Clinton: I told Bush of bin Laden and he changed the subject
BILL Clinton claims that he warned President George Bush before he took office that the biggest threat to national security was Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, in a sensational passage from his memoirs revealed for the first time yesterday.
Mr Clinton also speaks frankly in the book about the Lewinsky affair, calling it "the darkest part of my inner life", and even thanks his enemies’ pursuit of him for bringing him and his wife, Hillary, back together.
The details - culled from the first leaked copy of his memoirs - reveal that Mr Clinton has pulled no punches in his account of his presidency, even when it is he on the receiving end.
In the passage on his al-Qaeda warning, when Mr Bush was president-elect, Mr Clinton claims Mr Bush said little in response, and then switched subjects.
Mr Clinton looks at his personal failings with surprising candour, saying that his wife looked as if he had punched her in the gut when he finally confessed to his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
He confirms that he slept on the couch for at least two months after the confession.
In My Life, copies of which have started to leak out in the United States, the former president wrote that the affair was immoral and foolish.
He said that after he confessed the affair to his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and daughter Chelsea, he and his wife began counselling one day a week for about a year.
He wrote that he came to learn that his upbringing had made certain things more difficult for him than for other people, and that he was particularly prone to self-destructive behaviour when he was tired, angry or feeling lonely.
Writing about the impeachment proceedings which followed, Mr Clinton said Republican leaders were not punishing him for dishonesty or immoral conduct. He said he believed the reason was power, and because his political goals were different from theirs. He said he was able to withstand the ordeal and concentrate on his job because of the support of the White House staff and Cabinet - even those who felt betrayed by his behaviour - numerous world leaders, and encouraging words from both friends and strangers.
He even expressed gratitude to his political enemies for bringing him and his wife closer together. And once the impeachment process was over, his banishment to the couch ended, too, Mr Clinton said.
In an interview to be broadcast on Sunday on CBS television’s 60 Minutes, Mr Clinton called the Lewinsky affair "a terrible moral error".
"I did something for the worst possible reason. Just because I could," he said. "I think that’s just about the most morally indefensible reason anybody could have for doing anything."
Mr Clinton’s book comes out in the US on Tuesday with a first printing of 1.5 million, although pre-orders exceed two million, virtually ensuring that My Life will outsell the memoirs of his wife.
According to her publisher, Simon & Schuster, Living History has about 2.3 million copies in print, including both hardback and paperback editions.
The majority of the major US television networks have sought interviews with the former president and have given significant airtime to his comments on the Lewinsky affair.
In a further sign of "Clintonmania", the internet company AOL and the 180-station Infinity radio network broadcast five 90-second extracts from the book, read by the author himself. Time magazine has been granted the first print interview.
In the 60 Minutes interview, Mr Clinton said of the impeachment process: "The whole battle was a badge of honour. I don’t see it as a stain, because it was illegitimate."
In Living History, published last year, Senator Clinton said her husband’s affair caused so much pain that, at one point, Buddy the dog was the only member of the family willing to keep the president company. The former first lady declared: "As a wife, I wanted to wring Bill’s neck." She finally decided that she loved him, wanted to keep the marriage intact and supported what he was doing as president.
Mr Clinton’s book has been at or near the top of Amazon.com s best-seller list for the past month, holding on despite a wave of Ronald Reagan books that became best-sellers after the former president’s recent death.
Bids for a signed first edition of My Life already have topped $300 on eBay. Mr Clinton received a reported $10 million advance for My Life, edited by Robert Gottlieb, who has worked with such leading authors as Nobel laureate Toni Morrison and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Robert Caro.
He has said that writing a "great" book has been a long-time goal, although the history of presidential memoirs works against him. The only highly regarded book in this genre is by Ulysses Grant, who devoted most of his memoirs to his triumphant Civil War military leadership and wrote virtually nothing about his often disastrous presidency.
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