updated 6/22/2004 10:38:40 AM ET 2004-06-22T14:38:40

Guests: Michael Duffy, Douglas Brinkley, Lanny Davis, Trent Lott, Susan McDougal


DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  Bill Clinton by the book.  Few American presidents in modern history have had such passionate supporters and such passionate enemies.




NORVILLE:  Now Bill Clinton tells his side of the story in one of the most anticipated presidential memoirs of all time, from his early-day brush with executive power...


CLINTON:  It was an amazing moment for me.


NORVILLE:  ... to his later-day brush with the law...


CLINTON:  The whole battle was a badge of honor.


NORVILLE:  ... and the scandal that almost destroyed his presidency and his marriage.


CLINTON:  I had a sleepless night and woke her up, sat down on the side of the bed and just told her.


NORVILLE:  Tonight: inside Bill Clinton‘s life.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I could tell you more of the story, but it‘s coming out in fine—fine book stores all over America.


ANNOUNCER:  From Studio 3K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.

NORVILLE:  And good evening.  When Bill Clinton graduated from law school, he set a goal for himself: Whatever else he might accomplish in his life, he wanted someday to write a book.  Tomorrow, Clinton‘s highly anticipated 950-page memoir, “My Life,” hits book stores.  A record 1.5 million first-run copies have been printed, and advance sales have already made “My Life” No. 1 on Amazon.com.  And the publicity blitz is underway.  Tonight, a huge, lavish party was held at New York‘s Metropolitan Museum of Art celebrating the book‘s release.  Tomorrow the former president will be a guest on “Oprah.”  Wednesday it‘s the “Today” show, and his book tour will take him to at least 15 cities around the country.

Last night, President Clinton appeared on CBS‘s “60 Minutes” to talk about the book, and he opened up about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.


CLINTON:  I think I did something for the worst possible reason, that

·         just because I could.  I think that‘s the most—just about the most morally indefensible reason that anybody could have for doing anything, when you do something just because you could.

I‘ve thought about it a lot, and there are lots of more sophisticated explanations, more complicated psychological explanations, but none of them are an excuse.  Only a fool does not look to explain his mistakes.


NORVILLE:  Also during the “60 Minutes” interview, former president Clinton talked about what it was like telling Hillary Clinton about the affair.


CLINTON:  I had a sleepless night and woke her up, and sat down on the side of the bed and just told her.  And it was awful.  But I had to do it because the grand jury testimony was coming up and I was going to tell the truth to the grand jury, and I wanted her to know before it happened.  I mean, I had to tell her.


NORVILLE:  Bill Clinton‘s book is also the cover story for this week‘s “Time” magazine, and Michael Duffy, “Time‘s” Washington bureau chief, interviewed the former president.  And he‘s with us now.

Mr. Duffy, before we get into the specifics of the interview, what was Mr. Clinton like when you sat down with him and talked to him about just the fact that this book was coming out and the anticipation for it?

MICHAEL DUFFY, “TIME” MAGAZINE:  You know, he was great.  He talked openly, and he was confiding.  And he had a lot of time, and he seemed to be ready for whatever we threw at him.  He was a lot easier to interview as an ex-president than he had been as a sitting president.

NORVILLE:  One of the things he talks about in the interview and in the book is this notion of parallel lives, something that he got very adroit at as a little kid growing up in Arkansas, coming from an abusive home, a father who had an alcohol problem, and yet completely shuttering off that part of his life from the public part that the rest of the world knew.

DUFFY:  That‘s what he says is an explanation for how he dealt with what happened in the White House.  Early in the book, which is a lot about his childhood, his days in Arkansas, his family, which is a pretty messed up thing when he was growing up, he talks about having an abusive father and having to put these feelings in a box over here, where he wouldn‘t have to think about them.  He said he got very good at it, and he got very good at secret keeping, he said.  He sounds like he‘s been in therapy, and of course, he has been.

And so by the time, you know, he gets to the White House and has other kinds of secrets to keep, he discovers, he says, Hey, I‘m pretty good at this.  And it eventually catches up with him.  It‘s not his only explanation for what happened, it‘s just one of them.

NORVILLE:  One of the things that he did talk about that struck me was the notion of being tired, that he was exhausted.  There was so much going on.  There was the Somalia crisis.  There was Bosnia.  There was all of this that was going on, and then the Lewinsky and the Ken Starr, everything starts piling on.  He said, I was so tired, I couldn‘t even lift my arms above my head, and that that was probably a problem he said most presidents had to deal with.

DUFFY:  And he‘s talking about just how difficult it is to be the president early in the interview.  He says, Well, you‘ve got this problem and this problem and this problem, and none of it goes the way you expect.  And then there are five crises you never planned for, and then you‘re tired.  And trying to deal with—you know, make the best decisions when you‘re exhausted is never a good formula.  It‘s like sort of trying to work without sleep.

He didn‘t say that exactly in the context of when he was thinking about Monica and how to sort through the problems, but he says that his presidency is a mixed bag.  He had successes and failures, and when he was talking about his failures, he said exhaustion was a factor.

