President Clinton's Interview with the Washington Post (8/8/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release                              September 14, 2000

                        INTERVIEW OF THE PRESIDENT

                           Aboard Air Force One
                         En route Washington, D.C.

                              August 8, 2000

7:30 P.M. EDT

     Q    Have these guys told you what I'm up to?  I'll give you the quick

     THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, give me the quick version.

     Q    It's a piece about year eight of the presidency.  It's not a
legacy piece, looking back at the eight years; it's a piece about this year
and sort of what you're doing on the policy front, on the political front,
on the personal front.

     The historic pattern in, you know, basically since World War II has
not been last years of presidencies.  Most people have sort of slunk to the
finish line, if they made it at all.  And it seems to me that you are
defying that pattern and the China vote showed that you have continued
policy relevance.  I think there's a lot of interest in what you're doing
politically, for Democrats, particularly for the First Lady.

     And I think there's a lot of interest in how you're doing personally,
after -- you know, by any definition the ordeal of '98, '99, sort of how do
you come back and have, by any sort of objective measure, this very
energetic final year?

     So those three dimensions are all things that I'm interested in.

     One thing I'm curious about is to what extent -- how self-conscious
you were at the end of last year, at the start of this year, that, look,
we've got a very limited window; and was there sort of a methodical
approach to organizing the limited amount of time you had left or was it
just sort of, you know, a race to the finish line?  In other words, was
there an acute sense of the window closing?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me back up a minute and say I have -- I was
aware, I suppose, at some level, from the moment I got here, although I
didn't have much time to think about it, that generally, presidencies seem
to wind down.  And, normally, it starts sometime not just in the last year,
but in the year before that.  And, occasionally, something pops up that
happens that's good, but normally there is kind of a decline.

     I didn't think that that was necessary, but that it was something you
had to have a definite strategy to avoid.  Because it's just not right for
the country, you know, they pay us to show up for four years and there's
always a lot of business to be done.

     And even in the political context of an election and even, clearly,
the change of administration -- as I always remind all my colleagues in the
Congress, on both sides -- no matter how much we get done, there will still
be plenty of things that won't be resolved, over which there will be
genuine differences and, therefore, you can have a meaningful election.  So
we all had a job to do.  So if you just want to focus on the last year,
let's start with that.

     I essentially organized this year the way I have every year, from the
beginning.  And that is, you begin by laying out a strategy consistent with
the vision we started with, based on what has been achieved already, what
hasn't been achieved and what has come up.  And you articulate that in the
State of the Union address, with as much clarity as possible.

     Now, this year what I did was to try both to articulate what I would
try to do this year and to look -- in terms of not just what had been
achieved over the last seven years, but in terms of the remaining long-term
challenges for the country.  I laid it out with great specificity.  And the
good thing about that is, it serves as a real organizing principle for the
White House staff and for the Cabinet; for how I spend my time, both in the
office, with the Congress, and in the country.

     And it really has worked.  I think one of the things that has gotten
-- that has led to some presidents and some White Houses to get less than
they might have out of all their days is the tendency to become overcome
with the politics of the political environment or the conventional wisdom.
A lot of being President is a job, like any other job.  And you have
control over your attitude toward it, your priorities and what you work on.
And if everybody is working on the same page and full steam ahead, a lot of
things happen.

     So you start with a strategy and with as many specifics as possible in
the State of the Union, and then you just try to execute it.  And we've had
some success as you pointed out.

     Q    Did you ever feel that the China vote was lost?  I was talking to
somebody, one of your advisors, who said they had come back from a meeting
with one of the organized labor leaders who told him, look, we've got the
votes, we're jamming you on this, sorry about it.

     THE PRESIDENT:  I knew that they thought they had us beat.  But I
didn't think so because I thought that in the end, the vote was so clearly
in the national interests and the consequences of defeat -- where somebody
says, well, let's just put it off, or maybe we'll come back to it next
year, or something like that -- were so clearly adverse to what was good
for America's future that I thought in the end they'd come around and do
the right thing.

     Q    How much easier do you think this job is, in year eight, than in
year one?  I mean, is there a sense of, like, look, there's no kind of
curve ball that's going to get thrown at me that's going to be one I
haven't seen before.

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, at one level, it's much easier because I had
never worked in the Washington environment before and, as you remember, the
strategy of the opposition was that I would have no honeymoon -- (laughter)
-- and I didn't.  And I also had a country with a lot of big problems when
I started and we had to get a lot of big things done.  And I tried to --
maybe even too much, I tried to put a lot of things through the system in
the first two years.

