Bill Clinton and George W. Bush’s Plan for 2016

George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton cover
Mark Seliger for TIME Bush and Clinton in Dallas on July 9

In an interview with TIME, the two former presidents reveal their views on the upcoming presidential campaign which could pit one's wife against another's brother. Plus, Bill Clinton defends his family's foundation, why Hillary Clinton never thought she'd be in politics and whether George W. Bush has designs on painting his predecessor's portrait

In a rare joint interview for this week’s cover story, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton discuss how they will handle the 2016 race, one that could very well feature Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush competing against each other for the White House. One thing’s for sure about the upcoming election: it will be fun to watch the two alpha dogs of American politics try to muzzle themselves and sit on their paws.

Here’s a peak at how the two baby boomer presidents view the world today and the upcoming campaign.

Read TIME’s cover story, “Game of Thrones: Inside the most surprising alliance in politics.”

George W. Bush and Bill Clinton’s plans for 2016
“I think most of my role will be giving advice if I’m asked for it,” Clinton told TIME about his position in wife Hillary Clinton’s campaign. “And I try not to even offer it at home unless I’m asked. But she’s been pretty good about asking every now and then.”

“Look, this is highly complicated,” Clinton says of the the political environment. “People don’t like negative, divisive environments. But they frequently reward them in elections.”

“It’s great that you can get 100 media outlets,” Clinton said, “but you have to devour each other and it puts even more pressure on people like you to turn us all into two-dimensional cartoons.”

“I can’t tell you who is going to win, but I can tell you what’s going to happen,” Bush says. “There’s kind of a general pattern. And there will be flash in the pans, there will be this crisis, there will be the funding thing. There will be all these things that happen, but eventually the person who can best lead their party will be nominated.”

Given the near certainty of Hillary’s bid, Bush’s logic about his brother Jeb entering the campaign was mathematical: “What difference does it make,” he said at the time, “if the order is Bush/Clinton/Bush/Obama/Clinton or it is Bush/Clinton/Bush/Obama/Bush?”

Even if the nation longed for a fresh face, the fantastic plot twist of 2016 was that someone named Bush still stood a chance. To 43, at least, the downside of one dynasty canceled the downside of the other.

“I’m sure there will be moments where somebody says something about Jeb or somebody writes something about Jeb that will sting,” Bush says. “I shouldn’t say I’m used to it, but the emotions I felt when our dad was criticized really got me for a while. … I think I’ll feel the same thing about Jeb. It’ll be interesting to see how affected I become.”

Bill Clinton defends the Clinton Foundation against critics
Clinton defends the model of their foundation, which builds coalitions to address challenges like maternal health, AIDS, and development and sustainability. If his post-presidency has a signature, it has been forging partnerships between private businesses and government officials to break down barriers to change.

“I think it’s crazy to keep all of these efforts siloed,” he says. “As long as you have total and full disclosure, and people can evaluate the im­pact of what you’ve done and the impact of the decisions you’ve made and how to do it, it’s still the right way to go.” Clinton continues, “Now I’ve been, as you know, criticized for it the last few months, but I still think we’re right.” The foundation says it has disclosed the names and ag­gregate amounts of most of its 300,000­ plus donors since its founding in 2001; the identities of donors to a Canadian partnership with the foundation, how­ ever, remain secret.

Why Hillary Clinton thought she’d never be a politician
“I asked her to marry me three times before she said yes,” Clinton recalls, “and the first time I said, ‘I want you to marry me but you shouldn’t do it.’” He told her she was most talented pol of their generation, the most natural leader, with the best command of the issues, and rather than marry him, she should go to Chicago or New York and get into politics.

To which she responded: “Oh my God … I’ll never run for office. I’m too aggressive, and nobody will ever vote for me.”

Clinton pauses, shakes his head. “True story.”

Will George W. Bush paint Bill Clinton?
Aides say Bush can break into discussion about “light values” at any moment, and his easels and paints have taken over a weight room at the family compound in Maine. He has done series on dogs and leaders and, more recently, his granddaughter. He admits that efforts to paint Laura have not been successful; asked if he has tried painting Clinton, Bush pretends to be serious. “I’ve tried and tried and tried.” Then he confesses: “No, I haven’t. I don’t want to ruin friendships.”

“He can’t get my bulbous nose right,” Clinton deadpans.

Read TIME’s cover story, “Game of Thrones: Inside the most surprising alliance in politics.”

TIME 10 Questions

10 Questions With Barbara Bush

Barbara Bush Former First Lady White House
Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images Former first lady Barbara Bush attends a White House ceremony to recognize the Points of Light volunteer program in Washington on July 15, 2013.

Turning 90, the former first lady reflects on her husband’s favorite pastime, the advantages of age and her second son’s jump into the 2016 race

Your husband jumped out of an airplane for his 90th. What’s your plan?

Not jumping out of an airplane. I am not an idiot. The whole family is coming, which will be fun.

Your husband was President. Your first son was President. Now Jeb, your second son, is running for President. What did you feed those boys?

Obviously too much.

You once said America has had enough Bushes. Then you thought anew. How come?

