YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

News & Reviews

The Clinton campaign

The upcoming publication of the former president's book has the media jostling.

June 17, 2004|Elizabeth Jensen | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — If last week's memorial for Ronald Reagan marked a 1980s political nostalgia trip, get ready to relive the Clinton-era 1990s.

The soon-to-be inescapable news media blitz for Bill Clinton's autobiography, "My Life," launches in earnest Sunday on "60 Minutes." CBS' Dan Rather landed the first interview with former President Clinton about the nearly 1,000-page book -- and there are plenty more to come.

Clinton will be in Time magazine on Monday, on "Oprah" Tuesday, on NBC's "Today" and ABC's "Good Morning America" Wednesday and on CNN's "Larry King Live" Thursday. PBS' "Charlie Rose" and National Public Radio also will broadcast interviews next week.

Infinity Radio stations and AOL will begin running audio clips of Clinton reading "My Life" excerpts this Friday and will co-host a live town hall-style meeting with him next Thursday.

The book is being published by Alfred A. Knopf on Tuesday, with an advance printing of 1.5 million copies.

For the first time, "60 Minutes" is devoting its full hour to the interview, culled from more than four hours taped over the last several days. CBS released excerpts from the interview late Wednesday.

Rather spent the weekend in Arkansas with Clinton, but viewers won't see the time they spent talking politics while bowling. (Clinton won, with a score in the high 180s, said the CBS anchor.)

Perhaps the bowling helped break the ice; Rather said the former president didn't shy away from answering questions about even the darkest days of his presidency, his affair with intern Monica S. Lewinsky and his subsequent impeachment vote. "I give him credit. He gave us all the time we needed, and he didn't brush aside any question, even the questions you know he least wants to hear," said Rather. "He sat there very patiently through all those questions, and there were quite a few of them, and he answered them fully and candidly." Of the Lewinsky affair, Rather said Clinton characterized it as a mistake and "morally wrong, that there was no defense for it."

Rather, one of the few journalists to have seen an advance copy of the guarded tome, said it's "not a get-even book." But Clinton had harsh words both in his writing and in the CBS interview for independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, who shepherded the Whitewater and Lewinsky investigations.

"I don't think Kenneth Starr is going to like this book at all," or the interview, Rather said. "He thinks Kenneth Starr did things that were certainly unethical, if not illegal," and that the prosecution effort led "to a partisan, political and ideologically motivated attempt to destroy his presidency."

The two also discussed North Korea and Osama bin Laden. Rather said he "was surprised how supportive [Clinton] was of President Bush" on the war in Iraq.

Other news organizations are grappling with how to find something new to talk about in their own, subsequent interviews. Still, apparently no one wanted to turn down an appearance by the former president. Clinton's marketing team even was able to broker a peace pact between bitter morning show rivals "Today" and "Good Morning America." Both will tape interviews on Tuesday to air Wednesday.

Paul Bogaards, Knopf's publicity director, didn't want to hand one show an advantage, he said. "We do a lot of business with the morning shows, and you want them both to have a shot at it, a crack at it the same day. They went for it," he said, adding that "the president wants to keep those relationships" as well.

"We did it because we had to," said one NBC executive about the equal footing.

Adding to the Clinton flashback frenzy is a separate marketing campaign for the new documentary film "The Hunting of the President," based on a book that alleges there was a Republican campaign to politically destroy Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). The film opens Friday in New York and July 23 in Los Angeles.

Although the traditional pattern with newsmaker books is for some media outlet to spoil the exclusivity party, so many major media outlets are getting a piece of the publicity pie, and advance copies are being so closely guarded, that the Knopf and Clinton teams are cautiously optimistic that the media plan will hold.

"This is an instance where people are generally being pretty respectful of the lay-down of the rollout," said Bogaards, who hasn't been able to respond to all interview requests. The company isn't handing out any more review copies, either; many would-be reviewers are now being told to buy the book Tuesday if they want it in a timely fashion.

Clinton will be in Los Angeles next week, promoting "My Life" on June 25 at Brentano's in Century City and on June 26 at Eso Won Books on South La Brea Avenue.

Los Angeles Times Articles