NEW YORK – Bill Clinton (search) says in his new autobiography that his wife looked as if he had punched her in the gut when he finally confessed to his affair with Monica Lewinsky, and he slept on the couch for at least two months after that.
In "My Life," a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, the former president wrote that the affair with the White House intern revealed "the darkest part of my inner life."
The book, published by Alfred A. Knopf, comes out Tuesday with a first printing of 1.5 million in what is expected to be one of the biggest publishing sensations in years. It is almost certain to outsell his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton's (search) memoirs, published last year.
The former president wrote that after he finally confessed to Mrs. Clinton and daughter Chelsea after months of public denials, she appeared stricken, and the couple started going to counseling one day a week for about a year.
Similarly, Mrs. Clinton said in her own memoir, "Living History," that she "wanted to wring Bill's neck" upon learning the truth and that at one point, Buddy the dog was the only member of the family willing to keep the president company.
On other topics in the book, Clinton said he met with President-elect George W. Bush and told him that the biggest threat to the nation's security was Usama bin Laden (search) and Al Qaeda. According to Clinton, Bush said little in response, and then switched subjects.
Clinton, 57, received a reported $10 million advance for "My Life," a 957-page book edited by Robert Gottlieb (search), who has worked with such authors as Nobel laureate Toni Morrison and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Robert Caro.
Unlike other recent presidential memoirists, Clinton is believed to have written his own book, in longhand.
Advance orders of "My Life" exceed 2 million. Mrs. Clinton's book, by contrast, has about 2.3 million copies in print, including both hardcover and paperback editions, according to publisher Simon & Schuster.
The former president's autobiography has been at or near the top of Amazon.com's best-seller list for the past month, holding on despite a wave of Ronald Reagan books that became best sellers after the former president's death. Bids for a signed first edition already have topped $450 on eBay.
In "My Life," Clinton wrote that he came to learn that his upbringing had made certain things more difficult for him than for other people, and that he was particularly prone to self-destructive behavior when he was tired, angry or feeling lonely.
Clinton's father was killed in a car accident shortly before he was born, and the man his mother remarried was an alcoholic who frequently abused her and Clinton's half-brother, Roger.
Clinton wrote that the violence and alcoholism of his home left him with persistent feelings of shame and fear and a lifelong habit of secrecy. At 13, he said, he underwent a major spiritual crisis in which he questioned his belief in God.
Clinton said his biggest presidential mistake was the 1994 decision that would ultimately lead to his impeachment — asking then-Attorney General Janet Reno to name a prosecutor to look into his Whitewater land dealings.
He said he was not worried about the prosecutor, because he had nothing to hide. Clinton said he may have been so worn out and upset by the death of his mother that he didn't make what he now sees what would have been the wiser choice — release the necessary papers, give Democrats a thorough briefing and seek their support.
The original prosecutor, Robert Fiske, was succeeded by Kenneth Starr, and the investigation was eventually expanded to include Clinton's affair with Lewinsky.
Writing about his 1998 impeachment, Clinton said Republican leaders were not punishing him for dishonesty or immoral conduct in having an affair with Lewinsky and lying about it under oath. He said he believed the reason was power, and because his political goals were different from theirs.
He said he was able to withstand the ordeal and concentrate on his job because of the support of the White House staff and Cabinet — even those who felt betrayed by his behavior — numerous world leaders, and encouraging words from both friends and strangers.
He even expressed gratitude to his political enemies for bringing him and his wife closer together. And once the impeachment process was over, his banishment to the couch in a living room next to the bedroom ended, too, he said.
In an interview to be broadcast Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes," Clinton called the Lewinsky affair "a terrible moral error."
"I did something for the worst possible reason. Just because I could," he said in the interview. "I think that's just about the most morally indefensible reason anybody could have for doing anything."
Clinton also said of the impeachment process: "The whole battle was a badge of honor. I don't see it as a stain, because it was illegitimate."
Barnes & Noble announced Friday that one store each in New York and in Washington will stay open late Monday night and begin selling the book at midnight. Next week, Clinton begins a one-month, cross-country promotional tour.
"This is the biggest author event I've ever seen," said Clara Villarosa, owner of the Hue-Man Bookstore, a Harlem-based store where Clinton will appear Tuesday night.
Clinton has said that writing a "great" book has been a longtime goal, although the history of presidential memoirs works against him.
The only highly regarded book in this genre is by Ulysses Grant, who devoted most of his memoirs to his triumphant Civil War military leadership and wrote virtually nothing about his often-disastrous presidency.