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Inside Politics
The Morning Grind / DayAhead

'My Life'-apalooza

By John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit

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Bill Clinton
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- John Kerry abruptly returns to his day job (the Senate, remember?) for politically-charged votes on vets' health care funding. President Bush flashes the trappings of incumbency, hanging in the Oval Office with the prime minister of Hungary.

Meanwhile, a multi-pronged bad-news day for Bush on the war on terrorism:

  • A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that half the country now approves of the way Bush is managing the war on terrorism, down 13 percentage points since April.
  • The State Department releases a revised report showing that the number of those killed in terror attacks is higher than reported. (Colin Powell admitted last week that the numbers are higher than previously anticipated.)
  • A judge ruled yesterday that attorneys for Abu Ghraib prisoners can question U.S. military commanders.
  • And finally, the Pentagon has declassified, and could release today, memos signed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that critics argue authorized torture of detainees at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
  • Still, nothing offers us as much enticement today as "My Life"-apalooza, which officially started sweeping the nation at 12:01 a.m. today. (Don't worry; we'll get to Kerry's Senate business. Also, stick around to find out whether the senator is searching for running mates on

    And so, with no further ado, we offer you a few highlights from Bill Clinton's "My Life" -- from Monica to Osama.

  • First, Monica. "What I had done with Monica Lewinsky was immoral and foolish," Clinton wrote. "I was deeply ashamed of it and I didn't want it to come out. In the deposition, I was trying to protect my family and myself from my selfish stupidity. I believed that the contorted definition of 'sexual relation' enabled me to do so."
  • Clinton's book offers little comment on terrorism -- not the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 or the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City. But Clinton writes that he told President-elect Bush in December 2000 that his "biggest disappointment" was not catching bin Laden. Notably, however, he found Bush to have other concerns. "I knew that he was putting together an experienced team from past Republican administrations who believed that the biggest security problems America faced were Iraq and the lack of a national missile defense," Clinton wrote. "I told him that based on the last eight years, I thought the biggest security problems, in order, were Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda; the absence of peace in the Middle East; the standoff between nuclear powers India and Pakistan, and the ties of the Pakistanis to the Taliban and al Qaeda; North Korea; and then Iraq."
  • Clinton says he was "intrigued" by Newt Gingrich and "impressed" by his political skills. But, he wrote, "I didn't think much of his claim that his politics represented America's best values. I had been raised not to look down on anyone and not to blame others for my own problems or shortcomings. That's exactly what the 'New Right' message did."
  • The former president also didn't think much of the Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore. "If [Al] Gore had been ahead in the vote count and Bush behind, there's not a doubt in my mind that the same Supreme Court would have voted 9 to 0 to count the vote and I would have supported the decision. Bush v. Gore will go down in history as one of the worst decisions the Supreme Court ever made, along with the Dred Scott case, which said that a slave who escaped to freedom was a piece of property to be returned to its owner," Clinton writes.
  • Clinton says Bush is "very adept" and "perhaps the best politician in the talented Bush family." But he also calls his successor "slick." "Bush had campaigned at the notoriously right-wing Bob Jones University in South Carolina, where he declined to take a stand on the flag issue, saying it was a matter for the state to decide," Clinton wrote. "When a Texas school insisted on hoisting the Confederate flag every morning, Governor Bush said it was not a state but a local issue. And they called me slick!"
  • He says he might have won Arkansas for Gore. "The NRA also hurt Al badly there and in several other states, including Arkansas. For example, Yell County, where the Clintons had settled a century earlier, is a populist, culturally conservative county a Democrat has to win to carry the state in a tight race. Gore lost it to Bush 50-47 percent. The NRA did that. I might have been able to turn it around, but it would have taken two or three days of rural work to do it, and I didn't know how big the problem was until I went home right before the election."
  • He even offered to let Gore whip him in public. "When a few people in the press began pushing the theory that I could cost Al the election, I had a funny telephone conversation with him about it," he wrote. "I said I was interested only in his winning, and if I thought it would help I would stand on the doorstep of the Washington Post's headquarters and let him lash me with a bullwhip. He deadpanned, 'Maybe we ought to poll that.' I laughed and said, 'Let's see whether it works better with my shirt on or off.'"
  • On why black Americans supported him through impeachment, Clinton wrote, "Black people all over America knew that the drive to impeach me was being led by right-wing white southerners who had never lifted a finger for civil rights."
  • Also today ...

    Back on Capitol Hill today, Kerry will co-sponsor an amendment being offered by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. The proposal, which would give mandatory health care funding to 26 million veterans, is being tacked on to the Defense Authorization Bill. Camp Kerry says that under the existing plan, an estimated half-million vets cannot get funding. They say this plan would give a 30 percent increase in funding for the upcoming fiscal year. The move to return to Washington for the vote comes after Kerry was criticized for several recent missed votes.

    We're also monitoring developments in Illinois, where GOP Senate nominee Jack Ryan's widely anticipated divorce documents were unsealed Monday night. In the records, ex-wife/actress Jeri Ryan alleged that the candidate took her to what she called "bizarre" sex clubs and tried to get her to perform sex acts in the clubs in front of other people. In the documents, he called the allegations "mischaracterizations" and "ridiculous."

    While many Illinois Republicans rushed to Ryan's side, one party leader, Rep. Ray LaHood, last night called on him to quit the Senate race. Ryan told reporters he intended to stay in the race.

    VP tea leaves

    This morning at 11:45 a.m. ET, Virginia Gov. Mark Warner will deliver a luncheon speech to the Democratic Leadership Council in Washington, speaking mostly about his successful effort to get the commonwealth's GOP-led legislature to pass his $1.4 billion tax increase. But, of course, he'll also talk about Kerry.

    "Three and one-half years ago, Republicans promised they could cut taxes, eliminate the national debt and keep the economy booming. Instead, our country lost jobs, and we turned a $236 billion surplus into a deficit that now approaches $500 billion," Warner will say, according to an advance copy of his speech obtained by the Grind. "That surplus was created in large part because Democrats in Congress -- leaders like John Kerry -- were willing to make the tough choices needed to balance budgets and rein in spending."

    While in Colorado, Kerry made a quick stop in Aspen for an afternoon fund-raiser (expected haul: $500,000 -- two-thirds for the DNC, a third for Kerry). Another event last night in Denver exceeded campaign expectations. They estimated a $1 million haul for the campaign, and $400,000 for the party.

    In Aspen, Kerry invited writer Hunter S. Thompson to ride in his motorcade and brought three copies of Thompson's book about the 1972 presidential race, "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail" for autographs.

    "Just to put your minds all at ease, I have four words for you that I know will relieve you greatly," Kerry told the crowd of donors. "How does this sound -- Vice President Hunter Thompson."

    Other than joking that supporters have told him for look for a running mate on the online dating service site, Kerry offered little other insight into his VP search process yesterday.

    Robert Yoon, Heather Riley, Steve Brusk, Adam Levine, Dalit Herdoon, Phil Hirschkorn and Mike Roselli contributed to this report.

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