Clinton: I Would've Won Third Term

Bill Clinton says he would have been tempted to run for president again if the Constitution would have let him. And, he says, he would have won.

“Oh, I probably would have run again,” Clinton tells Rolling Stone in an interview.

Does he think he’d have been a three-time winner?

“Yes. I do. But it’s hard to say, because it’s entirely academic,” Clinton said.

He adds that as life expectancy rises, there may be a reason to change the 22nd Amendment, which limits presidents to two four-year terms. Maybe it should just limit presidents to two “consecutive” terms, Clinton suggests.

8 Years: Not Enough Time?

Just before and after leaving office, President Reagan, America’s last two-term president, often said he too would have tried to stay on. “Two times isn’t necessarily enough time to get all you want done, done. I still had things to do when I left,” Reagan said in February 1989.

The article in the Rolling Stone’s Dec. 28-Jan. 4, 2001, issue, combines information from three interviews that Jann S. Wenner conducted with Clinton between 1992 and 2000 in Little Rock, Ark., the Oval Office and aboard Air Force One en route.

The interviews covered a series of topics including his impeachment, prison reform, Clinton’s feelings about former President Nixon and what he will do when he leaves the White House on Jan. 20.

In an interview just four days before the election limbo, Clinton predicted that Vice President Al Gore would win Florida’s 25 electoral votes. He’s not right, but he’s not wrong — yet.

“I’ve always thought Gore would win Florida. We worked like crazy there for eight years. And we’ve done a lot for Florida, and a lot with Florida. And [Gore’s running mate] Joe Lieberman has helped a lot in Florida.”

Private Rage Over Impeachment

On impeachment, Clinton said he believes history will exonerate him. Clinton says his impeachment for actions involving his affair with Monica Lewinsky was wrong, just as it was wrong for lawmakers to impeach President Andrew Johnson in 1868.

Clinton says he became upset at times but vented his feelings in private.

“I got angry, but I always was alone with friends who would deflate me. I don’t think it ever clouded my judgment on any official thing,” Clinton said. “One of the things I had to learn ... was that, at some point, presidents are not permitted to have personal feelings. When you manifest your anger in public, it should be on behalf of the American people and the values that they believe in. All this stuff you can’t take personally.”

President Clinton On...

Prison Reform: Clinton says jail time helped his brother Roger kick a cocaine habit, but not all drug offenders would necessarily benefit from being locked up. “A lot of people are in prison today because they have drug problems or alcohol problems. And too many of them are getting out — particularly out of state systems — without treatment, without education, without skills, without serious efforts at job placement,” Clinton said.

President Nixon: “He paid a high price for what he did,” Clinton said. Later he added: “I always thought that he could have been a great president if he had been more trusting of the American people. I thought that somewhere way back there, something happened in terms of his ability to feel at home, at ease with the ebb and flow of human life and popular opinion.”

Clinton’s Future: “I’m sure I’ll be involved in this whole area of racial and religious conciliation at home and around the world, and economic empowerment of poor people, here and around the world.” The president expressed interest in global warming and economic development, racial and religious reconciliation and the breakdown of public health systems around the world. “The challenge is to trade power and authority, broadly spread, for influence and impact, tightly concentrated,” he said.