     We got three of the four big things I wanted to do done.  We got the
economic plan that -- eventually we got welfare reform, but I could tell we
were going to get it.  And we got started with executive actions.  And we
passed the crime bill.  But we couldn't do health care.  And then there was
all this, you know, a lot of -- and we were also, at the time, putting
together a team in the White House, in the Cabinet, working together and
working with all the others, which the White House and the whole
administration -- with whom the White House and the whole administration
had to work.  So to try to get stuff done and put the thing together, it
was very difficult.

     Since then, every year I think it has gotten a little easier from that
point of view.  On the other hand, there are always -- it never ceases to
be challenging or interesting.  And if you're trying to do meaningful
things, there are always going to be things that are very, very hard to do.
For example, one of the toughest things we're working on now is the Middle

     But that's another thing.  I think it's a mistake, just because you're
near the end, rather than the beginning, of an administration, not to try
to do the big things, especially if they really need doing within the time
frame that you have.

     Q    One of the early themes when I showed up on this beat -- which I
guess was '95, '96 period -- was a sense among a lot of your advisors, and
I think it reflected your view, that you were not getting credit for what
had been done the first couple of years, either from the press or from the
public, more broadly.

     Do you think you'll get credit for your presidency, at this point?  Do
you feel adequately appreciated?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  I don't worry about it as much anymore.  The
only reason I worried about it in those years was that I felt that Congress

     Q    -- those people reported back you were feeling really angry about

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you know, I don't think it's possible for me to
convey how terrible I felt for other people that we lost the Congress in
the '94 election.  And all those people that put their necks on the line
and were defeated, primarily because they voted for the economic plan and
the voters hadn't felt the positive impact of it yet; and they voted for
the crime bill.  And they had all these fear arguments out there on what we
did on assault weapons and the Brady bill.  And that was really in the
election cycle, and that passed.  And there was no attempt to see that the
100,000 police and the gun safety measures would work.  But the fear was
out there.

     And then, of course, when we were unsuccessful in getting even a
compromise initiative on health care that deflated our side's vote a little
bit.  And those three things together caused a lot of very good people to
lose their seats.  And I felt badly about that.

     I never felt that -- as so many people did at the time -- that it
meant that the administration couldn't get reelected, because I always
believed that the country had serious problems and we had to tackle them
early and brave the controversy early; and that if I turned out to be right
about our economic strategy, and we continue to make progress and we passed
our education program, the beginning of it, in '93 and '94, that it would
work out fine.  And it did.

     But I was frustrated more by what I thought was the preoccupation with
other things, which seemed to me anybody who looked at the evidence would
see didn't amount to anything.  And now we know, after all this time, that
Whitewater thing was a total sham.  It was a sham from the beginning.  It
was a put-up deal.  And everybody knows it now.  But it seemed to me
everybody should have known it years before they did.

     So I was frustrated by it -- just because I felt that the most
important thing was to keep moving the country forward.  In terms of
personal credit, I think that -- you know, presidencies go through several
incarnations, many of which occur after they're long gone.  I have had the
opportunity just in my service as President to read about administrations
-- through a lot of American history reading, including about
administrations that most Americans don't know much about.  And I see all
the time  there is this sort of constant process of reassessment about
every period in our history.  So I'll have to leave that to history.
People will be reassessing this period after I'm not even alive anymore.

     The only thing I ever wanted enough credit to do was to keep elected,
to stay in office and to keep pushing the country in the direction I
thought was important, and to get enough support in the Congress to do the
things we had to do.

     Q    When you see Republicans borrowing at least some of the image of
your political model, if not necessarily the content, do you take that as a
compliment in any way?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.

     Q    Or does it tick you off or do you feel like, how dare they steal
my play book?  What is your reaction to that?

     THE PRESIDENT:  No, I'm complimented by it, because I think it shows
that what we did was right, you know, to change the whole nature of our
political rhetoric in the Democratic Party; and that it resonates with the
American people.  This country has always worked best when there was a
dynamic majority for change.  And it always operates out of the center, but
it's not the center, a split the difference center.  It's a center that
reflects the common sense judgment of the American people that the time has
come to change and we ought to change in this direction.  So I take that as
a great compliment.

     It's an important beginning for them to say, okay, we know we can't be
and we shouldn't be mean, extremist and sanctimonious in our political
rhetoric anymore.  I think that's a positive thing for them.

