Panorama: Clinton - The Interview

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    • 00:30


    • 00:41

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: For eight years, Bill Clintonwas the most powerful man on Earth.As President of the United States,he led his country beyond the Cold Warand into the 21st century.Clinton spent his time in the White Housetrying to reconcile what he calls parallel lives, affairsof state at odds with a turbulent private life.

    • 01:03

      DAVID DIMBLEBY [continued]: Tonight, he speaks frankly to Panoramaabout his time in office, and his affair with MonicaLewinsky.And he displays his anger at those who pursued him.

    • 01:12

      BILL CLINTON: One of the reasons he got awaywith it is because people like you only askpeople like me the questions.You gave him a complete free ride.Any abuse they want to do-- they indictedall these little people from Arkansas.What did you care about them?They're not famous.Who cares if their lives were tramped?Who cares that their children were humiliated?The fact that I was sleeping on the couchand they were still in the same house with memeant that Hillary and Chelsea hadn't given up on me.

    • 01:34

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: I figured that as I said, I was getting the whipping at home,where I should have gotten it.

    • 01:44

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: Mr. President, it'sinteresting that you describe yourselfas leading two parallel lives.What do you mean by that?

    • 01:57

      BILL CLINTON: Well, in my book I talk about my childhood, whichwas marked by living in an alcoholic home, where there wassporadic, arbitrary, and sometimes quite frighteningviolence.And how I saw from my mother's example,we not only didn't go around talking about it,

    • 02:19

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: we went on with our lives.And we found something to enjoy about every day.So it occurred to me as I thought about itthat we lived for years with a kind of an outer lifeoutside our home that we loved.We loved living it.We lived it well.I did, my mother did.

    • 02:40

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: And then we had this other life that was oftena source of pain and agony.

    • 02:47

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: But many people havea sort of private side to their life that they keep private.But you actually describe it as two different lives.And I wonder whether it's possible to leadtwo different lives--

    • 02:58

      BILL CLINTON: No, it's not.

    • 02:59

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: --and whether you end up not living either.

    • 03:01

      BILL CLINTON: Well, I don't thinkit's possible to lead two different lives.Eventually, they intersect.And sometimes they clash and crash.And on occasion, that happened to me, and I describe it,I think, with some candor in the book.

    • 03:14

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: You also talk of anger, of a kind of anger.I mean, you say at one point, you had a constant angerwhich you kept locked away.You don't seem to be an angry man.What made you angry?

    • 03:26

      BILL CLINTON: Well, by nature I'm not an angry person,and I wasn't as a child.And I'm in a different place in my life, now.I've worked through a lot of this.But I was angry because I was living in the face of arbitraryabuse of power.And I always hated it, but it always--

    • 03:43

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: From your step father.

    • 03:44

      BILL CLINTON: Yeah.

    • 03:45

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: You also said in a slightly different context,again about anger, that there were moments when you wereso angry that it did you harm.What harm were you done by your anger?

    • 03:57

      BILL CLINTON: Well, I think whenever you're-- the Greekssaid once, those whom the gods would destroy,they first make angry.If you go around mad, you don't think very well,and you wind up doing things that you shouldn't do.And I think there are numerous points in my lifewhere I really was angry, and it bothered me.I also think that a lot of anger is quite healthy.

    • 04:18

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: And I bent over backwards, because I triedto be a peacemaker in my home.I bent over backwards not to be angry, or never to show anger.And I think there's a price to that, as well.

    • 04:29

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: But what was the harm that it did you?Where did you harm yourself, or harm others by it?

    • 04:34

      BILL CLINTON: Well, I don't thinkthere's any question that a lot of the personal mistakes Imade in my life, I made when I was angry.

    • 04:40

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: You scourge yourself, don't you,really, in this book?You talk also about selfishness.You say-- in this essay you mention, when you were a child,you detested selfishness but you saw it every day in the mirror.Has selfishness been a constant partof your career, which obviously demands ambition, and--

    • 05:02

      BILL CLINTON: When you live the-- my life hasbeen both selfish and selfless.I mean, if you live the kind of life I live, I've lived.You're running for office.It's almost impossible-- as I say in this book,I may be the only person who got elected president ever becauseof the loyalty, support, and determination

    • 05:22

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: of his personal friends, who justwouldn't let my campaign die.It seemed to me often that from the beginning,I was always taking more from people than I could give back.I mean, I learned very early in lifethat we're all a mixture of selflessness and selfishness,that we're all a mixture of love and anger,that we all have these elements in us,

    • 05:44

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: and life is a constant struggle to letthe good outweigh the bad.

    • 05:50

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: Despite Bill Clinton's foreign and domesticachievements, his time in office was marred by scandal.Whitewater, a property deal gone wrongthat Clinton and his wife, Hillary, were involved in,led to an inquiry by the independent prosecutor,Kenneth Starr, who had unlimited powers of investigation.

    • 06:10

      DAVID DIMBLEBY [continued]: Although the Clintons were found innocent,Starr controversially broadened his inquiryto examine the president's private life, and allegationsof sexual harassment.He also investigated many of Clinton's friendsand colleagues, some of whom were jailed.In 1998, it was revealed Clinton hadhad an affair with a young woman at the White House.

