I know you weren't chief speechwriter at the time, but in the first State of
the Union you write in your book, this is when Clinton was presenting his
economic plan, you write that on the morning of the speech Mrs. Clinton erupts.
What gets her so angry?|
In the days leading up to that first speech before Congress to present the
economic plan to the nation, things really weren't ready. The economic plan
was still being written in the Roosevelt Room. And, frankly, the speech that
we speechwriters were working on didn't reflect what was in the plan. The plan
was turning out to focus heavily on deficit reduction. And in a lot of ways
the drafts we were turning in were kind of traditionally liberal drafts.
So the morning of the speech, Mrs. Clinton said, "This is just not good
enough," and sat down in the Roosevelt Room, which is the conference room in
the West Wing, with a whole bunch of aides, and worked through the speech
paragraph by paragraph, editing and fixing it.
Did this reflect the tension at the time between those who wanted to focus
on deficit reduction and those who wanted a more traditional liberal Democratic
As much as anything, it reflected the first time a Democrat had been in the
White House for 12 years and the first time a Democrat had given a speech like
this before Congress and the country. And people were just learning their
parts, learning what to do, learning how to put together something like this.
It is definitely the case that the natural tendency for Democrats was not to
focus on deficit reduction and not to expect to talk about deficit reduction.
But as it turned out, that turned out to be the heart of the plan.
Did Mrs. Clinton's anger give you a pretty good idea that she was going to
be a force to be reckoned with?
She played a role that she had played during the campaign, which was when
things were kind of discombobulated and scattered, she sort of put her fists
down and made things happen. And it was, it was quite constructive.
What do you mean?
The speech was not where it needed to be. With Bill Clinton, he goes through
draft after draft, rewrite after rewrite, and often a speech doesn't come
together until the last minute. And that was certainly the case with this
The other thing about the speech that you note is that when the president
actually delivered it, he noticed that the reaction from the members of
Congress wasn't quite what he had hoped. So what did he do?
Well, presidents give speeches in the well of Congress all of the time, and
it's a very dramatic thing. It's where Kennedy called to send a man to the
moon, where Roosevelt declared war. And we're used to these very pre-scripted,
stately symphonies. Clinton was up there with an okay text, and he began to
improvise like a jazz performer. He sensed resistance from the Republicans.
They laughed when he talked about using Congressional Budget Office numbers.
So he talked to them. When he called for campaign finance reform, the members
of Congress in the hall laughed. So he said, "You know they're not laughing at
home." He began to improvise large parts of his first address before
I was standing on the floor of Congress with Gene Sperling, the economic
adviser. And we had in our hands the small typed draft of the speech. And we
realized partway through that he was ad-libbing. And we were very excited. We
gave each other a "high five" on the floor of the Congress. And I think the
people looked at us and said, "Who are these people?" We knew that the staff
had presented Clinton with an inadequate piece of work, and he was lifting it
to new heights. And it was something that he was doing through the force of
his personality as much as anything.
A lot has been written and several people have talked to us about the sort
of hyper disorganization in the earliest days of the White House: that there
were all kinds of people, perhaps too many people, in on meetings and that
there was a sense that it was almost like a college dorm. Was that the case in
the speechwriting process too?
Well, I think speechwriting is something of an unusual case because I
think if you look at the memories of speechwriters from every administration,
they all involve staying up late and lots of drafts. It was a rather
rambunctious and somewhat disorganized time.
The thing that people need to remember is that no Democrat had held the White
House for 12 years. When you take over the presidency, it's not as if one
party that has a minority in Congress is suddenly in the majority; it's as if a
party that has had no seats in Congress suddenly has the majority and has to
not only assign the committees and draft the legislation, but figure out where
the parking spaces are. Presidents are often jinxed by the fact that the
toughest decisions they have to make are at the very beginning, and that's
often when they're least prepared to make them in an orderly way.
Any favorite anecdotes about that time? I mean, for example, [former White
House Chief of Staff Leon] Panetta talked to us about going into a room and
thinking that it was sort of filled with kids.
You know, a couple of things come to mind. Let me just sort of spin
them out. They may be useful.
For that first economic speech, you had speechwriters, mostly young and not
involved in the economic policy process, writing the draft of the speech in one
room. And then in the other room, in the Roosevelt Room, they were busy
writing the budget. And at that point, they didn't let the speechwriters know
what was in the budget until about a day before the speech.
Gene Sperling came out. He was sick with the flu. And he sat in a chair in
one of our offices covered with coats and blankets, and we worked all night.
