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Interview with Hillary Rodham Clinton; Guess Panel Discusses the Clinton's Political Future

Aired June 10, 2003 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, her first live TV interview about her new tell-all book, the woman everybody's talk about. We'll talk as much as we can in depth and personal next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening -- I think. And welcome to LARRY KING LIVE. I don't see myself, I assume we're on.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, or should I say "Harry Potter," is our guest. Tow hundred thousand copies, according to Simon and Shuster, sold yesterday of her book "Living History." What do you make of that?

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Well I'm very gratified.

KING: Surprised?

CLINTON: Well, surprised because I guess it sent some kind of record. But yesterday when I did the book signing in New York City, I had such a good time. About 1,000 people were able to come through before I had to leave. And you know they were so encouraging and telling me how glad they were that I had done this book and giving me advice about, get back to health care, Senator. It was really wonderful experience.

KING: Why did you do this?

CLINTON: Well you know every first lady -- and you know this so well, because I think you've interviewed everyone, I don't know how far back -- but many of my predecessors -- and I always enjoyed their books. I thought they gave us insight and information about what the experience was like in the White House.

So long before Bill's term ended, I began thinking about trying to do the same. And I'm really glad I did, because although it was difficult in many respects, it gave me a chance to talk about the full range of the extraordinary time I had.

KING: Was it cathartic?

CLINTON: You know I've gone through it now and I think I can pretty much say I've closed the chapter having tried to describe as best I could what those years were like for me. KING: Has it been hard to talk about the Lewinsky thing and the things you had to deal with?


KING: Hard?

CLINTON: Yes, it was hard. I mean you know that. It was hard because these were very personal, private, painful matters that unfortunately were made public and I regret that.

But given the fact that they were, they became part of history, not just my personal history. So when I had to sit down and write the book and think about what would go in, I felt obligated to address these issues.

KING: You do think, though, that once it came out it was a journalistic story?

CLINTON: Yes, yes.

KING: If you were an editor of the paper would you have followed the trail?

CLINTON: It was. I just regret that it was made public for very partisan, political reasons that I don't think were good for the country. And the American people figured that out and they really stood by the president as opposed to those who would have ended his presidency.

KING: But what about the author, what about Hillary? She has to stand by and yet be hurt.

CLINTON: You summed it up very well.

KING: Supporting your president and you're pretty mad at your husband.

CLINTON: That about sums it up.

KING: Was that conflicted feelings?

CLINTON: It was having to carry these two competing feelings in my head and heart at the same time. I was, as I say in the book, ready to wring his neck. I was so upset and angry with him, very disappointed.

And yet at the same time, he was my president. And I had this additional, rather unique perspective. I had been on the impeachment staff in back 1974 and I had actually researched the historical and legal grounds for impeachment. And I knew that what was being attempted against this president was absolutely out of line with what the founders had thought, what people had always believed was the basis for Constitutional impeachment.

KING: Clear up something for us. You've written this details of how he told you, the morning he told you, the grand jury. Others are saying you had to know before. There's a book out that said David Kendall told you before. Now no one knows it better than you.

CLINTON: That's right...

KING: What do you make of the stories that you knew before?

CLINTON: Well one of the reasons I did want to write book was so many people are on the sidelines saying I should have done this or I would have done that or in some way talking about my life without having lived it. and I have. So I think I know a little bit about what I did and what I knew.

You know back in January of 1998 when my husband woke me up the first time and said there was going to be a story in the paper, I cross examined him, I asked him some hard questions. But I really didn't have a lot of trouble believing that this was one more in a long series of accusations because by that time I'd been accused of so many things. There had been front page stories around the country that had no basis in fact, that said all kinds of things about me.

So, I viewed this as another in a line of those kinds of accusations. And one of the things that I did to get up every day and keep going was really not pay attention to the press.

KING: Didn't read the paper?

CLINTON: I did not read the paper.

KING: Didn't watch the news?

CLINTON: I did not watch the news. I was focused on doing what I thought of as important, the issues I cared about, working on things like children's health and foster care and the like.

KING: So when he told you is when he told you?

CLINTON: When he told me is when he told me. And of course, David Kendall, who's a dear friend as well as my lawyer, has said that account is not true. And so I think we can put that to rest.

KING: Can you say you were shocked? Is that a good word or..

CLINTON: I was so upset. And I was...

KING: Upset more than shocked?

