Oprah Talks to Bill Clinton
Oprah: As you know, many people will buy your book to look for your take on Monica Lewinsky and the impeachment trial. What was the most difficult part of that time for you?
Clinton: The personal aspect: What was I thinking? No matter how mad or scared I was about what else was going on, why in the wide world did I do that? And how can I make it up to everybody involved, beginning with Hillary and Chelsea, my administration, and the American people? That was by far the most difficult thing. Fighting [Kenneth] Starr and the impeachment was easy. I thought the way Monica Lewinsky was treated was outrageous—the way they put all these FBI agents on this and tried to get her to wear a wire and then denied it, and the way she and her family were abused. The way they said, you know, "We lied to the American people about Whitewater. There was never anything there. Bill Clinton never took a nickel to see the cow jump over the moon. We indicted all those innocent people to get them to lie about Bill Clinton. We've ruined Susan McDougal, and there still ain't nothing there. So thank God this is here—he finally messed up and gave us something to validate all these years of the mountainous waste of taxpayers' money and abuse of power." Fighting that was easy. What I had to work on in my own mind was not letting my sense of being on the right side of the fight get in the way of my need to examine why in the living daylights I'd done that [with Lewinsky]—and what I should do to work through it.
Oprah: Did you ever come up with a why?
Clinton: Yes, and I think you can figure it out from reading the book. I describe the costs of leading walled-off, parallel lives—which I think almost everybody does to some extent. If you had the kind of childhood I did, and you had to get up every day and put your game face on, you'd become a secret keeper like I did. Then you get into a situation where you think the world has gone mad, which is what I thought in the first two years I was president. It was crazy. We had the best record with the Congress since Lyndon Johnson, and I kept a higher percentage of my campaign promises than the previous five presidents. Yet the press was telling the American people that I hadn't done anything and that I was a faithless president who didn't keep my word. Then I think I'm being a good guy by agreeing to the special counsel, and all of a sudden I get Starr instead of a respectable Republican. Personally, I was in a worse place than I thought, and I had to unpack that, then try to make it right. I had to fight the people I'd been fighting all my life, represented by Starr and his allies in Congress, without letting that become an excuse for not dealing with the personal mistakes I'd made.
I never worry about all this stuff everybody still talks about—This is a stain. I think history will say, "Bill Clinton did the right thing to fight this impeachment. It's a good thing he won, 'cause it was wrong, and it was unjustified." After almost 140 years, we know that Congress was wrong to impeach Andrew Johnson. That, just like this, was really about politics.