Ask any liberal, and he’ll tell you that the worst insult you can heap on any President is comparing him to Richard Nixon. Meet the newest inductee to the Nixon Missing Tapes Hall of Fame — the still-much-beloved of liberals Bill “Bubba” Clinton.
Among the thousands of pages of documents released by the Clinton Library recently, two had this tantalizing notation at the top: “Tape One, Side One.”
That stamp appeared on transcripts of two conversations Bill Clinton had behind closed doors with aides inside the Oval Office. They included the president’s ribald remarks on race, frank talk about gays, and even how to prepare for Y2K. And they were captured on cassette tapes.
“All of which raises the question,” Portnoy wonders aloud:
Might we hear Clinton in his famous Arkansas twang musing that Rep. Tom DeLay was “probably” to blame for the notorious dragging death of a black man? Could we hear Clinton admit that talking about gays caused his poll numbers to drop? Or that he wishes he could advise Americans to buy shotgun shells before the millennium?
The answer, sadly (albeit somehow unsurprisingly), is no. When ABC News requested copies of the tapes, officials at the Clinton Library said they couldn’t find them. A library official named Diane LeBlanc wrote in an email to ABC:
The creation of this particular audio tape, its use, and any transcription [aides] chose to make were all done by White House staff prior to the transfer of Clinton Presidential records to NARA [the National Archives and Records Administration], and as such we simply don’t know much more than what can be found by searching the holdings as our Archival staff has done.
But at least there are transcripts, and as anyone can tell you, White House transcripts are the next best thing to being there. These documents can’t be doctored (right!).
Nevertheless at least one of the transcripts seems to be the authentic rough cut. In it, Clinton is wrestling with the question of whether to mention the beating death of Matthew Shepard, a gay man, in a speech he is planning. He reveals to his aides (on paper) that, according to his pollster, his “numbers go down” every time he mentions gays in a speech.
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