Following is an exchange between ABC's Peter Jennings and former President Bill Clinton on the topic of scandals and investigations from the November 18 edition of ABC's Primetime Live:
JENNINGS [off camera]: Now this -- in the entire library, this is -- I'm not sure I'm using the right word. But this is the most militant alcove.
CLINTON: You think it is?
JENNINGS: I do. I do. I think from -- this is about your struggle with the Republicans and others. Why don't you just tell us why you did this?
CLINTON: What I'm trying to show here is this whole, long litany of things, where the ideological fights, in my opinion, went too far. Spending $70 million on Whitewater, which was a land deal I lost money on, that no one disputed. One of the great political con jobs in the history of the American Republic that they could get that much money spent. And then, we go to the impeachment. We had 800 constitutional scholars who said there was no basis for impeachment. Gingrich, privately, acknowledged they shouldn't impeach me. They did it because they wanted to put a black mark on me in history.
JENNINGS [off camera]: Do you think they did put a black mark on your presidency that is indelible?
CLINTON: No. I mean, it's there. But I think the more time goes on, the more people will see it for exactly what it was. Doesn't mean I didn't make a terrible personal mistake. But I certainly paid for that. But what they did was legally and constitutionally wrong. And it was done for political reasons. The overwhelming majority of Republican and Democratic, legal and constitutional scholars agree. And I think in history, it will all come out just fine. I've always believed that. I think things come out in the wash. But, you know, people are always being written and rewritten in history.
JENNINGS [off camera]: You love history, sir. Rate yourself as a president.
CLINTON: I'm not going to do that. Anything I say is wrong. It's a lose-lose deal. I got, you know, my wife's in public service. I'm still trying to do things as a former president. And I have no business being the judge of my own presidency right now.
JENNINGS [voiceover]: But at the end of the president's term, historians did feel free to judge.
JENNINGS [off camera]: Fifty-eight historians, as I think you may know, did this for C-SPAN. And they were all across the political spectrum. And they came out, in general terms, that you were 21st. And on public persuasion and economic management, they gave you a fifth. Pretty good.
CLINTON: Pretty good.
JENNINGS [off camera]: They gave you a 41st on moral authority.
CLINTON: They're wrong about that.
JENNINGS: [off camera]: After Nixon.
CLINTON: They're wrong about that. You know why they're wrong about that? They're wrong about it.
PETER JENNINGS: [off camera]: Why, sir?
CLINTON: Because we had $100 million spent against us and all these inspections. One person in my administration was convicted of doing something that violated his job responsibilities while we were in the White House. Twenty-nine in the Reagan/Bush years. I'll bet those historians didn't even know that. They have no idea what I was subject to and what a lot of people supported. No other President ever had to endure someone like Ken Starr indicting innocent people because they wouldn't lie, in a systematic way. No one ever had to try to save people from ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and the people in Haiti from a military dictator who was murdering them. And all of the other problems I dealt with, while everyday, an entire apparatus was devoted to destroying him. And still, not any example of where I ever disgraced this country, publicly. I made a terrible public/personal mistake. But I paid for it. Many times over. And in spite of it all, you don't have any example where I ever lied to the American people about my job, where I ever let the American people down. And I had more support from the world, and world leaders and people around the world, when I quit than when I started. And I will go to my grave being at peace about it. And I don't really care what they think.
JENNINGS [off camera] Oh, yes, you do, sir. Oh -- excuse me, Mr. President, I can feel it across the room. You feel it very deeply.
CLINTON: No, I care. You don't want to go here, Peter. You don't want to go here. Not after what you people did and the way you, your network, what you did with Kenneth Starr. The way your people repeated every, little sleazy thing he leaked. No one has any idea what that's like. That's where I failed. You wanna know where I failed? I really let it -- it hurt me. I thought I lived in a country where people believed in the Constitution, the rule of law, freedom of speech. You never had to live in a time when people you knew and cared about were being indicted, carted off to jail, bankrupted, ruined, because they were Democrats and because they would not lie. So, I think we showed a lot of moral fiber to stand up to that, to stand up to these constant investigations, to this constant bodyguard [sic: barrage?] of lies, this avalanche that was thrown at all of us. And, yes, I failed once. And I sure paid for it. And I'm sorry. I'm sorry for the American people. And I'm sorry for the embarrassment they performed. But they ought to think about the rest of the world reacted to it. When I -- when I got a standing ovation at the United Nations, from the whole world, the American networks were showing my grand jury testimony. Those were decisions you made, not me. I personally believe that the standing ovation I got from the whole world at the United Nations, which was unprecedented for an American president, showed not only support for me, but opposition to the madness that had taken a hold of American politics.