Secret White House tapes provide new Clinton book

Fri Oct 16, 2009 9:55am EDT
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By Matthew Bigg

ATLANTA (Reuters Life!) - During his presidency, Bill Clinton met prize-winning historian Taylor Branch 79 times in the White House to record a secret diary of his time in office.

The result is "The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President", a new book that presents a fresh view of key events such as Clinton's handling of the economy and deficit, the rise of al Qaeda and the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Since the Watergate scandal brought down Richard Nixon presidents have been wary about making tapes in the White House.

But Branch and Clinton had worked together in their twenties and Clinton proposed the tapes as a historical record of his presidency. In the event, Clinton kept the tapes and Branch's book is based on the contemporaneous notes he took.

Branch, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1989 for "Parting the Waters: America in the King years 1954-63", spoke to Reuters about Clinton project and his book.

Q: What was your overriding impression of Clinton?

A: "I was amazed that he was so constantly engaged with issues from all over the world in spite of distractions of every kind .... I expected more fussing about what it was like to be a president. He was always worrying about what he was going to do next."

Q: What view did you gain of the presidency?   Continued...

<p>Former President Bill Clinton speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative, in New York, September 25, 2009. REUTERS/Chip East</p>