>> will the real bill clinton stand up? is there a real bill clinton? are there many real bill clintons? who is bill clinton? in a complicated man, this story's is told through 169 people who know him. the idea was to create a book-like conversation about this fascinating man, a conversation the reader can eavesdrop on. i hope it's the most intimate character yet of our 42nd president. i think it's the most varied. people included in the book are people who grew up with bill clinton, people who went to school, worked for him, worked with him, against him, people who investigated him, defended him, reported on him, people who love him, people who hate him. everyone from the cousin who
took him to classes to the statesmen and nationally known journalists, cabinet members, political consultants, over 2 dozen members of congress from barnesny frank -- barney frank and there's a cameo appearance by flint. i took a solid year interviewing, and now my wife tells me i'm a man of strong opinions stubbornly held. she was struck when i would report on the days interview, i would find merit in the views of what whatever person i interviewed that day proor con. how does that rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors
within the united states constitution? you can't argue with that. next, a lie 0*e9 should not be condoned especially by a preponderate of the united states. i think, well, you got a point there. the process was crystallize the one day when i interviewed dick army from texas and after lunch met with the democratic fundraiser extraordinary and a premier friend of bill. dick army has content for bill clinton and calls him the most successful adolescent he's ever known. the other loves bill clinton. he said, what a guy. he gets out of bed every day to give the average joe a shot at the american dream. i thought, are we talking about the same person? the answer is, yes, we were, and they are both right.
bill clinton is remarkably self-injuly gent. he does at times behave like a child and one would think a middle person would have left that behind years ago. he can be deceitful, but on the other hand, there's something delightful about bill clinton and really laudable. listen to what the abc news reporter says about him in the book. bill clinton is a man child in one body. the man side of him is so impressive, the best natural politician i've ever seen, the president who knew more detail about more issues that come to the presidency than i've ever seen. go down the list, so impressive. then go to the child side, and you want to shik him by -- shake him by the neck and say get out of the sand boxes. you can't play with interns anymore, not keep a schedule, not make 2 a.m. phone calls to
everyone in the world. it's all the same person. recently bill clinton has been all over the news. there's bill clinton on television talking about president obama. there's bill clinton on tv talking about the tea party. there he is talking about the midterm elections. the clinton global initiative, his healthy not quite vegan diet, he's talking about tony blare, there's blare talking about him. during the campaign he received invitations from politicians around the country, people who wouldn't be caught dead standing next to the current president, president obama, and all of this just weeks after the media couldn't get enough of his daughter's wedding and then a poll pronounced him the most popular politician in america. bill clinton? really? one of two american presidents to be impeached. his name was linked with the word fatigue to describe the country's exhaustion with him
and running nonstop since star's magazine of jennifer flowers, a year before his presidency began. during his wife's campaign was two years ago. that bill clinton? what's going on? for one thing, the 90s were the last years in which the country could be said to have worked. unemployment was low. stock market was sky high and the name bin laden was known to few in our country. if our country was disabled from 1998 to january 2001 when a hobbled president left office, no one cared. bellies were full. houses were gold mines, the cold war ended. we had won. american troops were not dying on foreign shores, and even the ma majestic home run records had
not been cheapened by the knowledge of the chemicals propelling the balls over the fensz. the years of bill clinton's presidency were a golden age compared to the years following filled with war, hard times, and fear. there's more to our enduring affection for this president because more is what bill clinton is all about. he's just more. he's more of everything. there are smart people in the world. there are people with big jobs and expensive educations. as gene lions says in the book, they are smart, and then there's bill clinton. bill clinton can receive a detailed policy briefing at the same time that he's reading a book, reading a newspaper, and doing a cross word puzzle, and at the end of the briefing, he asks the question that shows not only he heard every word, but understands the subject as well as the expert giving the briefing, if not better.