I am against discrimination of all kinds: race, religion, sexual orientation or whatever your last name is.

What does America need to know about Jeb’s wife Columba? What advice have you given her?

She is a tiny, shy woman with a huge heart. I try not to give my daughters-in-law advice, so they will come visit with my sons.

Are there any advantages to being 90?

Sometimes when someone asks me to do something I really don’t want to do, I can say, “I might not be alive.” It works.

The Clintons are getting a lot of grief about their foundation. Do former Presidents face too many potential conflicts to stay active in public affairs?

No. Former Presidents have a great bully pulpit. They must find a way to use it wisely and well to help others.

You spent a lot of time as First Lady–and more in the years since–on literacy. Has it improved in 20 years?

Not enough, which is why I am letting the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy use my birthday to raise money. It’s sort of embarrassing. Our friends hide their wallets when they see us coming. But we are desperate to solve this problem. We have some exciting new ideas we want to try. I hope you’ll ask me about that down that road.

Let’s do it now.

I was hoping you would say that. We are partnering with XPRIZE to find the best minds around the globe to come up with innovative and technologically driven solutions to illiteracy. It’s a global competition challenging teams to develop mobile apps for adults to create the greatest increase in literacy skills in 12 months. We’re going to kick it off later this year. We think it will make a difference.

So, what have you read lately that you liked?

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake.

Your husband is tweeting. You aren’t. How come?

I promised my family I would keep my mouth shut.

Speaking of which, we have a question from him here. It goes like this: “‘Bar, I plan to jump on my 95th birthday. Do you have a problem with that?'”

Would it stop you if I did? But please land again in the churchyard. You know why I think that makes sense.

What’s the best political advice you have ever received?

Be yourself. Well, maybe someone a little nicer.



This appears in the June 15, 2015 issue of TIME.
TIME Archives

Inside the Interrogation of Detainee 063

Detainee 063 Cover
Cover Credit: PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID MOORE / PHOTONICA The June 20, 2005, cover of TIME

EXCLUSIVE: To get the '20th Hijacker' to talk, the U.S. used a wide range of tactics. A secret log reveals the first documented view of how Gitmo really works

You are getting a free preview of a TIME Magazine article from our archive. Many of our articles are reserved for subscribers only. Want access to more subscriber-only content, click here to subscribe.

The prisoner known around the U.S. naval station at Guantánamo Bay as Detainee 063 was a hard man to break. Defiant from the start, he told his captors that he had been in Afghanistan to pursue his love of falconry. But the young Saudi prisoner who wouldn’t talk was not just any detainee. He was Mohammed al-Qahtani, a follower of Osama bin Laden’s and the man believed by many to be the so-called 20th hijacker. He had tried to enter the U.S. in August 2001, allegedly to take part in the Sept. 11 attacks. But while Mohammed Atta, the eventual leader of the hijackers, was waiting outside in the Orlando, Fla., airport parking lot, al-Qahtani was detained inside — and then deported — by an alert immigration officer who didn’t buy his story.

More than a year later, after al-Qahtani had been captured in Afghanistan and transferred to Gitmo’s Camp X-Ray, his interrogation was going nowhere. So in late November 2002, according to an 84-page secret interrogation log obtained by TIME, al-Qahtani’s questioners switched gears. They suggested to their captive that he had been spared by Allah in order to reveal the true meaning of the Koran and help bring down bin Laden.

During a routine check of his medical condition, a sergeant approached al-Qahtani and whispered in his ear, “What is God telling you right now? Your 19 friends died in a fireball and you weren’t with them. Was that God’s choice? Is it God’s will that you stay alive to tell us about his message?” At that point, the log states, al-Qahtani threw his head back and butted the sergeant in the eye. Two MPs wrestled al-Qahtani to the ground. The sergeant crouched down next to the thrashing terrorist, who tried to spit on him. The sergeant’s response: “Go ahead and spit on me. It won’t change anything. You’re still here. I’m still talking to you and you won’t leave until you’ve given God’s message.”

The interrogation log of Detainee 063 provides the first internal look at the highly classified realm of Gitmo interrogations since the detention camp opened four years ago. Chief Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita tells TIME that the log was compiled by various uniformed interrogators and observers on the Pentagon’s Joint Task Force at Gitmo as the interrogation proceeded. It is stamped SECRET ORCON, a military acronym for a document that is supposed to remain with the organization that created it. A Pentagon official who has seen the log describes it as the “kind of document that was never meant to leave Gitmo.”

The log reads like a night watchman’s diary. It is a sometimes shocking and often mundane hour-by-hour, even minute-by-minute account of a campaign to extract information. The log records every time al-Qahtani eats, sleeps, exercises or goes to the bathroom and every time he complies with or refuses his interrogators’ requests. The detainee’s physical condition is frequently checked by medical corpsmen — sometimes as often as three times a day — which indicates either spectacular concern about al-Qahtani’s health or persistent worry about just how much stress he can take. Although the log does not appear obviously censored, it is also plainly incomplete: there are numerous gaps in the notes about what is said and what is happening in the interrogation booth beyond details like “Detainee taken to bathroom and walked for 10 minutes.”