     Now, I think there is a big difference, however, which is that when I
ran in 1992, I didn't just say we're going to change our party so we can
say to change the country.  I said, here's my economic program, here's my
crime program, here's my welfare reform program, here's my environmental
program, here's my education program, here's the way I'm going to do
government, here's the way we're going to change the way government works.
And we had -- you know, people used to make fun of me, and Paul Tsongas, in
New Hampshire, because we put out these long, detailed booklets about what
we'd do, and then all of a sudden, there were more people showing up for
our town meetings than anybody else.

     Maybe it's because I'd been a governor for a dozen years and because
I'd been through a lot of these -- the policy debates, as well as the
political debates.  But I think one of the most important reasons that
we've had some success in our presidency was that we actually laid out in
1992 a vision and a strategy for achieving it.

     There is a lot of difference between changing the rhetoric and the
political positioning of a party and changing the substance of the issues.
And one of the things that I thought was interesting, just reading the
aftermath of the Republican Convention, and what a lot of the swing voters
are saying is that, I liked what I saw, they seemed like very nice people;
and I'm glad they're being more inclusive, but what are they going to do if
they get the job?

     And I think the reason there may have been some tactic there -- they
said, well, we're ahead, we don't have to say that -- some of it was, we
haven't really changed our policies, so we can't say what our policies are.
But I think that it's really important.

     One of the things I think is great about Al Gore's selection of Joe
Lieberman is it sort of ratifies this kind of new democratic direction
we've taken, where we say we'll continue to have policies that are
pro-business and pro-labor, that are pro-growth and pro-environment, that
are for individual responsibility and a broader, inclusive American

     I don't want to beat this to death, but I think this is very
important.  There is a scholar named Thomas Patterson, who used to be at
the Maxwell School at Syracuse, used to do a lot of work on the media and
the presidency, who said that in
1995 --

     Q    He's a Ben Bradley professor at Harvard, by the way.

     THE PRESIDENT:  Is he there?  Well, he put out a -- I had never met
him at the time; I have since actually met him once or twice now, but I did
not know him at the time.  In 1995, when our fortunes were not exactly
high, he was quoted in a newspaper article saying that my administration
had already kept a higher percentage of its promises to the American people
than the previous five presidencies, even though we made more commitments,
more specific commitments.

     All I can say is, I think that's very important.  These State of the
Unions have been very important.  State of the Unions for us have been the
equivalent of that first booklet I put out in New Hampshire.  They're a
guidepost and we do the best we can on it.  But you also have to take other
initiatives that come up that are consistent with it.

     You know, all the things we did with executive orders, setting aside
the national monuments, or including making sure seniors could be in
clinical trials because Medicare would cover it.  All those things that
they -- those are things that may come up, where we've got an idea factory
here, where the staff is encouraged to come up with ideas, the Cabinet is
encouraged to come up with ideas.  It's all consistent with that.  And even
then when we're reacting -- you know, sometimes things just happen and you
have to react to it.  You can't be so rigid in your organization that you
can't change.  That's the sort of whole essence of the new economy.

     Q    Can I ask you about the First Lady's campaign?  There is this
sort of universal consensus that, you know, you're aware of great details,
or the ins and outs of that campaign, even though you're not running it, or
trying not to run it.  But I'm not really sure I know what you do, do.
Like, what is the sort of the nature of your involvement or at least
awareness of the campaign?  How often are the two of you talking?  What
kind of input can you give?  She spent a quarter century being a, sort of,
contributor to your political career.  Now the shoe is on the other foot.
What do you do?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I bend over backwards not to get
too involved in it.  Sometimes a week or 10 days will go by and I won't
talk to the people that are running the campaign.  But, obviously, I talk
to her every day, usually more than once a day.  And I ask her how it's
going, what she did.  We discuss it, talk about her day, talk about how
it's unfolding.  I give her my best thoughts.

     And then if they ask me to come to a meeting and sit and listen, I do
it.  But it's no -- there is no organized part to it, except that we talk
every day and we talk about it.

     Q    Were you an important voice in having her hire Mark Penn, not
just as the pollster, but also helping run the media strategy?  At one
point there was an expectation, like, David Axelrod in Chicago was, you
know, almost had that job.  Then it ended up being Penn.  And some people
attributed that to you, saying you thought that was really important
because he had sort of the right formula down for Democrats to get elected.