there are pregary yows people in the world. bill clinton knows more people, knows more about people, more loves being with people than anyone on earth. somehow he finds the time to keep up with thousands upon thousands of friends of bill, and he does. it's amazing. he remembers their birthday, calls when there's sickness and congratlates them on their achievements. one said he's a people prostitute. he needs to have people around him. he needs that. canter was chairman of the 1992 campaign and later was the united states trade representative and then secretary of commerce. he recalls a night in new hampshire in 1992 after the first televised town hall meeting. they booked time as a way of speaking directly to voters and bypassing the national press that wanted to just talk about his sex life and draft history. the campaign discovered bill
clinton was a mayser of the form. it was the town hall debate with george bush and ross perot that won him the election. mickey describes what happened when the cameras were turned off. this is what he says. 56 it -- after it ended, we wanted to buy another half hour tomorrow night. then something happened. he stood around talking to the people in the audience. now, every politic stands and says thank you to people, but he was engaged in real substantive conversation with them. he didn't want to leave. then there are reckless people in the world. well, bill clinton rips the most powerful office in the world, an office he spent his entire life seeking to occupy for the sake of 10 instances of you know what with an intern half his age.
bill clinton's energy, empathy, self-indulgence, appetites for food, sex, attention, for power, for good deeds are all outside, but what's separating from the rest of us, these traits endear him to us. they render him more human, perhaps the most human human among us. we all know people who generally do what is right, but make big mistakes and smart people do stupid things. we know people who overeat when they shouldn't. people who give into sexual urges that they should resist. we know this about our family, friends, and coworkers, and about ourselves. his flaws are so exaggerated and so public, that we see ourselves in him. despite all the times we've been disappointed, and we have been disappointed by him time after time. we can't help loving him, hating
him, laughing at him and admiring him because there's so few people so outrageously human. he is who we are, and well, we are fascinating, aren't we? it's not only that we identify with him. it's that we identifies with us. it's his famous empathy. in 1992 before the new york pry mire, he was speaking at a nightclub in manhattan and was hack l the by an activist. he uttered that famous phrase, i feel your pain. it was an instant punch line, but you know what? it's true. he does feel your pain. he really does. people all over the world from georgia disa to -- gaza to here in brooklyn know it. many people from arkansas speak
in the book. i lived my life in the new york city area, but i find this enjoyable and extremely expressive. one journalists about the top aids and i apologize for my rendition of the words. he says those people were as congenial as a porcupine in a dog's nose. [laughter] also they provide some of the best insight into his character because they knew him just as bill. they knew him before he was invested with all the trappings of the presidency and even over the presidential campaign. they would see him jogs around little rock, driving his red mustang. they waited in line with him at the video store if any of you remember what a video store is. maxx, editor of the arkansas times, has been writing about politics in arkansas for years. he has a daughter about the age
of chelsea, bill clinton's daughter, and they were on the same softball team. they sat to the at the games. here's what max says about bill clinton's, the appeal about him and his empathy. he says, one of the things about charisma is the ability of people to connect with other people. it's the ability of a person to connect with other people, and bill clinton can do that quickly, serially and effectively. he gets close to you, touches, establishes a physical connection, a arm on a shoulder, a handshake and looks you in the eye and for a short period of time, makes you think you're the only person in the room and quickly finds the common foundation, hometown, knows your cousin, knows your school, your boss, and then the other thing he can do which is the real trick is file it away and have near total recall of it some point way in the future. i've known politician who can do
some of these things, but in a way that is a trick. bill clinton really is interested that much in people. some of it is just genuine. he is a deep and abiding empathy for human beings, and people can tell it. people can tell a fake. in terms of his interest in human beings, he's not necessarily constant, but he's not a phony. at that moment, he's in love with you. here's another one from arkansas on the source of the clinton magic. he was an attorney in arkansas and served in the state letture. i said what is it about -- what is it about clinton. here's what he said. what is it about clinton? the answer is real simple. if you put him in war memorial stadium, texas arkansas game, assuming it was still played, after 2 minutes, he would have ask everyone in the stadium swearing they met with clinton for an hour and he listened to
what they had to say and clinton convinced those folks he learned something from them that would save the world, and he never thought of it. he is a hell of a listener. when you talk to -- when you listen to politicians, they are talking about themselves, their programs. clinton whether it's real or not causes people to believe he listened to everything he had to -- they had to say. that's a trait. he's been in the news lately because of the midterm elections. people have been examining the parallels of the losses of 1994 whether the house and senate both went republican. the question is can barak obama do what bill clinton did which was to breathe through reelection in 1996 just two years after his political obituary had been written. in 1995 and 1996, it may have been bill clinton's finest, most impressive hour. during the previous two years, the gop managed to convince
