will judge Clinton harshly, Woodward tells Miller Center crowd
By Dan Heuchert
Jefferson Clinton's White House tenure will end in slightly over
a year, and at least one Washington observer said that it likely
will be remembered as "a squandered presidency."
the nation's economy booming and a high personal approval ratings,
Clinton had a great opportunity to outline a positive vision for
America's future and push the nation toward it, famed Watergate
journalist Bob Woodward told an overflow crowd of 344 at the Miller
Center of Public Affairs in a Nov. 10 appearance.
Instead, "everything is tactical in the Clinton presidency,
in the best way and in the worst way," said Woodward, now
an assistant managing editor of the Washington Post.
ought to share credit for the strong economy with his two predecessors,
Woodward said. Ronald Reagan passed the largest tax increase in
history, and Bush's 1990 budget deal -- in which he broke his
famed "read my lips, no new taxes" campaign pledge --
provided needed revenue to the government while cutting spending,
he said. Both reduced the deficit.
1993, Clinton also raised taxes while further cutting spending
and forged a behind-the-scenes deal with Federal Reserve Board
chair Alan Greenspan, in which Greenspan pledged to keep interest
rates stable if Clinton continued to reduce the deficit, Woodward
said. "By creating this stability, they created this boom,"
the economic success, Clinton's presidential history will be tarnished
by scandals, Woodward said. He paid "an immense price"
by waging his successful defense against removal by impeachment,
rather than ending the Lewinsky scandal at the earliest possible
moment with simple truth-telling. Likewise, "I could have
written the speech in 2 1/2 minutes that could have ended the
Whitewater probe in 1994," Woodward said.
"He does not tell the truth, and that will be much of his
legacy, I think," he said.
escaped removal in his Senate impeachment trial because "there
was no evidence that Clinton committed crimes," just that
he participated in unsavory personal behavior, Woodward said.
The lack of evidence stood in stark contrast to the Watergate
case, in which credible evidence continued to mount almost daily.
the Clinton case, "as time went on, instead of the evidence
getting stronger, all of the evidence got weaker. It evaporated,"
Politically, Clinton's successes have come because of his centrist
political views -- "[He] naturally moves to the center. He's
an accommodator" -- and because he is an outstanding political
strategist and a man of great personal charisma.
To the latter point, he told a story about spending an hour in
1994 interviewing Clinton in the Oval Office for his book, The
entering the office, "He immediately drilled me with this
eye contact that almost grabbed me with its own gravitational
force," Woodward recalled. What's more, he maintained eye
contact for the entire hour. "I thought, 'Œhe realizes how
brilliant my questions are.'
was very effective. I thought it was a great interview. But I
went back and transcribed it, and it was largely mush."
intense sense of personal connection comes through in small group
settings and on television, Woodward said.
what he thinks the president will do once he leaves office, Woodward
said he hopes Clinton will come clean someday. "He could
write one of the great presidential memoirs," he said.
president may yet have a few surprises left. "He is determined
to drive his impeachment into the second paragraph of his obituary,"
the closing question-and-answer session, one attendee couldn't
avoid the temptation of asking the obvious question: Will we ever
know the identity of "Deep Throat," the secret source
of many of his Watergate stories?
this afternoon," Woodward quipped.