Clinton prepared to 'stand and fight' if indicted
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- President Clinton said in an interview released Tuesday he was prepared to "stand and fight" if he was indicted after leaving office.
In a wide-ranging, one-hour interview with CBS News taped Monday, Clinton said he wanted to rest for a while after leaving the White House, mused about some of his political adversaries, and said he didn't have a clue if his wife, Sen.-elect Hillary Rodham Clinton, might run for president.
Dan Rather, who conducted the interview, asked Clinton if he expected to be indicted by the office of the independent counsel, which investigated the Whitewater real-estate deal, his affair with Monica Lewinsky and a host of other issues.
"Look, I don't have any idea. I don't have any control over that and I don't spend much time thinking about it," he said in a transcript of the interview released by the White House.
Asked if he thought President-elect George W. Bush, the Republican Texas governor who takes his place on Jan. 20, might pardon him, Clinton said: "I haven't given any thought to that. But I doubt it. I mean, no, I haven't thought about that."
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"Since I don't believe I should be charged, I don't want that," he added. "If that's what they want, I'll be happy to stand and fight."
Clinton, asked to say the first thing that came into his mind on a host of topics, offered some trenchant observations on his eight years in office and on his many adversaries.
Asked about the investigation of Whitewater, an Arkansas real estate venture that he and his wife invested in in 1978 and ultimately lost money on, he replied:
"Biggest bogus issue in modern American politics. Classic -- it was a fraud from the get-go and a lot of the people that were propagating it knew it was a fraud," he said.
Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker who led the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 and resigned during the impeachment crisis, came off relatively well: "A brilliant adversary, and a complicated man."
Not so for Tom DeLay, the Republican House whip who is known for his bare-knuckled tactics in enforcing discipline within his party.
"My problem with him is his whole view about how you should treat your opponents is very different from mine," Clinton said. "He's got a total scorch-and-burn policy -- take them out, whatever the cost, whatever you have to do."
Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who presided over the investigation into Clinton's affair with Lewinsky and his dissembling to conceal it, also came in for some harsh words.
"They put him in there because (former independent counsel Robert) Fiske was a fair, balanced man and the whole thing was going to be over before the '96 election and they didn't want that," Clinton said. "So they put him in there; said drag it out and get a bigger body count ... he did just what he was supposed to."
Clinton said he thought talk that his wife, who has won a seat in the U.S. Senate representing New York, might run for president in 2004 or 2008 was "worse than idle speculation."
He said he had advised her to "solidify her roots in New York" and simply did not know if she, or anybody else, would definitely run for president.
Asked about his own plans, Clinton said he wanted to kick back and rest for a while, then make some money for his family, and eventually find a way to be useful without getting in the way of future presidents.
But first, he said: "I need to take a couple of months and just go down. I need to rest. I've been working like crazy for 27 years."
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