large numbers of people in the country that the president was out of step with the heartland. they focused on gays in the military, gun control, taxes, health care, and let's not forget there was that very expensive haircut he got on the tarmac in los angeles international airport with air force i that added to the idea he was strange and an elitist, not so much the man from hope as the man from hollywood. to recover, clinton had to change the terms of the national debate. he and his advisers set out to turn the tables on the republicans. starting right away, the white house adopted a new vocab by lair. this is what the former press secretary says. over and over again, we use the word radical and extreme interchangeably to discuss the change of the new leadership in congress. the republicans obliged by
calling for huge cuts in federal programs, medicaid, education, the environment, and especially medicare. her, then, the white house would have you believe was a band of radical ideologs seeking to knock down middle class american life, and bill clinton was the only thing standing in their way. the campaign was successful thanks in no small part to the newt gingrich and the more the people saw of the new speaker of the house, the less they liked him. when the government shut down in 1995, they blamed newt gingrich and clinton and company tied speaker around the neck of the republican no , nominee, bob dole, and that was, that. in 1995, as he sought to regain the public's favor, bill clinton drew on thee strengths. first was his well-known flexibility.
the standard narrative we have been hearing is after two years as a liberal, he moved right and stayed there for the remappedder of his time in office. true enough, but i put it differently. he lowered his ambitions. gone was the leader who sought to bring fundmental change to the nation and in his place was a fierce defender of the status quo add admired not for things he did, but things he prevented others from doing. as aggressive as his campaign was, it no less represented a kind of retreat. second, although bill clinton faltered in his politics in the first two years in office, he was masterful over the next two, and that's when he earned his reputation as a genius of the art. third was his resilience. by 1994, he had already been pronounced a political dead man twice in 1980 when he failed for his reelection as governor in
arkansas and then in 1992 when no one thought he could survive the twin revelation of jennifer flowers and the draft primaries. he was written off three times after 1994. in 1998 when the name monica surfaced, much the washington thought he wouldn't last a week. people were already speculating on who al gore would name his vice president and name to the cabinet. in 2001, he left office under a cloud when he parreddenned mark rich, and in 2008, he embarrassed himself, demeaned the presidency, and did his wife no favors during her came pain for the presidency, and yet, here he is again, the most popular politician in america. his resilience and his skill and his empathy were most dramatically on display, i
think, during new hampshire in 1992. looking at how three people summed up his performance, this is what they believe. james carville, the political consultant, the campaign strategist, he says, i've never seen a human being perform like he did that week in new hampshire. it was stunning. it was like an athlete more than a candidate, i mean, event after event every interview and town hall meeting. mickey, even today it seems magic. one reason is there's no harder worker you'll find than bight particularly when his back is against the wall. he can work his way through any problem. we know that's not true, but in many cases, he's been able to do it. he's at a home for the elderly talking about the price of pharmaceuticals and people didn't have enough money. remember, drugs were not covered by medicare at that point. a woman in the front row after
asking questions starts crying. he walks up, kneels down, and hugs her. here's what dee dee myers says. campaign press secretary. there was a certain shamelessness thinking you should be the most powerful person in the world, and they all have it. he won by connecting with people on a perm level. people voted for him because they believed after seeing him that he got their problems and cared about them, that when push came to shove, despite jennifer, he would act on their behalf. that's why his approval rating when he left office was 60-plus percent. his job approval was so high because people thought he was for them. there was this remarkable dual track that people, and i'm particularly thinking of reporters were proceeding along. how could the guy with so
compelling? bill clinton accomplished much in office. he tamed the deficit. he resided over a period of extended prosperity. he put a stop to the genocide. i think perhaps his most unknown accomplishment and the shining achievement is the peace he brought to northern ireland and two people involved in the process, former democratic congressman of connecticut and current republican congressman, peter king, say in the book while others cricketed, the share of the credit should go to bill clinton. he really was the scene of the unknown. the way he brought about peace in northern ireland was first to get the united states involved. to that point, the united states has always respected the wishes of great britain that is stay away, but bill clinton saw it was the cold war over, the
