Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer Prize-winning civil rights historian, is releasing a new book this month called The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President. A friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton dating back to their days on the McGovern campaign in Texas, Branch and President Clinton recorded hundreds of hours of interviews together over the 8-year course of the Clinton presidency, often in the middle of the night. GQ has a fascinating interview with Branch about the book, in which he discusses why, as a liberal, he finds Bill Clinton more inspiring than either JFK or Lyndon Johnson, how Clinton's infidelities compare to Martin Luther King's, and what the Clintons were like as a couple early in their marriage. A fun excerpt:
GQ: Was he a Lothario in 1972?
No, and I was sharing an apartment with he and Hillary. I had just separated from my wife, had virtually no social life, and they were all over each other. The only story was that we were having a hard time getting this woman politician to endorse McGovern, and the McGovern campaign sent in a guy who had worked for Jack Kennedy. So he met her, and came back and said, “She just needs to get laid. I know just the guy.” We were stunned. And then we realized he was serious! He went to the phone to call this guy in Boston and bring him down to Texas! And Clinton took the phone from him and said, “We’re not gonna do that, and if you do that, we’re leaving.” I didn’t do anything. I was paralyzed. And in retrospect, if Clinton was cynical about women, I would think he would have been more like that guy. Now, maybe he developed it later. I really don’t know.
It was interesting to read your descriptions of Bill and Hillary. Halfway through the impeachment trial, the doorman at the White House refused to let you in because they were making out in a hallway.
Well, that only happened once. I don’t know if their relationship is romantic, but it’s not cold. Sometimes when I tell people that they finish each other’s sentences, people say, “That’s because it’s a power alliance.” Like a medieval marriage between the prince of Spain and the queen of Austria. But there’s warmth there. There’s communion. They would hold hands. How much eroticism is in there, I have no idea. But it was striking.
The whole thing is worth a read.