying about it. [He was] getting updates from the Gore campaign through Mr. Daley--[it] was an all night process.



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