CLINTON: Well, shocked, upset, dumbfounded. You know, as I describe in the book, I couldn't believe that what he had told me and everybody else, for a very long period of time, was, you know, not the facts.

KING: Did you at all, when this happens to someone -- I've interviewed a lot of psychiatrists over the years. They say one of the first things the injured party feels is guilt. What did I do wrong? Did I do something that led to this? Did you feel that way? CLINTON: Oh, I don't think I felt that way about that particular instance. But it is the case that we did have to work very hard to decide whether we were going to stay married. And we did have counseling. I write about that...

KING: Did you lay any blame at yourself?

CLINTON: Well I think in a marriage you have to be honest and ask yourself, you know, what is my role? What is my responsibility?

You know, marriage, like any relationship, has two people involved in it, whether it's a problem at a particular period in time or a difficulty that you have to confront together. So I certainly asked myself a lot of hard questions.

KING: How, Hillary, did he explain it to you? I know you, you didn't let it go at just this was a passing affair. How did he explain what happened?

CLINTON: Well, in the book, Larry, I say that that's his story to tell. I have told this from my perspective, you know?

KING: His book well tell it?

CLINTON: Well, it's his story to tell. He has to decide, you know, how much he does share and what he does explain.

But I think what was important to me is that when I found out, I had to really figure out how I was going to keep going. You know, on the one hand, I had this horrible personal betrayal that I had to deal with. On the other hand, he was not only my husband, he was my president. And I thought what was being done to him was really out of bounds. He should have answered to me and to Chelsea...

KING: So you could think both things at the same time? He's being done wrong but he did me wrong.

CLINTON: That about sums it up. That sounds like a country western song.

KING: That's sort of like -- yes. That's sort of like spinning around, though, isn't it? You could go nuts.

CLINTON: Well, it was very hard. It was very hard because -- but I think anybody who's been in these positions, it may not be my particular set of circumstances...

KING: A lot of the population has.

CLINTON: Well, certainly. And you know, if you're a teacher or a doctor or drive a forklift, as I say in my book, you know, you've to go on with the public part of your life. But you don't have the whole world watching you.

You know at the very time that this awful experience was unfolding in our personal lives, I knew that my husband was getting briefed on a regular basis about whether or not our intelligence could pinpoint bin Laden so that we could try to launch missiles at his training camp and remove the threat that he posed.

KING: But didn't the pain supersede that?

CLINTON: Of course the pain in the beginning was overwhelming, but...

KING: I mean you didn't go to bed thinking about bin Laden?

CLINTON: No, but I put that in the book because I want people to understand what was at stake here. Which is why I feel so strongly that the politics of personal destruction which were waged against us was terrible for our country.

KING: We'll take a break and come back and ask about the private lives of public people. Our guest is Hillary Rodham Clinton. The book is "Living History." Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Senator Clinton.

Why didn't you get divorced?

CLINTON: Well, I had to ask myself that. It was a very prominent question in my mind. And we had to work really hard to decide what was going to happen with our marriage. But...

KING: Did it come -- almost think of that? I mean, was it...

CLINTON: Well, I certainly entertained it. I think anybody in my position had to or would have.

But, you know, as I write in the book, we've been together now more than 30 years, started dating in law school, started working together. We're very proud of the daughter we raised. We've been through a lot with our families. We've done so much for each other. And we decided that, you know, we really wanted to grow old together. So we made that decision.

KING: But you had, even as you said in the "60 Minute" interview, which you write about, you had other trials in your marriage.

CLINTON: Well, I don't know any marriage that doesn't have trials. You know, thankfully most of them are pulled out for people to dissect and analyze. But we were certainly, you know, able to say that we had worked through a lot of things and yet we never had the intense and focused effort that we put in after August '98 with the counseling and really trying to, you know, ask some of the hard questions that need to be asked in a marriage.

KING: How much of a public life is my business?

CLINTON: You know, Larry, I think we've gone from one extreme to the other. I think if we look back on our history, we had some very effective public servants who may have had some problems in their personal life and people who were perhaps paragons of personal behavior but were not good publicly to our country.

And what I want is for people to recognize that those in public life, like all of the rest of us, are human beings. You know, we have our strengths and our weaknesses, our faults and our abilities. And I often think of this old Irish saying that if our sins and flaws were written on our forehead we'd go around with a cap over our eyes because none of us could, you know, bear that constant exposure.

KING: But when you choose the life you chose, you choose to lay bare the other aspects, right? You're open for it.

CLINTON: Well...

KING: When you run for re-election, everything's fair.