And then every once in a while we would call out a question, "What's the budget
number for Head Start?" And we weren't sure if he was awake or not, but he
would say the answer with his eyes still closed and lapse back into his trance,
and that's how the speech got written, and at least written accurately.
What are some other, in terms of the thing Panetta said?
I had never worked in the White House before, and I wasn't quite sure what to
expect. I think that there was a real groping around, as Clinton and the
people around him tried to figure out what exactly the best way to proceed
You know, the thing with the White House that was probably different from what
it should have been, it's not that there were too many kids in the White House.
There are always 32-year-olds in the White House. Bill Moyers, Ted Sorenson
were that age. It's that there weren't that many people, as well, with the
long-time Washington experience to say: You know, let's not listen to Congress
on this one. Let's not do it that way. It wasn't that there were too many
kids, it was that there weren't enough nonkids.
Late '93. You're one of the people who was responsible for marketing NAFTA.
And at the same time you had some big disagreements with whether it was a good
Democratic idea or not.
Did you ever have any conversations reconciling that with the president?
Here you are, you're trying to sell something that you don't really believe
Not with him. What was interesting was, in order to pass his economic plan,
Clinton really had to overcome big obstacles. To pass the tax increase and
budget cuts, he had to overcome the Republicans. And to pass NAFTA, free
trade, he really had to overcome the Democrats.
A lot of the people on his staff, myself included, had worked against NAFTA
before we went to work for Bill Clinton. We used to say: "NAFTA, we hafta."
It was something we did because we had to be loyal to the president. Like a
lot of people, when I was asked to work on NAFTA, I thought about it. I had
opposed it. But I decided that I'd gone to work for Bill Clinton, I had voted
for him, he was for this, and like a lot of other Democrats, I owed him that
What's interesting is that over time he really persuaded a lot of Democrats, me
included, to take a different view of trade. He was really very good at
arguing to those who were most afraid of economic change that it was something
they couldn't resist. And that rather than trying to stop it, you had to try
and make the best of it.
In 1995, you were working on the State of the Union when, unbeknownst to
you, there is a secret adviser going by the code name Charlie, who is also
working on a draft. What was that like for you to find out that what you were
sending up to the president was being changed?
Well, throughout 1995 there was a disconnect between what the staff wanted
and what the staff was working on, which was kind of traditional and uncreative
and where the president seemed to want to go. And in the 1995 State of the
Union -- I wasn't the person writing it, but I was there -- the speechwriters
and the staff would bring the president one draft, and he would, instead of
rewriting it, he would give them back another draft. And we would scratch our
heads and say, "No, we like our draft better," and send it back to him, and
then another one would come back. What we didn't know at the time was that Dick
Morris was working with him in private in the residence as a political adviser
and was urging him to take a very different tone and approach toward the
Republicans and the country.
There was sort of a parallel universe going on for quite a period there
after the '94 elections. What was that like in the White House?
Well, people only gradually and dimly became aware of Morris and his role. I
remember there was a speech in April before the newspaper editors. And the
White House staff had worked for weeks on what we thought was going to be an
education speech. And the president got up, and instead of giving the
education speech that we grunts at least were expecting, gave a speech going
item-by-item through the "Contract with America," saying which items he would
sign and which he would veto. People were standing watching their TVs and
wondering where this had all come from.
Morris understood and Clinton understood that he needed to address the surge of
anti-government anger, the real political force behind the Republican
revolution. He needed to take those parts of it that he could take, so that he
would be stronger in fighting those parts that he should fight.
Every big speech throughout 1995 was a real test of this direction. In the
spring of 1995, for example, he made an oval office address saying that he, in
fact, supported a balanced budget. There was an enormous amount of
hair-pulling in Congress. A lot of Democrats didn't like it, which may have
been the point.
Having done that, he then was able to say, "I support a balanced budget, but
the right kind of balanced budget." Only then did he feel firm enough, on firm
ground, to really kind of fight on Medicare and the other things that he then
waged a big battle on.
Later in '95, 100 days into the "Contract with America," the president makes
a speech and he's -- that's the April speech. Okay. And the quote here is,
"The old days of liberal and conservative spender and cutter, even Democrat and
Republican, are not what matter most any more."What did you think when you
heard that line? You hadn't written it.
