Discussing Lewinsky, the former president says he committed a "terrible moral error"

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated June 17, 2004 08:00 AM

Former President Bill Clinton says he made a “terrible moral error” by having an affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, and said: “I think I did it for the worst possible reason – just because I could.”

In the build-up to his eagerly anticipated memoir, My Life, which is to be published Monday, the 42nd president sat down for a interview with CBS’s Dan Rather that will fill the entire hour of next Sunday’s 60 Minutes.

Of just being able to have an affair, Clinton confesses: “I think that’s just about the most morally indefensible reason that anybody could have for doing anything. There are lots of sophisticated explanations, more complicated psychological explanations, but none of them are an excuse.”

Clinton, 57, also says that at the time he became involved with Lewinsky his marriage to Hillary was deeply troubled.

“We’d take a day a week, and we did – a whole day a week every week for a year, maybe a little more – and did counseling,” said Clinton, who admits he was “in the doghouse” for a lengthy stay. Daughter Chelsea also was in on the therapy, he says. “We did it together. We did it individually. … We did family work.”

Clinton is described as being calm and candid in the interview. “He didn’t brush aside any question,” Rather tells The Washington Post.

Reportedly, the only time Clinton showed any rancor was on the subject of former independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who investigated whether Clinton had falsely testified about his relationship with Lewinsky.

“He says Starr was unethical, if not illegal,” Rather tells The Post, saying that Clinton claims Starr “threatened and put in jail Clinton supporters who wouldn’t tell what he called ‘lies,’ and went easy on other people who could have been prosecuted.”

In the interview, Clinton also says that his greatest accomplishment in office was the creation of 22 million jobs. “I kept score,” he tells Rather, “how many people’s lives were better off.”