    • 06:33

      DAVID DIMBLEBY [continued]: But for eight months, Bill Clintonlied about this infidelity to his wife and to the country.

    • 06:40

      BILL CLINTON: I did not have sexual relationswith that woman, Miss Lewinsky.

    • 06:47

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: Clinton became the first US presidentin over a century to be impeached.And for a time, both his presidency and his marriagewere at risk.When you decided to run for the presidency,you were told by your Republican opponentsthat they would in effect stop at nothing to destroy you.

    • 07:07

      DAVID DIMBLEBY [continued]: And it's interesting that you knew that.You were forewarned that they weregoing to try and destroy you, and yet youaccepted the challenge.

    • 07:15

      BILL CLINTON: Well, when I was threatened,it proved to me all the more that itwas time to make a change.Because I don't think the purpose of politicsis simply to get power and hold onto it.

    • 07:25

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: But it's a rough game, in Washington.

    • 07:28

      BILL CLINTON: It's a rough game, but the other sidehad been in for 12 years.We had tried it their way.And first, I was shocked that-- theymade me think I might have a chance to win,because I was told that they were confident they could beateverybody but me.And I didn't think that-- at the time,no one else thought I could win.So if they thought I could win, maybe it meant I had a chance.

    • 07:47

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: But you can't have had any groundsfor complaint when the press did go at you whenyou became president, because youknew it was going to happen.You brought it on yourself, in a sense, by running for it.

    • 07:57

      BILL CLINTON: Yeah, but I don't like that,because that exonerates everybodyelse of responsibility for the decisions that they made.The new right that controlled the Republican Partyin Washington and the political press had the same interests.They thought it was all about power.I thought it was about how power was used.I was interested--

    • 08:17

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: To me, the way I kept score in my presidency was didmore people have jobs or not?Did more people move out of poverty or not?Did the crime rate go down or not?Were more kids breathing clean air and fewer getting asthma?What was our record in the world?Did we advance peace and prosperity and security,or not?That's how I kept score.

    • 08:39

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: Others kept score in a totally different way--are we hurting on the other side, or not?Have we got a good story today thatis about personal destruction?So yes, I knew that.And yes, I did it.And no, I don't complain, but I don't have to agree with it.I still think American politics works betterwhen the fight is over who's right and who's wrong,rather than who's good and who's bad.

    • 09:01

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: Who's good and who's bad may be a good little flashy storyfor the day, but it doesn't have much to dowith how the American people are goingto be living 10, 20, 30 years from now,and how the world will work.

    • 09:11

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: But if you knew you had enemies like that,you offered them a gift with the Monica Lewinsky affair,didn't you?

    • 09:18

      BILL CLINTON: Of course I did.And was it rational?No.So I do my very best to explain why I think it happened.But you know, when people ask me this question, well,how could you do something so stupid whenyou knew they were after you?Well, of course if I'd been thinking straight,I wouldn't have done it.But I hope that you and everyone else who asked me this question

    • 09:43

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: never has to know what it's like to have somebody who despisesyou be given unaccountable legal powerto indict the innocent because they will not lie,and to exonerate the guilty because they will,and then to be treated as a totally legitimate personin the press as if obviously you must have done something wrong,

    • 10:03

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: or why are they doing all this?And you know, it's hard to think straight when that's going on.Now, nothing I say is by way of explanation,and my account of my life should be taken as an excuse.I don't make any excuses for myself.You've already said I'm pretty tough on myself,and I try to be.I don't believe anyone who reachesthe age of accountability can take an explanation

    • 10:25

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: for his mistakes as an excuse.So there's a big difference.But I frankly think Washington went a little haywire.Ever since Watergate, there was this ideathat we treat all politicians as they were basically crooks,and we just keep looking til we found something.And that's the way the press kept score,and that's the way the Republican right kept score.

    • 10:47

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: That, thank God, is not the way the American people kept score.Let me remind you-- and all the same-- we alwayshad the support of 2/3 of the American people stayingwith us.So I was gratified that more people saw the world the wayI did and believed politics actually mattered.These decisions affect people's lives.

    • 11:02

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: But given that you, as you say,hated the inquiry into Whitewater and all this thatwas going on--

    • 11:10

      BILL CLINTON: --I hated it.I asked for it.

    • 11:11

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: --unfair, how--You say then along came the Lewinsky affair,and you offered it to them on a plate, in effect.How did you come to do that?

    • 11:19

      BILL CLINTON: Well, I try to explain that.It happened under circumstances in whichpeople who have lived parallel lives become quite vulnerable.It happened at a time when I was angry, I was under stress,I was afraid I was going to lose my fight with the RepublicanCongress.As I said, I was in this titanic fightfor the future of the country, and an inevitable fight

    • 11:42

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: with my old demons.So I won the public fight, and lost the private one.And then Starr turned the private oneinto a legal, constitutional, and public one.

    • 11:52

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: Do you think he was wrong to do that?

    • 11:54

      BILL CLINTON: Of course.

