Clinton upset that interview released before election
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Clinton defended his remarks Monday in an Esquire magazine interview in which he said congressional Republicans owe the nation an apology for his impeachment.
But he also expressed anger that those comments had been released before Election Day.
And he urged Americans to read the interview for themselves rather than judge his remarks based on what others say he said.
Speaking to reporters about budget battles with Congress, Clinton was asked about the interview in the magazine's December issue. The president indicated he was annoyed that excerpts of that interview had been released. It was posted in full on the magazine's Web site.
"I was promised faithfully that that interview would be done at least after the election and I believed it," Clinton said. "And the only thing I can say is, I doubt if you read the whole interview or you wouldn't have asked the question in that way, and I would just urge the American people, if they're hearing all this talk, to read exactly what was said."
Driven by politics
In the interview, Clinton faulted Republicans for pursuing his impeachment, saying they were driven by politics and were not interested in the truth.
The House of Representatives impeached Clinton in December 1998 over charges related to his affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. The Senate later acquitted Clinton.
"Unlike them, I have apologized to the American people for what I did wrong, and most Americans think I paid a pretty high price," Clinton said in the interview. "They never apologized to the country for impeachment. They never apologized for all the things they've done."
"Most people know that what they did was not about morality or truth or the law, it was about politics and power and didn't have anything to do with them or their welfare; it had to do with the Republicans and their welfare," he added.
On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, called Clinton's comments "absolutely bizarre" and rejected the call for an apology.
"It shows you something about his thinking and the judgment that he has," Lott said on ABC's This Week. "Look, he disgraced the office. He did things in the Oval Office that are absolutely still incredible and then he lied about it."
When Clinton was asked on Monday to expand on his comments made to Esquire, he would only say that he had given the interview to the magazine after being promised it would not be published until after the Nov. 7 presidential election.
White House officials said the Esquire interview was one of a series of interviews designed to run later in the year.
Upbeat assessment of tenure
After a wide-ranging talk of his feelings about his presidency and the changes he had made, Clinton gave an upbeat assessment of his eight years in the White House.
"I've had a wonderful, wonderful time. It's been good for -- a fabulous experience for my family -- for my wife and for my daughter, and I'll always be glad I did it. And I'm still working at it. I loved it. I loved it."
He said what he went through was "peanuts" compared to what a lot of people around the world went through to pursue what they think is right in public service.
"There were days when I was angry and days when I gave myself a pity party. But I worked through it, and it was, on occasion, almost surreal," he said. "I think in a funny way, even the bad parts of this, the experience, was quite good for me, and I think it will make me a better person for the rest of my life," he added.
Reuters contributed to this report.