Last Tuesday, June 22, a current events program entitled Panorama, distributed by the BBC, interviewed President Bill Clinton in the wake of his recently released book. I watched the interview but didn’t have a tape recorder handy. Luckily, I, at long last, have tracked down the transcript of the interview. I have put into bold print certain quotes which I personally find quite risible.
In short, Clinton hasn’t changed much.
He still blames “right-wing” reporters who do not get challenged by the media for simply reporting the public’s right to know about a scandal in the White House. The claims of victimhood that Clinton invokes here are incredible:
Dimbleby (interviewer): [But] you can’t have had any grounds for complaint when the Press did go at you when you became President … Because you knew it was going to happen, you brought it on yourself in a sense by running for it.
Clinton: Yeah, but I don’t like that because that exonerates everybody else of responsibility for the decisions that they make. The New Right that controlled the Republican party in Washington and the political press had the same interests. They thought it was all about power, I thought it was about how power was used … Others kept score in a totally different way. You know, are we hurting the other side or not? Have we got a good story today that is about personal destruction?
Dimbleby: But if you knew you had enemies like that, you offered them a gift with the Monica Lewinsky affair, didn’t you?
Clinton: Of course I did, and was it rational? No. So I do my very best to explain why I think it happened … But I hope that you and everyone else who asks me this question never has to know what it’s like to have somebody that despises you be given unaccountable legal power to indict the innocent, because they will not lie and to exonerate the guilty because they will … And you know, it’s hard to think straight when that’s going on … I don’t make any excuses for myself, you’ve already said I’m pretty tough on myself and I try to be … But I frankly think Washington went a little haywire, you know just ever since Watergate, there was this idea that, you know, we treat all politicians as if they were basically crooks, and we just keep looking until we find something. And that’s the way the press kept score, and that’s the way the Republican right kept score …
The former President maintains that the definition of sex presented to him while testifying to the Grand Jury was “bizarre,” explaining that although however contorted the definition given him, he still can’t answer one way or the other whether or not the sex that he had with Monica Lewinsky was oral. He is adamant that this kept him from concentration on his policies, his legacy, and what was best for the American people:
Dimbleby: You’ve explained … how you felt this was really a private matter and was wrongly exposed publicly, but one thing people were puzzled by, which was when you said you hadn’t had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky. Did you seriously, when you said that, not consider oral sex to be a sexual relationship?
Clinton: First of all I never discuss what did or didn’t happen; so you only have one side of what happened. I don’t believe in discussing it and won’t. Secondly, did you read the instructions I was given?
Dimbleby: Which instructions?
Clinton: Well, keep in mind, I testified very differently to the Grand Jury than I did in the civil deposition. I was given the most bizarre definition of sexual definition – er, relations, which the lawyers said, for the Republican lawyers that were going after me, said they did to spare me embarrassment. Then, my lawyer, and then I personally, asked those lawyers if they wanted to ask me a specific question and they said, “No.” And then they claimed that I had lied in the deposition because I answered no to this contorted definition they gave me, which to this day I still believe is the right answer.
Dimbleby: (justifiably confused) So you’ve never said you had oral sex, or she did oral sex on you. That’s what …
Clinton: (interrupts) I’ve never answered that one way or the other. I answered the questions in the Grand Jury about what I thought the definition meant. But you know, I wasn’t – keep in mind – at the time I went through that deposition, I wasn’t in the business of helping them, because they knew the lawsuit, that gave them the power to ask me these questions, was a total fraud … They knew that the theory on which they were asking me these questions was a total fraud … [and] they had gotten Kenneth Starr involved in the case for total political reasons.
At this point in the interview, Clinton became visibly disturbed, then angry. The public’s right to know was never, at any point, germane to the Lewinsky scandal and Clinton makes it clear that it was a set-up, a witch-hunt, reviving the whole “right-wing conspiracy” theory, demonizing Starr – a “mad prosecutor,” in his words – and even, in his annoyance, attacking Dimbleby himself (an interviewer for the leftie BBC, please keep in mind) for being part of the process. Get ready to read paranoia that is creepily Nixonian in context:
Clinton: (continues) Now, maybe, you know, given the import of your question, maybe you think all this is perfectly legitimate and every person in the world should be treated this way; I don’t, I think it was wrong. I think it was done by people who craved power, who wanted to concentrate wealth and power in my country, who wanted to radically revise my country’s future and move it to the Right … Now does that excuse what I did? No. But what they did was a threat to the Constitution and the fabric of life in America and the future of the country.
Dimbleby: You say we’re not to know what you did and that’s obviously your affair, but your wife, in her book, clearly sets out that you did lie to her.
Clinton: And I said I did, and I acknowledge that in my book.
Dimbleby: So, it is true that you lied.
Clinton: It is true that I didn’t tell her the truth, I didn’t tell anybody the truth … I decided not to compound my personal error by letting these people [Starr, et al] win and that, in the meantime, I shouldn’t expose anybody until the thing calmed down a little bit because we had a mad prosecutor on the loose who was dying to indict anybody … You know, if this had been a normal thing where I had been found to have done wrong personally, and I’d been asked about it, I would have simply dealt with it in an appropriate way, with my family and anyone else …
(Very angrily) And let me just say this – one of the reasons he [Starr] got away with it is because people like you only ask people like me these questions. You gave him a complete free ride. Any abuse they wanted to do, they indicted all these little people from Arkansas, what did they care about them, they’re not famous, who cares that their life was trampled. Who cares that their children were humiliated. Who cares if Starr sends FBI agents to their school, and rip them out of their school to humiliate them, and try to force their parents to lie about me? Who cares if he sends a woman like Susan McDougal in to a Hannibal Lector-like cell and makes her wear a uniform worn only by murderers and child molesters? Nobody in your line of work cared a rip about that at the time. Why? Because he was helping their story.
And that’s the difference in me and the people that were after me. I actually cared about what happened to those people, and I wanted to be President to help those people. And that’s what the fight was about. Now that doesn’t justify any mistake I made, but look how much time you spent asking me these questions, and this time you’ve had – that’s ’cause what you care about, ’cause that’s what you think helps you and helps this interview. I care about what happened to the people I fought for.
This all naturally and conveniently forgets Clinton’s own use of the FBI, the ATF and the INS to ruin the people he always thought were after him, all eight long years of his term in office, but never mind. But, hey, he cared.
Clinton: And that’s why people like you always help the Far Right, ’cause you like to hurt people, and you like to talk about how bad people are and all their personal failings, and … and that’s why you – look, just … you made a decision to allocate your time in a certain way. You should take responsibility for that. You should say yes, I care much more about this than whether the Bosnian people were saved, and whether he brought a million people home from Kosovo, than whether twenty-seven million people had jobs at the end, and whether we moved a hundred time as many people out of poverty as Reagan and Bush. This is what I care about.
Poor Clinton. He’s Superman and nobody wants to know. It’s just Monica, Monica, Monica, all the time.