Clinton's Next Steps

Transcript Of Dan Rather's Interview With Former President

Perhaps, more than most presidents, Mr. Clinton has accumulated nicknames as the years have gone by -- Bubba, Elvis, the Comeback Kid.

"If you stay out there and you fight long enough, you make enough enemies, you'll get some of those nicknames too," says Mr. Clinton, laughing.

Which one did he like the least? "Slick Willy," says Mr. Clinton. "I like that the least for a very good reason. No one could fairly look at my political life and say I didn't believe in anything."

On numerous occasions, Mr. Clinton tried to wiggle his way out of tough questions about his political positions and his personal life.

And some of his answers became unforgettable. For instance, does he regret saying that, when he was campaigning for president, that he had smoked marijuana but hadn't inhaled?

"You bet. Even though it was absolutely true. I tried it, and I really tried to inhale. I was incapable of inhaling," says Mr. Clinton, laughing.

"That's really what I was trying to say. And it was just one of those dumb things you say, and then you have to live with for years and years afterward."

Time and again, Mr. Clinton relates in his book, when he got into trouble, it was Hillary Clinton who bailed him out.

"There is this theory that men often marry women who remind them of their mothers. Was that the case with Hillary with you," Rather asks Mr. Clinton.

"Oh, no, Although they were both strong, I like that. I never, you know, a lot of guys don't like strong women," says Mr. Clinton.
"I always did cause my mother was strong, my grandmother was strong. But they were different as daylight and dark, Oh my God, you know, and the first time they met, it was like oil and water. …They came to not just get along, they came to adore each other."

Two years after Mr. Clinton was elected president, his mother, Virginia Kelley, died of cancer.

On the porch in Hope, Ark., Rather showed the former president a clip of what his mother had once said about her son: "We had alcoholism in our family and I think that Bill thought in his mind, thought that I hadn't been dealt the best hand in the world. And he was determined to make up for that, determined. He's just been a wonderful son, just a wonderful son."

"I never saw that," says Mr. Clinton. "Well, I tried to be a good son for her. And I tried to be a good role model for my brother. And if my mother was that close to death, and she still thought I'd been a good son, that's good enough for me. She was sure a good mother. I wasn't anything like the son that she was the mother, I'll tell you that."

Since he left the White House, President Clinton has, among other things, become a money machine, giving speeches and paying off his legal bills.

Now, he says, he wants to slow down, do more public service like his work to fight AIDS in Africa and do more to shape his legacy.

"Mr. President, do you have a sense of the lightness of being now that you're out of the presidency," asks Rather.

"Actually, I do," says Mr. Clinton, laughing. "You know, before I sat down with this, with you, I kinda dreaded this. Because I've enjoyed being a little more of a private citizen. But I spend a lot of my time today, and I'm looking forward to spending all of my time on the work of my foundation and my library."

The library is still being built on the banks of the Arkansas River in Little Rock. It's the most expensive presidential library in history. Mr. Clinton is so excited about it, it's hard to keep up with him.

"I want this to be the first serious modern American museum of the 21st century, so that's what we are trying to do here," says Mr. Clinton.

"And the last thing the children will see when they walk out is the Oval Office. They can go by and sit. We are having an exact replica of the desk, we're having everything. I'm bringing all my books, putting them up in there."

Rather tells Mr. Clinton that if he lives to be as old as the late President Ronald Reagan, there will be a State Funeral for America's 42nd president in 2039.

"There's nothing in my family history to suggest I could possibly last that long," says Mr. Clinton, laughing. "But as long as I do live, I'll find something to do. ."

He's hoping his work and his book will influence the way people view him and his presidency.

"How often do you think, no matter what I do, the first paragraph of my obituary is gonna be impeachment," Rather asks Mr. Clinton.

"As I said in my book, I will always regret the personal mistake I made. But I will always be proud that when they moved on impeachment, I didn't quit, I never thought of resigning and I stood up to it and beat it back," says Mr. Clinton.

"To me, the whole battle was a badge of honor. I don't see it as a great stain. Because it was illegitimate. On the day I die, I'll still be glad I fought them. And I'll still be glad that I beat them. And I'll still believe that it was a bogus, phony deal."

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