‘N.Y. Times’ Magazine Writer Discusses ‘Mellowing’ Bill Clinton

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By: Joe Strupp

Peter Baker of The New York Times, who covered Bill Clinton’s second term during his time at The Washington Post, did not get as much access back then as he has in the past few months.

The result: A cover story in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine about the two-term former president, whom Baker describes as “mellowing.” He writes: “Now his anger appears gone, and he has entered the reconciliation stage of the familiar Clinton cycle of fall and redemption.”

Baker, again a White House correspondent covering Barack Obama, says he spent three days with Clinton in Peru, along with many hours at the former president’s Chappaqua, N.Y. home, his Harlem, N,Y. office, and at various other locations. “I don’t think they give that kind of access all the time,” Baker told E&P Friday. “I had two long interviews with him, about four hours total.”

But why Clinton? Why now? “Bill Clinton is endlessly fascinating,” says Baker, who left the Post a year ago to join the Times. “He is one of the most compelling figures in politics.”

Baker says he found Clinton “still wants to have impact, wanted to do things of meaning. Some of what he is doing is unfinished business.” He adds that Clinton “can’t fix the banks, but he can do other things on climate change and AIDS.”

Baker, who also covered George W. Bush, says he finds elements of both Bush and Clinton in Obama: “Obama is very disciplined, a lot like Bush. He is comfortable with boldness. In terms of Clinton, [Obama] shows a lawyerly intellectual approach. An interest in detail and policy decisions.”

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