Why would Barbara Walters make Bill Clinton a Most Fascinating Person of 2007? She explained it on Thursday’s Good Morning America: “We didn't want a political candidate, but I mean he has had such a year. Wrote another best-selling book, Giving, traveled all over the place. And we talked to him about what it was like to be, you know, what he thinks it's going to be if she wins.”
But the ooziest, least credible part came when GMA co-host Robin Roberts asked Walters “What do you make of the partnership between Bill and Hillary Clinton?” Walters laid on the lovey-dovey-Clintons line, thick as an oil slick: “Well, you know, we asked him, for example if he does, you know, text messaging. And he said no, he calls her because he has to hear her voice. He knows from the moment she says hello what kind of a day it is for her. Well, that's the only kind of relationship you can have if you're very close and, you know, obviously, they are.”
That’s not exactly what Walters heard from Hillary during a long, mostly fawning 2003 interview about her memoir. Hillary ducked and dodged on whether her husband is now hopelessly devoted only to her. From our book Whitewash:
The most daring question came near the end when Walters asked, “Do you trust your husband totally today?” Hillary ducked with an unsurprising answer. “You know, we’ve really been tried and tested. And we are at the point now that we’re looking forward. I hope that we’ll grow old together. That’s how I look at our future.” Walters replied: “Okay. I have to ask it. What if he does something in the future that is similar?” Hillary wanted the question tucked back in her zone of privacy: “You know, that will be between us. And that will be that zone of privacy that I believe in.”
Walters ended the interview by instructing Hillary to read a gooey paragraph from her book in which she explained how she lovingly found that her husband was still “the most interesting, energizing and fully alive person I have ever met.” Which means: the “open marriage” hasn’t been called off. Bill is so "fully alive" that his marriage vows don't mean the same thing as they do to mere mortals.
Here's the transcript of Barbara Walters celebrating Clinton on her Thursday night special (transcript from MRC's Colleen Raezler):
WALTERS: For the first time in history, a former president s a good shot at getting back into the white house... as a spouse, and that's just one reason why we think that Bill Clinton is fascinating.
CLIP: (Man) Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome William Jefferson Clinton.
WALTERS: It's the presidential campaign trail, and Bill Clinton is running for pres – wait a minute. (Tape rewinds) that was then. This is now.
CLINTON (clip): I give you the person you can make the next President of the United States -- Senator Hillary Clinton. (Cheering)
WALTERS: The man some call "the rock star of American politics" hasn't lost his magic touch.
CLINTON: And this is just a tiny portion of the political memorabilia from my presidency.
WALTERS: I met the 61-year-old former president at his office in Harlem, where he oversees the Clinton Foundation.
CLINTON: This is what the Oval Office looked like from my desk. So that I would always have a memory of exactly what my office looked like from my chair.
WALTERS: But there hasn't been much time for memories. Since leaving office just six years ago, he has become a kind of global expediter, traveling to over 84 countries, using his iconic status to fight poverty, childhood obesity, global warming and AIDS. Even a quadruple bypass in 2004 couldn't slow him down. He gives several speeches a month, and he's written two best-selling books, including his current one -- Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World." Mr. President, do you think you've changed the world?
CLINTON: Pieces of it.
WALTERS: In terms of money, how much do you give?
CLINTON: Oh, a few million dollars a year. As I earn money, I put 10% aside into our family foundation, and I try to give money that's not tax-deductible, too, because I – because I don't approve of the tax cuts that have been given to people in my income group.
WALTERS: If your wife were not running and if the laws were changed, would you like to have run a third time?
CLINTON: Oh, before, I might have. Um, I loved being president. I-I loved it, and I thought i was well-suited to the time.
WALTERS: If your wife becomes president, I don't suppose that you're going to participate in the Easter egg hunt or the Christmas decorations.
CLINTON: You know, I'd actually like doing that.
WALTERS: You're gonna do the Easter egg hunt?
CLINTON: If – if that's – if I'm asked to do it. I would love to do that.
WALTERS: Would you sit in on cabinet meetings if your wife is president?
CLINTON: Only if asked, and I think it would only be wise if it were on a specific issue. I think it's better for me to give her my advice privately, most of the time.
WALTERS: What if you disagree with a decision that your wife makes? Would you weigh in?
CLINTON: Oh, sure.
CLINTON: But when she made it, I'd do my best to support it...
CLINTON: Or keep my mouth shut.
WALTERS: We know who you think the strongest Democratic candidate is. Who do you think is the strongest Republican candidate?
CLINTON: I can't tell, but I think that McCain has a lot of appeal, and I think that he seems to be making a little bit of a comeback. And we disagree on many things, but I think he's, uh, a big figure. So he might be the most electable. I don't know if he can be nominated.
WALTERS: Mr. President, is your wife really smarter than you are? People think you are very smart. Is she smarter?
CLINTON: About some things. Uh, we have different kinds of intelligence. She has a great, um, organizational intelligence, and we've always worked well together, and I think that's one reason we've been – I said the other day when we celebrated our 32nd anniversary, I'd rather spend the night talking to her than anybody I can think of.
WALTERS: How much time do you get to be with each other, you and your wife?
CLINTON: Well, not as much now that she's running. We talk a lot of times every day.
WALTERS: No texting?
CLINTON: No, I don't do that. I call her on the phone.
WALTERS: No – no e-mailing?
CLINTON: I want to hear her voice. I call her on the phone, 'cause I can hear how she's doing. You know, you know somebody as well as we do, you--you just hear the tone of their voice. You know how they're doing.
WALTERS: When you had your quadruple bypass surgery what impact has that had on you today?
CLINTON: I think it's made me more grateful for every day I have of life. I realized, you know, that if I hadn't made it through that surgery...
CLINTON: I would have still had a life more full, more rich than the vast majority of people that ever lived, and, um, I decided that, you know, if people survive for a reason, that my reason should be to give those chances to other people. You know, I think it's made me.... a little more mellow. So I both love the small things more, and I sweat the small things less.
WALTERS: Thank you, Mr. President.