Despite the information gaps, the log offers a rare glimpse into the darker reaches of intelligence gathering, in which teams that specialize in extracting information by almost any means match wits and wills with men who are trained to keep quiet at almost any cost. It spans 50 days in the winter of 2002-03, from November to early January, a critical period at Gitmo, during which 16 additional interrogation techniques were approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for use on a select few detainees, including al-Qahtani.

By itself, the log doesn’t make clear how effective the interrogations were. The Pentagon contends that al-Qahtani has been a valuable source of information: providing details of meetings with bin Laden, naming people and financial contacts in several Arab countries, describing terrorist training camps where bin Laden lives and explaining how he may have escaped from Tora Bora in December 2001.

Pentagon officials tell TIME that most of the intelligence gleaned from those sessions was recorded in other documents. But the interrogation log gives a rare window into the techniques used by the U.S. military, suggesting at least in this case that disclosures were sometimes obtained not when al-Qahtani was under duress but when his handlers eased up on him.

The case of Detainee 063 is sure to add fire to the superheated debate about the use of American power in the age of terrorism. The U.S. has been criticized for mistreating Gitmo prisoners and denying their rights at a facility Amnesty International has controversially called the “gulag of our time.” Along with lawmakers and human-rights groups, former President Jimmy Carter has called on Washington officials to shut the camp down. Even President George W. Bush told Fox News last week that his Administration was exploring alternatives to the detention center.

How should a democratic nation proceed when it captures a high-value prisoner like al-Qahtani, when unlocking a mind might save lives? Experts acknowledge that brute torture generally doesn’t work because a person will say anything to stop the pain. So what, exactly, is effective? And when do the ends justify the means?

From the moment Mohammed al-Qahtani stepped off a Virgin Atlantic flight in Orlando back in August 2001, immigration officials noticed something troubling about him. He had arrived on a one-way ticket yet carried only $2,800 in cash, barely enough to buy his return. When an official pressed him for details about his destination, al-Qahtani was hostile and evasive. With an interpreter’s help, the immigration agent questioned al-Qahtani for 90 min. and then sent him packing. Al-Qahtani’s parting words: “I’ll be back.”

From London, al-Qahtani made his way to the United Arab Emirates and then to Afghanistan to fight against the U.S. He was captured fleeing Tora Bora in December 2001. When he was shipped to Guantánamo two months later, officials had not yet realized he was the presumed 20th hijacker. For weeks, he refused to give his name. But in July 2002, the feds matched his fingerprints to those of the man who had been deported from Orlando and marked him for intensive interrogation. Al-Qahtani, explains Pentagon spokesman DiRita, was “a particularly well-placed, well-connected terrorist who was believed capable of unlocking an enormous amount of specific and general insights into 9/11, al-Qaeda operations and ongoing planning for future attacks.” But the initial questioning by the FBI went poorly. “We were getting nothing from him,” a senior Pentagon official says. “He had been trained to resist direct questioning. And what works in a Chicago police precinct doesn’t work in war.”

That’s where things stood in late November 2002, when the log obtained by TIME begins. At that point, tag teams of interrogators are putting al-Qahtani through a daily routine designed to drain the detainee of his autonomy. They wake him every morning at 4 and sometimes question him until midnight. Each day — and sometimes every hour — is shaped around standard Army interrogation techniques, with code names like Fear Up/Harsh, Pride/Ego Down, the Futility Approach and the Circumstantial Evidence Theme. Each day, the interrogators seem to be trying to find those that work best. They promise better treatment; they show him pictures of 9/11 victims, particularly children and the elderly. They talk about God’s will and al-Qahtani’s guilt. They tell him that he failed on his mission and hint that other comrades have been captured and are talking about his role in the plot. They play on his emotions, saying he should talk if he ever wants to see his family or friends or homeland again.

For days, al-Qahtani stonewalls his handlers and maintains that he went to the U.S. to get into the used-car business. “You are working with the devil,” he tells his captors. The interrogators respond by forcing him to stand or sit immobile on a metal chair. He tries to deflect questions about where he went in Afghanistan with answers apparently drawn directly from an al-Qaeda handbook, given to terrorists, about how to resist interrogations. When al-Qahtani resorts to a handbook answer, his handlers reply that it amounts to another admission of guilt.

Yet in other ways, al-Qahtani emerges as an innocent abroad — uneducated, almost from another era. He asks whether the sun revolves around the earth. He wonders about dinosaurs and is told of their history and demise. He confides that he would like to marry someday — apparently not realizing how unlikely that goal now is.

The first break in al-Qahtani ‘s facade comes with a long-delayed call of nature. When a hunger strike he has launched fizzles, he starts refusing water. That becomes a battle of wills — and teeth. Al-Qahtani quickly becomes so dehydrated that medical corpsmen forcibly administer fluids by IV drip. He tries to fight them off with his hands and is restrained. Another time, al-Qahtani tries to rip the IV needle out; when he is cuffed to his chair, he turns his head and bites the IV line completely in two. He is then strapped down and given an undisclosed amount of fluids. An hour or so later, around 9:40 a.m., al-Qahtani tells his guards that he would be willing to talk if he is allowed to urinate. The log notes he is given 3 1/2 bags of IV fluid. He starts to moan and asks again to be allowed to relieve himself. Yes, but first he must answer questions:

Interrogator: Who do you work for?