    • 11:55

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: Did you think it was dangerous at the time?

    • 11:59

      BILL CLINTON: What they were doing?

    • 12:00

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: What you were doing.Did you think it was risky?

    • 12:05

      BILL CLINTON: I don't know that-- I can't answer that.I don't know what I thought about it.It didn't last very long, and the accountsare not entirely accurate of what did happen.So I don't want to talk about that.I've said all I have to say about that in the book.I'm not saying any more about this.

    • 12:20

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: There is a curious aspect of it,that you've set to Starr, or you implied that you expectedit to become public knowledge.You said, you expected it to come out at some point.

    • 12:30

      BILL CLINTON: I didn't, in the beginning.But subsequent things happened which made me think that.

    • 12:34

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: You've explained the background to it,and how you felt that this was really a private matter,and was wrongly exposed publicly.But one thing people were puzzled by,which was when you said you hadn'thad a sexual relationship with Lewinsky,did you seriously, when you said that, not consider oral sex

    • 12:55

      DAVID DIMBLEBY [continued]: to be a sexual relationship?

    • 12:57

      BILL CLINTON: First of all, I never discussedwhat did or didn't happen.So you only have one side of what happened.I don't believe in discussing it, and won't.Secondly, did you read the instructions I was given?

    • 13:10

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: Which instructions?

    • 13:11

      BILL CLINTON: Well, keep in mind,we were-- I testified very differently to the grand jurythan I did in the civil deposition.I was given the most bizarre definitionof sexual relations, which the lawyers saidfor-- the Republican lawyers thatwere going after me-- said they did to spare me embarrassment.

    • 13:35

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: Then my lawyer, and then I personally, I personallyasked those lawyers if they wantedto ask me a specific question.And they said no.And then they claimed that I had lied in the depositionbecause I had answered no to this contorted definition they

    • 13:57

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: gave me, which to this day I stillbelieve is the right answer.

    • 14:01

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: So you've never said you had oral sex,or she did oral sex on you.That's what you're saying.

    • 14:07

      BILL CLINTON: I've never answeredthat, one way or the other.

    • 14:09

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: Right.

    • 14:10

      BILL CLINTON: I answered questions in the grand juryabout what I thought the definition meant.But you know, I wasn't-- keep in mind,at the time I went through that deposition,I wasn't in the business of helping them.And I wasn't supposed to help them,because they knew the lawsuit thatgave them the power to ask me these questions wasa total fraud.

    • 14:31

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: They knew it.And the judge threw it out.They knew that the theory on which they were asking methese questions was a total fraud.They knew there had never been any sexual harassment.And they knew something I didn't know,which is that they had gotten Kenneth Starr involvedin the case, for total political reasons.Now, maybe given the import of your question,

    • 14:53

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: maybe you think all this is perfectly legitimateand every person in the world should be treated this way.I don't.I think it was wrong.I think it was done by people whocraved power, who want to concentrate wealthand power in my country, who wanted to radically revisemy country's future and move it to the right,and who resented the fact that 2/3 of the American peoplesupported what I was doing.

    • 15:14

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: Now, does that excuse what I did?No.But what they did was a threat to the Constitutionand the fabric of life in America,and the future of the country.And I think when they get in power,they do things that I don't agree with.So I fought them, and I'm glad I did.

    • 15:29

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: Well, you say we're not to know what you did,and that's obviously your affair.But your wife in her book clearlysets out that you did lie to her.

    • 15:39

      BILL CLINTON: I did do that, and I said--

    • 15:40

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: For eight months,you lied to her about a relationshipthat you said was improper.

    • 15:42

      BILL CLINTON: And I acknowledge that in my book.

    • 15:45

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: So it is true that you lied.

    • 15:47

      BILL CLINTON: Absolutely.Is it true that I didn't tell her the truth?I didn't tell anybody the truth.When it broke publicly, and it was obvious to methat I had been set up, and when I asked them specificallyto ask me these questions, they declined to do so,and that they had maneuvered it, Starr had maneuvered himselfinto the case.I decided that the most important thing

    • 16:07

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: that I should do is not to compound my personal errorby letting these people win.And that in the meantime, I shouldn't expose anybodyuntil the thing calmed down a little bit.Because we had a mad prosecutor on the loose whowas dying to indict anybody.Let me remind you, in violation of the Justice Department

    • 16:27

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: guidelines, he compelled Monica Lewinsky's mother to testify.You know, if this had been a normal thing whereI had been found to have done wrong personallyand I'd been asked about it, I would have simply dealtwith it in an appropriate way, with my family and everybodyelse.

    • 16:47

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: I said, here's the evidence, you did wrong.Talk about it.That was not the environment in which I lived.

    • 16:53

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: You were fighting for your presidency,and you were fighting, as you saw it,against political enemies.

    • 16:58

      BILL CLINTON: Absolutely.

    • 16:58

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: Right through.And that was what it was about.

    • 16:59

      BILL CLINTON: It wasn't as I saw it, sir.We had several years of evidence.We had several years of evidence.Kenneth Starr would not be allowedto be a prosecutor against me as a defendant in any decent courtin the land.