CLINTON: In recent days, in recent years, that's become certainly the practice. But you can look back on our history and know that that wasn't always the case.

But it is what it is. And so you have to live with the rules that are currently in place. And one of the reasons why I believe in public service is because I think it's important to try to keep the focus on what those of us in elected office are trying to do on behalf of the country and I must say the American people got it straight and right from the very beginning. They understood that this was between us, as it would have been between them in a marriage, and that what was important is the job that Bill was doing as president.

KING: What do you think of Monica Lewinsky?

CLINTON: You know....

KING: What do you think of her?

CLINTON: Well, I have to say that, you know, as I write in the book, I think that everybody's privacy in this situation was invaded and I regret that. And I think was unnecessary and I really do believe it was part of a concerted effort to use whomever to try to end this presidency, mostly because...

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it were a Republican, don't you think the Democrats would have had a concerted effort to...

CLINTON: I don't...

KING: ...get that president. You don't think so?

CLINTON: I don't think so.

KING: You really don't?

CLINTON: I really don't, in part because I don't think they're very good at it. They don't really have that kind of mentality.

KING: The Democrats are not good at...

CLINTON: No, that's not what they worry about or think about in large measure.

I think that you can disagree with people and debate over their positions with issues without engaging in the politics of personal destruction. And that's what I really regret and hope we never go back to that.

KING: The other instances that came to light -- you don't dwell a lot on Paula Jones or Gennifer Flowers. You don't mention Katherine Willey. Reason?

CLINTON: You know, all of those things were investigated and looked into and, you know, they're part of history. And I'll leave it to other people.

KING: I know that. But personally to Hillary, personal feeling to you. You know about the investigation. How do you feel?

CLINTON: You know, I have talked a lot in this book about how I feel. But I also believe in the continuing right of every person to have a zone of privacy, which is an expression I've used and I still believe in. I have tried to, you know, let people have a better idea of what I think and how I feel and how I reacted.

KING: But not everything?

CLINTON: Not everything. I don't think that's appropriate.

KING: How did Chelsea handle it?

CLINTON: I'm going to leave that to her. She's an adult now. I don't talk about her, as you know, going all the back to the beginning Bill's run for the presidency. But I'm very grateful that, you know, she is a wonderful, level-headed young woman with a life of her own.

KING: What's she doing now?

CLINTON: She's still studying over in England and she'll be finishing up this summer.

KING: She serious with this young man?

CLINTON: I would get in a lot of trouble if I started talking about that.

KING: Do you like him?

CLINTON: Oh, I -- yes, I do. I do. I think I have a lot of respect for her judgment.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. The book is "Living History." It's already set a one-day record. Over 200,000 copies sold on the first day it was available.

Don't go away.


KING: On July 20, 1993, this program came to you live from the White House. The guest was president Bill Clinton. And halfway through that interview we asked him if he would like to stay an extra half hour. He said he would. Everybody came in my ear, the producers and others, said get him off at 10:00. He's got to be at off 10:00. When we finished, he looked like what the hell is this all about? I didn't know. We didn't know that Vince Foster had killed himself that day. You were in Arkansas that day?


KING: Were you watching the show?

CLINTON: I was watching the show.

KING: We announced he was going to stay and you played a part in getting him off, didn't you?

CLINTON: I didn't know about what happened until Mack McClarty, Bill's old friend who was then chief of staff in the White House. I was in my mother's house in Little Rock with Chelsea, and he said I have something terrible to tell you and told me that Vince had died and that it appeared to be a suicide. And you know, we were both just -- we couldn't talk. And Mack had grown up with Vince, and he and Bill and Vince all knew each other going back to childhood. And then Mack said I have to ask your advice about something, Bill is on live on LARRY KING LIVE, and he just agreed to do another half hour. But what should we do, because I don't want him to find out on live television.

KING: I had a police wire and called all in.

CLINTON: And would have been a police wire or maybe the AP or someone would have had it. Mack don't you think we ought do something?

I said yes. I said he shouldn't learn about one of his dearest friend's death on live television.

KING: Did you know he was depressed?

CLINTON: None of us knew. As I write in the book, I think every one of us has searched our minds for some clue we missed, something we could have done or said that might have made a difference. You know, Bill tried to get him to come over, I think the night before he killed himself before he -- to watch a movie and he didn't come. I write about the last conversation I had with him some weeks before, I was so busy and caught up, going to our first overseas trip to Japan, and I didn't have much interaction with him. And I write about how I canceled a dinner because I couldn't make it. And in retrospect we learned a lot about depression. KING: What did you think about the rumors with you and Vince Foster?