Al-Qahtani: Al-Qaeda

Interrogator: Who was your leader?

Al-Qahtani: Osama bin Laden

Interrogator: Why did you go to Orlando?

Al-Qahtani: I wasn’t told the mission

Interrogator: Who was with you on the plane?

Al-Qahtani: I was by myself

That answer frustrates the interrogator — You’re wasting my time, he says — and when al-Qahtani requests his promised bathroom break, he is told to go in his pants. Humiliatingly, he does. The log notes 30 minutes later, “He is beginning to understand the futility of his situation … He is much closer to compliance and cooperation than at the beginning of the operation.”

But things appear to move slowly after that. It is not clear from the log’s terse entries that increased pressure is leading to new disclosures. The interrogators keep juggling techniques — giving extra sleep some days, offering a home-cooked Arab meal on another (al-Qahtani refuses it). Later that day, when a video of the destruction of the Twin Towers is played, al-Qahtani becomes so violent, he has to be restrained. “We can’t say, Because we did this, we got that,” a senior Pentagon official says. “If we did know what worked, we’d know exactly which pressure points to apply and when.” Even al-Qahtani seems to understand that: “If you interrogate me in the right way and the right position,” he taunts his questioners, “you might find some answers.”

A secondary battle appears to be under way over Ramadan. At various points during the Muslim holy month, al-Qahtani claims to be either on a hunger strike, refusing all food and water, or fasting during daylight hours, as Ramadan requires. According to the log, the interrogators tell al-Qahtani he cannot pray — a religious obligation — unless he disregards another by accepting water. So he declines to pray.

Al-Qahtani’s resilience under pressure in the fall of 2002 led top officials at Gitmo to petition Washington for more muscular “counter resistance strategies.” On Dec. 2, Rumsfeld approved 16 of 19 stronger coercive methods. Now the interrogators could use stress strategies like standing for prolonged periods, isolation for as long as 30 days, removal of clothing, forced shaving of facial hair, playing on “individual phobias” (such as dogs) and “mild, non-injurious physical contact such as grabbing, poking in the chest with the finger and light pushing.” According to the log, al-Qahtani experienced several of those over the next five weeks. The techniques Rumsfeld balked at included “use of a wet towel or dripping water to induce the misperception of suffocation.” “Our Armed Forces are trained,” a Pentagon memo on the changes read, “to a standard of interrogation that reflects a tradition of restraint.” Nevertheless, the log shows that interrogators poured bottles of water on al-Qahtani’s head when he refused to drink. Interrogators called this game “Drink Water or Wear It.”

After the new measures are approved, the mood in al-Qahtani’s interrogation booth changes dramatically. The interrogation sessions lengthen. The quizzing now starts at midnight, and when Detainee 063 dozes off, interrogators rouse him by dripping water on his head or playing Christina Aguilera music. According to the log, his handlers at one point perform a puppet show “satirizing the detainee’s involvement with al-Qaeda.” He is taken to a new interrogation booth, which is decorated with pictures of 9/11 victims, American flags and red lights. He has to stand for the playing of the U.S. national anthem. His head and beard are shaved. He is returned to his original interrogation booth. A picture of a 9/11 victim is taped to his trousers. Al-Qahtani repeats that he will “not talk until he is interrogated the proper way.” At 7 a.m. on Dec. 4, after a 12-hour, all-night session, he is put to bed for a four-hour nap.

Over the next few days, al-Qahtani is subjected to a drill known as Invasion of Space by a Female, and he becomes especially agitated by the close physical presence of a woman. Then, around 2 p.m. on Dec. 6, comes another small breakthrough. He asks his handlers for some paper. “I will tell the truth,” he says. “I am doing this to get out of here.” He finally explains how he got to Afghanistan in the first place and how he met with bin Laden. In return, the interrogators honor requests from him to have a blanket and to turn off the air conditioner. Soon enough, the pressure ratchets up again. Various strategies of intimidation are employed anew. The log reveals that a dog is present, but no details are given beyond a hazy reference to a disagreement between the military police and the dog handler. Agitated, al-Qahtani takes back the story he told the day before about meeting bin Laden.

But a much more serious problem develops on Dec. 7: a medical corpsman reports that al-Qahtani is becoming seriously dehydrated, the result of his refusal to take water regularly. He is given an IV drip, and a doctor is summoned. An unprecedented 24-hour time out is called, but even as al-Qahtani is put under a doctor’s care, music is played to “prevent detainee from sleeping.” Nine hours later, a medical corpsman checks al-Qahtani’s pulse and finds it “unusually slow.” An electrocardiogram is administered by a doctor, and after al-Qahtani is transferred to a hospital, a CT scan is performed. A second doctor is consulted. Al-Qahtani’s heartbeat is regular but slow: 35 beats a minute. He is placed in isolation and hooked up to a heart monitor.