    • 17:13

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: You obviously had--

    • 17:17

      BILL CLINTON: And let me just say this.One of the reasons he got away with itis because people like you only askpeople like me the questions.You gave him a complete free ride.Any abuse they want to do, they indictedall these little people from Arkansas.What did you care about them?They're not famous.Who cares if their lives were trampled?Who cares that their children are humiliated?Who cares if Starr sends FBI agents to their schooland rip them out of their school to humiliate them,

    • 17:38

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: trying to force their parents to lie about me?Who cares if he sends a woman like Susan McDougalinto a Hannibal Lecter like cell,and makes her wear a uniform worn only by murderersand child molesters?Nobody in your line of work cared a rip about thatat the time.Why?Because he was helping their story.

    • 17:59

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: And that's the difference in me, and the peoplethat we're after me.I actually cared about what happened to those people.And I wanted to be president to help those people.And that's what the fight was about.Now, that doesn't justify any mistake I made.But look how much time you've spentasking me these questions, in this time you've had.That's because that's what you care about,because that's what you think helps you, and helps

    • 18:21

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: this interview.I care about what happened to the peoplethat I have fought for.And that's why people like you always help the far right,because you like to hurt people, and youlike to talk about how bad people are, and alltheir personal failings.

    • 18:35


    • 18:35

      BILL CLINTON: And that's why you-- look,you made a decision to allocate your time in a certain way.You should take responsibility that.You should say, yes, I care much more about this thenwhether the Bosnian people were saved,and whether he brought a million people home from Kosovo,than whether 27 million people had jobs at the end,and whether we moved 100 times as many people out of poverty

    • 18:58

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: as Reagan and Bush.This is what I care about.

    • 18:60

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: I will come to those things,and I don't intend to avoid it.And I don't intend to talk endlessly about MonicaLewinsky, I can assure you.

    • 19:06

      BILL CLINTON: But when this over--

    • 19:08

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: Your book goes into this.

    • 19:09

      BILL CLINTON: It does.

    • 19:10

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: And it's a very interesting insightinto something that is just as important as your achievements,which is the nature of the presidency,and the power of a President.

    • 19:18

      BILL CLINTON: I agree with that.

    • 19:19

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: And let me move on to the next point, whichI was going to make.You talk about parallel lives.At the point when the Lewinsky affair was happening,you were also dealing with a terrible crisisover al Qaeda, the bombing of the two embassiesin East Africa.And day by day-- I mean, to quote you, you say,

    • 19:41

      DAVID DIMBLEBY [continued]: I alternated between begging forgiveness from your wife,and planning strikes on al Qaeda.

    • 19:47

      BILL CLINTON: That's true.

    • 19:49

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: Did it do damage to your power of concentrationand decision making as president?

    • 19:54

      BILL CLINTON: No, I really don't think so.And I believe, interestingly enough,when-- I don't want to jump the gun on the 9/11Commission at home, this bipartisan commission,but I think I can say this, because I believeit's already been made public.The Commission told me when I met with them for four hoursthat they had actually made a finding that none

    • 20:14

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: of my personal challenges or the impeachment thinghad any impact on the decisions that I madeor didn't make as president, which I was gratified by.

    • 20:22

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: Do you yourself feel that?

    • 20:24

      BILL CLINTON: Absolutely.But I tell you, this is quite interesting.And when I talked about the parallellives thing, when I was a child, and you pointed outsome of the problems with having parallel lives.And I agree with you, which I tried to be candid about.The flip side of that is it stood mein very good stead, when I had to gothrough the whole struggle with the Congress, and the Starr,

    • 20:45

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: and the impeachment thing, because I hadbeen doing that all my life.I worried far more about the peoplewho were working with me who had neverbeen subject to personal attacks,or never had to face the problem in their own livesthat I did it myself, because it'ssomething I knew how to do.I'd been doing that since I was a boy.And we organized the White House so

    • 21:05

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: that we could answer questions like these questionson the impeachment, or the whole deposition, all of that.We were organized there.And when they needed me, I spent a few minutesand answered their questions, or they briefed me.And for the rest of the time, we worked on the presidency.And it sounds crazy to someone who's never been through it,but I knew how to do that.

    • 21:27

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: And I'd had a lot of practice in the '92 campaignand the first term, but basically Iwent back to my childhood for learning to livewith a big pot of problems.When my mother wrote her memoir, shetalked about the same thing.And you, as you describe, were kicked out of the marital bedand living on the couch--

    • 21:45

      BILL CLINTON: I was.

    • 21:46

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: --while you were doing all this.

    • 21:48

      BILL CLINTON: I laugh about it now, but it's true.It's true.

    • 21:51

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: Was it horrifying?

    • 21:54

      BILL CLINTON: Oh, actually I thought it was healthy.In a funny way, I thought the factthat I was sleeping on the couch and they were stillin the same house with me meant that Hillary or Chelsea hadn'tgiven up on me.I figured that as I said, I was getting the whipping at home,where I should have gotten it.I thought whatever they wanted to say or doto me, Hillary and Chelsea, they had an absolute right to do.