NORVILLE:  He also said that one of his biggest regrets was misleading the American public.  And I want to quote from page 775 of this 900-plus book.  He said, “I stonewalled, denying what had happened to everyone—

Hillary, Chelsea, my staff and cabinet, members of the press and the American people.  What I regret most, other than my conduct, is having misled all of them.”

DUFFY:  Well, that‘s the thing people hate Clinton about most.  I mean, you know, how you tell people you‘re going to see Clinton and interview him, and they say, you know, Well, he‘s just going to lie to you.  That was such a signal event for a lot of voters who are still up in the air about him or liked him or didn‘t.  It was just a crushing betrayal.  Now, you know, lying about an affair is a fairly normal thing.  You know, what happened in 1998 is that Ken Starr made lying about an affair an impeachable offense.  And that‘s one of the weird things about that whole chapter.

NORVILLE:  And he said on the whole Whitewater-Ken Starr

investigation, the special investigator, that he wore the fact that he

stood up to the impeachment as a badge of honor.  He said the worst

presidential decision he ever made was allowing the special prosecutor to

come in.  He said, “Whatever (ph) I did, wrong on the facts, wrong on the

law, wrong on the politics, wrong for the presidency, wrong on the

Constitution.  Perhaps I did it”—again into the whole exhaustion thing -

·         “because I was completely exhausted.”

DUFFY:  Right.

NORVILLE:  He really regrets signing over for the special prosecutor, but did he have a choice?

DUFFY:  Well, it didn‘t seem like it at the time, Deborah.  In 1994, when Whitewater was just breaking, it seemed like everyone said, Give this to a prosecutor.  You know, Get it out of your way.  You can go on with your domestic agenda.  It‘ll quiet the press, which is—in the book, he says the main reason why he did it.  His wife was against it.  His White House counsel was against it.  Yet he did it anyway.

And you know, at the time, it was just about Whitewater and the land deal and a few other things that probably didn‘t have legs.  And yet four, five—four years later, it becomes about a sex scandal.  And Clinton says in the book—I think the most controversial think he says about all of this is that he so hated Ken Starr for mounting this, what he thought was an attempt to stage a right-wing coup of his presidency, that when he really got under stress, he really—he said at one point, You know, I knew I was going to do some harmful things to myself because I was so angry about Starr—almost, in effect, tying his behavior in the Oval Office to his anger at Starr.

NORVILLE:  You have to tell me that you challenged him when he said that!  I was so angry at Ken Starr, I went and had an affair with the intern in the White House?

DUFFY:  Well, he doesn‘t say that‘s the only reason.  He says—and it‘s in the book—that he was inevitably going to do things that were harmful to himself.  And we asked him about it, and he said, look, I got so good at keeping things in separate boxes and doing this compartmentalization, I thought I could handle it.

NORVILLE:  Did he think he was going to keep it in the box?

DUFFY:  Yes.  Oh, clearly.  I think he didn‘t want to get up that morning and have that conversation with his wife.  He probably had kept it the box before.  It may not have been the only time he‘d been able to keep it in the box.  But this time, you know, they had him dead to rights, and he could no longer keep it there.

NORVILLE:  Yes, and in the book, he says when he did finally have to spill the beans to Mrs. Clinton, that she, quote, “Looked at me as if I‘d punched her in the gut, almost as angry at me for lying to her in January as for what she‘d (SIC) done.”

We‘re going to open the discussion now.  Joining us also is presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, who has studied many presidents and has also had occasion to read this book.

Mr. Brinkley, how does this one stack up, compared to other presidential memoirs?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  Well, it‘s very much in line with a group of them that have come out, really, since Lyndon Johnson.  You have, you know, Jimmy Carter‘s “Keeping Faith” and Gerald Ford‘s “Time to Heal.”  They‘re public policy tracts, history, anecdotes, some good reading in all these books.  So I think it‘s like that.

It‘s different in both the hype, how many copies are being printed, the media tour that Mr. Clinton is going on, but also the sort of—what you two have been just talking about, this sort of intimate details.  It‘s a kind of a New Age angst that we‘re feeling here—Baby Boomer, self, you know, awareness and therapy.  And I think that make this is different than other memoirs.  Most are—stick pretty closely to policy.

NORVILLE:  SO do you put this in the self-help section of the book store?  Do you keep it in the biography-autobiography section?

BRINKLEY:  I think they—I think Mr. Clinton wants both markets.  I think there‘s the—he wants people that love presidential history that are willing to queue up at a book store to get him to sign it, that—you know, that want to collect presidential history, and they also want the self-help.  I think the fact he‘s going to go on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”...


BRINKLEY:   -- talk about, you know, his—his weaknesses—this is about—we study dysfunctionalism in our country, and he‘s willing to talk about some of his.  And it‘s very human of him.  It‘s not ultimately what one thinks of when they think of the great presidents‘ doing.