The next day, a radiologist is flown in from Roosevelt Roads Naval Air Station in Puerto Rico, 600 miles away, to read the CT scan. The log reports, “No anomalies were found.” Nonetheless, al-Qahtani is given an ultrasound for blood clots. For the first time since the log began, al-Qahtani is given an entire day to sleep. The next evening, the log reports that his medical “checks are all good.” Al-Qahtani is “hooded, shackled and restrained in a litter” and transported back to Camp X-Ray in an ambulance.

Over the next month, the interrogators experiment with other tactics. They strip-search him and briefly make him stand nude. They tell him to bark like a dog and growl at pictures of terrorists. They hang pictures of scantily clad women around his neck. A female interrogator so annoys al-Qahtani that he tells his captors he wants to commit suicide and asks for a crayon to write a will. At one stage, an Arabic-speaking serviceman, posing as a fellow detainee, is brought to Camp X-Ray for a short stay in an effort to gain al-Qahtani’s confidence. The log reports that al-Qahtani makes several comments to interrogators that imply he has a big story to tell, but interrogators report that he seems either too scared or simply unwilling, to tell it. On Jan. 10, 2003, al-Qahtani says he knows nothing of terrorists but volunteers to return to the gulf states and act as a double agent for the U.S. in exchange for his freedom. Five days later, Rumsfeld’s harsher measures are revoked after military lawyers in Washington raised questions about their use and efficacy.

It’s unclear how al-Qhatani’s interrogation proceeded from that point and whether it is still continuing. Senior Pentagon officials told TIME that some of his most valuable confessions came not during the period covered in the log or as a result of any particular technique but when al-Qahtani was presented with evidence coughed up by others in detention, especially Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, or KSM, the alleged mastermind of 9/11. The intelligence take was more cumulative than anything else, says a Pentagon official. Once al-Qahtani realized KSM was talking, the official speculates, al-Qahtani may have felt he had the green light to follow suit.

Al-Qahtani has never been charged with a crime, has no lawyer and remains in detention at Guantánamo. But his case is already the subject of several probes in Washington. A year ago, a senior FBI counterterrorism official wrote the Pentagon complaining of abuses that FBI agents said they witnessed at the naval base. The agents reported seeing or hearing of “highly aggressive interrogation techniques.” The letter singles out the treatment of al-Qahtani in September and October of 2002 — before the log obtained by TIME begins — saying a dog was used “in an aggressive manner to intimidate Detainee #63.” The FBI letter said al-Qahtani had been “subjected to intense isolation for over three months” and “was evidencing behavior consistent with extreme psychological trauma (talking to non existent people, reporting hearing voices, crouching in a cell covered with a sheet for hours on end).” The Justice Department and the Pentagon have opened separate investigations into the charges. A Pentagon official tells TIME he expects that many of those charges will prove to be unfounded.

Interrogators eventually compelled al-Qahtani to focus on his fellow detainees at Guantánamo. In that process, he implicated more than 20 other Gitmo prisoners as members of al-Qaeda or associates of bin Laden’s, according to the Los Angeles Times. A military board has since used al-Qahtani’s identification as a factor in prolonging the detention of some of them. Whether he has won more favorable treatment in return for his cooperation is unknown. But at least one of those he named, a Yemeni, is now claiming in a U.S. federal court that al-Qahtani’s statements about him are unreliable because they “appear to have been obtained by the use of torture.”

President Bush has said the U.S. would apply principals consistent with the Geneva Conventions to “unlawful combatants,” subject to military necessity, at Guantánamo and elsewhere. The Pentagon argues that al-Qahtani’s treatment was always “humane.” But the Geneva Conventions forbid any “outrage on personal dignity.” Eric Freedman, a constitutional-law expert and consultant in some of the growing number of federal lawsuits challenging U.S. treatment of these detainees, says, “If the techniques described in this interrogation log are not outrages to personal dignity, then words have no meaning.” Then again, in the war on terrorism, the personal dignity of a fanatic trained for mass murder may be an inevitable casualty.

— With reporting by Brian Bennett, Timothy J. Burger, Sally B. Donnelly and Viveca Novak/Washington


Interview: Monica Lewinsky Up Close

Read TIME's 1999 cover story about Monica Lewinsky.

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“Yoo-hoo!” Monica Lewinsky sweeps into her stepfather’s penthouse apartment for her first American print interview since the scandal began. Removing the hat and sunglasses she wears by way of disguise, she complains of a cold and jet lag (the night before, she signed the first copy of Monica’s Story, her tell-almost-all book, in midair while flying from Los Angeles to New York City). As Monica huddles for a moment with her team of media and legal advisers, her mother Marcia Lewis brings in coffee and shows two visitors around the tidy 34th-floor apartment, with its panoramic views of Manhattan and Central Park. “It sounds corny,” says Lewis, “but it’s peaceful up here. We’re above the fray.”