    • 22:14

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: So the fact that I was still able to stayunder the same roof, even though I was [INAUDIBLE].I thought that was progress.So I was just glad to be among the living there, at home.And frankly-- perhaps I shouldn't acknowledge this,but it was a relief to have to go to work and concentrate

    • 22:34

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: on something else, because otherwise I would have hadnothing to think about all day long about what a bad fellaI'd been.

    • 22:41

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: Your critics say that yougave the action against terrorism and against al Qaedaa low priority.I know the 9/11 Commission is sitting on this.If you had known what we now know about terrorism and 9/11,

    • 23:02

      DAVID DIMBLEBY [continued]: would you have acted more toughly than you did?

    • 23:05

      BILL CLINTON: Well, first of all,it's not fair to say I gave it a low priority.I had a piece of sweeping anti-terrorism legislationfor the Congress in 1994, after Oklahoma City,after the Oklahoma City bombing strengthened it.And we took another year to pass it in the Congress.If you go all the way back to 1993,

    • 23:26

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: you will see we were bringing terrorists back home.We were preventing terrorist attacks.We prevented terrorist attacks in the Holland Tunnel,the Lincoln Tunnel, the UN building, the Los Angelesairport.We thwarted terrorist attacks over the millenniumthat were planned in America and the Middle East.We broke up 20 al Qaeda cells.I came closer to getting Osama bin Laden with that air action

    • 23:48

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: in 1998 than anybody has-- since, apparently.I think the question is, could wehave invaded Afghanistan based on the African embassybombings?I don't think so.

    • 24:02

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: Why not?

    • 24:05

      BILL CLINTON: Well, because-- in theory, we could have,but we would have been all alone.Everybody would have thought we were crazy, based on that.And then could I have-- would I have done more after the USSCole, in October 2000?And could I have?Absolutely.If-- there's one big if-- if the government intelligence

    • 24:25

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: agencies, in this case the FBI and the CIA,had agreed with me, even though my term was almost over,and it told me that they agreed for sure that bin Laden and alQaeda were responsible for the USS Cole, a findingthey did not make until after I left office,I would have done more then.Would it have succeeded in getting bin Laden?

    • 24:46

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: Would it have prevented 9/11?I don't know.I mean, we've got-- look how long we've been in Afghanistan,and we still haven't succeeded in that.But believe me, I have asked a lot of these questions myself.

    • 24:58

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: Do you expect the 9/11 Commissionto be critical of what you did as president about terrorism?

    • 25:05

      BILL CLINTON: I think the 9/11 Commission can make upits own mind whether on both the attacks on alQaeda and the strategy we adopted,and on the question of homeland defense, I did enough.I'll leave that to others to judge.But all I can tell you, it was a big priority with me.I never lost my concentration on it,and I worked on it for my first term.And I think the record will show that we did a heck of a lot.

    • 25:28

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: I made lots of decisions as president.It's inconceivable that they were all right.They couldn't have all been right.And if they can find something theythink I should have done differently,then I want them to tell the American people,because I think we're in for a long strugglehere against terror, and none of us need to be too defensive.We need to say, in the end, we want freedomto triumph over terror.

    • 25:49

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: And we need to keep learning, and keep getting better.And we will.

    • 25:53

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: There's a striking differencebetween your attitude toward Saddam Hussein and Iraq,and that of your successor, the present president.Am I right in thinking that you thoughtthat containment was the most effective way of restrainingSaddam?

    • 26:11

      BILL CLINTON: Well, that was the policy of the previous Bushadministration.

    • 26:15

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: And yours?

    • 26:16

      BILL CLINTON: Yes.For most of the time I was there.The idea was that his military is less than half the strengthit was in the first Gulf War, which is factually true.We have these inspections going on, and we're making progress,and we're getting the chemical and biological agentsin the laboratory capacity out of there.And while he's not a good man, he's getting older.

    • 26:39

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: And as long as we don't lift the sanctionsand let him rebuild his military power,that eventually we'll get a change there.Then in '98, when Saddam kicked the inspectors outto try to force us lift the sanctions,Prime Minister Blair and I bombed him for four days.And we bombed the sites where we thought

    • 26:60

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: the chemical and biological materials would be.Because we didn't get the inspectors back in,and we have no idea if we destroyed all of it,half of it, 10% of it, none of it.So then when President Bush went back to the UNafter 9/11 to demand that the inspectors be let in,I strongly supported that.

    • 27:22

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: When President Bush asked for authority in the Senateto use force if Saddam didn't cooperate with the UN,I strongly supported that.My only difference-- and I adopted in '98,after he kicked the inspectors out, a policy of regime change.I thought, well, we're never goingto be able to do any consistent business with this guy.That's different from invading him.

    • 27:44

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: You know, I said, we ought to support the opposition elementsand just keep working until we get a new leader.So I didn't have any profound difference with the policy,until it was decided to invade Iraq before the UN weaponsinspection process was finished.Because Hans Blix, I have very high regard for.