NORVILLE:  Yes.  And Michael Duffy, you spent a lot of time with him when you were up in Chappaqua talking with the former president.  Is he excited about that aspect of the publicity push, the I‘m going on Oprah, I can help people deal with their problems, get touchy-feely, aspects?

DUFFY:  I think he was more open about that than some of the other things we talked about policy.  He—at one point, we asked about the counseling and how it had gone, what did he learn about himself, and he said, I learned that, you know, everybody ought to do this.  You ought to do it whether you‘re married or not.  Whether you‘re going to getting divorced or not, you ought to do it.  He said that he learned how to sort of restart a conversation with his spouse.  He said that it had gotten to the point where, you know—you know, it had kind of stopped.  And he‘s, you know, relatively open about that.

NORVILLE:  All of which is kind of weird coming in a presidential memoir.

We do want to talk policy.  He was the president of the United States for eight years.  And when we come back, we‘ll get into some of the political issues that Bill Clinton faced during his eight years in Washington.  More with Michael Duffy and Douglas Brinkley when we return.  And reaction to Bill Clinton‘s memoirs.  Some of the reviews have been pretty scathing.  And later on, Susan McDougal.  Her loyalty to the former president cost her 18 months in prison and a mention in the book.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest president in the history of the United States of America, President William Jefferson Clinton!


NORVILLE:  Bill Clinton‘s efforts to revitalize his image and define his legacy continue with the publication of his autobiography.  The book breaks down, basically, into two parts.  The first deals with Clinton‘s early life in Arkansas, and then the second part is more or less a diary of his time in the White House.  I‘m back now with Michael Duffy, Washington bureau chief for “Time” magazine, who interviewed Mr. Clinton for this week‘s cover story, and presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, who has read portions of the book.

Mr. Brinkley, in terms of explaining the policy decisions and the thinking behind them in his presidency, how does Mr. Clinton stack up, as opposed to other presidents?

BRINKLEY:  It‘s quite strong.  I think he‘s very good at addressing a lot of these issues.  The problem is, some of the drama of his foreign policy, for example, isn‘t as great as reading, you know, Dwight Eisenhower‘s two-volume memoir, Harry Truman‘s at the dawn of the cold war.  I think what comes across is President Clinton is very proud of the fact he had democratic enlargement, NATO enlargement, the fact that he was able to ably deal with the war in Kosovo, was able to deal with the war in Bosnia, that he worked tirelessly for peace in Northern Ireland, that he dealt with the Middle East peace process.

I think one of the most interesting things to come out in the last few days is Clinton‘s blaming of Yasser Arafat for the failures at the final peace accord meetings and says there was a historic lost opportunity.  And he also has a funny story about that famous handshake...


BRINKLEY:  ... with Rabin and Arafat, and as long as Rabin didn‘t have to kiss Arafat, they were going to be able to pull it off.  So there‘s some fun moments and very, I think, important ones.  Historians will be looking at this book and footnoting it for years to come.  There‘s a lot of good anecdotal historical material in it.

NORVILLE:  Michael, this book was also written after September 11, and you have to wonder how much of that played into the president‘s thinking as he was particularly addressing the issue of al Qaeda, which certainly existed during his presidency.  You almost felt like he had to defend what didn‘t happen during his watch.

DUFFY:  Yes.  The book, as it deals with Usama bin Laden and al Qaeda, feels defensive.  Throughout the second half of the book, when he‘s president, he mentions several times, you know, On this date, I took this action, or I considered this possibility.  There‘s a lot of sort of quick references to—as al Qaeda‘s coming onto the scene, but he never really is able to, obviously, you know, track him down and close the loop.

And there‘s no mention in the book, Deborah, about some of the things that they didn‘t consider, which was, you know, a lot more effort in the counterterror and intelligence area.  There‘s obviously—was huge room for improvement in the spending and effort they put into human and other kinds of intelligence, which, as we now know, were kind of underfunded during the ‘90s, and underemphasized.  And so that doesn‘t really get dealt with in the book, either.

NORVILLE:  How does Louis Freeh come across in this, the former head of the FBI?

DUFFY:  Well, you know, in a book in which he‘s not very critical about anybody, other than Ken Starr, Freeh really suffers.  It‘s—we asked him, given how unhappy he was with Freeh‘s performance—he appoints Freeh early in 1993, and pretty quickly, Freeh makes friends with all the Republicans in Congress and begins to turn on the White House, and the Clinton people just are sick of him by 1995.  We asked him, Well, if you didn‘t like him and thought he was, you know, working for Republicans instead of for you, why didn‘t you fire him?


DUFFY:  But by then, he‘s already so compromised in terms of some of the scandals going on, Clinton says, I didn‘t feel I could fire him without making that an issue, too.  And he didn‘t need another problem like that.

NORVILLE:  Yet again, making...

DUFFY:  So already he‘s...

NORVILLE:  ... making a decision, thinking on what the press is going to say about it.

