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Interview With Jake Tapper

Aired June 9, 2003 - 20:10   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: There was remarkable scene at New York City book stores today. Some people lined up before midnight to get the very first copies of a new book. Of course you know what we were talking about. Later when the author showed up to sign some autographs, there were crowds, reporters, police barricades. If you're saying to yourself, I didn't think the new "Harry Potter" book was out for bra couple of more weeks, you're right. This was the new Hillary Clinton book, of course.
And yes, it is causing something of a sensation as well as an image problem for a certain ex-president. Now that his wife is reminding us of his short-comings, what about his own future? Here to talk about how Bill Clinton's adjusting to life outside the spotlight is Jake Tapper. He's a national correspondent for, also written an article about the ex-president for "Radar" magazine and a very interesting, fine article it was.


COOPER: How do you think the president is responding to his wife's book?

TAPPER: Well, it's got to be mixed feelings for him, I think. He's very proud of her, obviously. Very supportive. The book is doing very well. She's on the front cover of "TIME" magazine, No. 2 on Amazon.

And yet, most of the juiciest tidbits are about how he lied to her. And although I did get a copy of the book today and there are 439 pages before Monica Lewinsky's name is mentioned, you've got to believe that there are a lot of people are flipping to the index and looking in the "L"s before they open the book.

COOPER: The pressure is really on him now for his book to get done.

TAPPER: Yes, well, his book is due in 2005. And from what I understand he's sitting in Chappaqua, writing it out in long hand...

COOPER: Really?

TAPPER: Yes. And I wonder if it will be on time. He's not known for being on time, of course.

COOPER: He's having -- I mean your article in "Radar" was sort of interesting because it was sort of profiling his post-presidential life. And, I mean it sort of gave a picture of someone having kind of a difficult time adjusting. Tell us about it.

TAPPER: Well, he's always been a guy who enjoyed the glitz and celebrities and Hollywood. But during his presidency, he was able to dabble in you know celebrity-hood, hang out with Whoopie Goldberg, Sharon Stone, whomever. While at the same time he was the president he was accomplishing a great deal for the nation whether he backed what he was doing or not.

Now he is in his post-presidential life and he's trying to reclaim his legacy, he's trying to do good deeds, a lot of AIDS work in Africa and the Caribbean and other such very laudable projects. But, living in New York City and having his office in Harlem, he is tempted and he goes out a lot, he often ends up in the gossip pages...

COOPER: Right, he's sort of on a social circuit?

TAPPER: He is. We saw last week. He was Tommy Hilfiger's boat as he rolled out, Tommy Hilfiger rolled out his new media company. There was President Clinton sitting next to one of the stars of "Sex in the City."

And he's -- I think the temptation for him is to have fun, and that's great and he's certainly entitled to. But the risk is, if he wants to regain his legacy, how does he do that if he ends up being more mentioned in the gossip pages than on page one?

COOPER: In fact in the article you talk about his trip to Africa which he also -- I mean it was a trip to meet Nelson Mandela and talk about AIDS, but he also brought along Kevin Spacey and other stars.

TAPPER: Kevin Spacey and Chris Tucker. So "Entertainment Tonight" covered it, C-Span did not. And that's kind of the direction that his life is going. It's not necessarily through his own fault, although he should know better. He certainly is spending his days doing a lot of great deeds, but when he steps out...

COOPER: So can he walk both those lines? I mean can he both have these sort of brushes with celebrities that he seems to like, according to what you're saying, but also the laudable causes and the, you know, the gravatas of a former president?

TAPPER: Well that's what -- I don't think he can, personally. That's what he's attempting to do. It's certainly in his right to attempt to do that. But one of his former advisers said to me, you know in a lot of ways, he would be better in Little Rock, but he is having a great time.

COOPER: But still his legacy is important to him, and shaping that legacy is still vitally important to him.

TAPPER: It is, of course. And that's why you see him taking on all these projects like Jimmy Carter did in his post-presidency to really try and accomplish (UNINTELLIGIBLE) called democracy fellows which is bringing people from other countries to learn about democracy in the United States. He's working on small business development in Harlem. He is trying to do a lot of good deeds, but we see him in the gossip pages more often than not.

COOPER: All right, Jake Tapper, thanks for joining us...


COOPER: Appreciate it.


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