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I do think that and I have a high regard for
him.  But I also think Axelrod is very good.  Axelrod helped me in '92 and
has done things for us since then.  And it seemed to me that she got the
best of both worlds, because Axelrod works with the New York Democratic
Party and does their party thing.  So I felt that the decision she made --
and it was a decision she made; she came to me and she said, what do you
think about this.  And I said, it sounds good to me.  She thought it
through because she wanted to find a way to have both of them involved and
because of our relationship with Mark over the years, she felt very close
to him.

     I think that there are a lot of good people -- pollsters and political
strategists -- but it's important to have someone that you feel really
comfortable with.  And he basically -- Mark has basically been a part of
our whole kind of new democrat movement.  And I think she just felt a high
comfort level with him.

     Q    I am curious how you -- where sort of the loyal spouse ends and
where the -- you know, you try to help politically begins?  The call you
made to the Daily News was one thing.  I didn't know if that was you sort
of acting sort of impulsively, as a husband who was angry about that; or
whether that was you saying, look, this is potentially a problem, I better
see if I can help blunt that as a political matter.  What was that about?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I did it -- it may not have even
been the right thing to do, because all it did was sort of give more
visibility to a charge that was hokum, but I think hurt her for --

     Q    Most people knew --

     THE PRESIDENT:  Most people knew it was hokum.  But I think it hurt
her for a few days only because it happened fortuitously -- fortuitously
for her adversaries -- right at the opening of the Middle East peace talks,
when anxiety was very high in the Jewish community.  So I think that I may
have been in error.

     But what actually -- I just wanted to make sure that since they were
working the story, and I knew Mort Zuckerman and Michael Kramer quite well,
and that since I had been injected into the story, that I had a very clear
memory of it and I wanted to know what did and didn't happen and what the
whole background was.  And so I told him.

     But you know, by and large, I try to stay out of it. Congressman Lazio
actually featured me in an ad or two, which I thought was --

     Q    He's got moxie.

     THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, well, at least that.  Senator Moynihan was really
angry when he was used, and said what he thought about it.  But I figure
the voters of New York are smart enough to figure out that I'm for her and
not him.  (Laughter.)  But I haven't been harshly partisan -- so, you know,
Tom DeLay could do the same thing because there is one issue that Tom DeLay
and I really agree on, and I bragged on him.  He came to the White House
and I bragged on him.  I think that's what we ought to do.

     I think we can argue with each other in elections without demonizing
each other, and I think when they do that they're wrong.  But I think the
voters are smart enough to figure that out without my help.

     Q    You mentioned the Whitewater thing a little earlier, which leads
to a question I wanted to ask about.  Remember in September '98, when you
spoke to your Cabinet, and many of them afterwards spoke to us.  They said
that you had said you had been -- you realized, had been angry for many
days of your presidency.  And I remember that struck me quite a lot,
because, you know, to cover you, you do not seem most of the time like an
angry person or somebody filled with --

     THE PRESIDENT:  I'm not by nature an angry person.

     Q    So I was sort of astonished to learn that description.  And I'm
wondering to what extent do you still feel that way?  Or do you think
that's changed?

     THE PRESIDENT:  I work on it all the time.  But I think that this
whole Whitewater business will be looked upon by any rational observer in
history as an absurd episode in American history which didn't amount to a
hill of beans.  If there had been any special council law on the books at
the time it came up, it wouldn't have triggered a special council.  And
that the coverage of it as if it were serious required people essentially
to suspend all ordinary notions of proof and common sense.  That's what I
really believe.

     And as a consequence, scores of innocent people got hurt; a lot of
people got charged with criminal offenses, simply because they refused to
lie; and it did a lot of damage to our political system for no good end.
And I think it will be viewed as an absurd aberration in American history.
I felt very badly about it.  I felt very badly about the way everybody
involved was treated about it.  I still do.  I think it was -- the whole
way it was done was just wrong.

     Q    Terry McAuliffe and other people who are friends of yours -- I
was out in Arkansas last week and saw David Leopoulis and Jim Blair,
everybody --

     THE PRESIDENT:  Did you see Jim?

     Q    I did, yes.

     THE PRESIDENT:  How do you think he's doing?

     Q    He seemed great.  I don't know him well.

     THE PRESIDENT:  Did he tell you how he did in his tennis tournament?

     Q    He told me he was playing that weekend.

     THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, so you saw him right before?  Yes, because I
haven't talked to him since then.

     Q    And I was reluctant to see him.  But I said, look, you know, it
never hurts to call, and I said, if you don't want to, it's fine.  He goes,
no, come on.  I went out to dinner with him and his daughter.

     THE PRESIDENT:  Which daughter?

     Q    The one that lives here, in Maryland.

     THE PRESIDENT:  That's Susie.