Monica has been doing her part to keep the fray going. She exploded back onto the scene last week to promote her book, the saga of an insecure and overweight child of a broken Beverly Hills home whose need for love and attention led her to seduce a President. In her two-hour appearance on ABC, she came off as sad and, she admits, often silly (“I smiled too much… I was a little too candid”), a woman-child who couldn’t keep quiet during or after her affair with Bill Clinton. Speaking to TIME, she was even tougher and more unbowed. She says she knows what she did was wrong and that most Americans would like her to be more contrite. But she insists that her feelings of remorse are no better than mixed. “I’m not going to pretend that it was always about something bigger than me,” she says. “Because for me, it wasn’t.”

Even after a year of therapy and a lifetime of tears, there are plenty of colors Monica still can’t see. Her affair with Clinton did not interfere with official business because they were “together mostly on the weekends.” Even her lack of discretion is a relative thing. “For me, only telling 10 people was being pretty discreet.” Monica knows her attitude infuriates people but says there isn’t much she can do about that. As for the Creep, she says she’s over him, doesn’t want to speak with him, wouldn’t believe him if she did. “He’ll tell you what you want to hear.”

That, at least, sounds like progress. But what do you do after you’ve starred in a yearlong presidential soap? Monica will spend the next few weeks overseas, waiting for things to cool down at home. She is worried about finding a job, a husband, even new friends. Her life is “cuckoo,” she says; but she promises she’s getting over it. When people stare now, she just tells herself they’re staring because her hair is blue. “Denial,” she says, “is underrated.”

TIME: You said your affair with Clinton was nobody’s business, that it didn’t affect the public. Do you really think that?

Monica Lewinsky: I do. I do. But just because I think it was none of their business doesn’t mean I don’t think it was wrong. It was wrong, but it was a private wrong. And maybe when I’m older, I might look back on it and see where I have different responsibilities. But I think at my age, then and now, being able to see the complete picture–I don’t think that is really possible. It didn’t affect his job; it didn’t affect my job; we were together mostly on the weekends, when I was not supposed to be working and he was not really supposed to be working. It was kept very private, in that sense. Yes, I confided in private to my friends, but that’s different from publicly telling your story, which I never would have done.

TIME: Do you feel any remorse?

Lewinsky: I feel horrible about what has happened. I heard some of the criticisms, that some people felt I wasn’t remorseful enough or that I enjoyed this. I’m sure people would probably want me to say I feel the worst for what this has done to the country, and then for the Clintons and then for my family and then for myself. But it’s really not that order.

I really feel the worst about what this has done to my family and friends. And then I think second to that would be Chelsea and Mrs. Clinton, and I do feel bad about my part in how the country has had to deal with this. I made a lot of mistakes. I mean, that’s probably a bipartisan issue. Everybody in the world would agree on that.

TIME: If you had to do it again, what would you do differently?

Lewinsky: There are some days that I regret ever having had this relationship begin, and there are some days that I just regret telling Linda Tripp. It’s easy to know that people would have wanted to hear me say I wish this had never happened, I never should have done this, this was so wrong, and I do think it was wrong. But it is also a part of who I am today, and that relationship reflected who I was at the time and was very significant to me. I can respect people not being happy with that.

TIME: What part do you think you’re responsible for?

Lewinsky: I didn’t have the maturity to realize exactly how serious this was. Although some people may find this hard to believe, me actually only telling 10 people was being pretty discreet for me.

But I still feel horrible about how indiscreet I was. That was a real betrayal. I betrayed the President in that way. I didn’t have the foresight to see what the possible ramifications of this could be. But I also always thought to myself, [the] worst-case scenario was [if] one of these people in whom I confided–aside from Linda Tripp–turned on me. Where would they turn on me? They’d go to the press. What would I do? I’d make a statement and say this is not true. And that’s not illegal.

So it’s not that I don’t take it seriously. It’s that it’s so overwhelming. I said to someone last weekend that I got into trouble because I didn’t stop talking about the relationship, and now my punishment is that I have to keep talking about it.

TIME: You said you thought you’d done some things that were wrong. Did you mean they were wrong because they were bad or wrong because they turned out badly?

Lewinsky: Both. And I don’t really mean to be ambivalent on this. I’m being honest. And then there are some days that I think I will never have an affair with a married man again, in large part because of how much pain it causes everybody involved. But a larger part of that is because of how damaging it is for me. And it is morally wrong. And I accept and I respect that it’s more morally wrong to some people than it has been for me. But I will never do it again.

TIME: So to you, was the entire past year just about a broken heart? Or was it about history?

Lewinsky: I’m not going to pretend that it was always about something bigger than me. Because, for me, it wasn’t. For me, I was the one lying awake at night crying, scared I was going to go to jail. I was the one being followed. I was the one being torn apart in the press, and my family. And then, yes, I bore some responsibility for how that came about. But I don’t know that the punishment fit the crime.

TIME: When you showed him your thong, what were you thinking?

Lewinsky: It was very subtle. If you put your hands on your waist and you locked your thumbs under your short jacket and just sort of lifted it, about two inches, it was a tease. And it was part of the flirtation.

TIME: Do you regret it now?

Lewinsky: Umm [pause], probably more than not.

TIME: You’ve never tried that move before?

