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
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.
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,
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
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.
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
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
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
It 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Were you disappointed that the speech that night wasn't more
At least in retrospect, it probably didn't have the right balance, and it
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
When you made those calls, did you get a "Are you out of your mind?" kind of
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
In 2000, what above all is his domestic priority? What does he want to
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Do you recall the president at the moment when New York was called for Mrs.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.