CLINTON: That's the kind of thing, I paid no attention to it.

KING: Was it befuddling to you? How did you act.

CLINTON: When you have people who will literally say anything, and we did, I know that in the eight years I was in the White House I was accused of everything including murder. I mean it was a terrible time.

KING: Murder.

CLINTON: Yes. It was awful. And you get to a point where you read these absurd charges, and you just think to yourself, don't these people have any better things to do than make up things about people?

And I shut it out and shut it off and don't pay attention to the any of the stories. Which is why as I said earlier I could shut out story that I heard in 1998 for so long.

KING: You were able to do that, someone could tell you, a friend, a story about you and Vince Foster in certain magazine and you could not read it?

CLINTON: There were so many stories, I can't even begin to tell you. The stories were endless.

KING: Why do you think people don't like you?

CLINTON: Well, I think there may be some reasons why people don't that are certainly legitimate, and that's their perfect right to make their own conclusions. But I really do think a lot of it had to do with Bill's agenda, Larry. There are two very different views about the kind of America we should want to live in and have in the future. And when Bill won, it just absolutely amazed and infuriated some people because they thought they had a lock on the presidency forever.

KING: Why you?

CLINTON: Look, I'm outspoken. I have strong feelings and opinions. I had always worked. I continued to try to help my husband, not only in his campaign but when he got to the White House. So, I think a lot of factors all happening at the same time. But at the bottom of it all, there is a very different view about what should be done in this country. And I'm on one side of that, along with my husband and about half of the country, and the vast right wing network or agenda or whatever you want to call it.

KING: You still believe in that?

CLINTON: Absolutly, I don't think there is any doubt about it.

KING: You wouldn't take that statement back. CLINTON: I say in the book that it may not be a conspiracy because after all that suggests something secret and behind closed doors, this is out in the open. People who are very much tied in and connected with trying to promote a particular political and ideological perspective.

KING: Did you read "Primary Colors"?


KING: See the movie?

CLINTON: No. Poor Joe in is really going to upset with me.

KING: The book purported to be about you and Bill and running for office and your life, and you have the discipline not to read it?

CLINTON: I do. I do. I don't think I've read any of the books that have been written about me. Some of the statements made, of course, or some of the charges have been brought to my attention. But I had to make a very fundamental decision. And it really goes back to my childhood and the way I was raised. You know, my mother, who had a very tough life, but gave me every ounce of love and attention she could possibly muster, always said to me, you have a choice every single day.

Are you going to act and do what you think is right or are you going to react and be somebody else's pawn in their life and their story?

So ever since I've been a little girl, I've tried to do what I thought was important and what I thought was right. And I certainly needed that by the time my husband got into public life and particularly when he decided to run for president. Because it was relentless. And it was a never-ending series of all kinds of accusation and stories, which if I had spent all of the time reading what other people were saying about me and worrying about what they thought, I'm not sure I would have gotten out of bed in the morning.

KING: On this program in 1997 a caller asked if you would ever run for office and you said absolutely not.


KING: You reiterated.


KING: What changed?

CLINTON: I had no intention, no desire. I did not think it was in my future whatsoever. When we got toward the end of the White House years, and people started asking me to run for the Senate and very knowledgeable, politically sophisticated people, I said no, that's absurd, that's ridiculous, I'm not going to do that. But as I began to think about everything I cared about and all of the issues I worked on for so many years on behalf of women and children and families, I decided I would continue to do that. And spend a lot of my time trying to get people who work in the body I'm part of to do what I thought was important.

KING: Do you think you would have beaten Giuliani?

CLINTON: We can't rewrite that history. I think it would have been a great race and I was ready to run it.

KING: We'll take a break and come back with some more moments. We'll touch as many bases as we can in our remaining moments with Hillary Clinton. Your watching LARRY KING LIVE don't go away.


CLINTON: I am honored today to announce my candidacy for the United States Senate from New York!

I will work my heart of for the next six years for all of you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And god bless you all.



KING: A few more item. Why did you not discuss the pardons?

CLINTON: Well you know that is really my husband's story to tell. And he'll have to do that. Those were his decisions.

KING: Didn't you as citizen have some thoughts about it?

CLINTON: I'll leave that to him to talk about.

KING: Didn't bother you at all?

CLINTON: We'll leave that to him.