No, I hadn't written it. Clinton-- it was unexpected, but in a lot of ways it
was very refreshing because it seemed as if he finally was speaking his mind;
that he was no longer tied with a rope to the Democrats in Congress or even in
the White House. Remember when he ran in 1992, he said, "I'm a different kind
of Democrat." Back then he said, "We're not going to have the brain-dead
policies of either party." But for the first two years he really governed as a
Democrat and in many ways as a traditional Democrat.
This was not only his declaration of independence, but it was giving voice,
again, to the things that had made him a special candidate in 1992.
But when you heard this quote, and it hadn't come from the speechwriters,
did you look at each other and say, "What in the hell is going on here"?
When he gave that speech, some of my college roommates were visiting. And we
had lunch in the White House mess. I was very proud. And then we went
upstairs and walked past people's offices. And this speech was on TV. And
everyone was standing in the offices kind of open-mouthed looking at the screen
and wondering what was going on. I assured my roommates this doesn't happen
every day. It really was a great shock to not only the White House staff, but
to the Democrats in Congress that he gave that speech that way. People were
expecting a speech on education. But as it turned out, it was the right way to
go. It just took a lot of other people more time to figure that out.
Was it difficult to work as a speechwriter when your work is being changed
and you're not sure why? There's a secret sort of mystery adviser massaging
Well, someone said it was like knowing there was a gravitational pull, but not
knowing where the planet was that it was coming from. Clinton really set it up
that year so that he would have rival camps of centrists and liberals fighting
for his ear and his attention. And he then got to be the one who picked and
chose which approach to take.
You know, you read in history books that Franklin Roosevelt used to do it that
way, and it sounds like a good idea when you read it in the history book. It
could be kind of hair-raising to be in the middle of it.
Later that year, the Oklahoma City bombing occurs, and the president has
given a speech that's sort of described as "Reaganesque." It was a first
chance for the American public to see Clinton in that kind of role. As you were
helping with that speech, what kind of discussions were going on? What did
Clinton want to impart? What did you think was the right tone to strike?
First of all, you should know I didn't have anything to do with that speech. I
wish I had. But I can give a sense of what they were thinking. Clinton held a
press conference, and he said that -- he had to proclaim that he was still
relevant, and people weren't really sure if he was so relevant. It was just
the next day when Oklahoma City happened, when the bomb went off at the Federal
Building. And for a president to lead the nation not only on legislation, but
in mourning and as a kind of a national community of values is one of the most
important things a president can do, and he never had the chance to do it
before. He was very much aware that this was a time he had to bring people
together, and he had to find a way to diffuse so much of the anger that was
And he also very skillfully used that moment to begin the process of making
people wonder about the Republican revolution on Capitol Hill. It wasn't lost
to people that, as it turned out, the people who were involved in the Oklahoma
City bombing were anti-government extremists. And the rhetoric that was
swirling all around Washington that spring was also pretty extreme and pretty
anti-government. And very subtly and appropriately, by planting the national
flag in opposition to that, Clinton began to turn the political tide as well.
Couldn't he be accused of manipulating a terrible tragedy in order to do
It was -- there was no doubt that the intense anti-government sentiment was
expressed through Timothy McVeigh and that bomb. And it was a terrible human
tragedy, and it was the right thing for him to do to say we, as a national
community, cannot tolerate this. But it was also entirely appropriate for him
to say a few weeks later in a commencement speech: "You can't claim to love
America and hate your government." He was reminding people, in the best
tradition, that government is not them, it's us. And down the road there were
political consequences. At the time, it was as much a matter of changing the
national tone, and that's appropriate.
In 1996, the State of the Union produced the memorable line, "The era of big
government is over." That sounds very much like a Republican line. Did you
have trouble with that as a sort of traditional Democrat?
When he said "the era of big government is over," it was a more defiantly
conservative statement than I think he probably intended. I had written a
draft that said the past 30 years shows that big government doesn't have all of
the answers, but the past 12 months, the Gingrich era, shows that no government
isn't the answer.
Dick Morris, the president's adviser, sent us a draft that simplified that
pretty dramatically. It said, "The era of big government is over, but the era
of every man for himself must never begin." That was kind of a classic Clinton
third way, not liberal and not conservative, approach. We thought there'd be
a big battle within the White House over the statement, "The era of government
is over -- big government is over." In fact, what people objected to was
saying, "Every man for himself," because that was sexist and left out half the
There was a lot of hair pulling and wondering what the second half of that
phrase should be. In the end, he got up and said, "The era of big government
is over, but we can never go back to a time, when we go forward, to being on
your own." It was a long and wordy second half of the sentence. And the
newspaper headlines were all, "The era of big government is over."