DUFFY:  Right.  He‘s good when he talks about how he learns how to make decisions.  There‘s a section in the book about how he learned to go with his gut, rather than listen to his advisers.  That took him almost a year.  He‘s very open about admitting the mistakes he made in terms of sequencing health care instead of Welfare reform and the crime bill.  You know, they had a lot of accomplishments, but Clinton—you almost feel, reading it, Deborah, like he‘d like to do it all over again and get it right this time.

NORVILLE:  Yes.  I don‘t think you get Mulligans when it comes to the presidency.  Doug Brinkley, he talks about the pardons, specifically the of Marc Rich.  And said he says it wasn‘t worth the damage to his reputation, not that he wouldn‘t do it over again, but it wasn‘t worth the fall-out that he personally had to put up with as a result, just a few days after he ended his White House term.

BRINKLEY:  I don‘t think he was particularly candid about it.  Everybody knows the Rich pardon was a terrible mistake, and he‘s doing what you‘d call a half of a defense that, I don‘t know why it‘s so wrong, but it seems wrong.  I don‘t think he dealt with the pardon.  The pardon‘s a great low moment in Clinton‘s presidency.  You don‘t want to go out on a bad note, and he did, and I don‘t think he does anything in this book to rectify that.

NORVILLE:  And I think, Michael, in the interview with you, he said,

quote, “I may have made a mistake, at least in the way I allowed the case”

·         meaning the Rich case—“to come to my attention, but I made the decision based on merits.”  Was he able to defend it in your conversation?

DUFFY:  No.  And we didn‘t have a long conversation about it.  He always—in the book, when he clearly stumbles—and there were a lot of stumbles, big high moments in this presidency, big low moments—he always finds someone to say, you know, he thought it was a good idea.  Sometimes it‘s only one person.  But there‘s always—he‘s never kind of out there alone, like, What was I thinking? except for the great—the one—the one, you know, obvious case.

NORVILLE:  And yet, it‘s amazing, when he does talk about his successor in the White House and specifically on “60 Minutes” the other day, he was rather magnanimous to George Bush and the way he‘s been handling the war in Iraq.  Let‘s give a listen to Sunday‘s “60 Minutes” interview.


CLINTON:  I think the Iraqis are better off with Saddam gone, if they can have a stable government.  There have been more terrorists move into Iraq in the aftermath of the conflict.

I still believe, as I always have,  that the biggest terrorist threat

by far is al Qaeda and the al Qaeda network.


NORVILLE:  Michael Duffy, is he trying not to throw gasoline on a fire that‘s already burning?

DUFFY:  I think he‘s holding his cards for perhaps some kind of statement at a later date.  He said repeatedly in his session with us that the goal of U.S. foreign policy should be to create more friends, not more terrorists.  And when we kept going back—Is that what Bush is doing or not? -- he kept dodging.  It may be that he‘s simply laying a predicate for a later statement, and he doesn‘t feel at this stage, on the roll-out, that he should abandon the statesmanlike approach, at least not yet.

NORVILLE:  And finally, Doug Brinkley, “The New York Times” in its review was not exactly as complimentary as I‘m sure most authors would want.  The reviewer said, quote, “The book is a mirror of Mr. Clinton‘s presidency: lack of discipline leading to squandered opportunities, high expectations undermined by self-indulgence and scattered concentration.”  Is it a good read?

BRINKLEY:  Well, it‘s a good read.  It‘s an enjoyable read.  It‘s not dense.  But I also agree with that “New York Times” assessment.  There‘s nothing really heroic about this portrait of Bill Clinton.  You do see somebody who loves American politics and was good at it, but somehow, I think, at the end of the day, you feel that his deficiencies sometimes outweigh his accomplishments.

NORVILLE:  All right.  Well, the book hits book stores, as the president said, fine book stores across the country tomorrow.  Michael Duffy, Douglas Brinkley, thanks so much.

DUFFY:  Thank you.

BRINKLEY:  Thank you.

ANNOUNCER:  Up next: He scored some major victories and suffered some devastating defeats, including becoming only the second U.S. president to be impeached.


DUFFY:  I don‘t see it as a great stain because it was illegitimate.


ANNOUNCER:  Republican senator Trent Lott and former White House attorney Lanny Davis weigh in on Bill Clinton‘s legacy when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.




DUFFY:  The whole battle was a badge of honor.  I don‘t see it as a great stain because it was illegitimate.  On the day I die, I‘ll still be glad I fought him and I‘ll still be glad that I beat him.  And I‘ll still believe that it was a bogus, phony deal.


NORVILLE:  Former president Clinton, in his interview on “60 Minutes” Sunday night, talking about the efforts to impeach him from office.

President Clinton‘s two terms as president are known for many things, including his legendary bitter battles with Republicans in Congress.  Joining me now is Republican senator Trent Lott, who served as majority leader during President Clinton‘s second term.  Also with me, Lanny Davis, who served in the Clinton administration as a special counsel.  He has been a friend of both of the Clintons since their days in law school.  And it‘s nice to have both of you gentlemen with us.

Mr. Davis, I‘ll start with you first.  You came in in ‘96, basically, after Whitewater and the “travelgate” and “filegate” and umpteen different issues had come along.  What was your job?