KING: The president promised $20 billion to New York after 9/11. I think he gave $10 billion. Are you disappointed?

CLINTON: No, we actually got...

KING: You got the rest?

CLINTON: We got a promise of nearly $21 billion, and we still need help and we're still working to make sure the money that the Congress appropriated actually gets out to New York and that...

KING: So they haven't reneged?

CLINTON: No. But we're still fighting to get the money where it needs to go.

KING: How did the Rose Law Firm's Whitewater billing arrive into the White House? CLINTON: You know I write about that in the book. And believe me if there had been anything unusual about that, you would have been still hearing about it because there were certainly a lot of questions raised.

But the fact is that when they showed up they proved what I'd been saying, so...

KING: You don know how they got there?

CLINTON: No, I don't know how they got there. But they proved what I was saying. And you know every investigation of that whole matter also proved what I had been saying, which was this was a losing real estate deal and unfortunately they spent $70 million basically to say the same thing.

KING: How do you feel about Susan McDougal?

CLINTON: I think she has been very courageous and I write about her in my book. I think that standing up against the full onslaught of the special prosecutor and the sort of partisan attacks that she was under took a lot of courage.

KING: In the Senate yesterday, Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff came up to be a federal court appeals judge. The vote was 88-1. You were the one.


KING: Why?

CLINTON: Well during that time when he was on the staff of the committee in the Senate, a number of the young people who worked in the White House were, I thought, very badly treated by the Senate staff investigating Whitewater. And a number of those young people were put under tremendous pressure, legal bills that they had to run up. And I just didn't think it was handled appropriately or professionally.

KING: So you didn't think him worthy of a judgeship then?

CLINTON: Based on my firsthand knowledge of what went on during that period. But, you know, that's over. That vote is gone and part of history.

KING: Could have skipped the vote, couldn't you?

CLINTON: You know, there were several of these young people who asked me to express the only way I could the very difficult feelings that they had in the way that they were treated by that staff.

KING: So you were making a statement?

CLINTON: Yes. I mean, you know, it was a single vote. But it stood for a lot of what I think was wrong during that period. KING: Have about two minutes left. There will be a movie about you. And the word is Sharon Stone is going to play you. Do you have a reaction?

CLINTON: Well, I'm obviously flattered. Wouldn't anyone?

KING: Will you watch that?

CLINTON: Probably not.


CLINTON: You know, I'm too busy living my life. I cannot live other people's ideas of my life. I cannot worry about what other people say about me.

If readers get one thought from this book, it is that you have to live your own life and make the choices that are right for you. And whether you're the only person who listens to your heart and thinks hard about what you should be doing, that's the road you have to take.

And that's what I've tried to do in my life. And, you know, I ended up in the middle of this incredible situation here in Washington and a lot of people were taking very extreme positions about me. But what I've tried to do is to just follow what I thought was right every single day.

KING: Going to run for higher office? What's higher than Senate? Governor.


KING: Are you going to run for governor one day?

CLINTON: I have no interest or intention to do that.

KING: How about president one day?

CLINTON: I have said I have no intention to did that either.

KING: But intention is not -- we're not go to the '97 statement, right? I will not run.

CLINTON: Well, I guess that just proves that, you know, you have to only say what you believe and what I believe is I have no intention do that at this time.

KING: Would you describe the marriage today as strong and healthy? Or am I putting words in your mouth?

CLINTON: You know I think now that we're back into something resembling a normal life, which is a great gift to us, you know, we're having a terrific time.

KING: You wrote the book in longhand? CLINTON: Well, I had a lot of help, and I am very grateful for the help I had. You know, people were a wonderful team. But I did. I wrote in longhand. They had to type it up because I have not mastered the art of thinking on a computer. I go from my head to the fingers.

KING: How is president doing with his book?

CLINTON: Same thing, writing it in longhand. And...

KING: That's due when?

CLINTON: Next year. And he's having a great time doing it.

KING: Good seeing you, Senator.

CLINTON: Good to see you , Larry. Thank you.

KING: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, former first lady and author of the just released memoir, "Living History," sold over 200,000 copies the first day.

You've seen Hillary. Now we're going to have a major discussion about her and that presidency with Ben Bradlee, formerly of "The Washington Post." Michael Beschloss, the famed presidential historian. And former Clinton aide David Gergen. They're all next. Don't go away.


