I had hoped to interview President Clinton for the book. We were not able to close on a date given how busy he is –although there was interest on his side in sitting down with me. There was a lot I wanted to ask him and someday hope to speak with him. In the book, I quote from President Obama talking about the need to have chunks of time to think during the 2008 campaign– as it helped him to keep the “big picture.” Obama said that Clinton’s people gave him that advice.
Then I came upon this recent article that gives the highlights a new biography of Clinton by author Nigel Hamilton. Take a look at this anecdote about the former President:
At the post-game bull session, Clinton refused to take any responsibility for his party’s defeat. “I was present with him at the first meeting to evaluate what happened,’” remembered Henry Cisneros, the Housing Secretary. ” ‘And he was the maddest I have ever seen him. And somebody — I think it was [Leon] Panetta — dared to suggest that it was at least partially his fault. And he said, ‘Goddamit, I’ve worked my ass off! You treat me like a damn dog! Like a mule! You trot me out every day, and all I’m doing is what you’re telling me to do! And if you’re telling me it’s my fault, then it’s your fault, because you’re the ones who’re putting out there, exhausting me, spending all my time… I never have time to think, I never have time to reflect, I never have time to strategize – you just treat me like a pack mule!’ I mean, he exploded!’
What I find most interesting is that (politics aside) Clinton fumes about the same thing felt by all leaders today. When busyness subsumes any notion of reflection then you see emotion rear its head. What’s the cure: reclaim think time and force the down time. Here Clinton is blaming his Chief of Staff for the lack of time built in to think instead of just going into campaign action mode. My question to Clinton would have been: “was it his job or your job to put in the time to think and reflect Mr. President?” I wonder how he would look back on this incident. It makes me wonder what would he advise himself if he was to take on the Presidency again. My guess is that he would insist on more time away from the noise.
Thanks to Nigel Hamilton for such a great anecdote. I look forward to reading the book.