- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Bill Clinton’s weighty memoir hit the streets yesterday to good sales, bad reviews and speculation that he will dominate the political news for the next several weeks.

“I’m glad it’s finally happening,” Mr. Clinton told a crowd of cheering book-buyers outside the Barnes & Noble in New York’s Rockefeller Center. “I’ve been living with this for two years.”

Despite being panned by the New York Times as “sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull,” the 957-page tome already is ringing up big sales.

Publisher Alfred A. Knopf, which paid the former president a reported $10 million in advance, has printed 1.5 million copies with advance orders already topping 2 million.

The media barrage — which began Sunday night with an hourlong interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” — rolled on yesterday with interviews broadcast on both sides of the Atlantic. It will continue in the coming months with book signings across the country, including at least one at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Northwest Washington and another on July 7 at the Barnes & Noble at 12th and E streets NW.

The Associated Press reported that 15.8 million viewers watched Mr. Clinton’s interview on “60 Minutes” on Sunday. That was more than 2 million more viewers than his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, got in an interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters to promote her book “Living History” last year.

Still, Mrs. Clinton’s interview reportedly beat Mr. Clinton’s in most key demographics, including the important target group of women 18 to 49 years old.

In a possible swipe at his old nemeses on Capitol Hill, Mr. Clinton decided against a book signing at the Trover bookstore on Pennsylvania Avenue SE, a favorite of lawmakers and Hill staffers.

Copies of the four-inch thick book, “My Life,” filled a window at Trover and were stacked like a waist-high igloo at the counter. The clerk said copies were “moving quickly,” but in 30 minutes of brisk business yesterday afternoon, only one customer purchased the book.

Elizabeth Hunter, 54, of Suitland, Md., who is a library technician at the Library of Congress, flipped through the book but passed on buying it. She said she would buy it, but wanted to find a better deal than the 20 percent discount offered by Trover.

Asked whether the media run-up to the book had focused too much on Mr. Clinton’s sex scandal with Monica Lewinsky, Mrs. Hunter, who called herself an ardent supporter of the former president, said, “No, not really. It really was a lot of Monica.”

Wearing a pink tie and bearing a contrite demeanor, Mr. Clinton went on the afternoon TV program of Oprah Winfrey, possibly the industry’s most powerful book mover.

Women in the front rows of the audience applauded with gauzy smiles as Mr. Clinton characterized his sins and recounted his long road to redemption, including sleeping on a couch in the White House.

Across the Atlantic, the British Broadcasting Corp. aired an interview in which Mr. Clinton gets angry with the interviewer for pressing about whether Mr. Clinton really was sorry for his dalliances with Miss Lewinsky.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers speculated that Mr. Clinton’s book would sap most of the political oxygen.

“I think none of us are surprised that Bill Clinton is an interesting person in America, if not the most interesting person in America,” said House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat. “Frankly, it is going to happen.”

But he also said that Congress will be out of session for about two weeks for July Fourth anyway, and besides: “Do you think anybody is paying attention to what we are doing?”

“Well, I have not yet been able to purchase a copy, but I certainly intend to,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.

Not everybody is jumping in line at their local bookstore, however.

“I don’t think I’ll read the book,” said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican. “From what I’ve seen so far, it’s a public-relations effort to rewrite what happened in the 1990s. It’s really sad, actually. He’s no longer in it, but he’s in it, and trying desperately to leave a legacy and convince people what went on in the ‘90s that actually didn’t go on.”

Mr. DeLay said after the Republican victories in the 1994 congressional elections, Mr. Clinton didn’t initiate one piece of legislation that helped the economy, but rather signed the bills that Republicans passed.

“I guess we could give him credit for penmanship,” Mr. DeLay said.

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