KING: To discuss what we've just seen here in Washington is Ben Bradlee, "Washington Post" vice president-at-large, former executive editor of that famed newspaper. In New York is Michael Beschloss, the best-selling presidential historian. His most recent book a terrific read, "The Conquerers." And in Boston, David Gergen, professor at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy school of government, editor-at- large "U.S. News and World Report" who served in the Clinton, Reagan, Ford and Nixon White Houses.

All right, Ben, what did you -- what's your overview of what we've just seen?

BEN BRADLEE, VP-AT-LARGE, FRM. EXEC. ED., "WASHINGTON POST": Well I think it's one of the great performances, controlled performances that I've seen in a long time in this town. I think I'm not sure where the truth, lies. You know, I find it very hard to believe everything in this city. I went all of the way to the Supreme Court with David Kendall at my side one time and I think I would have sworn I believed him.

KING: Michael Beschloss, what is your overview?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, you know, one thing I was thinking of, Larry, is that in a way writing this book makes Hillary Clinton a more normal political figure. I was thinking, you know, Jackie Kennedy, whom Ben knew when she was in the White House, one reason why she was so mesmerizing in later years was people would see her and they would always think, what must it have been like to go through Dallas and go through that presidency? And one reason they felt that way was because she never spoke about it very much or never wrote about it.

In a way by writing about these things, Hillary Clinton is taking the mystery out of these things. And now, in a way, she even said herself, she's closing the chapter. Now she's a senator from New York and maybe a future presidential candidate.

KING: David, how -- what do you make of this personality that can hear devastating news and separate that from the president is worried about Osama bin Laden and I've been betrayed?

DAVID GERGEN, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: This is a woman who is, I think, had enormous success in building shields around herself. She is one of the -- she is an enormously strong individual who is very centered, disciplined. Ben used the word controlled. I think that's right and I think is very unwilling to reveal more than she wants us to know about herself. And that's her right. She has been more successful than almost anybody I know in the Democratic Party and certainly in her husband's administration in erecting a zone of privacy around herself.

And I think what we see in the book is makings of Democratic frontrunner that we will see emerge the day after this next presidential election.

KING: Providing the president is re-elected.

GERGEN: If this president is re-elected, I think that Mrs. Clinton becomes the instant frontrunner for the Democrats for 2008.

KING: And formidable, Ben?

BRADLEE: Oh, sure. Absolutely. But as of now, she doesn't have to reveal anything else. She gains votes, it seems to me, by just looking beleaguered a bit but game and people say, You know, there she is and isn't she brave and...

KING: We're all cynics?

BRADLEE: Well, I don't know. If I would stand up there and talk about...

KING: Why do you think -- this is for all of you -- so many people despise her?

BRADLEE: Well, I don't know about that. I certainly don't.

KING: I know. But there are -- you know her critics...

BRADLEE: Yes. I think she bugs people.

KING: Every day, it seems.

BRADLEE: Yes. Well, let's see how long that lasts. Very fickle public in this country.

KING: What do you make of it, Michael?

BESCHLOSS: You know, a lot of it is ideology. She was right. You know, half of this country very much disagrees with her views on a lot of controversial issues. A lot of people are unhappy with the way that she has run this marriage with -- how she sees the role of a wife, the role of a woman and perhaps even the fact that she was able to parlay her celebrity as a first lady into a Senate seat from New York.

But in a way, you know, now is the next chapter, because she's not riding on that anymore and I think the fascinating thing is going to be if she runs in 2008, which I agree she will presumably unless a Democrat is elected next year, the fascinating thing is going to be whether she can get beyond basically that Bill Clinton base. Clinton was never able to get a majority of the votes in this country either election. If she can widen her appeal beyond essentially nostalgia for the Clinton years and people who liked that they say, that's going to be the development of a political figure. But that hasn't happened yet.

KING: David Gergen do you think it's policy that creates that hostility?

GERGEN: I think no. I think it's her cultural lifestyle and I think her assertiveness.

Larry, she threatens some people. She threatens -- a lot of men find her threatening. As I recall, she told me once that some people of our age had walked up to her, guys had walked up to her and said, You know, I would be really proud if my daughter grew up to be like you, but I'm sure as hell am glad as hell my wife isn't.

And I think that there is that quality about her that was unlike Eleanor Roosevelt, who was seen as more eccentric and therefore not threatening. I think Hillary Clinton is right there in your living room with this more assertive style and a lot of guys find that -- they are uncomfortable with that. With time and a new generation coming up, a lot of that unease will pass. The younger generation is entirely comfortable with it.

