As he recovers from quadruple heart bypass surgery, former President Clinton says he has already planned out what he's going to do when he's back at full strength: "I expect to spend almost 100 percent of my time for the rest of my life on my public service."
In an exclusive interview on Primetime Live, Clinton told ABC News' Diane Sawyer that during his recuperation, he had thought to himself, "'you've been given an unknown but substantial amount of extra time and you should give it back.'"
There have been rumors that Clinton would like to be secretary general of the United Nations, or head of the World Bank. Asked about these, the former president said, "Once you've been president, if you want another job, those are about the only two that you know that might be appealing. They're very important jobs."
But he added he didn't know where the rumors got started. "As far as I know there's no campaign under way or support for that," he said. "And neither does either one of them have a vacancy right now. And I strongly support the current occupants of both offices.
Clinton also expressed mixed feelings about politics even as he began campaigning this week for Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry.
"I feel kind of distant from the to and fro of the elections and a lot of these things I see happening, I just shake my head and say, 'Gosh, I did that for 20 years,' " he said.
Clinton appeared at Kerry rallies in Pennsylvania and Florida on Monday and plans to campaign for the Massachusetts senator this weekend in Nevada, New Mexico and his home state of Arkansas.
Following the election, Clinton will dedicate his presidential library in Little Rock, Ark.
A Lot of Thinking Time
Seven weeks after his surgery, the famously energetic ex-president said his period of convalescence was good for him, and that he wished it would continue.
"I'm sleeping more than I have since I turned 21. And I like being able to read and this total reflection has been very good for me. It's been very helpful. And if you work like I have, all your life, having a period of enforced contemplation and rest is really good."
During that time, Clinton has also received hundreds of thousands of letters of support from well-wishers.
He said he was moved most by people who had gone to their own doctors and discovered their own heart disease after hearing about his experience.
"I just hope some good can come out of this for other people, 'cause a lot of good came out of it for me," Clinton said.
Just in Time
Clinton was unexpectedly notified that he needed heart surgery in early September and underwent the operation Sept. 6. He told Sawyer the diagnosis came just in time.
"I was a couple of days away from leaving for Asia for six nations on a 21-day tour, to work on my foundation and promote my book. I just have no earthly idea what would have happened," he said.
He says he believes he began experiencing the symptoms of heart disease shortly after he left the White House. However, he believed he was in good physical condition because he was exercising.
He said he went to see a doctor after feeling severe tightness in his chest after a book tour on Aug. 31 in New Orleans.
Before his surgery, Clinton says his prayers were more for his family and friends than himself.
"I figured I'd been given another chance. I sort of prayed that it would come out all right and prayed that if it didn't that my family would be all right, that my friends would be all right."
Familiar With Death
The former president recognized that the experience would be harder for his loved ones.
"They're sitting there watching, they feel powerless, there's nothing they can do. It's not hard for you, I mean, they put you under," he said.
Clinton's wife, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, said the experience was an emotional roller coaster.
The former president said: "If you really love somebody, if you know they're on the operating table and somebody's sawing their breastbone open, it's a helpless feeling and you just have to sit around and hope it'll be all right."
However, some heart surgery patients often feel a depression. Clinton suspected it occurs because "for many people, especially busy, active people, it's the first time they ever come face to face with their own mortality."
Clinton says he's never been "particularly morbid about death."
He pointed out that his father died before he was born. "From a much younger age than most people, I had an acquaintance with death. I knew it was a part of life," he said.
He said of the operation, "I don't think it ever held quite the terror for me it does for some people … I haven't had any depression since the surgery."