Lewinsky: I’ve done other flirtatious things. It was inappropriate. It was definitely inappropriate. And the way he was flirting with me was inappropriate. So I think was the eye contact. And the way he looks at women he’s attracted to. He undresses you with his eyes. And it is slow, from the bottom of your toes to the top of your head back down to your toes again. And it’s an intense look. He loses his smile. His sexual energy kind of comes over his eyes, and it’s very animalistic. And if you’re someone who is comfortable with your sensuality, you’re in touch with that, you’re receptive to it if you find that person attractive.

TIME: So you intuitively knew he might respond?

Lewinsky: Well, I think it was very clear. I mean, don’t you know when someone is flirting with you? You know. People know.

TIME: The fact that he was married and you’d had an affair with a married man before, did that make it easier? Or was that not even a factor?

Lewinsky: Much easier. In fact, had I not had the prior relationship with Andy [Bleiler], I doubt this would have happened with the President.

TIME: He tried to stop it. Did you ever try to stop it?

Lewinsky: No.

TIME: Apart from the sex, what was the bond?

Lewinsky: I think it was a bond that in some ways can’t be explained. I don’t know how to explain it, except that I was instantly comfortable with him. There was something familiar about him to me. I think it’s amazing when someone will come into your life and you have a special connection with them. I know he had remarked to me that we both had fire in our belly. And to me that’s passionate. And passion has its good side, and passion has its bad side. And I think that we’re both extroverted but at the same time harbor a very sad side that we keep very private.

He has an amazing ability to just read someone. And he said to me, “You walk around and you’re always smiling and so bubbly, and there’s so much sadness and pain behind those eyes.” I think he saw in me some reflections of himself. Not 100%. Clearly not as brilliant as he is.

TIME: What do you think his sadness is?

Lewinsky: I think he has a hard time being fulfilled. And I think that comes from being needy. And maybe everybody should take my comments on this as a reflection of myself too. I think he is a very, very sensual man, and I think with his upbringing, his religious background, he doesn’t know what to do with it. He doesn’t know where to place it and how to be appropriate.

I think he has a desire to please everybody, and he is also an ostrich, in that he avoids confrontation at all costs. He will tell you what you want to hear to avoid confrontation. If he had just said to me [when I was at the Pentagon in 1996 and 1997], “I thought I could bring you back [to the White House], but I can’t. I was wrong. Can we work out another way? I want to make you happy.” Instead of stringing me along. It would have changed things a lot.

TIME: You said you sometimes hate Clinton’s guts. Why?

Lewinsky: I don’t think I deserved from him the way he characterized this relationship. The way he allowed, if not orchestrated, the White House to say all those things about me. He said himself in his deposition that I was a good person. And I–I see him as a politician. All about “me.” All about “me.”

TIME: Did he really want to get back together with you in 1997?

Lewinsky: I don’t know. I don’t think so.

TIME: He teared up that time when you complained that your relationship seemed to be just about sex. Do you trust those tears now?

Lewinsky: No. It’s very hard for me, and even in talking about everything that’s happened, it’s hard for me to square my thoughts, because I see him as such an opposite of what I used to see him. There’s only one person who can answer that, and I don’t think we’d ever get the truth on that.

TIME: If you had to do it all over again, would you have destroyed the dress?

Lewinsky: No. I mean… I never would have got to that point.

TIME: But if you had destroyed the dress, do you have any idea what the White House would have done to you? And would you have wanted the story to end that way?

Lewinsky: I’d still be standing. I think people forget what was said and written about me already. I mean, go back to last January and February and March and what was said about my family, the lies, the disgusting, horrible things that people said on TV. If I could make it through that, I can make it through anything.

TIME: Do you believe Juanita Broaddrick?

Lewinsky: What is hard for me to understand with this story is that I think…the word rape has a very different meaning and connotation today than it did 20 years ago. Twenty years ago, women were not apt to say no. And I’m not saying that means she asked for it. It sounds like it was an unpleasant experience for her.

And I feel differently about her than I do about what Paula Jones has said. I feel bad for everybody, that this topic, that these kinds of things are being discussed and aired.

TIME: Do you feel partly responsible for that?

Lewinsky: I know people do [hold me responsible]. Whether I agree with them or not is another matter.

TIME: Do you still think that oral sex isn’t sex?

Lewinsky: Uh-hum [yes].

TIME: Do you think it wasn’t a sexual relationship?

Lewinsky: This is hard for me to answer. In a very…in a confined, in a strict definition, in a hard definition, no, it wasn’t. In casual conversation, yes, it was.

TIME: Did the President ever use the term sexual relationship with you before you filed the false affidavit in the Jones case?

Lewinsky: We didn’t discuss the writing of the affidavit.

TIME: Did Vernon Jordan ever suggest using the term sexual relationship as you prepared your affidavit?

Lewinsky: I don’t remember the exact words that he used when he asked me those two questions [about my relationship with the President]. So is it possible he did? Yes, but it may have come up somewhere from my subpoena. Maybe it was standard [language provided by my attorney Frank Carter]. I don’t know the legal issues surrounding that.

TIME: Do you now think the President and Vernon Jordan were working in December to find you a job to buy your silence?