And, let me just add one thing. I joked at the time that liberalism was killed
and the death was accidental.
When the Lewinsky scandal broke in the White House, it broke shortly before
the president was to address Congress. It must have been incredibly
tension-filled as you were trying to conceive the speech in the middle of a
scandal which could end the presidency.
It was as surreal a time as I can remember. You drive to work, camera crews
are following your car in the door. Everybody is aware that the presidency is
teetering on edge, yet you had no choice but to focus on this State of the
Union address coming up, which in the end could make or break, help save or
help end the presidency.
How did you decide what was the best way to handle the scandal in the
There really was never a moment when we expected him to speak at length about
the scandal in the speech. I don't think he wanted to, and I don't think it
would have been appropriate. I went and looked to see what other presidents,
in moments of controversy, had said. Usually, they didn't say very much. But
especially after he commented on it the day before, it was clear he wanted to
focus on the public work of his presidency, the issues that he cared about.
That is what would save him or not.
You say the experience during that time was surreal. Could you give us an
The second day of the scandal -- the second day after the world learned about
Monica Lewinsky, Mike McCurry was having a briefing in the White House briefing
room. And it was broadcast live on all of the networks, and he was being
pummeled. He was being flailed by the reporters. My pager went off. It said,
"Call the Oval Office."
I called, and the president got on the line in the middle of this briefing. I
thought, was he going to talk to me about it? He said, "Have you seen the memo
on "The American Idea" by a Yale law professor, Steven Carter? It has some
really good language on page two."
I said, "Oh, yeah, I've seen that."
And he said, "Well, I'll send it out to you."
And I hung up, and looked back at the TV, and McCurry was still being bloodied
on television. It was an incredible focus on the work at hand, given the
craziness that was going on all around us.
You were in the cabinet meeting January 23rd. Can you remember what that
was like when the president addresses the cabinet for the first time on this
Well, you know, you may get a better answer from other people. It's been
imagined that he pounded the table and looked everybody in the eye and demanded
their support. It's possible that that happened, and I missed it. Maybe I
came in late. But I didn't see that. There was an enormous amount of focus on
issues. People talked about the end of the world. What they were talking
about was the Y2K bug and who was going to be responsible for fixing the
During that week, while the world was speculating whether Clinton would resign,
inside the White House, by and large, there was an almost obsessive focus on
the work at hand. It was the only way you could get through it. That was true
for the staff, but we saw increasingly that it was true for Clinton as well.
This January 23rd meeting, though, this is the meeting where Clinton tells
several cabinet members that he did not have a relationship with Monica
I didn't hear it. But, I mean, and I'm not sure that it happened. But it
really could be that it happened in the first two minutes, and I walked in
...but, do you want a couple more anecdotes from that period? Let me just
mention a couple that are in the book. First off, in the first day or so, the
president looked understandably unnerved by the whole thing. He looked tired
and like his heart was not in it. But over the next few days, he really
steeled himself, and that kind of radiated out to the rest of us.
When we had our first rehearsal in the family theater before the teleprompter
and the podium, he got to the part on Social Security, and it was a tepid,
poorly drafted section, and while the whole world was wondering if he could
still be president, he said, "I don't want to say it that way. How about this?
What should we do with our newfound surplus? I have a simple forward answer:
Save Social Security first."
And everybody said, "Wow, that's great." And he threw his arms out wide and
said, "See, I haven't lost it."
Do you have another one?
The other one is one of the economic aides, we were sitting working on a
paragraph on urban policy, the arcane tax issues and all of the things with
urban policy, and then on TV, on one of the all news channels, they said,
"Well, the president is considering resigning." We watched that for a bit, saw
other White House aides deny it, and we turned the sound off and went back to
working on the paragraph on urban policy -- sort of had no choice but to keep
In '98, the president arrives, the Congress and the country have just heard
about the Lewinsky scandal. What was it like in the chamber?
It was incredibly tense in the chamber. Nobody knew how he would do.
Nobody knew what he would say. People were wondering how could he get up there
at that moment. The big thing in Congress at that time was we now had a
surplus, and the Republicans in Congress wanted to have a tax cut. And this
had Mack truck momentum. When he got up there and said, "Save Social Security
first," the Democrats jumped to their feet applauding.
