Clinton's Monica 'nightmare'

2004-06-22 09:09

New York - Bill Clinton suffered a "living nightmare" over his affair with Monica Lewinsky, as he found himself caught inside a self-made web of deceit that took in his family, friends and the American people.

"What I regret the most, other than my conduct, is having misled all of them," Clinton wrote in his long-awaited memoir, My Life, which went on sale in US bookstores on Tuesday.

Of the precise nature of his liaisons with Lewinsky, which had provided much lurid tabloid fodder at the time, the 957-page autobiography provides scant details, beyond references to "inappropriate intimate contact" between November 1995 and April the next year.

"I was disgusted with myself for doing it, and in the spring, when I saw her again, I told her that it was wrong for me, wrong for my family, and wrong for her."

The book devotes more space to Clinton's belated confession to his wife, Hillary Clinton, and his efforts to save his marriage, while all the time having to deal with weighty matters of state and international issues.

Both barely speaking to me

In particular, he describes a tense family holiday with his wife and daughter Chelsea when both were "barely speaking to me" and he was relegated to sleeping on a couch.

"I spent the first couple of days alternating between begging for forgiveness and planning the strikes on al-Qaeda (bases in Afghanistan)."

Amid repeated references to his overwhelming sense of shame and foolishness, the book offers no revision of Clinton's assertion before a grand jury that his conduct with Lewinsky, while morally wrong, did not constitute "sexual relations", as he understood the definition used by his questioners.

And of his initial stonewalling and public and private denials of the affair, Clinton says he was largely motivated by the need to resist special prosecutor Kenneth Starr, whom he accuses of seeking to whip up a "firestorm" to drive him from office.

"I was misleading everyone about my personal failings," he wrote. "I didn't want to help Ken Starr criminalise my personal life, and I didn't want the American people to know I'd let them down. It was like living in a nightmare."

The eventual confession to his wife came on the morning of August 15, just days before Clinton was due to give his grand jury testimony.

"She looked at me as if I had punched her in the gut, almost as angry with me for lying to her in January as for what I had done," he wrote. "All I could do was tell her that I was sorry, and that I had felt I couldn't tell anyone, even her, what had happened."

During the first two months of marriage counselling, Clinton remained consigned to the couch.

"I got a lot of reading, thinking, and work done, and the couch was pretty comfortable, but I hoped I wouldn't be on it forever."

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