I wanted to wring the President's neck
WHEN her husband finally confessed that he had lied to her about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, Hillary Clinton reacted in the way most women would have done in similar circumstances.
"I wanted to wring his neck," America’s former first lady reveals in her long-awaited autobiography, recalling the night that President Bill Clinton paced up and down at her bedside, trying desperately to save both his marriage and his political future.
"I could hardly breathe. Gulping for air, I started crying and yelling at him, ‘What do you mean? What are you saying? Why did you lie to me?’ I was furious and getting more so by the second.
"He just stood there saying over and over again, ‘I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I was trying to protect you and Chelsea.’"
The drama of that traumatic night, which followed six months of lies from the world’s most powerful man, is described in Hillary Clinton’s memoirs. She was paid a $2.85 million (1.75 million) advance as part of the $8 million deal for the book, Living History.
The initial print run is one million copies and foreign rights have been sold in 16 countries. The book goes on sale on Monday, priced at $28 (17.50), but the first excerpts were released yesterday.
In January 1998, Mrs Clinton - now a senator and thought a likely future presidential candidate - went on US television to denounce the rumours of her husband’s affair with Monica Lewinsky as part of a "vast right-wing conspiracy".
She accepted her husband’s story at first, believing that he had befriended the intern when she asked for job-hunting help, that he "had talked to her a few times" - and that their relationship had been horribly misconstrued.
In the book, Mrs Clinton writes: "For me, the Lewinsky imbroglio seemed like just another vicious scandal manufactured by political opponents."
More than six months later, with the president preparing to testify before a grand jury, Mrs Clinton was still adamant her husband had done nothing wrong. Then, on the morning of Saturday, 15 August, 1998, he woke her up, paced at the bedside, and "told me for the first time that the situation was much more serious than he had previously acknowledged.
"He now realised he would have to testify that there had been an inappropriate intimacy. He told me that what happened between them had been brief and sporadic."
The president was ashamed and knew she would be angry, Mrs Clinton recounts: "I was dumbfounded, heartbroken and outraged that I’d believed him at all." She ultimately decided she still loved her husband, although "as a wife, I wanted to wring Bill’s neck".
But months of chill between them followed, never more painful than when they holidayed in Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts immediately after his testimony. She writes: "Buddy, the dog, came along to keep Bill company. He was the only member of our family who was still willing to."
While on the island, she felt "nothing but profound sadness, disappointment and unresolved anger. I could barely speak to Bill, and when I did, it was a tirade. I read. I walked on the beach. He slept downstairs. I slept upstairs."
Mrs Clinton concludes that what her husband did was morally wrong but not a betrayal of the public - although she also writes: "Why he felt he had to deceive me and others is his own story, and he needs to tell it in his own way."
Later in the 562-page book, published by Simon & Schuster, she says, "The most difficult decisions I have made in my life were to stay married to Bill, and to run for the Senate from New York."
Time magazine has paid to print excerpts this weekend, while Mrs Clinton will promote the book in an interview with the doyenne of US television interviews, Barbara Walters.
She says it was her decision to run for a Senate seat in New York that provided a healing bridge to her husband.
"Bill and I were talking again about matters other than the future of our relationship," she recalls. "Over time we both began to relax."
Mrs Clinton was elected to the Senate in 2000, and sworn in the month her husband left office, January 2001.
On their last day in the White House, she waltzed down a long hallway in her husband’s arms. Mrs Clinton is widely-expected to try to return there as a candidate in her own right, although probably not until 2008 or 2012.
Her Republican opponent in her Senate campaign, Rick Lazio, challenged her claim that she knew no more than the rest of the country of her husband’s affair, but Mrs Clinton insists she has made a full disclosure.
One former White House staffer is shocked by how explicit the book is: "This seems like a gamble. I hope it works, but I think it’s going to open a lot of old wounds."
The book is the first Mrs Clinton will profit from. Royalties from her previous books - It Takes a Village, about children, education and family policy, An Invitation to the White House about state dinners, and Dear Socks, Dear Buddy, a compilation of children’s letters to the Clintons’ pets - were donated to charity.
Mrs Clinton is reported to thank three "ghost-writers" for "invaluable assistance" writing her memoirs. When It takes a Village was published in 1996, she was criticised because there was no mention of a ghost-writer, Barbara Feinman, who was paid 80,000 for her work.
Mrs Clinton dismisses the Whitewater real estate investigation, which led to the exposure of the Lewinsky affair, and admits only "public relations mistakes" were made: "Whitewater never seemed real because it wasn’t."
Yesterday, asked about her book’s account of the Lewinsky episode, Mrs Clinton said: "I hope people will read the book. This book is about many things.
"I worked very hard on it - to talk about my growing up, my values, my beliefs. And I think all of these questions people will be able to answer for themselves within the context of the entire book."
Bill puts pen to paper for 8m
BILL CLINTON is also writing his memoirs, for a reported advance of some 8 million, due for publication next autumn.
He says he is determined not to employ a ghost-writer, but told the Atlantic Monthly magazine this year: "I was scared to death I wouldn’t be able to do it."
As Senator Hillary Clinton makes the front pages of US newspapers, however, her husband finds himself temporarily overshadowed.
The former president is considered to have struggled to find a role since leaving office. He divides his time between raising funds for his presidential library in Little Rock, Arkansas, making speeches to reduce the 7 million he ran up in lawyers bills, and campaigning on AIDS and other good works.
In his first year out of power Mr Clinton earned more than 6 million from public appearances, including more than 300,000 from the Jewish National Fund in Britain for three speeches, including one in Glasgow.
He typically makes more than 100 speeches a year, though recently waived his fee for one, at Tougaloo College, a tiny black university in Mississippi.
Mr Clinton remains a controversial figure. Last month he suggested the US constitution be amended to remove the bar on any president serving more than two terms. It should be amended, he said, bar more than two consecutive terms instead of two terms for a lifetime.
"There may come a time when we elect a president at age 45 or 50, and then 20 years later the country comes up against the same kind of problems the president faced before," he said. "People would like to bring that man or woman back but they would have no way to do so."
It was hard not to think that Mr Clinton had a particular former president in mind. His remarks were seen as an act of wishful thinking from a man yet to reconcile himself to life outside the White House.
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