At that point, they were applauding semi-colons. Gingrich thought about it for
a second, then he stood up and applauded as well, and the Republicans looked at
each other and looked at him, and they stood up and applauded. And at that
precise moment on national TV, a trillion dollars shifted in the budget from
the column marked "tax cuts" to the column marked "Social Security," which is
where it still is. This may be the most effective use of the presidential
bully-pulpit I can think of, and it happened the first week of the Lewinsky
scandal at his lowest moment. It was really quite dramatic at the time.
On the August 17th speech [to the nation re: Lewinsky scandal] there was a
debate among the president's staff about how contrite he ought to be. Can you
tell us anything about that?
You know, I wasn't really involved in it. As his testimony approached, kind of
a weird solitude came over him. A lot of the people who would be able to help
him in the normal speech simply weren't able to. And I don't know what kinds
of debates went on behind closed doors to produce that speech, but my sense is
in some ways he was really speaking from his heart more that night than
Once you found out that the president had lied to staff members and to
cabinet officers, what was your reaction? Did you say, "I've got to reexamine
my commitment to this man?"
I think my reaction probably wasn't very different from a lot of Democrats all
around the country. I wasn't happy. I didn't approve of what he did. I also
tried to put it in some perspective, and I didn't think he should be removed
for it. And in my case-- I was lucky. Most people in the White House, and
certainly speechwriters, weren't focusing on Monica Lewinsky. We had a job to
do, and it was the part of his presidency that we felt most proud of. You
could have a two-hour meeting on Bill Clinton in September of 1998 and the name
Monica Lewinsky wouldn't come up. The only place in the world where you could
have a meeting on Bill Clinton and the name Monica Lewinsky wouldn't come up in
September of 1998, oddly, was the White House. It was less of an issue, in
some ways, than it was everywhere else.
What about when the president was impeached that Saturday when he came out
on the lawn with the vice president and the Democratic members of Congress,
what was the thinking among the staff about what he ought to say?
I think that at that moment, the Republicans were hoping that he could be
stampeded from office. The public didn't want him to be impeached, but they
really didn't like the whole mess. And if he could end the mess by resigning,
well, maybe that would be a good thing to do. So he got up there and made
very, very clear that he was going to stay in office until the last hour of his
term, and that was ultimately politically necessary, even though at the time it
wasn't a lot of fun to be standing there out on the South Lawn applauding at a
moment of great distress like that.
To give you a sense of at least my attitude within the White House, it really
didn't -- because we were focusing on the policy work of the presidency and
because I still respected him, the Bill Clinton I knew, it didn't seem like, in
so many ways, a real impeachment. It was on a party-line vote. It was on
matters that didn't rise to what the Constitution imagined. All of those
arguments made it less of a traumatic experience for most of us in the White
House at least than perhaps you might think. I think people watching it on TV
or people involved in the Senate trial went through the ringer a lot more than
those of us doing the workaday work in the White House.
But you said the remarks were intended to send a signal that he was going to
stick it out no matter what. Was the language of that debated or how did that
If I remember it right-- he called Paul Begala over. He dictated that speech
into a tape recorder, precisely what he wanted to say. I don't think there was
a lot of staff meetings or endless drafting. That was him talking through the
first draft, and he seemed to really know exactly what he wanted to say at that
Since the impeachment, once the Senate had acquitted the president, how have
you seen him change, the man?
It's interesting. I think that in the months after impeachment he really
poured himself into two issues that he considered to be great moral causes. I
think that for him the struggle over Kosovo, the opportunity to try and save
lives there, was a chance to do something that he thought was important for the
country, but also he really thought was morally the right thing to do.
At one point he said, "What's the point of having all of this popularity if I
don't spend it on something like this?," he said to us in a private meeting.
And, similarly, a few months later was the massacre at Columbine. He had taken
on the gun lobby more than other presidents, and he was proud of crime having
gone down. But this was continuing to be something he could not prevail over
the NRA, and he really threw himself into the fight on gun issues that
Again, I got the sense that he was very happy to be able to focus on the part
of being president that he liked and was good at. And I got the sense, as he
closes out his term, that he's really at peace with himself. He seems very
relaxed. He seems very much to know what he wants to do. Obviously, the
Lewinsky matter is something historians and the public are going to have to
assess. But he seems, anyway, to have it in some balance, and that's probably
a good thing.
[How would you characterize his style on what he like in the speeches you
sent him ?]
Clinton is a very good speaker and a gifted communicator. But he doesn't go in
for kind of high-blown rhetoric, chiseled phrases. When we hand him a speech
that had a lot of fancy rhetoric in it, he would cross it out and mutter,
"Words, words, words." Someone said to me, "Okay. From now on, no more words,
For Clinton -- the eloquence came from policy. Where he was most effective as
a speaker and most animated was when he was up there arguing on something like
Social Security or health care, on the bread and butter of policy. That's what
drove him more than anything else. And I think his emphasis on that really
winds up reflecting a change in the nature of the presidency.