     Q    Yes, up in Columbia, Maryland.

     THE PRESIDENT:  A computer genius.  She made millions of dollars and
now spends all her time -- she spends all her time tutoring inner-city kids
in math.  It's unbelievable.

     Q    She's only a year or two older than me and she's --

     THE PRESIDENT:  All of his kids are wizards.  They're all in computers
somewhere or another.  One of them has a Ph.D. in philosophy, but she does
all the data processing for a big hospital network in Chicago.  And the
other one works in Texas, his son.

     Q    He showed me his art, Peruvian art collection.

     THE PRESIDENT:  Great stuff.

     Q    It's amazing.  Anyway, everybody is sort of the mind that you
seem more relaxed, sort of more at peace than you have previously.  I'm
just wondering what -- you know, to what extent that's the result of you
seeing the pastoral counsel once a week; to what extent it's just -- in
some ways, it seems to me --

     THE PRESIDENT:  In a funny way, I think I am.  And I think part of it
is -- when you go through any difficult period it either breaks you or
makes you better.  I just wake up every day with this enormous feeling of
gratitude.  I'm grateful -- I'm grateful to my wife and to my daughter.
I've got my family back.  I'm grateful to the people who work with me, who
stuck with me.  And I'm enormously grateful to the American people for
continuing to support what I was trying to do for them.  To me, every day
is a gift now.

     I still get mad and frustrated and angry.  And one of the things that
I am doing, that I have to work on, frankly -- I'll make a little
confession.  The only thing that I'm feeling about this last year is that I
just want to keep working, I never want to sleep.  My mind is working more
than ever before.  And when Hillary is gone, particularly, in New York, you
know, I go to bed with a pile of stuff that I want to do and I just read
and read and read and read, I just want to keep going.

     Q    It does seem like you're in a sprint, you know, traveling here,
fundraiser tonight, fly to Japan and then back, land here today, down to
Charlottesville.  Is that a conscious strategy -- look, I've got six months
to go, or whatever, I'm just going to race to the finish line?  Is that
what it's about?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  And also I think of it in a different way.  I
think, you know, I don't have a campaign to do.  I don't have to live with
those pressures.  And if there is something out there to be done that's
good for my country, or that I think is the right thing to do -- even if it
puts a big strain on me physically -- I know that I won't be under the kind
of stress that I would be in if I were trying to manage a campaign and
manage the presidency; and I ought to resolve down in favor of making the
effort.  Because I ought to do everything I can for America as President
that I can do and still function at a high level, and I can rest starting
at noon on January 20th.  And that's what I intend to do.

     MR. PODESTA:  Me, too.  (Laughter.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  We're all going to a rest home together.  (Laughter.)
You know how the President gets to take one last ride on Air Force One and
you wave to everybody, on the helicopter, and then you get on Air Force One
and you wave to everybody?  I'm thinking of loading the whole White House
staff and the whole Cabinet on and going to Bermuda.  (Laughter.)

     Q    How much progress have you made in figuring out to me, one of the
big mysteries of the Clinton year, which is, you're a centrist President,
not a left-wing President.  I think your basic instinct is to try to get
along with people.  And, yet, you have this intense antagonism that you
excite on the right.  And I've never seen that it could be entirely
ideological, because you haven't fundamentally been an ideological
President.  Do you have a theory on it?

     THE PRESIDENT:  I think I have not been conventionally ideological;
that is, I haven't been -- but I think there are two or three reasons for
it.  And I guess I should start with a little humility.  You can't be liked
by everybody.  You know my favorite story that I tell at least 10 times a
year is about the guy that's walking along the edge of the Grand Canyon and
he slips.  He says, God, why me?  And He says, son, there's just something
about you I don't like.  (Laughter.)  So you've got to allow for that.

     But I think, first of all, I have some insight into this because I was
a governor for a dozen years, so I knew all these guys.  I knew the people
that were engineering the campaign in '91 on.  And periodically there have
been stunning flashes of candor coming out of various actors on the other

     I think, first and overwhelmingly you have to understand that
basically the Republicans believed that they had made a marriage between
the establishment Republicans and the far right, the religious right and
other ultra-conservative elements like the NRA and all those folks.  And
they thought that that coalition, particularly when it came back and gave
President Bush a resounding victory over Governor Dukakis, they basically
believed that they would always beat Democrats, that they would never lose
the White House until a third party came along.  That's what they believed.
They thought they had found a formula and that they would put us in a
certain box and we would be there and they would make us, in the inimitable
words of Newt Gingrich, the enemy of normal Americans and it would always

     And it didn't work.  I think one of the problems that their party had
was they developed a sense of entitlement to the White House.  They railed
against entitlements, but they thought they had an entitlement to govern
and I think it caused them a lot of trouble.  You've got to give Gingrich
some credit -- they don't want to anymore, but the truth is that he figured
out that if they came back in '94, before people felt better about what we
did with the economy or what we did with crime or whether they saw any
progress on welfare, with a specific plan that could both mobilize their
right and hold their establishment, Republicans, they could make some
gains.  And they did.

