Transcript: Will Clinton Steal Kerry's Spotlight?

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, June 4, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.


BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT: But I tried to show how this one little story was part of America's big story. So that I hope when you finish the book you will think that you learned not just more about me, but also about your country.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Bill Clinton book fest 2004 is now under way. The former president's memoirs will be out in a couple of weeks. Will he end up stealing the spotlight from John Kerry this fall?

am joined by Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkoff (search) and former Times Book president Tom Lipscomb (search). Hank, first to you, the big question, will Bill Clinton's book overshadow the Kerry campaign?

HANK SHEINKOFF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don't think so at all. I think it helps the Kerry campaign.


SHIENKOFF: People are very concerned about the economics of this country, long-term, short-term and they can look at the Clinton years as years when it economy boomed, when economic miracles happened. When the distinctions between race and class, frankly, decreased significantly because the economics. And I think that throwback, some call it a throwback, but that sense of what was will be very important to Democrats and others.

GIBSON: Tom, I gather you don't agree.

TOM LIPSCOMB, PRESIDENT, TIMES BOOK: No, I don't agree because I think the guy who could cite something about that is Vice President Al Gore (search) who kept away from Clinton during his entire campaign probably very much to his own detriment. People are afraid of him. The Kerry campaign is afraid of him. The John Kerry (search) campaign is afraid that the Clinton agenda and Terry McAuliffe's (search) agenda may be different than the Democratic agenda.

GIBSON: What about the splash? Is Bill Clinton going to make such a big splash, Tom, with this book that he kind of blots out the light from anybody else?

LIPSCOMB: He said something rather interesting in his speech yesterday that he arrived 39 minutes late for in Chicago, in which he stated his book — he was afraid most presidential memoirs were kind of dull and self-serving. His would be interesting but self-serving. I think maybe Kerry, that is the difference between Kerry and Clinton. The real problem is the contrast between a volatile, populist incredibly sexy guy like Clinton out there getting huge amounts of publicity, eating up air time on show after show across the country, while Kerry is going around with these boring position papers.

GIBSON: Hank, you are a Democratic strategist, wouldn't you tell Kerry walk around, embrace the book?

SHEINKOFF: I would tell Kerry to embrace the book ...

GIBSON: Embrace Clinton.

SHEINKOFF: And I will tell you why, it is about economics... It is the economy, stupid.

GIBSON: Yes, but the economy is looking pretty good.

SHEINKOFF: It's looking pretty good from some people. In the heartland, it's not looking very good. The cars are still being produced outside the country. SUV plants — the largest in the world is in Mexico. Come on. People need to know that there's hope around the corner. That is the Clinton message.

GIBSON: What about the whole bit, do you actually believe that this Clinton book is going it make that much of a splash? If he is not revealing stuff, if he is not engaged in true confessions, if he is just policy wonking, which we knew was his favorite thing all those years, does it really make that much of a splash?

SHEINKOFF: It makes a splash because for years people wanted to see Franklin Roosevelt if they were Democrats. And now for years, they want the Clinton magic back because they believe the Clinton magic will propel them back into the White House.

GIBSON: So, Tom, if you are Kerry you take the Clinton book and you rub yourself with it all day and hope it rubs off.

LIPSCOMB: It would be wonderful it John Kerry could do that but he lacks exactly that kind of sense. That is what is wrong with his campaign. He is in free fall not taking advantage of these disastrous things happening to our current president because he can't get any voters away. It is just Bush voters falling away that are causing the collapse in the poll numbers. They are not going to Kerry. So his lack of charm and his ability to see the very good point that you both just made is his tragic flaw.

GIBSON: What Kerry is doing is just remaining a viable alternative hoping that Bush can't turn this around and people turn to him.

SHEINKOFF: The dynamic here is very interesting. Normally, it would be the Republicans making this a referendum on the Democrats and the Democrats making it referendum on the president. The whole thing has changed because the president is becoming a referendum on the president, which gives Kerry time to wait and see what happens, to watch the president collapse and prepare for the attack which will come right after Labor Day.

GIBSON: We just saw pictures — those famous pictures — I am surprised — this is George Bush. But moments ago we saw the pictures of Bill Clinton giving Monica Lewinsky that famous hug. I'm surprised there is any electrons left on that tape as many times as we have run it. But he is not going to say a word about that in this book, is he?

SHEINKOFF: He probably won't but the bottom line is very simple. Private problems are far outweighed by public performance. The economic miracle of the Clinton years speaks for itself. That's what Democrats need to be reminded of and voters generally.

GIBSON: But "Star" magazine, Tom, is what people read, not the "Foreign Affairs Quarterly."

LIPSCOMB: This is true enough. But I think, basically, Bill Clinton will get a huge amount of play for this book because he is a sexy guy and the TV shows he goes on will be phenomenal and people will respond because they loved the Clinton years.

GIBSON: Will Clinton go out there Hank and say John Kerry is my guy, stand there and hug him and say read my book and vote for Kerry?

SHEINKOFF: If John Kerry is smart he will let that happen.

GIBSON: Hank Sheinkoff, Tom Lipscomb, thanks to both of you. Bill Clinton's big book.

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