LANNY DAVIS, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT CLINTON:  Well, my job was to deal with the press and make sure that whatever bad stories they were working on—in those days, campaign finance and all of the stories relating to campaign finance scandals—were written, out the door and over with, so that the president could focus on the great job he was doing for the country.

NORVILLE:  So you felt like he was, as president, getting bogged down in what the press was saying about each issue that came along?

DAVIS:  Yes.  In fact, we had an operation devoted to dealing with what we called the scandal machine press that were White House lawyers who did nothing but try to respond to reporters‘ phone calls, so that Mike McCurry, the president‘s press secretary, could talk about the economy and education and things that the American people really cared about.

NORVILLE:  Senator Lott, strictly from a political point of view, when all of this was going on with President Clinton, was that something that you all in the Republican wing looked at with a certain amount of relish, that, OK, while he‘s distracted, we can—we can be pressing our program forward?

SEN. TRENT LOTT ®, MISSISSIPPI:  Oh, I‘m sure there were some that looked at it that way, but I really didn‘t.  I really felt like I had a job to do.  I also came in as majority leader in June of 1996, right during the middle of the presidential campaign.  The Senate was completely balled up, and I had to try to find a way to work through that, to get some things done that needed to be done for our country.  I thought, obviously, that Republican candidates would benefit from that.

But I had to deal with the president, President Clinton.  He was the president.  I was the majority leader.  We came to terms pretty quickly with the fact that we were going to have to work together.  If he intended to get anything done as president, he was going to have to work with me, as majority leader in the Senate, and if I wanted to get anything done that I really cared about—from Welfare reform, immigration reform, tax policy, budgets, whatever it might be, safe drinking water—we were going to have to work with the president.  And over a period of years, we did more of that than most people realize.

NORVILLE:  Well, and he talked about that in the book.  He said the following.  He said: “Then there‘s the opposing party.  And they see their job as to stop you from doing yours.  So you have to find a way to work with them and hopefully to reach an honorable compromise without looking like you sold out.”

Clearly, both of you had the same objective as far as that went, to try to get things done. 

LOTT:  That‘s true.  And both of us were probably criticized for that.  I know he was on occasion within the White House, with his own party, when he signed the welfare reform bill, for instance. 

I was on occasion being accused of trying to move things through the Senate to try to get things accomplished, instead of looking at the political points that could be scored.  But I really felt like the best politics was good policy.  And, over those years, when you look back on the things that we passed, the variety of issues that we dealt with, including infrastructure issues like the highway bill, the aviation bill, we—the African Free-Trade Bill, there‘s a long list of achievements. 

And I think that, while he got some benefit of that, it served the Republicans important—well, because it served the country well. 

NORVILLE:  Mr. Davis, go ahead. 

DAVIS:  Senator Lott is saying something that is an important part of this book and the biography of Bill Clinton‘s presidency. 

And I hope I don‘t get Senator Lott into trouble by saying something very nice about him, but the fact is that, if you look at welfare reform, if you look at NAFTA, which really Bill Clinton had to stand up against the base of his party, the labor movement, in favor of NAFTA...

NORVILLE:  Absolutely. 

DAVIS:  He worked with Senator Lott.  And Senator Lott, as majority leader, he had his partisan moments.  And so did we in the White House. 

He was a constructive leader in the Senate.  And Bill Clinton would say things to me about Trent Lott.  Again, I don‘t want to get him into trouble here.  That is the larger story of the Clinton presidency, that he was able to work with the Trent Lotts and the Newt Gingriches when it was constructive to move the country ahead. 

NORVILLE:  I don‘t think people hear that enough, to be honest with you, that folks from opposing political parties actually do work together, do get along, do appreciate the merits of the other person‘s argument, even if they don‘t necessarily agree with the way they‘re trying to go about it. 

DAVIS:  A very insightful line about Bill Clinton from Bill Clinton—

I‘ve known him for 35 years—is when he says, you can think that somebody is right or wrong without thinking they‘re good or bad. 

He disagreed with Senator Lott and the Republican Congress many, many times, while still granting that they were good people, sincerely motivated.  That‘s Bill Clinton.  And when you read his book, you‘ll see that part of him very, very clearly. 

LOTT:  And, Deborah, don‘t get me wrong. 

Obviously, there were times when we really did partisan battle, political battle, but—and there were a lot of things that we had serious problems with.  Obviously, the impeachment process was one of those.  There were other issues we disagreed with. 

NORVILLE:  Well, you weren‘t necessarily 100 percent behind the impeachment thing, were you, Senator? 

LOTT:  Well, I‘ve been accused of that too. 


LOTT:  Again, I had a role to perform there.  The Senate had to deal with this issue. 

It had—he had been impeached by the House of Representatives.  They had articles of impeachment.  We had to have a process that we would consider those in a timely fashion and in a fashion that hopefully would not damage the institutions that were affected, and then come to a conclusion and have a vote, which we did.  And I think we achieved all of those. 

