current affairs

“My Life” by Bill Clinton

I'm just about to put Bill Clinton's “My Life” away on the bookshelf and there's two quotes I thought might interest readers. I enjoyed the book much more than I anticipated, particularly given some of the reviews, but pretty much end to end I was fascinated by the man's journey.

I had… a fascinating visit with Dole… [his opponent during his second election to Presidency]. He came to see me with a little toy for our cat, Socks, which he said was from his dog. We discussed the election, foreign policy and budget negotiations. The press was still buzzing about campaign finance abuses. Besides the [Democratic National Committee], the Republican National Committee and the Dole campaign had committed some violations. I had been criticised for inviting supporters to spend the night at the White House and for hosting morning coffees with administration members, supporters, contributors, and others who had no political ties to us.

I asked Dole, based on his years of experience, whether politics and politicians were more or less honest than they had been thirty years earlier. “Oh, it's not close,” he said. “Much more honest today.” Then I asked, “Would you agree that people think things are less honest?” “Sure,” he said, “but they're wrong about it.”

I don't know how that stands up given the current Republican hoo-ha over funding.

The second quote concerns George W Bush. The whole book is very interesting on the Bushes, Clinton genuinely seems to like Bush Sr but he hated the result in 2000 and hated even more the way it happened. Still he acknowledges George W has some political talents but can't help to put the knife in here., albeit indirectly…

The next day President-elect Bush came to the White House… We talked about the campaign, White House operations, and national security. He was putting together an experienced team from past Republican administrations who believed that the biggest security issues were the need for national missile defense and Iraq. I told him that based on the last eight years, I thought the biggest security problems, in order, would be Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda; the absence of peace in the Middle East; the standoff between nuclear power India and Pakistan, and the ties of the Pakistanis to the Taliban and al Qaeda; North Korea; and then Iraq. I said that my biggest disappointment was not getting bin Laden…

He listened to what I had to say without much comment, then changed the subject to how I did the job.