He came into office when -- the day he was elected in 1992, I think he wanted
to be one of the transforming presidents like Kennedy or Roosevelt. He had
grown up during this period of a heroic presidency, when the president was the
center of the universe. But after the Cold War ended, more than we realized,
our expectations for the presidency changed, and he had to change while in
office, especially after the first two years.
He tried to focus a lot more on domestic issues, on things he could do by
himself rather than waiting for Congress, on values, issues, and using the
bully pulpit for something like school uniforms. It's really a different office
that he leaves after eight years than the one he expected to fill the day he
As you look back on your career as a speechwriter, is there one Clinton
speech that stands out above all others? Is there one particularly compelling
or memorable one for you?
Well, there are a lot of eloquent speeches and a lot of beautiful speeches.
But to me the one that stands out the most is that 1998 State of the Union. He
found a way to convey optimism, and personal buoyancy and positive movement for
the country in the middle of the most withering controversy. And where he will
be remembered in his speeches is not so much for the chiseled words on the
wall, but by appropriately using language, moving billions and trillions of
dollars in the budget.
Let me suggest a couple of others. By all accounts, his most effective speech,
his best speech was the speech he gave in Memphis in 1993 and that wasn't about
passing legislation. That was speaking to people's sense of right and wrong.
And he was uniquely able to call on everybody to be responsible. He spoke from
the same pulpit where Martin Luther King gave his last sermon. And what's
interesting about it is everybody agrees this was his best speech. He thinks
so. But when you look at it on the page, you wonder why it's such a great
speech. It's his personal energy, the emotion he poured into it, to the
audience at hand that made it so memorable. And I think that's probably going
to turn out to be true with a lot of his speeches.
Were there marching orders to staffers like you, "Lewinsky is out of bounds.
We're not going to be dealing with that in this White House"?
Put it this way: It didn't occur to me to write up a nice Lewinsky paragraph
or two and slip it in and see what he thought of it. I was with him every day
for that week, and he clearly did not want to focus on it. He wanted to focus
on the policy and made it very clear -- he made it very clear to us, from the
first day, that what he was going to be talking about was Medicare, and Social
Security, and child care and that sort of thing. Remember, the day before the
speech, when he said those memorable lines in the Roosevelt Room, really took
the pressure off of him to talk about -- to talk about Lewinsky in that
speech. Every word -- we knew that every word was going to be scrubbed and analyzed and
I'll give you an example. The speech ended with a tribute to Senator John
Glenn, a nice tribute to him going back into space -- the kind of things you
have in a State of the Union. We had finished the speech early enough that we
were releasing it to the press. So we didn't want Senator Glenn to know about
this, so we cut off the ending of the speech and said, "Ending to come." It
was about to be released to the press when we realized, "Oh, my God. Ending to
come. People will say Clinton's going to resign, stop trading on the stock
market," and then they'd find out it was just kind of a treacly tribute to John
Glenn. Every word, every comma was being analyzed that day.
When the president wagged his finger and said, "I did not have sex with that
woman," what were the theatrical considerations? Were you involved in that at
No, I don't --
Because the account has been written that the president had not been
forceful enough in his earlier denials.And that Harry Thomason had come in and
basically told him that he had to be very forceful and very defiant. But you
weren't involved in that.
I don't know. I only know what I read about that. You see, it's funny. This
was the parallel universe. We knew that Monday morning, it was decided there
was an event planned for Mrs. Clinton and Vice President Gore to talk about
after-school programs. And then we were told, the president is going to come
in and talk too. And it was obvious that the purpose of it was so that he
could say something about the controversy. Well, we knew this would be
broadcast nationwide. So Bruce Reed, the domestic policy adviser, and I went
and we wrote a humdinger of an education speech. And that was the speech he
read first. We figured, you know, maybe the press wanted the scandal, but we
were going to give the public the education speech too.
And all through that year, as you know, there was a tremendous disconnect
between what the press was focusing on and what the public heard. We did an
endless number of events. The president used the bully pulpit relentlessly to
talk about his issues and maybe a few sentences of what he said would get on
the news, surrounded by a story about Lewinsky. But what the public heard and
liked were the few sentences on policy. And that's how he maintained his
popularity through it all.