    • 28:04

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: He was very tough on Saddam.He was very explicit, when they weren't fully cooperating.And I thought we should give him a chance to finish.I also always felt that bin Laden and al Qaedawere a far, far bigger threat.And in the early days, I worried aboutwhether we had enough troops in Afghanistan,

    • 28:24

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: And whether we wouldn't weaken our abilityto stabilize the President Karzai's regime,prevent the Taliban and some of the opium growing warlordsfrom restoring their power.So that's kind of where I differed.

    • 28:41

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: So what you're saying is,you were opposed to the invasion of Iraq.

    • 28:45

      BILL CLINTON: What I'm saying is Ibelieve that we should have let the-- I would have supportedthe invasion of Iraq, whether or not we'd had UN opposition.if the UN inspectors had finished their joband Hans Blix had said they won't cooperate.The point is, we were there under the authority of a UNresolution that was about the weapons inspections.So I believe that we should have let them finish.

    • 29:07

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: Now, we are where we are.I'm an American first.So the minute the president launches an investigation,I was for the troops and the mission,and I did believe when it was over we should have immediatelymoved to internationalize it.Finally, that is being done.We're moving to give this sovereignty back to the Iraqis,And that we have a new UN Resolution

    • 29:28

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: for internationalizing it.I think that they're moving in the right direction.Now, we've still got a lot of tough days ahead.I mean-- but I think basically we're movingin the right direction, now.

    • 29:37

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: It's reported that you went privatelyto Checkers to see Tony Blair before the invasion.Is that true?And presumably if it is true, youdidn't urge him to support President Bush.

    • 29:53

      BILL CLINTON: Well, I was-- I don't-- you're asking mea question, and I'm not sure exactly when I was at Checkers,vis-a-vis the Iraq date.I've been there several times since I left office.Tony Blair and I are friends.Mrs. Blair and Hillary and all, we're all friends.And I've stayed in touch with him.And I urged him to try to work with the incoming Bush

    • 30:15

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: administration, because I think the partnership for the Britishand the Americans is important, and itshould transcend party politics and personal differences.

    • 30:22

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: But did you share your doubtsabout the wisdom of invading without UN backing?

    • 30:27

      BILL CLINTON: But here's the problem Tony Blair faced.Blair had a problem unique in Europe.And that's why I went to the Labor Party conferencein Blackpool and defended him, if you remember.He had a problem unique in Europe.Britain-- the UK had been the bridgebetween the US and Europe.

    • 30:48

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: When America moved to the right after the 2000 election,there was nobody to be the bridge between the USand Europe but the UK.Blair also believed, as I did, that wehad to open Iraq to inspections, which all the rest of Europeagreed to after 9/11.They agreed with that, and that if Saddam Hussein blocked

    • 31:09

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: the inspections and didn't finish,we should be prepared to attack.I agreed with that.So in other words, I basically had the same positionthat Prime Minister Blair did-- that is, not where the Bushadministration was, which is we want to attack anyway,whether there's weapons or not there,and not where the Europeans were,which is even if there are weapons there,

    • 31:32

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: or even if he won't let the inspections proceed,he's too weak to do any harm.We're helping America and the world in Afghanistan.Let's don't fight, regardless.So here was Blair, stuck in the middle, the same place I was.And the ground that he wanted to stakeout was represented in the last gasp UN resolution,

    • 31:53

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: if you remember, that failed that said,let's give him six more weeks, or however much time it was.And it collapsed.So Prime Minister Blair was left in an unenviable position.He either had to go with the American position, whichhe didn't entirely agree with, or gowith the European position, which he didn't entirelyagree with.And in the end, I believed he thought that there was still

    • 32:16

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: some risk that Saddam had the weapons, that if he stayedinvolved he could have an impact on the post-Saddam Iraq,that if he stayed involved, he could keep Americaand Europe closer together than they otherwise would have been.And so he made the decision he did.I can't quarrel with that.He was in a very difficult position.

    • 32:36

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: But had it been you therein the White House, or Al Gore there in the White House,this wouldn't have arisen?There wouldn't have been an invasion of Iraqon these terms?

    • 32:46

      BILL CLINTON: No, but we might have had to invade anyway.It would just depend on what happened with the weaponsinspection.But keep in mind, I had no problemwith-- I don't like Saddam Hussein.We bombed him several times.But I just didn't think he was as big a threat as Osama binLaden and al Qaeda.And I was more concerned with diverting and dividingour resources until we had finished that job.

    • 33:07

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: But you, back in the '60s, over Vietnam,endorsed what your mentor at the time, Senator Fulbright,said about American power, that nations get into trouble whenthey're arrogant in their use of powerand pursue a foreign policy rooted in missionary zeal.Did you wonder, do you wonder whether that's

    • 33:28

      DAVID DIMBLEBY [continued]: what's happened with the use of American power in Iraq?