     And what we did in '96 and '98, is we came back with better plans and
better ideas.  But a great debate was joined in America about the future of
the country, and we were winning it.  So I think that -- but they got back
in the game and they stayed in the game, even though what we did in '98 was
truly historic, what the Democrats did, and I give Gephardt and Daschle a
lot of credit for it, and what our people do, because we had a program and
we ran on it.  And we said we're interested in what we can do for you, not
what we can do for ourselves.

     So I think part of it was they -- secondly, what were their options?
If they knew the American people agreed with my political philosophy more
than theirs, if they knew the American people agreed with the specifics I
was advocating more than theirs, then what was left?  Personal attack,
discredit, de-legitimize.  And they never stopped, not from '91 through the
'92 campaign.  Then they just started the day after I took my hand off the
Bible taking the Oath of Office, they kept on going.  And it was not
totally unsuccessful.  That is, they succeeded in hurting me, but not
helping themselves.

     So now they're in a different place now, they're trying to change
their image and their rhetoric.  But to be fair, too, I think that there
are -- a lot of the whole movement of the Republican Party, even beginning
with President Nixon and the silent majority campaign, to what President
Reagan said, right up to the present day, was based on a certain critique
of the '60s, and what the Democrats were.  You know, our notion of
inclusiveness was to them accepting things that -- even now, the
leadership, we can't get them to embrace the hate crimes bill because it
includes gays.  And the whole idea of opposing the Vietnam War and all

     And I think they thought -- I think a lot of them genuinely felt that
I represented a lot of things in the culture that they didn't like.  I
don't think it was all politics.  I think a lot of them didn't like that.

     Q    A different question, but maybe a little bit related one.  Have
you figured out -- I mean, I think it's fair to say you had a certain
amount of scratchiness in your press relations over the eight years.  Is
that your view of it?


     MR. SIEWERT:  Last question.  (Laughter.)

     Q    And I've got a theory about why that is, but --

     THE PRESIDENT:  What is your theory?

     Q    I think -- if you leave Whitewater aside, because I know you have
very specific grievances about that, we've talked about -- that modern
political journalism makes its business sort of first and foremost to go to
what are motives behind what somebody says; what's the real agenda; if this
is, sort of, their reality, what's the, maybe not the contradictory
reality, but at least, sort of, the alternate reality.  And I think that
kind of reporting felt like whenever your motives are questioned or not
taken at face value bugs you a lot.  That is my theory.

     THE PRESIDENT:  It used to bug me a lot.  It doesn't bug me so much
anymore.  One reason is that I found that that's different from who I am.
That is, I don't make a big habit of questioning the motives of people who
are on the other side of arguments from me.  And I have learned enough from
my own mistakes in life and also from misjudging other people to know that
an analysis based solely on what other people's motives are -- you need to
try to understand them.

     But in the end what matters in public life is what is done and does it
advance the American people's -- does it advance the ideals of our country,
the values of our country, the interest of our people.  And so I think it's
a rather hazardous thing to do.

     Also, I did feel that in a certain way I got a little more of that
than most, maybe because I was the first person of my generation to win the
presidency; and maybe because I was, in the stirring phrase of my
predecessor, just the governor of a small southern state, not really known
to a lot of people.  And also the fact that I had basically carried this
new democrat DLC banner and there was I think a lot of suspicion to that,
because there was a certain paradigm I think for reporters about here's
what the Republicans are, here's what the Democrats are, here's what the
Republican issues are, here's what the Democrat issues are.

     And I think when you challenge that paradigm, it was easy to say,
well, that's just a political stratagem, it's a motive for getting elected,
it's not serious.  But out there in the country I don't think those
paradigms ever worked very well.