Now, some people say that we should have taken longer, we should have had witnesses in the well of the Senate, you know, all kind of second-guessing.  But we thought it through and we found a way to get through a very difficult process.  And then, after that was over, we could go back to legislating for the American people. 

NORVILLE:  You had to move on. 


LOTT:  And I have talked to President Clinton as that process was going forward and afterward.  I don‘t think we ever actually talked about the impeachment process.  He was doing his part.  I was doing what I had to do.  But, on another track, we were still talking about legislation for the country. 

NORVILLE:  As you know, the president has said he wears it as a badge of honor that he stood up to the process and he emerged still in office.  Can you understand how he feels that way? 

LOTT:  I can understand how he would feel that way. 

I‘ve had some difficult experiences myself.  I don‘t see, though, that it‘s appropriate, really, for him to consider it a badge of honor.  It was a terrible thing to have to go through, both for him, his family, and for all of us and for the country.  I don‘t think that was a good choice of words. 

NORVILLE:  We‘re going to leave it right there. 

When we come back, more words from Senator Trent Lott and Lanny Davis, right after this.


NORVILLE:  In his memoir, former President Clinton talks about his successes and his failures.  Senator Trent Lott and longtime Clinton friend Lanny Davis take a look at both in a moment.


NORVILLE:  We‘re talking about Bill Clinton and the publication of his autobiography, which hits bookstores tomorrow, back with Republican Senator Trent Lott and former special counsel for President Clinton Lanny Davis. 

Gentlemen, I‘m going to ask each of you the same question. 

Senator Lott, what do you think Bill Clinton‘s greatest legislative success was during his eight years? 

LOTT:  Well, it took a Republican Congress, but the fact of the matter is, we worked together and we reached balanced budgets and had surpluses for four years. 

I had been in Congress for 25 years looking forward to that day.  I think a lot of it was growth in the economy that started in the Reagan years.  But Clinton has to get some credit.  And so does the Republican Congress.  We did get balanced budgets and we also got surpluses.  But there were other areas which I think real achievements were achieved.  Medicare reform is one example, child health.  So, there were some big things accomplished in the 1990s.  And you can‘t deny the fact that he was president and we did work together.  We got it done. 


Lanny, what would you say his biggest accomplishment is? 

DAVIS:  I‘m going to keep getting my friend Trent Lott in trouble, but I completely agree with him that the courage shown by both Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott, the Republicans in Congress joining with Democrats and making the tough decisions to balance the budget.

And I know Senator Lott will disagree with this, but the tough decision by the Democrats to raise taxes in 1993, without the support of any Republicans, and to cut spending with the help of Republicans, turned deficits into surpluses.  And I‘m sorry to say that this administration has forgotten that lesson and we‘re now back to deficits. 

NORVILLE:  And what would you say was his biggest deficit?  What didn‘t he do during his White House years that he should have done? 

DAVIS:  Well, I‘ve talked to both Senator Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and President Clinton about this.  And I think that their decision to be too ambitious on health care, without reaching out to the Republicans, who wanted to do something, including Senator Dole and Senator Lott, who wanted to do something about health care, but they were far too ambitious too early, I think they would both say was their biggest early mistake. 

NORVILLE:  Well, indeed, in the interview that he gave to “TIME” magazine, the president said—quote—“I should have done welfare reform before health care.  As soon as I realized Bob Dole wasn‘t going to do anything on health care, I should have told the American people the truth, abandoned it, and said, we‘re going to have this after the ‘94 election.  We‘ve got to have a bipartisan solution.”

So, he recognized that it wasn‘t something that was going to happen. 

DAVIS:  I think that the sequencing was a mistake.

But also the fact was that there was moderate Republican leadership, both Senator Lott and in the House, that would have created a first step towards health insurance, and that really was also in retrospect they would agree a mistake not to do it step by step. 

NORVILLE:  Senator Lott, what could, what should President Clinton have come to Congress with that you think he could have gotten through that in retrospect he didn‘t? 

LOTT:  I think he‘s probably right about health care.  I think the timing, the way it was packaged was not good.  If he could have waited a year or two, that could have made a difference.

And I also think the way that was handled led to the tremendous increase in Republicans in subsequent elections in the Congress.  But I also think that—he says in his book, apparently—and I have not read it.

NORVILLE:  Right. 

LOTT:  But he wishes he had done more with regard to Osama bin Laden and Iraq.

And I had some conversations with him before we shot those missiles into the Sudan and into the desert of Afghanistan, thinking that maybe there would be a chance to get Osama bin Laden with that strike in Afghanistan.  But I think that‘s a little bit of Monday-morning quarterbacking. 


LOTT:  If we knew then what we knew now, we probably all would have done more.  But if we‘d done more then, we might not have endured some of the things we‘ve had to endure since 2001.  And I don‘t mean that just trying to put the blame on him.  I just—I think that he probably would say the same thing. 

NORVILLE:  But, Lanny Davis, wasn‘t it right there?  I mean, didn‘t President Clinton drive Osama bin Laden basically into the forefront of the terrorist movement by pushing him into Afghanistan?  The Sudan had him.  We knew where he was then.  And forcing him to be extradited from that country created a bigger problem. 

