President Clinton says a key source of moral support during his sex-and-impeachment ordeal was letters he received from "kids around America," even as many parents struggled to explain the scandal to their children.
In an interview that aired last night on CNN's "Larry King Live," the president said one thing that helped him stay emotionally strong was the "letters I got from, you know, kids around America. You wouldn't believe the letters I got from young people. . . . Unbelievable letters."
For some Americans, dealing with children's questions was among the most difficult aspects of Clinton's affair with Monica S. Lewinsky, which filled the airwaves with accounts of sex in the Oval Office. Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) in September 1998 temporarily canceled a political fund-raiser with the president, saying the president's actions had made it difficult to teach his teenage son right from wrong.
But Clinton cited youngsters' letters when asked by King--who did not mention the words "Lewinsky" or "impeachment" during the interview taped Wednesday in the White House--"How did you emotionally hold up through all that?" Clinton also said he was "touched beyond belief" by conversations "with people like Nelson Mandela I'll carry with me all my life."
The president also said he was surprised but intrigued by Vice President Gore's proposal that he and rival Democratic presidential contender Bill Bradley halt all their TV commercials and have many debates.
"I find it quite interesting and I was intrigued by it," Clinton said of the offer, which Bradley rejected. "If someone had offered me that in 1992 I probably would have done it." He said Gore and Bradley running together would "be a good ticket."
In other portions of the 33-minute interview, Clinton:
* Said he "never, never" watches the Sunday morning talk shows that focus on national politics and frequently include criticisms of the administration. "You can't afford to be angry as president," he said. "If you're angry all the time over things people say about you . . . then you're wasting a lot of time and emotional energy that belongs to the American people, and you're not going to make good decisions."
* Said his wife told him early in 1993, in the opening days of his presidency, that she wanted to live in New York when they left the White House. Some New York Republicans accuse Hillary Rodham Clinton of showing only a recent interest in the state where she's seeking a Senate seat.
"She said, 'I want to go to New York,' " when the administration ends, the president said. "That's what she told me when we moved up here. . . . I bet it was the first week or two we were here."
* Said it's unlikely that gay men and lesbians elect to be homosexual because it's a difficult life. "My judgment is it's not a lifestyle people choose," Clinton said. "It's the way people are. . . . It's too hard a life for people to just up and choose it."
* Said he loves his job so much that "I never want to sleep. . . . I realize, you know, the days are going by and I just want to keep working."
* Expressed sympathy for his former political adviser Dick Morris, who sometimes criticizes the president and first lady in television appearances. "He's said a lot of things that he just knows aren't so" in order to be invited back to talk shows, Clinton said. "And so I feel badly for him. But I don't--I can't be mad at him."
He said the political talk shows are "a game. I know that. And so it's hard for me to take it seriously."