Lewinsky: I don’t think so. I think in order for someone to want to buy your silence, they’d have to be worried you’re not going to be silent, and I didn’t feel like I had ever done anything or given anybody any reason to think I was going to change how I had been for the past two years.

TIME: You had this job hunt going, and you were banging pretty hard on Betty Currie’s door. You don’t think the President could have come to the conclusion that he had to keep you happy and move you out of town?

Lewinsky: I don’t know. I really think that wasn’t the impression I had at the time, and I think that’s something that he has to answer. I can’t characterize that.

TIME: So the heart of the obstruction case against the President was, in the end, a big coincidence?

Lewinsky: Whether there was a connection there or not…I wasn’t privy to those conversations. Those are the conversations between Mr. Jordan and the President.

TIME: Was it your idea to retrieve the gifts?

Lewinsky: Yes, definitely. I was the one who brought it up, who broached the subject. I want everything back. It’s my stuff.

TIME: Has the President or anyone around him tried to make contact with you or anyone around you?

Lewinsky: No, not that I’m aware of.

TIME: Do you hope someday he will?

Lewinsky: I don’t know. Right now, I don’t really have any desire to talk to him. I don’t know where I’m going to end up and what my life is going to be. Maybe I’ll feel different in 20 years, but maybe I won’t.

TIME: You’re probably the most famous woman in the world right now.

Lewinsky: Unfortunately.

TIME: What is that like to wake up with?

Lewinsky: I don’t think people can imagine what it feels like to have nightmares and in your dreams–or your nightmare–you’ve left a house without a hat…

TIME: Some people dream about being naked, and you dream about being…?

Lewinsky: Without my hat. Without sunglasses, without some sort of protection. It’s having to plan not only where I’m going [but] when I’m going, with whom I’m going. Who will be there? How close can I get my car to where I’m going? Can I get a taxi easily?

TIME: You signed your first book yesterday. What was that like?

Lewinsky: I felt cuckoo.

TIME: What do you mean when you say cuckoo?

Lewinsky: I kind of think of a sort of cuckoo clock and–I don’t know why this image [comes to mind]–a sort of a duck that comes down at 12 noon whose head spins around and sticks its tongue in and out and flails its arms.

TIME: A maniacal person?

Lewinsky: Right. This whole situation is sort of maniacal.

TIME: What steps are you taking to put your life back together?

Lewinsky: I think probably the biggest step that I am taking is trying to work on myself in therapy. It’s hard. It’s painful.

TIME: You have been praying from time to time?

Lewinsky: I think, for me, my definition of praying might be a little different. I think, for me, in some ways therapy is sort of praying. It’s like what you learn in therapy and what you walk away with. You kind of think to yourself, oh, I really hope that I can learn to assimilate. But I’m not very religious.

TIME: Do you feel you have a debt to repay, some good works to do?

Lewinsky: Yes and no. I would love to be able to be in a position to make a positive contribution to society. I think that people who do volunteer work know that there is no better remedy for healing, for the soul, than helping other people. I was able to do some work this past year too while this was going on, and it was so nourishing to the soul. It really helped me through this.

TIME: Can you tell us what that is?

Lewinsky: I’d rather keep it private.

TIME: Is it easier to be anonymous in New York City than it is in Los Angeles?

Lewinsky: No. The thing that’s better about L.A. is that you have another layer of protection because everybody drives. It’s scary when you get into a car chase with people, which happened to me last weekend.

But the thing about the East Coast is that they have the Daily News and the New York Post. The paparazzi here come out of the gutter, and you never know when.

TIME: How about law school? Is that something you’ve thought about? Or just another bad rumor?

Lewinsky: No. It’s a possibility. I think if I could get into law school without having to take the LSAT, that would make it different. The idea of having to sit down and prepare for a standardized test and then worry about whether my scores will be leaked to the world is a little daunting to me.

TIME: Will it be hard to have a real relationship for a while?

Lewinsky: Yes, unfortunately. It’s going to take a very special, very strong person to step up to the plate, and I don’t know if the things that I want in a man and in a relationship could be balanced by someone who could do that. But I hope so.

TIME: Are you going the celebrity route: Monica Inc.?

Lewinsky: No. I think that if I can use my name to do something that would help people and make a contribution, I’d love to work with kids. I love kids. I have more fun with kids sometimes than I do with adults. I’m only human. There are some things that I’m going to do because it’s fun. And people can criticize me. They criticize me anyway…I don’t consider [myself] a celebrity, because I think that the root of the word is celebrated: someone society should celebrate, and while I haven’t given autographs, people have asked, which is so bizarre to me. I don’t feel that I should be honored for what I’m known for.

TIME: Are you worried about falling apart when all this attention dies down?

Lewinsky: Oh, God, I’m going to be criticized for saying this. I want my book to do well. I would like my version to be out there. But I hope that this stops.

I think it’s going to take some time for everything to simmer down. And we’ll see what happens. But I have to see to my financial situation too. I’m not trying to set myself for life. But I need to have the means to take care of myself for the next few years. Therapy is not cheap.

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