DAVIS:  There‘s actually a bum rap on that. 

He never had an opportunity to get Osama bin Laden.  That‘s been falsely stated.  It‘s not a fact.  He also avoided 9/11s that were not well known at the time.  There was a huge threat at the millennium that the story still needs to be told, what the Clinton White House did to avoid a potential 9/11. 

He also did try to kill Osama bin Laden, as he said in his book.  He ordered and authorized the lethal attack on bin Laden.  I think Monday-morning quarterbacking is the right term.  But I think President Clinton deserves credit for identifying al Qaeda early on as a threat. 

NORVILLE:  Yes-or-no questions, because we don‘t have very much time. 

Lanny Davis, will people change their opinion of Bill Clinton based on what he said in this book? 

DAVIS:  Yes, more human characteristics, more acknowledgment of fault and the greatness of his presidency.  It‘s going to take some time to get over this Monica thing, so we can look at his performance in office. 

NORVILLE:  And, Senator Lott, do you think it will change anybody‘s mind? 

LOTT:  Probably not.  I think it‘ll just renew the arguments.  Only time and history will give him a review that most presidents eventually get. 

NORVILLE:  Yes.  Well, he is a young man, so there‘s a lot of time for history to judge. 

Senator Lott, thank you so much for being with us from Washington. 


NORVILLE:  Lanny Davis, good to have you here in our new digs in New York. 

DAVIS:  Thank you, Deborah. 

NORVILLE:  We‘re glad to see you.

When we come back, there‘s nothing like a little help from your friends.

ANNOUNCER:  Still to come, her unwavering loyalty to Bill Clinton cost Susan McDougal 18 months of freedom. 


SUSAN MCDOUGAL, FRIEND OF BILL CLINTON:  If you will say you had a sexual affair with Bill Clinton, that will be enough to save you.  They will not send you to jail. 


ANNOUNCER:  Where is she now?  And does she regret her tough stand against Clinton nemesis Ken Starr?  Susan McDougal speaks her mind when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.


NORVILLE:  More now of Bill Clinton‘s memoir, “My Life.”

My next guest, Susan McDougal, is a friend of Bill Clinton‘s.  And she‘s mentioned in the book.  She spent 18 months in prison for refusing to cooperate with Kenneth Starr‘s Whitewater investigation.  President Clinton pardoned her shortly before he left office in 2001.  And Susan McDougal joins me now from Little Rock, Arkansas. 

Ms. McDougal, I understand you saw Bill Clinton for the first time in many, many years last week. 

MCDOUGAL:  I did.  He came to the premiere in New York of “The Hunting of the President.”  It was a packed crowd and it was really an unbelievable night. 

NORVILLE:  And you two had not seen each other for close to 20 years? 

MCDOUGAL:  That‘s right.  I hadn‘t seen him or spoken to him.  He called me probably about three months ago for a few minutes and told me he‘d read my book and enjoyed it.  But other than that short conversation, I‘d never seen or spoken with him. 

NORVILLE:  Well, the movie you mentioned is called “The Hunting of the President.”  And, as you said, it was shown in New York last week. 

Here‘s a little bit of it where you appear in the documentary. 


MCDOUGAL:  You guys are hiding some sort of relationship.  And so what they really want you to do now is give them something on Hillary, because they don‘t believe you‘ll turn on Bill, but you must hate Hillary since you‘re in love with Bill, and you would do something to hurt her. 


NORVILLE:  This was you retailing why the Whitewater investigator would have been interested in you in the first place.  What was it like seeing yourself on screen? 

MCDOUGAL:  It was really hard because I taped this not long after I‘d gotten out of jail.  And I think anyone who sees it, it‘s hard to watch.  There‘s a lot of pain and still a lot of open wounds there that I hadn‘t even thought about in a long time.  And it was hard for me to watch.  I think it was hard for everyone to watch. 

NORVILLE:  And, at the end of the movie, I understand that President Clinton came up and was addressing the crowd and said, there‘s somebody here who really needs to be recognized.  What happened then? 

MCDOUGAL:  Well, I was sure it was Harry Thomason, because Harry did the film.  And I was thinking, what a great night for Harry because he‘s done this film and now the president is going to recognize him and have him up on stage.  He said, there‘s an American hero in the audience and I‘d like to recognize them. 

And then he said, Susan McDougal.  And I—I couldn‘t believe it.  You know, as I said, I‘ve not spoken to him at all.  I had no idea what he thought of me personally or what I did of going to jail rather than lie for Kenneth Starr.  And it was an awfully nice thing. 

NORVILLE:  And he said, when he was working on the book, that when he got to the part about you and your refusal to testify and the prison term that you were sentenced to, that it made him so angry, it took him four hours to calm down to where he could pick up his pencil again. 

MCDOUGAL:  You know, that is an amazing thing, because, in all the years that I did know Bill Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas, I never saw him really mad. 

