Who says President Clinton doesn’t get on with Republicans? According to a lengthy New Yorker interview with Joe Klein that, contrary to rumor, does come to an end, some of Mr. Clinton’s closest confidantes are soul-baring Republicans who reveal closely guarded political secrets to the Big He. Sound incredible? It is probably is.
First, there was the Bush administration official or, as Mr. Clinton puts it, “a guy I knew in the Bush White House” who called Mr. Clinton out of the blue in 1990 to say, as Mr. Clinton recalls, “Now, let’s just cut the crap. We’ve looked at this crowd” all the other Democrats considering a race against Bush in 1992 “and we can beat them all. You’re different. You might beat us, and so, if you do run, we’re going to have to take you out early.” Funny, isn’t it, how much that Bushie sounds like a B-movie mobster.
Or take the unnamed Republican senator whom Mr. Clinton quotes at length in the interview. “I had a fascinating conversation with one of the Republican senators in the middle of the D’Amato hearings,” said Mr. Clinton, referring to former Sen. Alphonse D’Amato’s Whitewater investigation. This conversation took place, Mr. Clinton went on to say, “when they were impugning Hillary, and I asked this guy, who was pretty candid, ‘Do you really think my wife and I did anything wrong in this Whitewater thing?’ He just started laughing … He said, ‘Of course you didn’t do anything wrong. That’s not the point. The point of this is to make people think you did something wrong.’ ”
Right. Uncanny, isn’t it, how much that Republican senator sounds like James Carville. “Later,” Mr. Klein writes, “the president returned to his conversation with the unnamed and most convenient Republican in order to discuss his feelings about the press.” (Why, Mr. Klein sounds almost skeptical.) “That same senator,” said Mr. Clinton, ” … also said the Republicans had learned a lot from my Presidency. He said that before they thought the press was liberal, but, ‘Now we have a different view. We think they are liberal and they vote like you, but they think like us and that’s more important.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And he said, ‘Well, we just don’t believe in government very much, but we love power, and, you know, the press wants to be powerful and we both get it the same way by hurting you.’ I mean, there could be something to that.”
Do the words “persecution complex” come to mind? What endures from this amazing soliloquy is a lasting impression that Mr. Clinton has given up on feeling everyone else’s pain to wallow in his own.