PW: What was it like writing a book [The Natural] about an administration and politics from the center of the storm?
JK: I never felt in the center of the storm. I was in New York and not D.C., so I had a distance. I also wasn't a classic White House reporter. I was covering a wide range of topics, including foreign policy, and wasn't trapped in the press corps. Of course, the other side was that I did have a very long history with Clinton, which made for a good balance.
PW:The Natural is not a collection of your older work, but it is based on pieces you wrote earlier. Was there a temptation to change a lot?
JK: I rewrote everything because I wanted it to read as seamlessly as possible, but I never changed my basic opinions. There are, however, two major shifts. In journalism, we hold our subjects to high standards, and it is unrealistic. I tried to adjust that here. The second is a result of September 11. I had paid insufficient attention to foreign policy; I tried now to look more critically at that here. I think Clinton was dealing with what was possible at the time—there was no real groundswell after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center to launch a fight on world terrorism.
PW: Has the issue of unrealistic high standards changed your writing as a journalist?
JK: My writing has always undergone changes throughout my career. After being attacked by the press for Primary Colors, I became more empathetic and more appreciative of what we put politicians through. There is an incredible amount of pettiness on the part of the press, which I think in the long run has hurt its credibility.
PW: You focus a great deal on the relationship between Hillary and Bill and wrote that you decided "to believe all the stories." What does the book gain from doing this?
JK: It is always difficult to understand what happens between two people. And in this particular case, we really don't know anything—there are so many stories and rumors that contradict one another. Even their closest friends are perplexed. So rather than making judgments on the Clintons' marriage, I decided to take a third road and simply believe everything and work from that. What you gain is the freedom to look at these people from varying perspectives.
PW: Why was the Clinton administration the center of so much controversy, both pro and con?
JK: I think two things were going on: one cultural and one political. Obviously, he was the representation of the baby boomers and the politics of the 1960s and 1970s. But politically—Clinton was the most dangerous sort of politician, because he took the opposition's agenda, sanded off the edges and implemented it. So the opposition saw him as a thief, and his supporters saw him as a Republican. It doesn't create many allies. But this kind of politics is extremely valuable because it is a way to bring together conflicting agendas.