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|1||The Challenge to the Old Order||3|
|2||The Forces Are Arrayed||46|
|4||Clinton's Strategic Offensive||137|
|5||Hillary Under Siege||166|
|6||A Political Education||193|
|8||Inside the West Wing||257|
|9||Clinton's Third Way||298|
|10||Seven Days in January||318|
|11||In Starr's Chamber||380|
|12||The Reign of Witches||432|
|14||The Twenty-first Century||629|
|15||A New York State of Mind||676|
|16||The Stolen Succession||700|
|17||The Sands of Time||773|
|18||The American Conflict||788|
Barnes & Noble.com: The Clinton Wars painstakingly documents the time you spent working in the Clinton White House and, among many other episodes, your involvement in the Ken Starr Whitewater/Lewinsky investigation. When did you decide to write this book, and was it difficult to recall events you'd probably like to forget?
Sidney Blumenthal: I had a unique vantage point and a special responsibility to record what I saw for history. My book is the complete story, not only from inside the West Wing but from sources in the Congress and even from the Office of the Independent Counsel. During my work in the White House and while writing The Clinton Wars, many people, including my former colleagues, gave me crucial factual information that was not in the news accounts at the time.
If there was anything that was difficult to write about, it was the constant vilification that I was subjected to, along with others, not least the president and first lady. Starting with my first day at work, when Matt Drudge posted a defamatory lie on his Internet site smearing my wife (who was the director of the White House Fellows program) and me -- inspired by partisan right-wingers -- the falsehoods never really stopped. I describe in the book how I had to put on armor every day, wear a game face, and try not to allow myself to be distracted from the important work on the president's program. That was the case for many of us in the White House. Writing the truth about this "reign of witches" (a phrase of Thomas Jefferson's that I take for one chapter title) -- from Drudge's lie to being falsely accused of the very smear tactics of personal destruction that the right wing was engaged in -- was cathartic, not only personally but in setting the historical record straight.
B&N.com: How many times during Starr's investigation did you think, OK, it's finally over -- we can relax?
SB: After the midterm elections of 1998, almost everyone in the White House believed that the Republicans would not push forward with a partisan impeachment. They had just lost seats because of their extremism on the issue -- an unprecedented result for a midterm for a second-term incumbent president. But, as I relate in the book, through an extraordinary interview with one of the key House managers, they were living in a self-enclosed universe of their own, isolated from larger realities, in denial about the public's rejection of their plan for impeachment, and stoking up their self-image as warriors. It took a full month for us to realize that the Republicans had no intention of listening to the voters and intended to force an impeachment.
B&N.com: Should Ken Starr even have been in the position of running what seemed to many to be a partisan inquiry?
SB: At the time of his appointment, as I point out in The Clinton Wars, Ken Starr was acclaimed by the Washington establishment as a judicious figure. But he turned out to be more than temperamentally unsuited for the job. He was a weak, indecisive man who was easily won over by the appeals to toughness by his thuggish deputies. He had conflicting ties to the political right, including the Paula Jones legal team, that should have disqualified him from the post in the first place, but which he did not disclose at the time of his appointment. And he had no prosecutorial experience whatsoever, so he deferred to his rough-and-ready crew that even, as I report, called the professional prosecutors among them "commie wimps."
Starr was also a culturally narrow man, with an obsessive fixation on President Clinton and consumed with his own sense of piety, which he confused with the truth. As I report in the book, on Whitewater and all the other so-called scandals before him, his own legal counselor, Samuel Dash (famed as a former Watergate counsel), reviewed all the prosecution memos and told Starr that there was absolutely nothing to indicate wrongdoing by the Clintons and that his responsibility as a prosecutor was to drop it all. "They had nothing," Dash told me. "Zero plus zero plus zero equals zero," Dash informed him. Another of Starr's top professional prosecutors told me for The Clinton Wars: "It was clear that this was a mean-spirited, political motivated investigation."
B&N.com: You make it very clear in The Clinton Wars that Bill Clinton was well aware of the threats posed by Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, and you document his attempts to deal with them both. How much did the attention paid to Clinton's personal life distract the president from protecting the homeland?
SB: President Clinton was never distracted from the struggle against terrorism and against Osama bin Laden in particular. In August 1998, after the East Africa embassy bombings, he ordered the missile attack on bin Laden's base in Afghanistan that only barely missed killing him by hours. And there were many, many other actions taken. Unfortunately, some Republicans said that the war on terrorism was a ruse to distract from impeachment. They claimed it resembled a movie, Wag the Dog, about a president who fabricates a war. And they were encouraged in this by some in the media. But this was a very real war to President Clinton. And terrorist attacks timed for the millennium celebration were thwarted.
When we left office, the Clinton national security officials held several lengthy briefings for the incoming Bush administration, warning that terrorism was an imminent danger. I reveal in The Clinton Wars that Don Kerrick, a three-star general, who was our last deputy national security adviser, stayed on for several months into the new Bush administration, and sent its national security officials a memo stated: "We will be hit again." Kerrick said that his memo was ignored. "They were not focusing," he told me. "They didn't see terrorism as the big mega-issue that the Clinton administration saw it."