KING: What's the political implications, Ben, of this book?

BRADLEE: Oh, well I think it's that, as Michael said or one of you said, that she's the frontrunner on January -- right after the re- election of George Bush, if that happens. And that's the -- I mean, people will be pecking at that book for a long time, pro and con.

KING: Was she smart to bring it out now?

BRADLEE: I think she was. And it's -- nevermind, you know you remember times when she needed money? They all need -- both needed money. She sold 200,000 copies in a day.

KING: That's unbelievable.

BRADLEE: That's more than you and I and all of the four of us have ever...

KING: In non-fiction that's unbelievable...

BRADLEE: That's a lot.

KING: Because fiction outsells nonfiction...


KING: ... five to one.

BRADLEE: OK. Well, there's maybe not -- there's some fiction.

KING: Maybe the Harry Potter line was -- Michael Beschloss, why are people rushing to buy this book?

BESCHLOSS: I think it's exactly what I was sort of saying earlier, which is they watched her for all those years and wondered what was in her mind and they want to get some idea of what it was. And it's going to be fascinating to see what people think. I got to read a bit of the book on the plane up to New York this afternoon and as David was saying earlier, this is a very disciplined woman and one thing the book does not do -- it's not as if you have a window on suddenly a huge inner life. It's very different from what one might have expected otherwise.

KING: David Gergen, it is a very controlled book, is it not?

GERGEN: It is. But because she is polarizing figure, Larry, we often talk about those she alienates. But, you know, she has a pace of people who adore her and who rushed out to get this book today. There are people who are fervent Hillary supporters.

In some ways, there are some parallels between Mrs. Clinton and George W. Bush. They're both polarizing figures. The -- I think the challenge, as Michael has said, is whether she can get beyond base, if she indeed wants to run for national office. Even in New York State now, where she's very popular, she -- about 65 percent approval, a recent survey said that maybe 58 percent of New Yorkers did not want her to run for president way into the future.

KING: We'll take a break and come back and we'll talk about her husband and his role in all of this with our three distinguished guests.

Don't go away.


CLINTON: I want to echo Chuck Schumer in saying that I know I would not be here without my family and I want to thank my mother and my brothers and I want to thank my husband and my daughter.



KING: Before we ask about Bill Clinton, what do you make about 200,000 books in one day.


GERGEN: Wow, each your heart out. Everybody here. I would think it would take the four of us. It would be hard to say that together we can't hit 200,001.

KING: I was correct in caller her Harry Potter than.

All Ben, what's Bill Clintons role in all this?

Is he going to be first man?

BRADLEE: I can't see that.

KING: His age, is vitality some how?

He will have a place in American politics right?

BRADLEE: I don't know. I don't know, the condition of the marriage, but it seems to me very difficult to pull this off. If they get back together again in any real way, I'd be stunned.

KING: You don't think they are a together couple?

BRADLEE: Well, I mean -- not by my definition.

KING: Michael, what is the Bill Clinton role in American politics now?

BESCHLOSS: Well, sort of a major political consultant. He seems to give quiet advice to the Democratic candidates, but you have to assume he doesn't want any to win next year because would you like to assume he would Hillary to run and win in 2008. And it adds to soap opera quality of this, because in 2000, when George Bush was elected, went back the White House, it was almost like "Gone with the Wind." You know, the Bush's reclaim the White house that had been stolen from them. They feel -- many of the Bush people, felt eight years earlier. That if Clintons go back in 2009 it's a sort of indication that you have to assume that Bill Clinton would like.

At the same time, he is, to put it mildly, a very proud man. And whether he will enjoy the next number of years, people being friendly to him as a way to get to Hillary, being nice to him, sort of elbowing him aside as they are trying to make a relationship with her, that is going to sting.

KING: David, you worked for him.

Would he be a good first man?

GERGEN: I can't imagine it, but I know he'd love to be back there. I think he's the biggest supporter for making the run in 2008. I think he would like to see her do it. He is the best political adviser, of course, in the Democratic party. Karl Rove more than meets his match in Bill Clinton. And I think Karl Rove is best I have seen in a long time in the White House.

But the truth is, Larry, I think that Bill Clinton, I have been with him and heard him in a few forums here recently, and he is really finding his voice as a former president. Beginning to find his message about the state of the world. And he wants to start carving out his own role for himself. I don't think he wants to be the hand holder through the next six years.

KING: Most presidential memoirs get big advances and don't sell well. Most don't. They disappoint the publisher.

