WASHINGTON -- I have been defamed by Taylor Branch, and he will not reply to my repeated calls for clarification. The defamation takes place in his new book, "The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History With the President." The defamation he printed comes from the Boy President himself, so perhaps my reputation will emerge immaculate. By now, I think it is pretty clear to all Americans that Clinton tells the truth only when he misspeaks.
Branch's book is a very personal chronicle of the Clinton administration based on taped interviews Branch conducted with Clinton in the White House over Clinton's two terms and prefatory to Branch's assisting Clinton in writing his sloppy memoirs. Branch's problem is that he artlessly has accepted everything that Clinton told him, even on those occasions when Branch was nearby and should have recognized that Clinton was bathing him in absurdity. The book's treatment of me is such an occasion.
It involves my well-documented encounter with Clinton at The Jockey Club not far from the White House July 17, 1995. I was dining with my 14-year-old daughter, Annie, and one of her girlfriends, when the Clintons came in with 15 friends to dine behind a partition in the restaurant's back room. Branch and his wife were with them. As The Washington Post reported with the utmost accuracy, I sent over a couple of bottles of champagne, for the sight of this big lovable lug of a president always puts me in a good mood.
"Next thing you know," reported the Post, "Clinton, the ever affable (obviously a trait we share), is having the champagne donor come back to meet and thank him." Unfortunately, we disagreed on a recent piece of mine from The American Spectator. After characterizing the 42nd president's response as "ballistic," the Post reported me as sympathizing: "I didn't want to disturb his meal. I had to break off; he was getting worked up."
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