Tom Clancy: Looking back on his epic 1993 Washington Post interview

October 4, 2013

Twenty years ago, our former colleague Peter Carlson sat down with Tom Clancy at the wildly successful military-thriller author’s Maryland mansion, thus beginning a lasting friendship that. . .


Tom Clancy in 1991. (Bob Farley / The Washington Post)

Just kidding! Read the classic Washington Post Magazine profile that resulted, and the utter lack of chemistry between the men practically jumps off the page. The two squabbled over whether Clancy’s gushing descriptions of technology was vindicated or undercut by their performance in Desert Storm, and Carlson cast doubt on Clancy’s claim that the head of NASA was fired at the novelist’s suggestion. Carlson wrote that he felt like he was “chained to a bar stool in some VFW hall. . . forced to listen to the world’s biggest barroom blowhard.” They never spoke again.

But Carlson managed to get some quotes out of Clancy, who died Tuesday at 66, that reflect the author’s, shall we say, salty and forthright personality. (“Whatever the opposite of warm and fuzzy is, he was,” Carlson told us Thursday.)

We highlighted the best of them Wednesday — R.I.P., Tom Clancy, who had some strong opinions about Congress, among other things — though it’s really worth your while to read the whole 1993 story: What ticks Tom Clancy off?

But there was one in particular that some readers told us this week had stayed vivid in their minds for two decades. This came as Carlson asked him about the prospect of running for Senate, and Clancy seemed to like the idea: “The worst thing that could happen,” he said, would be that he serve six years, write a book about it, and “go back to being a millionaire” — which would be a fine thing for Congress.

“One of the problems with Congress, very simply, is those people today have the best jobs they’re ever going to have. They’re failures. Well, that’s a little strong. But if $120,000 a year is the best job you’ve ever had, you haven’t really done very much.”

That was, as you might expect, the most controversial part of the story. Carlson recalled later hearing Clancy on a radio show, where callers pummeled him for it.

“Though I think he’s a complete [expletive], he never denied saying it — and I respect him for that,” Carlson told us Thursday. “He took the heat for his remark — and I suspect he believed it, because he’s so damn arrogant — and I have to give him credit for that.”

Any feedback from Clancy after the story appeared? “No, I didn’t hear from him,” Carlson told us. “I didn’t expect to.”

What ticks Tom Clancy off?, 6/27/93

Tom Clancy, author of ‘Hunt for Red October’ and other bestsellers, dies in Baltimore at 66, 10/2/13

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Amy Argetsinger · October 3, 2013