Unfortunately, I’ve seen it all before.
That picture of the seething, red-faced former president of the United States shaking his finger at members of the press who dare to question his wife’s slimy campaign tactics, is all too familiar to those who have worked closely with him in the past.
Like Janus, the two-faced Roman god, there are always been two distinct personalities in Bill Clinton. That charming, smiling gentleman seen in public is too often eclipsed in private by his negative twin evidenced in the eruption of a furious, unexpected, and uncontrollable rage, often accompanied by loud cursing and occasionally, even physical violence. It’s not a pretty picture.
I’ve been at the other end of that anger too many times and I was always amazed at the suddenness and intensity of his fury.
Early one Sunday morning, he woke me up at my Connecticut home screaming into the phone, “have you seen the Washington Post?” Blearily, I said no that I wasn’t in Washington (it was in the pre-Internet days). Apparently, the paper’s lead article had our poll and focus group questions about his character and image.
“Who did you tell?” “Who did you tell?” he shrieked. I assured him that I never spoke to the press.
“Well, who DID you speak to?” he screeched.
“I only spoke to George [Stephanopopous] and Rahm [Emmanuel],” (his two closes t aides).
That set him off even more. He yelled even louder: “You ONLY told George and Rahm! You ONLY told George and Rahm! Why didn’t you just send out a f-ing press release. Don’t you understand that you can’t tell those two anything that you don’t want to see on the front page of the Washington Post? They leak everything!
He kept screaming about how he couldn’t keep anything confidential because everyone who worked for him leaked. Then he slammed the phone down.
I was shaken.
The phone conversation recalled an even more difficult encounter with his temper.
Many years earlier, in 1990, he seriously overstepped his boundaries with me during one of his blind rages and permanently changed our relationship.
It was during his last gubernatorial race and he was falling behind in the polls. When we met at the governor’s mansion, it was close to midnight. Hillary and Gloria Cabe, his campaign manager at the time, were at the meeting with Bill and me. I had left Connecticut after oral surgery that morning to arrive in time for a 6 p.m. meeting. My mouth was killing me, but I avoided taking any pain killers to be alert for the strategy session. The meeting was changed several times because Bill had decided to do the Nightline Show. He finally arrived back to the mansion in a foul mood. Even though he was a teetotaler, I wondered if he had been drinking.