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IndianaGreen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-17-09 02:36 PM
Original message
The Bill Clinton Tapes
Edited on Thu Sep-17-09 02:44 PM by IndianaGreen
It has been nearly forty years since three young Democratic activists named Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham, and Taylor Branch moved into a small apartment together in Austin, Texas, to wage a presidential campaign for George McGovern. In the decades since, the Clintons have taken that political fire to the center of American political life, while Branch has chosen a quieter course, writing three definitive volumes on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and winning both the Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur genius grant. Yet at the height of Bill Clintons ascentfor the full eight years of the presidencythe historian and the politician reunited for a secret project, hidden from even Clintons closest aides. Meeting late at night and sometimes through the night, Clinton and Branch embarked on a series of seventy-nine conversations about politics, the presidents, the Whitewater investigation, and yes, even Monicarecording every word for posterity. Acutely aware that their tapes could be subpoenaed at any moment and desperate to avoid making them public, Clinton squirreled away the cassettes in his sock drawer and has never spoken of them nor made them public. But this month, Branch releases a 670-page mammoth tome, The Clinton Tapes, that mines those conversations and delves into Clintons presidency and state of mind through a tumultuous and historic eight years. Branch sat down on the sprawling porch of his Victorian home in Baltimore to discuss the project, the experience, and the book.WIL S. HYLTON

The Bill Clinton Tapes

A Q&A with Taylor Branch, author of 'The Clinton Tapes'

The Bill Clinton in this book is very different than the version we came to know in the press. You describe a guy who was steadfast and idealistic, very different from the wishy-washy, flip-flopping caricature who let Dick Morris tell him what to do.

It was almost like a credential for old liberals to look down on Clinton, because if you looked down on Clinton, you could say, Hes betrayed liberalism, but you didnt have to uphold anything yourself. All you had to do was talk about what a shit he was or what a sellout he was and you could get this cheap credential.

Meanwhile, youre seeing this guy whose face is red with allergies, hes so tired that his eyes are rolling back in his head. Hes the last fighting baby boomer.

Well, yeah. For example, I admire Obama greatly, but if you compare Clinton and Obama on the National Rifle Association, Obama said, Its not worth it. Right from the get-go. You cant win. And Clinton was going after the NRA and assault weapons and cop-killer bullets the whole time. And he paid for it, and maybe it was a mistake, because it certainly hurt him in the 1994 congressional elections. But he did stick to his guns, as it were. He took risks. On Haitirestoring Aristide. I would hear him say it: This is going to hurt my presidency. Or, I could go down the tubes for this.

In all the Kennedy and Johnson tapes youve listened to, do you hear the same resolve?

In some ways, Kennedy was just the opposite. People would idealize him, but then on the tapes, you hear him trying to kill Castro and all this other stuff. Its disillusioning. And Johnson does the Civil Rights bill, but then he does the Vietnam Warand you hear them saying essentially, We know this is not going to work, but were going to do it anyway. Then Nixon promises to end the war, and four years later the war is still going. Then you have Watergate. So it was kind of like we had this postWorld War II optimism about politics that was yanked out of our generation by hard experience. In some ways, Hillary and I were more typical of our generation than Bill. We were bruised and disillusioned with politics. We had more in common with each other politically than either of us had with Bill. He seemed to be on automatic pilot: Im going to run for office! At the time, I didnt connect that to idealism. I connected it to ambition. The notion that it came from a sense of idealism didnt rear up for me until I was able to watch him in the White House, seeing why he would do things.
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Tutankhamun Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-17-09 03:29 PM
Response to Original message
1. It's amazing that these tapes were actually kept secret for so long.
It's sad though, if what Clinton says is true about whitewater -- that the bullshit investigation is what mad him "lose it" and seek some apparent stress release in Monica Lewinsky.

It's also a huge indictment of the RW smear machine. If they're willing to attack smear, slander, and libel until they've nearly driven the POTUS over the edge, that's pretty damning. It's a disgusting power play, and the nation and the world be damned.
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liberalpragmatist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-17-09 09:46 PM
Response to Reply #1
4. I'd be a little skeptical of that
Bill had plenty of lovers and trysts well before Monica. That strikes me as a fairly self-serving, after-the-fact justification.

(I'm not trying to bash the guy - I think he's great.)
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espiral Donating Member (143 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-18-09 02:45 AM
Response to Reply #4
8. You seriously think Clinton is great?
The guy who wrought NAFTA and offshoring onto the US and Mexico, utterly destroying what was left of labor in his wake?
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Tutankhamun Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-18-09 05:05 PM
Response to Reply #4
9. Hence my disclaimer "...if what Clinton says is true...".
I agree that it could very well be a spiffy little excuse that damns the RW smear machine in the process.
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DURHAM D Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-17-09 03:41 PM
Response to Original message
2. What an interesting read.
Thanks for posting.
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burning rain Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-17-09 05:04 PM
Response to Original message
3. Making out in a White House hallway?
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Beacool Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-17-09 10:31 PM
Response to Original message
5. Thank you, great article.
One book I'll be buying.

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TankLV Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-17-09 10:48 PM
Response to Original message
6. Que the idiot Clinton Haters in 3,2,1...
Glad to hear this GOOD news CONFIRMING my high opinion of the Clintons!!!
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burning rain Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-18-09 02:35 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. Somewhere Christopher Hitchens is breaking out in hives.
I think it's hilarious! :D
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