     I was talking to Dirk Kempthorne today, who's a Republican I admire a
lot and like very much, and a man I worked with on a couple of fairly
important pieces of legislation when he was a senator.  And he said he
really liked being governor -- and I told him he would.  He asked me one
time if I thought he should run for governor.  I told him I thought he
would like it very well because he is a guy who thinks -- and, you know,
we're really different on a lot of issues.  If I were running against him
it would be an honor.  I admire him, I like him, we could have an honest
difference.  And then we could make a lot of agreements and do a lot of
things.  That's the politics that I grew up with.

     And to be fair, I also grew up with a lot of the other, of the race
issue in the south, there was always a lot of politics and personal
destruction around that.  So I wasn't unfamiliar with the kind of things I
had been exposed to.

     But I think, to me, motive analysis at least has to be undertaken with
a certain amount of humility.

     Q    That reminds me of a question I've got.  What is your view of
Arkansas?  Are you going to go home there, at least part of the time?  Skip
Rutherford showed me the site where the library is going to be.  I hadn't
been there in a while, that whole new shopping center there.

     THE PRESIDENT:  It's great.  That's an important part of my life, that
whole area, because it's very close to the old State House, where I
declared for President and had my two election nights.  A building that I
basically restored to its historic -- that was one of my projects as
governor, to take it back to the way it was between right when it was
opened in 1836, the year of our statehood.

     Q    When you look at Arkansas, it's a place with all this sort of
sentimental attractions for you.  And a lot of your friends are still
there.  I would think on the one hand it's a very positive association.
And it also the place where it seems like somebody is always crawling out
from under some rock -- you've got this disbarment thing.  Jim said, if I
were him, if they do that, I'd pull the damn library out of there and put
it in Georgetown.

     THE PRESIDENT:  A lot of my friends in Arkansas think that.  But, see,
I don't have a -- look, I always had adversaries in Arkansas.  And when
Dale Bumpers and David Pryor and I retire, they got the upper hand, because
a lot of the people that we thought were coming along behind us -- like
David Matthews, whom you know -- decided for personal reasons not to run
for governor, not to run for senator.  If David Matthews had run when
Senator Hutchinson did, he'd be senator today.

     And Arkansas, I believe, was hurt by the fact that the Arkansas
Gazette couldn't go on.  It was one of the great progressive newspapers in
America for decades.  And it got in this newspaper war and the man that won
is a hardcore, conservative Republican with a long standing opposition to
me.  They basically intimidated all the good people off that committee.
Blair probably told you what happened.

     But, you know, that's all true.  But I think it's a great mistake to
analyze a situation only in terms of the adverse factors.  I mean, look at
this -- this state, they elected me governor five times; they stuck with me
through thick and thin; they voted for me twice, even after the Democratic
Party had lost a lot of its leverage there, and the main newspaper was in a
tirade daily against us.  They hung in there.

     And if it weren't for them, I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you
today.  You know, our crowd will come back because -- and we have come
back.  We've got this very progressive -- my congressman, Vic Snyder, is a
great, progressive congressman.  He's one of the few people in Congress,
he's a lawyer and a doctor.  A very interesting fellow.  Marion Berry, who
worked in the White House for me, is our other Democratic congressman from
there.  I think we've got an excellent chance to win a third seat down
there.  You know, you can't let the politics get --

     But all these rocks that turn out, you've got to understand, the kind
of people that they've turned up, I made enemies in my years in politics.
And there are people who are disappointed.  What they learned was, they got
a certain set of signals here.  People will assume it's true, unless you
can disprove it.  And you'll be rewarded for that sort of stuff.

     So I think that with all of that, the great majority of the people
there just hung in there.

     Q    One last question.  I often get the sense at these fundraisers
that you are -- you hear it when you're talking at these fundraisers, it's
almost like, well, you wish you could make the argument or grab the Vice
President or other Democrats by the lapels, no, say it this way, this is
the way to frame the argument, this is the way to frame the question.  How
often are you sort of befuddled by the inability of other Democrats to
articulate the case the way you feel it should be articulated?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I think that in '96 and '98 we
pretty well sang out of the same hymnal and we did a very good job.  As I
said, I think you have to give Gephardt and Daschle enormous credit, and
their colleagues, for what happened in '98.  Only a few people understand
the truly historic significance of that election.  I mean, we could have
lost six Senate seats and didn't lose any.  And it was the first time since
1822 that a President's party had won seats in the sixth year of a
presidency, in the House.

     And what I think has happened this year is, you know, we had a
primary, a presidential primary, then other things happened.  And I think
that one of the reasons I'm really excited about the Lieberman selection is
I think what you'll see now is a clear commitment to build on the future;
we'll be able to distill it in the congressional races around three or four
issues.  And then I think the Vice President and Lieberman will do a great
job at the convention.