GERGEN: They pay for too much them.

KING: They pay to much. It's a (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

Do you think Clinton's will move?

BRADLEE: I had forgotten, what did he get for his?

KING: She got $8 million. What did he get? Do you know, Michael?

BESCHLOSS: I think $13 million, not that anybody is noticing things like that.

KING: Will his book sell, Michael?

BESCHLOSS: I'm sure it will. The best-selling presidential memoir in recent times was Richard Nixon's. When that came out in 1978, and that was despite a big campaign, don't buy books by crooks, a lot of people said you shouldn't by the book. But Nixon had been through such fascinating episodes, Watergate, he presided over so much of American life, that the book took off. And I assume in this case, you know, Bill Clinton has lived an awful lot of life. If he talks about it candidly, it could be one of the great American memoirs.

KING: Ben.

BRADLEE: What if the marriage doesn't work?

Is there any possibility that -- do any of us feel that divorce is a possibility and she might try to run without him?

BESCHLOSS: I don't think there is much sign -- I don't see it and from this book and what we heard tonight. I think she's very much saying that the marriage may have had some problems after 1998, but they've resolved to go on and grow old together. And I think what you'll see is her presumably running for president with him very much involved, which oddly enough, you know once again, if you get into historical ironies in 1992, she writes about one big issue became the fact that Clinton said, buy one, get one free. Oddly enough people may turn that on its head in 2008 and say perhaps I might like Hillary but does that mean that Bill Clinton is essentially going to be a co- president again?

KING: David, do you believe they want the Democrat to lose next year?

GERGEN: No, I don't. I think the Clintons take one election at a time. Not just this next year, she's possibly got a tough re- election race of her own in 2006, as popular as she is in New York, if Rudy Giuliani would run against her. Right now he's ahead of her and quite far ahead in upstate New York. So that I think they have -- they will take it one at a time. I think they'll work their hearts out for the Democratic candidate this time. But they know it's a long shot. The issue increasingly is not whether George Bush is favored to win but whether he can build up a real landslide.

KING: Ben, if you were the Democrat, would you want Clinton touring for you, Bill Clinton?

BRADLEE: Sure. Absolutely.

KING: You want him out there?

BRADLEE: Yes. Both of them.


KING: You agree, Michael?

BESCHLOSS: I think certainly in the primaries, but I think the candidate in the fall, I think will make the choice to have them campaign but run into the same quandary that Al Gore did. His people said Clinton can energize Democratic base, could have helped Gore in states like Arkansas and Tennessee but unlike 50 years ago, these elections are national now. And even if a Bill Clinton campaign in places where he's strong, it's all going to be on CNN and a lot of the people who don't like Bill Clinton would be turned off.

BRADLEE: If he doesn't campaign it's the kiss of death. For anything they want to do later.

GERGEN: Absolutely. Larry, Bill Clinton, one of the biggest mistakes Al Gore was not to embrace Bill Clinton the last campaign. If he campaigned on the Clinton economic record he might be president today. But beyond that Bill Clinton among young is rock star around this country. In many parts of the country, not in some parts of south and not with the older generation, certainly not with conservatives where he's hated still. But among the young generation he draws big, big crowds and Democrats would be crazy to walk away from him and walk away from her. She's going to raise a ton of money and so will he for the next two elections.

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Michael, to sum up tonight, she's going to be a formidable figure for a long time. BESCHLOSS: I think that's right. I think you saw it very much on display. She's a very formidable person and senator and candidate and as I say, now she no longer has to talk about things that she would not like to talk about about the Clinton presidency. In a way the book does close the chapter. Now she can talk about her own career and become a different sort of figure.

KING: And Ben remains the chief cynic among us.

BRADLEE: Well, I hate to be that role but this town -- this town has made me feel it a lot.

KING: Thank you all very much. Ben Bradlee "The Washington Post," vice president, at large, former executive editor of the great paper.

Michael Beschloss, the best-selling presidential historian. His most recent book the "Conquerors."

And our old friend David Gergen, professor at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy school government, editor-at-large "U.S. News," who served Clinton, Ford, Reagan and Nixon White Houses. We'll come back and tell you about tomorrow night after these words.


KING: A lot to say in retrospect, tomorrow night with Brenda and David van Dam, they lost their daughter tragically. Look back on those times. Tomorrow evening on LARRY KING LIVE.

On Thursday night, Dan Rather, joins us.


Discusses the Clinton's Political Future>

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