special relationship between the u.s. and u.k. was no longer sanctioned, he he could go here and the world wouldn't end, and it didn't. second, it was a new approach. up until that time, the british tried to make peace by focusing out of extremes, and people on the property tees substantiate -- protestant side were in a similar position. what biblght did was -- bill clinton was bring these people in from the cold. i will support you. it worked. it culminated in the good friday agreement of april of 1998. there was set backs along the way to the agreement, and afterward as the parties proceeded with the agreements, basically the agreement has
held. bill clinton stuck with it. it's his character. of course, there was the character issue of bill clinton, but it's the character of bill clinton that made this agreement possible. here's what bruce and peter say. bruce says the interesting thing about clinton in contrast to some lesser folks who have worked on his policy is that he never took the reverses personally. it was never hey, i did this for them, look at them. it was always future oriented, keeping your eye on the ball and continuing to work a project, and being on the phone and meet ing with these nothings he met on with on or around st. patrick's day. we're talking about people who had sun seat -- seat in a 109 member assembly representing a country of 1.5 million people. it's like a minority member of
the delaware legislature. there's a level of personal ininvolvement that was unshakable, and peter king says my father raised by irish immigrants died before bill clinton was president, but he said he would never have the patience to put up with these irish people. maybe that's what appealed to bill clinton. they can find so many things to argue about and so many little arguments to make, they can debate every issue to death. he thrived on that. this was stuff that would make somebody else throw him out of office and say i'm fed up with this. he went back and forth with them. other political leaders in ireland talked about his feelings for the nuance not just for the issues, but of the personalities and psychologies involved. i guess this is sounding bad, but who better to understand the most dysfunctional political system and dysfunctional fight in western europe than bill clinton?
he seemed to thrive on that type of chaotic behavior. as we try to evaluate bill clinton's presidency, there's three main obstacles. first, he served during a time of quiet. after one war, the cold war ended and before the war on terror begun. he speaks of regret he didn't serve in a time of national crisis as did his heros like lincoln and fdr. would he have risen to the occasion? i think he would have. four days after timmy mcveigh murdered people in oklahoma city, he gave a significant speech, a speech that comforted not just the families of the dead, but the nation as a whole and helped the country make sense of the tragedy and gave resolve to fight terrorists who would commit these murders.
he never did have to deal with a sustained period of crisis, so we'll never know what he would have done. the second obstacle is that you just can't get around the sex. i workedded on this book for about five years, and while i was working on it whenever i met somebody knew and the question was, well, what do you do? i answer the question, tell them about the book, and the follow-up question always was what did he see in monica any way or why was he so stupid or who is he sleeping with now? it was never, what a great job he did getting rid of the deficit and even he screwed the middle class on nafta or blew it on health care. fairly or not, bill clinton for all his accomplishments, bill clinton is stuck with the image
of a sex-crazed dude who loves to party and he can't resist a sexual entank lment no matter how dangerous it might be, and he had to know when he responded to that glimpse of her underwear he knew had had to be dangerous. he had to have known a 23-year-old would not want to tell anybody. even more, he had to know what had happened if the affair were exposed because from the beginning of the time on the national staimg, the opposition and many in the press had been out for him, out to get him from jennifer flours and the draft in the campaign, and then to his time in office when it was the travel office firings, the suicide of the vines foster, the white water land deal, fbi files
found where they shouldn't be found, the campaign finance irregularities during the 1996 reelection campaign, all through this time his opponents and many in the press were looking for ways to take him down, but they hadn't drawn blood. with the mon call scandal, he was saying to the people, it was as though all these people had been tiring at -- firing at him all this time with a wide variety of bullets, but they were blanks. he was saying sorry to make you waste your time so far, here's a truckload of lies of ammunition. the historian points out in the book when you ask people what do you remember about john kennedy, it's ask not what your country do for you, but what you can do
if your country. what quotes do people remember about bill clinton? they remember i did not have sexual relations with that woman. it's sad. it's tragic. during the last few months, the pittsburgh steelers quarterback was accused of sexual assault. just to be clear, no charges were brought. one of his body guards quoted when this young woman was taken to the back room where ben was waiting, the quarterback was not interested in regular sex -- i'm sorry, not interested in regular sex, just interested in clinton sex. the man was the 42ndpresident of the united states. you must consider the 2000
election. for al gore to lose of 2000 election, a number of circumstances had to occur without any one of them, george bush would not have taken office after bight. you had to have the multipage ballot in florida, the butterfly ballot in palm county florida, the awkwardness of al gore as a campaigner as displayed vividly by the three different persona he adopted in the three different presidential debates, you had to have a political establishment dominated by republicans in florida, and you had to have a supreme court willing to stop the counting in florida and give the election to the candidate they favored. at the top of the list has to go the lewinski scandal.
