Given Taylor Branch's credentials as a historian, and the extraordinary level of access his friend Bill Clinton offered him, it's fair to expect quite a bit from Branch's forthcoming book, "The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History With the President." Insight, certainly, as well as a closer look at then-President Clinton's private thoughts than we've ever been given before.
For the moment, though, until the book is officially released next week, we've just got snippets, the little newsy bits. And, naturally, everyone's looking for sex, gossip and conflict -- or, preferably, all three combined.
That's not to say that what's come out so far isn't interesting in its own way, though. Really, who could pass up the tale of a drunken Boris Yeltsin, at the time the president of Russia, standing out on Pennsylvania Avenue in his underwear trying to hail a cab so that he could get a pizza? It may not be the most substantive thing ever, but it does provide an interesting glimpse into U.S.-Russian relations not long after the end of the Cold War -- just the fact that the story had been kept quiet until now speaks volumes.
And in Mother Jones, David Corn has details from a copy of the book he obtained about an argument between Clinton and his vice president, Al Gore, after the latter lost the presidential election in 2000. Corn writes:
During the discussion, Clinton told his vice president that he was disappointed that Gore had not used him in the last ten days of the 2000 campaign in strategically significant states--Arkansas, Tennessee, New Hampshire, and Missouri. But Clinton said he could understand that. What was more upsetting for him, Clinton remarked to Gore, was that Gore had not crafted a more winning message during the campaign, that he had not campaigned on any grand themes. Clinton insisted to Gore that he hadn't cared about how Gore had referred to Clinton—and his personal scandal—during the campaign ....
At one point in the conversation, Gore told Clinton that he was still traumatized by having been caught up in the fundraising scandals of the 1996 Clinton reelection campaign, and he indicated that he blamed Clinton. Clinton could hardly believe this, and he told Branch that Gore was probably in shock from the election or unhinged, remarking, "I thought he was in Neverland."
Corn also has details on Clinton's thoughts about some of his fellow politicians. Commenting on Republican Jim Bunning's election to one of Kentucky's Senate seats, for instance, Clinton said to Branch, "I tried to work with him a couple times, and he just sent shivers up my spine .... I know you're a baseball fan and everything, and you don't like to hear it, but this guy is beyond the pale."