B&N.com: Coincidentally, as your book is being published, Hillary Clinton's long-awaited memoir is also just about to come out. Have you and Senator Clinton discussed your respective book projects? Have you been able to read any of her book?
SB: I did not give copies of my book to former President Clinton and Senator Clinton until it was finished. They've read it now, and they think it provides a true history and context of the times. Hillary told me she didn't know "half of it." And the former president told The New York Times: "It's a roaring good read." I haven't read Hillary's book yet, but I'm sure it tells a real story and will also be an important contribution to history. Our books will be complementary.
B&N.com: Many in politics and the media scoffed when Hillary Clinton spoke of "a vast right-wing conspiracy." In a sense, you yourself became a victim of that conspiracy, didn't you?
SB: I don't think of myself as a victim at all. I was proud to stand up against the right-wing assault on the progressive Clinton presidency and against the Constitution. I was hauled before Starr's grand jury three times because he wanted to intimidate everyone by making an example of me. I was being very critical of his bullying tactics, his political motivation, and his illegal leaking of stories to an all-too-compliant, sensationalizing media. I describe in The Clinton Wars what it was like in the grand jury to be asked endless, paranoid questions by the prosecutors, and how my speech on the courthouse steps, saying that I would not be intimidated, helped the American people to see Starr's inquisition for what it was.
B&N.com: Have you ever had a chance to confront Ken Starr privately? Is there one question you'd like to ask him?
SB: Starr never questioned a single witness in his grand jury, yet he appeared before the House Judiciary Committee as the only fact witness on the "evidence." Like the other witnesses, I never met him. The question I'd ask him is why didn't he listen to his own counselor, Sam Dash, who told him there was nothing to Whitewater and all the other pseudo-scandals and who urged him as a professional matter to wrap up the investigation with a report declaring that the Clintons had committed nothing wrong, which is what happened in the end, in any case, but only after years of tearing the country apart in his effort to get President Clinton.
B&N.com: How frustrated were the Republicans at not being able to "get" President Clinton?
SB: The effort to stop President Clinton from enacting his progressive agenda to get the country moving again began from the moment he assumed office. I describe in The Clinton Wars that when the Republicans captured the Congress in 1994, their new speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, turned more than 20 committees into investigative bodies. The Republicans were so determined to get Clinton that they were willing to lose two speakers of the House to gaudy sex scandals of their own; they were willing to attack President Clinton for his struggle against terrorism and Saddam Hussein; they were willing to prevent a resolution in the House of support for our armed forces in the Kosovo War from passing.
And, of course, the House Republican leadership and then Whip Tom DeLay especially, as I detail in the book, coerced through threats Republican members to vote for an impeachment that failed to establish any constitutional standards. Congressman Peter King, Republican of New York, told me: "Most of the pressure [on Republicans] went through the Christian right network. It happened over a ten-day period. The whole world changed."
B&N.com: Can one argue that the right wing's assault on the Clintons effectively delivered the presidency to George W. Bush, in that Al Gore was reluctant to use a scandal-battered Bill Clinton to campaign for him -- a move that might have given Gore the needed electoral votes to win.
SB: Al Gore won the popular majority of the votes handily -- and if they had been counted, he would have almost certainly have emerged as the winner in Florida. Gore's hesitance to send President Clinton out to campaign for him fostered an issue that the Republicans turned into a "character" issue about Gore. The systematic stream of stories they created about Gore as a liar and exaggerator were false and distorting, but the Republicans, through a tabloid-minded press, managed to turn Gore's image into a negative one.
In Florida, Republicans even used mob violence against county supervisors to stop the votes from being counted. Most of the votes that turned out not to be counted were cast by African Americans. When the Supreme Court gave the presidency to Bush by a vote of five to four, it was the worst case of voter suppression of black voting rights since the days of Jim Crow.
B&N.com: To play devil's advocate for a moment, in a time of war and economic malaise, why should readers want to read your book? Isn't all this "old news?"
SB: History will make its own judgment of the Clinton presidency. But I think its achievements provide clear guidelines for the future.
As I write: "The Clinton wars over the progressive presidency and its uses of government had a partisan cast, but they were not about one side versus another as in some sporting match. They focused on Clinton the man because he personified his office, but at issue was how the executive would use the instruments of government. Would they be wielded on behalf of the interests of the great majority of citizens, allowing the Constitution to be a living document for advancing the people's rights and social equality and the nation's needs -- 'the organic law,' as Lincoln called it -- and the United States to be a vital nation advancing public purposes? Or would the executive branch define the nation as a shell, a confederation of states, clearing the way for private special interests, and asserting the armed forces as the only expression of national power?"
This underlying conflict between democracy and the old order will go on. To quote the book, "Bush's efforts to repeal the progressive policies of the twentieth century were bound to provoke a new politics of crisis. The Clinton wars were over, but there would be intense conflicts to come."