Oprah: You weren't afraid of what this might do to your legacy?
Clinton: The only thing I worried about was whether the Democrats and the American people would abandon me, and I'd be forced from office. Once I realized I could win the political battle, it left me freer to focus on my personal failure and what to do about it. That was really important. I was trying to stay in the right mental framework to deal with the personal issues while also staying in battle mode. If I took the battle mode into my personal life, I wasn't going to make any progress. On the other hand, if I took the openness and vulnerability of acknowledging my mistakes and of getting better into the impeachment fight, I would have been devoured. Psychologically, it was a difficult thing, but my profoundest regrets were all personal. Not just personal to my family, but personal for letting my administration and the country down.
Oprah: Do you think if you'd admitted the truth from the beginning, there would have been a different outcome?
Clinton: My honest answer is that I don't know. The overwhelming opinion of people around me then—including people who were really mad at me—is that if I had done that, they would have run me out in the hysterical moment of the time.
Oprah: What do you think of Monica Lewinsky now?
Clinton: I don't know, because I haven't seen her in years. But I can tell you that over the months—once it was all over but before it became public—I felt terrible about what I'd done. I thought she was a really smart person who had enormous potential, who had also had some of her own challenges.
Oprah: Weren't you angry with her?
Clinton: Not once I came to understand more.
Oprah: You could go there?
Clinton: Yes. I had to get there. Angry with her for talking to Linda Tripp and all that—no.
Oprah: You weren't angry when the blue dress surfaced? You weren't like, "Damn..."
Clinton: I thought it was a bad deal. I wasn't happy about that. I thought the whole thing was so bizarre. I couldn't even believe it was so. I still don't know what that was—it was a weird deal. Anyway, what I came to understand was that, like so many people caught in any kind of personal situation, how Monica reacted to it and what she did was a logical and completely understandable outgrowth of the childhood she had.
We Hear You!