    • 33:34

      BILL CLINTON: I think that all Americansfelt a certain missionary zeal after 9/11.And I think we can be forgiven for feelinga little bit of that.But my view is that we live in an interdependent world,that lots of good and bad things happen,and that most of the problems of that world

    • 33:55

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: do not readily lend themselves to unilateral solutions.That is, if you are in an environment whereyou have actual and potential adversariesand you don't want any help in dealing with them,and you'd like to do whatever you want to do,the first question you have to ask yourselfis a practical one.Is it possible for me to kill, occupy, or jail

    • 34:16

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: all these people?If the answer to that is no-- which it clearlyis with the terrorist threat, right-- thenyou need two things.You need allies, and you need politics.You need, in other words, a processfor making a world with more partners and fewer terrorists.So that's why I always tilt more toward

    • 34:38

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: the multilateral solutions, why I don't thinkit's right to get rid of the Comprehensive of Test BanTreaty, or the climate change accord, or the InternationalCriminal Court, or all those things whereI have a different analysis of thisthan most of the Republicans do.

    • 34:53

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: Towards the end of your period as president,you came, in your description, close to achievinga peace between Israel and the Palestinians.Some people say you were rushing it a bit,others say it's an intractable position.

    • 35:07

      BILL CLINTON: I'm convinced that if Rabin not been killedin late 1995, that by 1998 we would havehad a comprehensive agreement in the Middle East.On the other hand, to be fair to all the other parties,the process-- not the product.The product envisioned in the Middle East peace in '93

    • 35:29

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: was a Palestinian state that was predominatelybut not exclusively Arab Muslim, and an Israel thatwas predominately but not exclusively Jewish.And the process said, look, we'vebeen fighting all these years, so we'regoing to take baby steps for a few yearsand then when we get to the end, we'll take the big steps.What happened was that all the baby steps, given

    • 35:52

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: the changes and the challenges that both sides were facing,almost made it harder to get to the big steps.Because Israel had more and more immigrants coming infrom the former Soviet Union and North Africa,more and more people in the settlements,so the compromises became more difficult.The Palestinians had more and more competition for the heartsand minds-- the PLO did-- of the Palestinian people,

    • 36:14

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: from Hamas, Hizbullah the Islamic Jihad.So one of the things that by 1998, even the conservativesin Israel, the Likud people were beginning to talk aboutis whether we should truncate this step by step processand go right to the end, and try to get to the big issues.

    • 36:33

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: And at that point,you seemed to blame Yasser Arafat for notbeing willing to make the leap.

    • 36:37

      BILL CLINTON: Well, I do believe he made a terrible mistake.And I think he admitted that.Within a year or so after I left the White House,Yasser Arafat said he wanted a peace agreement basedon the parameters I set out in late 2000.But by then, he had an Israeli publicwho no longer trusted him, and an Israeli government

    • 36:58

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: who wouldn't give it to him.So you've had all these other peace agreements,peace efforts like this Geneva Accord,where the Palestinians and the Israelis met in Switzerland,and there was another effort or twowhere they're just trying to fill in the blanks.There are clearly Israelis and Palestinianswho want to make peace.I think Arafat made a historical error,

    • 37:18

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: and I think he's acknowledged it.And now the question is, can we get both sides backin a place where they can do what they know they have to do?

    • 37:26

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: But given the current hostilitytowards the United States in the Middle East because of Iraq,because of America's support for Israel,do you think that America can any longer actas the broker of that peace?

    • 37:38

      BILL CLINTON: Well, for one thing, the answer to thatis yes, for one simple reason.Because Israel knows that whether wehave a Democrat or a Republican president,that no matter what other things we fightabout at home and abroad, America is firmly, politically,

    • 37:60

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: and emotionally committed to the survivalof the state of Israel.And no government can make a better dealfor the Palestinians who have been oppressed and abusedand ignored by everybody, includinga lot of their Arab brothers.There is no deal to be made thereby America or any other country, unless Israel believes

    • 38:23

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: the interlocutor has as a bottom line conditionthe continued survival of the state of Israel.So yes, I do.I think President Bush can make some progress.I think after the next election, whoever winswill be able to make some progress.But I think that also, we have to fightfor the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians.I think the trick is to do both.

    • 38:45

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: And you can do both, as long as the Israelis believeyou're going to be there for their survival.I mean, look at all the things I ask them to accept,the de facto 97% of the West Bank as a state,all of the Temple Mount, and East Jerusalem,and half the Old City as Al Quds, the Palestinian capital.

    • 39:07

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: The role of a presidentis to define, during his watch, America's place in the world.And you have talked about crises coming at you all the time.Would you agree that America's response to criseswas very uneven, sent out an uncertain signal?

    • 39:28

      DAVID DIMBLEBY [continued]: For instance, you were prepared to use bombing raidsto save Kosovo.You weren't prepared to lift a finger for Rwanda,where 800,000 people were massacred in a genocide.

    • 39:44

      BILL CLINTON: Well, I would agree to some extentthat the response was uneven, but I would notagree with the characterization of it.Let me try to give a serious answer to that.It was predictably uneven, because at the end of the ColdWar we no longer had a bipolar world.We had to figure out how we were going to do

    • 40:06

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: what I thought we should do.What I wanted America to do was to be the world's leading forcefor peace and freedom and security and prosperity,helping to integrate this interdependent worldinto a more effective global community.At the same time, we had obligationsthat we had inherited from before,and we had limits on what we could do.

