Oprah Talks to Bill Clinton
Clinton: I just wanted it to be all right for her, because when she was in a good place personally, she was a very smart, very perceptive person who I thought could have a really productive life. When it was all over, what I most hoped for her is that she wouldn't get in this trap you can get in: living off her 15 minutes of fame. That would keep her from becoming the person she should be.
Oprah: So when you'd see her doing commercials and profiting from it, that wasn't upsetting to you?
Clinton: No. I didn't watch.
Oprah: What was the major lesson you took from the crisis?
Clinton: You know what the Greeks said: "Those whom the gods would destroy they first make angry." In November 1995, I was mad. Workaholics like me get so involved in their work. But there is a point beyond which—and I don't care how good you are or how much stamina you have—no one can go without losing his or her fundamental sense of what ought to be done. It was a very difficult period for me. At the time, I was engaged in a great public war with the Republican Congress over the future of the country, and a private war with my old demons. I won the public fight and lost the private one.
You just have to deal with that stuff and go on. It's not the end of the world. We live in a time when our public figures' worst moments are likely to be bandied around the world. I'm no different from anybody else. An old Irish proverb says that even if the best man's faults were written on his forehead, he would put his cap over his face in shame. Once I got that, it was liberating. Some people think, "Gosh, if I got humiliated like that in front of billions, I'd want to stick my head in an oven." I didn't feel that way. I felt, This is great—I have nothing more to hide. Now everybody knows I'm not perfect. I can just be who I am and try to make my life better and do my job the best I can. I don't have to pretend anymore.
Oprah: We all remember that photograph of you, Chelsea, and Hillary walking across the lawn to the helicopter. What were you thinking in that moment?
Clinton: I was thinking, "I've got to just keep putting one foot in front of the other." I wasn't thinking. I swear. You get in a moment like that, and it's the emotional equivalent of a beating I once took from a ram. I didn't know where I was going. I just knew I had to keep going. So I didn't want to stumble on the way to the helicopter.
Oprah: Boy, that would have been really bad. It's like, "Can you move the chopper closer?"
Clinton: Almost every person has been like that in their lives. Maybe not with that kind of problem, but with some kind of problem. You realize you can't possibly think your way through it, and you have no earthly idea how it's going to end. You just know you have two options: You can collapse and give up, or you can just keep putting one foot in front of the other and hope the clouds will clear and you'll see a way out—and meanwhile, you just try to survive.