it was to bring down a man they despised and congress didn't succeed in evicting bill clinton from the white house, but they did evict clintonism. this cost the nation not only what might have been done between january 1998 and january of 2001 but what might have been done over the eight years that followed. a budget, once again a wash in red ink, a tax structure skewed more to the interest of the wealth, the failure to deal with hurricane katrina, the war in iraq. if you're a republican, you may find this pleasing. if you're a democrat, if you believe in the things that bill clinton believes in, this has to disturb you, disturb you, and none of it would have happened had the president of the united states been able to control himself when a young woman
showed him her underwear. the final obstacle is there was no great achievement with bill clinton, no single accomplishment to point and say, here's what this man did as president of the united states to better the lives of his fellow citizens of the nation and the world. it's odd, certainly, to speak of a man who was governor of the a state for 1 years and president of the united states for 8 years and an underachieveble. he was so talented and had such a phenomenal intellect and rare skills with ordinary people. shouldn't there be more than to his legacy than the fires and acting to the nation's business and between two wars? he tried. there was two ambitious projects. health care at the beginning of the administration which failed because it was the right plan at the wrong time or the wrong plan
at the right time, or because he didn't have the political skills to get it through or because hillary clinton was the wrong person to put in charge of the operation, and late in the term he tried and came close to solving the conflict between israel and palestine. that dream ended days before he left the white house when one said thanks but no thanks to the peace bill bill clinton fashioned. we have to be left disappointed in the up fulfilled potential. this feeling about bill clinton interestingly goes back to arkansas as his tenure as governor. here's what one says about him. all those years clinton was governor, i was an editorial writer, and all the years we endorsed him warmly saying he's got a lot of promisement one more term, and he's going to do it right. he lists the improvements he
brought to the state, and says he was good for arkansas, a better governor than the best so far, yet he was so smart with so much talent with such rare political gifts. there was so much promise, and he didn't deliver. he led us to expect miracles and all we got was modest good work. i think that's true from his presidency as well. of course, part of the failures because of white water. if republicans dbt take over in 1994, and we might have had a national health care system and he might have done a great deal morement i think he was a pretty good president, but that's it, pretty good. maybe a little above fair, but that's all. look across his career, and you see so much waste, so much promise unfulfilled. all american presidents must be prod yept and many things to
many people in order to lead this large and diverse country of ours. in bill clinton's case, the opinions people hold of him are extreme and varied and just about every one of them, not the stuff about the drug running and murders, but just about everything else is argued with solid evidence to back it up. up deed the data is found within the same issue. a friend to the poor, look at the overdue and worthwhile form of welfare. look at the callus and cynical reform of warfare. look at the face of a hostile congress to save lives in kosovo. political coward. look at the refusal to muster support for sending ground troops to kosovo who would have saved more lives, and looking at a presidency and a man without that one big contribution, there's no satisfying way to settle the argument.