    • 40:30

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: We didn't go into Bosnia as quickly as I wanted to,but that was mostly because of initial European reluctance.So I was trying to do two things.I was trying to end the slaughter of the Bosnia war,but to do it in a way that would increase European integrationand increase the transatlantic partnership.And it took a couple years to get that done,and a lot of people died in the meantime.

    • 40:53

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: But the death rate went way down in Bosnia,even before we started bombing, and before the peace talksstarted, because we tried to do it in a way thatwould put things together.In Kosovo, all of the European allieswere ready from the beginning.I can't say enough about them.It wasn't just an American operation.Everybody was ready to go.They knew what Milosevic was, they knew what he'd do.

    • 41:14

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: And they went immediately.And that led to the end of Milosevic.In Northern Ireland, what I did wascontroversial in Great Britain, in the beginning.But in the end, everybody knew that Ididn't want to end the special relationship with the UK.I wanted to use the Irish diaspora in Americato leverage the legitimate peace.

    • 41:35

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: In Rwanda, as I say over and over again,it's one of my greatest regrets.But we look at it backwards and say,well, I had to know that 700,000 or 800,000 people couldbe killed with machetes in 90 days.And as far as I know, there's no precedentfor that in the history of the world.

    • 41:52

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: But the Red Crosswas warning that this was happening all the time.

    • 41:54

      BILL CLINTON: And that's right.And I acknowledge that.I think perhaps the greatest failurewas none of us paid sufficient attention to it.It is one of my greatest regrets.And I went to Rwanda and told them so.Eventually, we got into the campsand we saved a lot of lives.But we could have saved probably,even with the delay it takes to go there,

    • 42:15

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: we could've saved a couple thousand more,if we'd moved more quickly.I agree with that.I tried to never make that mistake in Africa again.There is no question that I could have saved lives if I hadunilaterally gone in there, and we didn't.I think partly it was the bad experience of Somalia,partly it was the preoccupation with Bosnia at the time.

    • 42:35

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: Partly, it was a preoccupation with Haiti at the time,where there was a lot of mass slaughter going on,and we were trying to get in there.

    • 42:41

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: One last about your policies, and how they have been altered.And your domestic policies, which we have talked about,have clearly been changed.Do you now look to a Kerry victoryto restore the domestic policies that you introduced,or will we have to wait for a second Clinton presidency,

    • 43:02

      DAVID DIMBLEBY [continued]: in the form of a president Hillary Clinton.

    • 43:05

      BILL CLINTON: Well, first of all, I support John Kerry.He's a good man.He's a good senator.And I believe he'd be quite a good president.

    • 43:16

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: Quite?

    • 43:17

      BILL CLINTON: A very, very good president.Quite a good president, you don't say that?I think he would-- I'd think he'd be an excellent president.I've got confidence not only in his views,but in the psychological strengths and the experiencehe brings to the office.So I think that would help.But the point I tried to make in my bookis that almost no specific programmatic or policy

    • 43:41

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: decisions of any administration are permanent.What tends to endure are two things, oneon an individual level, were people's lives improved or not?And if so, how?And secondly, in a directional level,that I take the right direction toward the future.

    • 44:03

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: Because while this period of debate is going on,there may be reversals of the specific policies.But I still believe that we have no choice but to moveto an integrated world.We'll have to do it.And so I feel comfortable that I didwhat I could for my country.And in the meanwhile, the way I alwayskept score, which is how are the little guys doing,I really like to think about that.

    • 44:25

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: So I feel good about it.

    • 44:26

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: And president Hillary Clinton?

    • 44:29

      BILL CLINTON: I don't know, because we've-- Hilary and Ihave been in this business long enough to know you can't lookdown the road too far.Right now we're focused on this election,and trying to help our guy.I can say this.She's been a fabulous senator, and if she ever had the senseto serve, she'd be great.I've never known anybody abler than her in public life,including me, ever.She's something truly special.

    • 44:51

      BILL CLINTON [continued]: And I'm glad she's in the Senate,and I hope she gets the chance to stay in public life.

    • 44:56

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: And they'd be getting twofor the price of one.

    • 44:58

      BILL CLINTON: We tried that before, itdidn't work out so well.I think I'll just pour tea.

    • 45:04

      DAVID DIMBLEBY: Mr. President, thank you.

    • 45:06

      BILL CLINTON: Thanks.Actually, it did work out very well for the country.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Panorama: Clinton - The Interview

View Segments Segment :


David Dimbleby interviews former U.S. president Bill Clinton about his childhood with an alcoholic step-father, the scandals of his presidency, and his response to international crises. Clinton describes with anger what he sees as a political witch hunt that was led by Kenneth Starr and that destroyed the lives of many innocent people.

Panorama: Clinton - The Interview

David Dimbleby interviews former U.S. president Bill Clinton about his childhood with an alcoholic step-father, the scandals of his presidency, and his response to international crises. Clinton describes with anger what he sees as a political witch hunt that was led by Kenneth Starr and that destroyed the lives of many innocent people.

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