You know, I think he‘s one of the nicest, calmest, quietest people I‘ve ever known as far as—and funny, always happy and very funny.  So, when he said that, it was really shocking to me that, you know, he was that angry about what they had done to me.  I think it‘s very hard for people to know what was done to me.  Most people don‘t even realize that a lot of the time I spent in jail was in isolation, in lockdown, you know, in murderers row for a while in Los Angeles, some very harsh treatment, and time that I spent in jail. 

And so, I asked him, I said, how did you even know, you know, what they did? 

NORVILLE:  Because he was the president.  You can find these things out when you‘re the president. 

But give us a little history lesson, Ms. McDougal.  You were sentenced to 18 months for contempt for refusing to testify to the Whitewater investigator.  And you say it‘s because he wanted you to testify to something that was not true.  What was that? 

MCDOUGAL:  Well, the very first meeting I had with him, I expected them to ask me questions and I would answer them and we‘d get the story out and we‘d disagree or agree or whatever. 

But from the very moment, the very first meeting I had with them, they wanted me to be a witness in order to indict Bill Clinton for the story that David Hale was telling.  Hale had a loan office and he said Clinton had called him on the phone and said, look, I can‘t be on this loan.  I need $300,000.  Susan McDougal will come in and sign for it.  Give her the money.  And it was an absolute lie. 

I mean, when Clinton says it‘s a badge of honor that he fought them and won, it‘s a badge of honor for me.  If I had lied the very first day, if I had said, I will tell that story, I never would have spent one day in jail, not one day. 

NORVILLE:  But what if you would have testified and simply told the truth that that didn‘t happen?  Why couldn‘t you have simply raised your hand, promised to tell the truth, made the statements as to what did occur, and then not have to go to prison? 

MCDOUGAL:  Well, I asked the judge to let me do that.  I told her, I said, if you will just get me a prosecutor that doesn‘t already have, you know, a point of view—they had David Hale willing to lie for them because he was facing life in prison.  They had Jim McDougal, who was scared to die in prison and that was willing to tell their lies for them, and other witnesses who were willing to make a deal.

And I just wasn‘t willing to do that.  I was willing to answer any question.  And, in fact, when I went to trial, I answered every single question.  The point of fact is, after $73 million, there was not one thing that they ever found that Bill Clinton had done or Hillary Clinton had done wrong in Whitewater, which absolutely bears out everything I had to say. 

But, at the very first meeting and in the year that followed before they indicted me and put me in jail, they never wanted to hear it.  They did not want to hear the truth.  You know, Mark Twain said it best.  He said, it takes two people to tell the truth, one to tell it and one to hear it.  And they did not want to hear it. 

NORVILLE:  At the end of the day, President Clinton talks about his anger over that.  And he also talks about how helpless he felt. 

And I want to share with you something that he says in his book.  He said: “The thing that really angered me was I felt helpless because I felt like I had set in motion a chain of events in a good-faith effort to reassure mostly the press more than the American people that I hadn‘t done anything wrong in Whitewater and neither had Hillary.  And now Hillary, Susan McDougal, all these people in Arkansas, they were being crushed because of these events, and I couldn‘t help them.”

If the president felt helpless, how did you feel? 

MCDOUGAL:  I really think it sums it up best.  I said once, I feel like roadkill.  They could have cared less who I was. 

Kenneth Starr and all the people who worked for him just kind of thought of me as some nothing, some white trash nothing from Arkansas that they could just steamroll over.  And if I wouldn‘t lie, they didn‘t care if they killed me.  They didn‘t care what they did.  And I think that, as much as anything, made me so angry.  It meant nothing to them what they did to anyone to get Bill Clinton. 

NORVILLE:  You are now out of prison.  You are now rebuilding your life.  What are you doing now? 

MCDOUGAL:  Well, I‘m writing the stories of the women I met in jail.  As you said, I was in seven different jails in five different states, a lot of that time on murderers row, a lot of that time in some of the mental health facilities that they held women in, in very weird circumstances. 

And I am sort of telling the stories that the women told me while I was in there, really some interesting things. 

NORVILLE:  Well, come back one day and share some of those tales with us, will you? 

MCDOUGAL:  Thanks.  That‘s awfully nice. 

NORVILLE:  All right, Susan McDougal, thank you for being with us. 

Coming up next, one of television‘s best-known actors is making a comeback both on television and the big screen. 


NORVILLE:  Thanks for watching.  I‘m Deborah Norville.

Coming up tomorrow night, James Garner.  He is 74 years young, but he is hotter than ever.  Actor James Garner joins me here in the studio to talk about his new film called “The Notebook” based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks—I saw it today—it‘s at least a four-hanky job—and about his co-starring role in “Eight Simple Rules” on television.  What would you like to know about James Garner?  Well, send us an e-mail with your questions, your comments to us at NORVILLE@MSNBC.com and we will try to get some of your questions right in front of him. 

That‘s it for tonight.  Thanks so much for watching.

Coming up next, Joe Scarborough and “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”  We‘ll see you tomorrow. 


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