HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Clinton Says Dole Spoiled 'Honeymoon'
Pubdate: Fri, 08 Dec 2000
Source: International Herald-Tribune (France)
Copyright: International Herald Tribune 2000
Contact:  181, Avenue Charles de Gaulle, 92521 Neuilly Cedex, France
Fax: (33) 1 41 43 93 38
Author: John Kifner


President Shows Empathy For Nixon In Wide-Ranging Interview

NEW YORK President Bill Clinton, in an interview published Thursday 
in Rolling Stone, says the Republicans outmaneuvered him into a 
failed policy on gays in the military, calls some current anti-drug 
policies unfair and confesses a sneaking empathy for a disgraced 
predecessor, Richard Nixon.

The Republicans "didn't want me to have a honeymoon" in his first 
days in office, Mr. Clinton said, and so forced the issue of his 
campaign promise to allow gays to serve openly, knowing they had the 
votes in Congress to defeat it.

"And it was only then that I worked out with Colin Powell this 
dumb-ass 'don't ask, don't tell' thing," Mr. Clinton said in the 
interview, one of several he has granted recently looking back on his 
eight years in office.

He said that policy resulted in "several years of problems where it 
was not implemented in any way consistent with the speech I gave at 
the War College - of which General Powell had agreed with every word."

Still, Mr. Clinton, the master tactician, conceded, "it was a 
brilliant political move" on the part of the Republican leader, 
Senator Bob Dole, whose "top priority was making this the controversy 
that would consume the early days of my presidency."

The interview, conducted by Jann Wenner, Rolling Stone's editor and 
publisher, and appearing in the Dec. 28-Jan. 4 issue, also included a 
reference to the main controversy that marked Mr. Clinton's tenure, 
his extramarital affair with a White House intern.

In a discussion of the impeachment attempt, Mr. Clinton was asked if 
the outcome was a sort of "referendum on the nature, morality or 
character" of America.

"Not really," the president replied. "People strongly disagreed with 
what I did. I did, too."

On the subject of drugs, Mr. Clinton, who famously claimed not to 
have inhaled, said that "most small amounts of marijuana have been 
decriminalized and should be."

Going further, he said that mandatory sentences for drug use should 
be re examined along with the distinction in sentencing between crack 
and powdered cocaine.

"The disparities are unconscionable between crack and powdered 
cocaine," Mr. Clinton said. "I tried to change that. The Republican 
Congress was willing to narrow but not eliminate them, the theory 
being that people who used crack were more violent than people who 
used cocaine.

"What they really meant was: People that used crack were more likely 
to be poor - and, coincidentally, black or brown. And therefore not 
to have money. Those people that used cocaine were more likely to be 
rich, pay for it and therefore be peaceful."

Mr. Clinton said that he had invited Mr. Nixon to come back to the 
White House for a visit and that he treasured a "lucid, eloquent" 
letter the former president had written him from Russia just a month 
before his death in 1994.

During the visit, Mr. Clinton said, "He told me he identified with me 
because he thought the press had been too hard on me in '92 and that 
I had refused to die, and he liked that. He said a lot of life was 
just hanging on. We had a good talk about that."

Mr. Nixon, driven from office by the Watergate scandal, could have 
been, Mr. Clinton said, "a great president if he had been more 
trusting of the American people."

Mr. Clinton attributed the bitter, partisan atmosphere in Washington 
to what he said was a Republican belief that "they had found a 
foolproof formula to hold on to the White House forever."

"Mostly, it's just because I won," he said, adding:

"I think, secondly, because I was the first baby-boomer president. 
Not a perfect person - never claimed to be. And I opposed the Vietnam 
War. I think that made them doubly angry, because they thought I was 
a cultural alien and I made it anyway."
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