Bill Clinton says his presidential elections would have been much different had social media been around in the 1990s.
The 42nd president and best-selling author James Patterson, co-writers of the new book The President Is Missing, addressed President Donald Trump‘s affinity for tearing down his critics and opponents on Twitter during an interview on CBS Sunday Morning.
Interviewer Mo Rocca raised the topic, saying, “President Trump — this is just factual — is fond of personal insults. I mean, he still refers to Mrs. Clinton as ‘Crooked Hillary’ in tweets.”
“I don’t like all this. I couldn’t be elected anything now ’cause I just don’t like embarrassing people,” Clinton, 71, explained. “My mother would have whipped me for five days in a row when I was a little boy if I spent all my time badmouthing people like this.”
Patterson, also 71, said of the tweets, “It’s been effective for him. It’s unbelievable that he became president. But he figured some things out. And I think most people do not like these tweets. They just wish it wouldn’t go that way.”
Clinton also told CBS Sunday Morning that he “knew” at the time that his impeachment “wouldn’t succeed” — and he’s still happy it didn’t. (He was impeached in 1998 for perjury and obstruction of justice for lying about his relationship with then-22-year-old White House intern Monica Lewinsky, but he was ultimately acquitted by the Senate.)
“It wasn’t a pleasant experience,” Clinton told the program. “But it was a fight that I was glad to undertake after the elections, when the people had solidly told, by two-thirds or more, the Republicans to stop it. They knew there was nothing impeachable. And so, we fought it to the end. And I’m glad.”
In the new interview with CBS This Morning, Clinton also said he disagrees with Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s statement in November 2017 that he should have resigned from the presidency.
Clinton, seemingly fumbling for the right words, said, “You have to — really ignore what the context was. But, you know, she’s living in a different context. And she did it for different reasons. So, I — but I just disagree with her.”
Lewinsky, who in the late ’90s found herself thrust into the spotlight for her affair with Clinton, said in a February essay for Vanity Fair that the #MeToo movement has helped her see the incident in a new light.
“I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent,” she wrote. “Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege … Now, at 44, I’m beginning (just beginning) to consider the implications of the power differentials that were so vast between a president and a White House intern. I’m beginning to entertain the notion that in such a circumstance the idea of consent might well be rendered moot.”
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Clinton and Patterson’s new political thriller is a work of fiction. However, a speech given by the fabricated president in the book has some real-world implications.
In a joint interview with USA Today about The President Is Missing, due out Monday, Clinton and Patterson agreed that the notion that “democracy cannot survive its current downward drift into tribalism, extremism, and seething resentment” is anything but make-believe.
“The whole American Constitution and representative democracy is built on sooner or later there coming a time of constructive compromise,” the former president told the outlet. “You cannot constructively compromise with someone if you feel that their identity is less legitimate than yours and if you believe that your seething resentment makes compromise a sell-out.”
Despite reminders of potentially real-life situations — the book’s plot explores a cyber threat to the nation’s entire electrical grid — Patterson asserted that the book is mostly “not political.”
Clinton told USA Today, “We hope you have a good time reading this thriller; have a great time. Then write your congressman, regardless of party, to do more on cyber-security.”
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“I’ve consumed literally thousands and thousands of thrillers, political novels, all this kind of stuff. I’ve — you know, he’s just good at it. But I wanted it to be real,” Clinton said. “I want people — I didn’t want anybody to be able to say, ‘Oh, this is just made up bull,’ you know?”
Patterson added, “The worst possible attack on the United States happens in this book. And if it happened, this is the way it would happen. There’s a traitor in the White House. If it happened, this is authentically how it would happen. If the president has grapefruit for breakfast in the residency, it would happen something like this!”