Susan Page Surprised by ‘Angry’ Clinton in NBC Interview, After She Him Tossed Softballs in USA Today

Appearing on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports on Monday, USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page was baffled by former President Bill Clinton not having a “ready answer” to questions about sexual harassment during a testy exchange with NBC reporter Craig Melvin. The irony of Page’s concern was that she didn’t even bother to press Clinton on the issue during a softball interview she conducted with him over the weekend.

“Susan, you also sat down with President Clinton, and we’ve both seen how angry he can get when he’s challenged,” anchor Andrea Mitchell noted at the top of the segment. Perhaps knowing that, Page opted not to raise topic when she sat down for a fawning interview with Clinton and author James Patterson as they promoted a new fictional political novel they co-wrote together.

 

 

Responding to Mitchell, Page expressed her astonishment at Clinton’s poor performance with Melvin: “So after 20 years, the fact that President Clinton does not have a ready answer to what is not a question that should be completely unexpected at this point, is surprising to me.”

She even speculated that it was partly to blame for Democrats distancing themselves from the former president: “...it’s one of the reasons that some Democrats are reluctant to have him out on the trail with him, because standards have changed in terms of consensual sexual relations between people with very different power situations. And he seemed unable to acknowledge that in a graceful way, and in fact, got pretty angry.”

Moments later, Page explained: “...and it’s true that his impeachment had big partisan aspects to it, no question about that....And most Americans did side with him in that. But we have had a cultural shift since then. And that is something that I think everyone has to learn to acknowledge.”

She concluded: “But he’s doing this big book tour, this is gonna come up again.”

What Page meant to say was that it’s “gonna come up” when Clinton talks to anyone but her.

Here is a full transcript of Page’s June 4 discussion with Mitchell:

12:21 PM ET

ANDREA MITCHELL: And let’s bring in USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page. Susan, you also sat down with President Clinton, and we’ve both seen how angry he can get when he’s challenged. But this really illustrates the dynamic we’re seeing out on the campaign trail, where he’s not one of the top surrogates.

SUSAN PAGE: You know, it’s interesting. The opening scene of his new novel, the thriller he did with James Patterson, is the president, the fictional president, doing a preparatory Q & A with his staff before going before Congress for hostile questions. And the point that he makes in the book is that, as president, you have to prepare for hostile questions. So after 20 years, the fact that President Clinton does not have a ready answer to what is not a question that should be completely unexpected at this point, is surprising to me.

And it’s, I think a sign that – it’s one of the reasons that some Democrats are reluctant to have him out on the trail with him, because standards have changed in terms of consensual sexual relations between people with very different power situations. And he seemed unable to acknowledge that in a graceful way, and in fact, got pretty angry.

MITCHELL: And the analogy to JFK and LBJ, who were known to have relationships, is inaccurate in that the impeachment was based on perjury. Because sex is not illegal.

PAGE: Right, inaccurate and irrelevant, too. I mean, the impeachment was because he lied in testimony –

MITCHELL: About the Paula Jones case, not about Monica Lewinsky.

PAGE: That’s right. But also, I mean, there’s a whole – and it’s true that his impeachment had big partisan aspects to it, no question about that.

MITCHELL: And that he was not convicted by the Senate.

PAGE: That’s right. And most Americans did side with him in that. But we have had a cultural shift since then. And that is something that I think everyone has to learn to acknowledge.

MITCHELL: He seemed to be alluding – and we can’t say for sure – but in the Craig interview, he seemed at one point to be alluding to not agreeing with some of the things that have happened, I would think that might be an Al Franken reference.

PAGE: It could be. Although, you know, we’ve had any number of powerful men face accusations and lose their jobs, lose positions, lose contracts because of it. So I’m not entirely sure who he’s referencing there. But he’s doing this big book tour, this is gonna come up again.

MITCHELL: And in your interview, he had some fascinating things to say about democracy, and the theme of this novel that he's written with this best-selling author, of course,  James Patterson, famous author.

PAGE: One thing he said in the interview that we did was that he feels our democracy can’t survive its current course. If people continue to feel that it’s so impossible to compromise, that you can’t acknowledge the legitimacy of your opponents, that that is a very serious situation that we’re facing – facing as a country.

MITCHELL: That’s so interesting, because the other theme of books like Jon Meacham’s is that we are resilient and can get through this. It’s a fascinating interview. Thank you so much, Susan Page.

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