     I don't think that's quite fair that I'm frustrated there.  I think my
job is to try, in these fundraisers -- the reason I talk the way I do at
these fundraisers is that all these people who come to our fundraisers know
a lot of other people who don't come to them and who aren't as political,
or maybe even moderate Republicans or whatever.  And what I try to do, that
I think I'm in a unique position to do because I'm not running, is to
analyze the choice before the American people today, in terms of what's
happened and what's going to happen.

     The frustration you pick up in my voice is not what the others are not
doing, it's what I think is the only risk for us in this election -- which
I, by the way, if you've been talking to our people, you know I've always
believed that Al Gore will be elected.  I still do.  I have always believed
it.  I never stopped believing it when he was 18 or 20 points behind a year
ago; I always believe it.  I think he's easy to underestimate because he's
a very serious man who doesn't think only about politics all the time.

     But if you look at that sort of bouncy, bouncy, Gallup poll that's in
the USA Today, today -- you know, 19 down, two down -- it shows you that
the people are looking for a little meat here.  They want to know what the
real deal is.  That's the most encouraging thing I've seen.  Because the
thing that I've been frustrated about is when times are really good and
people feel good -- and nobody wants to bring them down, least of all me --
everybody has got other things going on in their lives.  So the temptation,
first of all, is to think, well, things are rocking along here and this is
not the biggest election I've ever had to face here, because things are
going so well.

     And then to feel, well, because of the strategy adopted by Governor
Bush and by the whole group, well, there's maybe not that much difference
anyway, which reinforces that it may not be important and it clouds
everything up.

     What I want to do is to have people stay up, but understand that what
you do with all this prosperity is as big a decision as what we had to in
'92, and maybe more difficult because you have to create something.  You
have to imagine, what is it you want America to look like in 10 years.  You
actually have the ability to do it now.  It's not like you've just got to
turn the ship of state around.  What do you want to do?  And then, what are
the choices?

     So I think that I'm in a unique position to sort of talk to the
American people about it like that, and that's what I do at these
fundraisers.  I try to say this is what I honestly believe the choices are.
I don't want the Democrats to be in a position of personally attacking the
Republicans.  I don't want us to get in the position that the other guys
have been in for so much the last eight years.  I don't think we should say
bad things about them.  I think we should posit that they're patriots, that
they love their country, they love their families and they can do what they
think is right.

     But we shouldn't be fuzzy-headed here that there aren't profound
differences that won't have profound consequences for how we live and how
we go into the future.  And I believe that after we have our chance at the
convention, and then we'll have the debates unfold, I think that we'll have
some clarity of choice and then we'll see what happens.

     When young people come to me and say they want to run for office, what
should they do.  I always give them two pieces of advice.  Number one,
you've got to have a reason that's bigger than yourself for wanting this
job.  And you've got to be able to tell people what it is in fairly short

     And, number two, you have to adopt a strategy in the campaign with the
following goal:  on election day, everybody who votes against you will know
exactly what they're doing.  Because if everybody votes against you knows
what they're doing, then you don't have any gripe if you lose.  Now, if
everybody that votes against us this time, votes against the Vice President
and Joe Lieberman knows what they're doing, we'll have a majority of the

     Q    Can I ask a one sentence answer, or will I be in the dog house?
One sentence?

     THE PRESIDENT:  What?

     Q    Do you think a strong year, finishing up 2000 in a sprint, can
that cleanse the mistakes of 1998 to some degree?


     Q    No?  And you don't view it that way?

     THE PRESIDENT:  No.  For one thing, I think that the only thing that
can cleanse a mistake ever is an apology and an atonement.  And I think
that my -- to the extent that the promise I made to the American people to
work like crazy for them every day I was President is a part of that, I
think that the answer to your question may be, yes.

     But the reason I said no is, I think the American people accept that
-- you know, they know what happened -- well, they think they know what
happened.  They know that I did something I shouldn't have done and I
apologized for it; but I have tried to atone for it both in a deeply
personal way with my family and my coworkers and friends; but also in a
larger sense by serving the American people.  And I think they have long
since been a framework of putting it behind and of looking to the future
and seeing whether what I'm doing makes sense for them and their families
and their future.  That's why I said, no.

     But it is, for me, I have felt a renewed sense of rededication to the
business that I have been elected to perform because they stuck with me and
it's something I'll never forget and always be grateful for.

     Q    Thanks a lot.  I appreciate it.

                           END                   8:20 P.M. EDT

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