principle battler for the common good? you bet. shameless opportunist? yep. commander in chief? affirmative. brilliant pragmatist? yes. a compromiser? right. a man of rare empathy? obviously. self-interested? certainly. liberal? conservative? check, check, check. a smart person? no doubt. an unbelievable dope? no doubt. the question again who is bill clinton? this book presents the arguments over the controversial con founding always compelling american president. it will not settle that argument. thank you all. [applause]
>> we have some time for questions. please wait for the microphone to be passed your way. anyone? >> i grew upmost of my childhood in arkansas under the clinton shadow, but my question is not about that, but i have many questions of your opinion of how arkansas views him, but it's one of the most fascinating debate portions of the text in which several voices bounce off one another holding bearing opinions, and the question was whether or not clinton could be considered a supporter of the new deal legacy, whether or not he was, in fact, a loyalist to that tradition or a betrayer of the tradition, and the arts on
both -- arguments were effective i felt. i wonder in the scope of your research you felt that personally and with the research you gathered whether or not you feel you can speak to that? do you feel clinton upheld the new deal legacy or really evacuated it in a way that leaves it to date, pretty ineffective? >> well, that's the question. did he modernize the new deal and liberalism? as he would argue and people in the democratic leadership counsel would argue, the democratic leadership counsel, of course, is the organization where he honed his so-called sen tryst strategy. did he modernize the new deal and salvage it? did he end it effectively? it's a great question, and it's one that's very difficult to resolve. i think the welfare question is one that really puts it into, it puts into relief. it's one that really puts the question on to display.
in 1994, he proposed an overhaul of the welfare system and campaigned in 1992 on ending welfare as we know it, so he proposed a bill in 1994 to reform welfare, and it contains $9 billion of additional spending for things like child care and job training. well, that was 1994. by that time his health care initiative had gone down in flames, and his political capital was at a low ebb. after the republican congress took over in january of 1995, they started working on their own reform bill to reform welfare, and this one featured in the increased spending, but large cuts in spending, originally over $60 billion in . cuts. eventually, he handled it with the republicans, vetoed their bill twice, but in the summer of 1996 proceeding towards
reelection, he signed a bill that called for $55 billion in cuts in welfare. now, that's a $64 billion swing. did he by signing this bill make the best of the situation? did he bring a needed reform to a system that clearly needed reform, or was he under the republicans just in order to take that issue off the table to provide what one person in the book, peter, a man who resigned from the government over this welfare bill, what he calls election insurance, that bill clinton was taking out by signing this bill. people will talk of it as a kind of an underhanded deal with the republican congress. i'll sign the bill. i keep my job, and you keep yours because you are getting things done. it certainly sabotaged bob dole's campaign that was going to be a big issue. this is, i think, a perfect example of this clinton's test.
was he a brave pragmatist? brave pragmatist making this needed change to a system that really needed this change, or was he selling out poor people, people who had no enough to defend them? it really depends how you read the inkblot. it's difficult to see the new deal is alive at this point and liberalism has much left in it. certainly the problems obama has been having and this recent election lost by the democrats, it all seems to indicate that the country has moved on. what was bill clinton's part in that? again, it's very difficult to discern. i think liberals would have wanted someone else. interestingly, david bonyer, a congressman from the detroit area with close ties to labor
unions, and of course, being from detroit where the automobile industry is so strong, he says, yes, we would have wanted to have somebody else, but there was nobody else. clinton was the best that the liberals had. anyone else? >> yeah. two terms as american president or this current international global globe trekker. which do you think he's enjoying more? [laughter] >> well, i think bill clinton loved it. he really does. he gets up every day wanting to give the average joe a shot at the american dreamment i don't know about that, but i know he gets up every day wanting to meet new people and learn new things. he's lucky. now he has said that he has a certain freedom that he didn't have as president. he doesn't have the cast apparatus of power that he had in the white house and doesn't
command a vast military establishment and a vast political establishment, but he has the freedom to concentrate on what he wants to, and he has sort of developed a reputation as kind of a global celebrity. he was called after he left office, a few years ago was on the cover of "esquire" magazine, and he was called the most influential person in the world. he's loving what he's doing now. he's doing something he couldn't do as president and governor, but lining his pockets very effectively. post presidency is funny. he's been traveling the globe, doing good works, especially been just wonderful in what he's done to bring the cost of aids drug to be given to people in africa and haiti. that's admirable, but at the same time it's biblght and