Transcript: Will Bill Clinton's Memoir Hurt John Kerry?

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, April 26, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

DAVID ASMAN, GUEST HOST: Well, President Bill Clinton (search) is said to be putting the finishing touches on his memoir. He has been saying that for quite a while now.

The book titled "My Life" is set for publication come June, and that's got the folks in the Kerry campaign a bit worried. Michael Wolff (search) writes about the media for Vanity Fair magazine, and today's big question, will Clinton's book overshadow John Kerry (search)?

MICHAEL WOLFF, VANITY FAIR: No. The book will not overshadow John Kerry because presidential books — I think this is actually — I am going through — I think there has never been a presidential book that, a, pretty much anyone has read, and certainly that has been anything but an effort to get into history. They're very non-controversial.

ASMAN: We should say that the wives of the presidents seem to write bestsellers or books that sell better than the husbands do. Ronald Reagan (search), Gerald Ford (search), and it may well be Hillary.

WOLFF: Absolutely. They're more human. They're more anecdotal. They're more readable.

ASMAN: But he is a year late already with this book. His publisher Knopf was trying to get the book out a year ago. They didn't do it. Can he wait just a little bit more just to make sure he doesn't interfere with the election?

WOLFF: Well, I'm sure — remember, he has been paid — the number now escapes me.

ASMAN: $10 million to $12 million. Whatever it is.

WOLFF: Yes, $10 to $12, yes, yes. So the publisher has a lot to say about this. And I think that the publisher is saying now we have to take advantage of this. This is the time.

ASMAN: So the publisher has his schedule based on how the book will sell best.

WOLFF: Absolutely.

ASMAN: Very simple. The publisher is not in for politics. Again, in case you are wrong and just in case it does hurt Kerry somewhat, isn't — can't Bill Clinton use his appearances to kind of prop Kerry up?

WOLFF: I think that's the issue here. The issue is not the book itself, I think, but the Democrats' basic ambivalence toward Bill Clinton. Do we love him, or do we want to lose him?

ASMAN: Let me just stop you there. Why is there that ambivalence? He was elected for two terms. He put together this coalition of liberal ideas and sometimes conservative ideas to great political affect. Why do they want to get rid of him now? Is it all because of Monica Lewinsky?

WOLFF: No, I think that there are two reasons. First thing, they don't necessarily want to get rid of him. That's the thing. There is a lot of Democrats that would prefer that we — that they still be running Bill Clinton for president. But the other issue is that he is — he is a very polarizing figure, so I think that they're — you know, it's a rock the boat situation or don't rock the boat. You don't know what effect the Clinton effect is going to have.

ASMAN: Now, Clinton, of course, has had differences of opinion with John Kerry. Some of those might come out in the book. He was a strong advocate for going after Saddam Hussein right in the beginning. In 1998, he came out with his law that Congress approved for getting rid of Saddam, so there may be some very strategic differences.

WOLFF: I don't think that — you I mean, Democrats — there are differences within the Democratic Party. I think the more fundamental question is who is the star of the party? Who is the real standard bearer?

ASMAN: Michael, you are, of course, also a writer. You know what procrastination is like, what writer's block is like. Bill Clinton loves a good night out on the town. Is that what's interfering with the book getting done? It's been a year.

WOLFF: You know, I would suspect that the man is a perfectionist, that the man wants to tell this story. And it is hard to write a book, and it probably means in his defense that he is doing most of the writing.

ASMAN: And the book will come out, though, in — before the election, you have no doubt?

WOLFF: Oh, no. I think that there's always doubt. I mean, I think, having been involved with a lot of books, they can be pulled back at any time, and these are always a work — truly a work in progress until the press is rolled.

ASMAN: Michael Wolff, you can read him in Vanity Fair nowadays. It's a great publication. Good to have you here.

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