- The Washington Times - Friday, June 18, 2004

NEW YORK — Bill Clinton says in his autobiography that his wife looked as if he had punched her in the gut when he finally confessed to his affair with Monica Lewinsky, and he slept on the couch for at least two months after that.

In “My Life,” a copy of which was obtained by the Associated Press, the former president wrote that the affair with the White House intern revealed “the darkest part of my inner life.”

The book, published by Alfred A. Knopf, comes out Tuesday with a first printing of 1.5 million in what is expected to be one of the biggest publishing sensations in years. It is almost certain to outsell his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton’s memoirs, published last year.

The former president wrote that after he finally confessed to Mrs. Clinton and daughter Chelsea after months of public denials, the first lady appeared stricken, and the couple started going to counseling one day a week for about a year.

Similarly, Mrs. Clinton said in her own memoir, “Living History,” that she “wanted to wring Bill’s neck” upon learning the truth and that at one point, Buddy the dog was the only member of the family willing to keep the president company.

On other topics in the book, Mr. Clinton said he met with President-elect George W. Bush and told him that the biggest threat to the nation’s security was Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

Mr. Clinton, 57, received a reported $10 million advance for “My Life,” a 957-page book edited by Robert Gottlieb, who has worked with such authors as Nobel laureate Toni Morrison and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Robert Caro.

Unlike other recent presidential memoirists, Mr. Clinton is believed to have written his own book, in longhand.

Advance orders of “My Life” exceed 2 million. Mrs. Clinton’s book, by contrast, has about 2.3 million copies in print, including both hardcover and paperback editions, according to publisher Simon & Schuster.

The former president’s autobiography has been at or near the top of Amazon.com’s bestseller list for the past month, holding on despite a wave of Ronald Reagan books that became bestsellers after the former president’s death. Bids for a signed first edition already have topped $300 on EBay.

In “My Life,” Mr. Clinton wrote that he came to learn that his upbringing had made certain things more difficult for him than for other people, and that he was particularly prone to self-destructive behavior when he was tired, angry or feeling lonely.

Mr. Clinton’s father was killed in a car accident shortly before he was born, and the man his mother remarried was an alcoholic who frequently abused her and Mr. Clinton’s half-brother, Roger Clinton.

Mr. Clinton wrote that the violence and alcoholism of his home left him with persistent feelings of shame and fear and a lifelong habit of secrecy. At 13, he said, he underwent a major spiritual crisis in which he questioned his belief in God.

Writing about his 1998 impeachment, Mr. Clinton said Republican leaders were not punishing him for dishonesty or immoral conduct in having an affair with Miss Lewinsky and lying about it under oath. He said he believed the reason was power, and because his political goals were different from theirs.

He said he was able to withstand the ordeal and concentrate on his job because of the support of the White House staff and Cabinet — even those who felt betrayed by his behavior — numerous world leaders, and encouraging words from both friends and strangers.

Mr. Clinton even expressed gratitude to his political enemies for bringing him and his wife closer together. Once the impeachment process was over, his banishment to the couch in a living room next to the bedroom ended, too, he said.

In an interview to be broadcast Sunday on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Mr. Clinton called the Lewinsky affair “a terrible moral error.”

“I did something for the worst possible reason. Just because I could,” he said in the interview. “I think that’s just about the most morally indefensible reason anybody could have for doing anything.”

Mr. Clinton also said of the impeachment process, “The whole battle was a badge of honor. I don’t see it as a stain, because it was illegitimate.”

Barnes & Noble bookstore said one store each in New York and the District will stay open late Monday night and begin selling the book at midnight. Next week, Mr. Clinton begins a one-month, cross-country promotional tour.

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