In his upcoming book, "Heart of a Patriot", former Senator and decorated Vietnam War veteran Max Cleland unloads on his political nemeses and dishes some details on his friend Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky.
After the inauguration of George W. Bush, Cleland used to joke with colleagues that the nation was about to get "screwed" -- and during the Bush presidency he says he suffered "the darkest days of my life."
For me, the inauguration of George W. Bush as president ushered in a period I can only describe as unshirted hell.
In his detailed recounting of that hellish time, Cleland in particular expresses outrage at the negative ads that cost him his Senate seat. Republican challenger Saxby Chambliss ran TV commercials featuring Cleland alongside photos of Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, falsely implying that the Senator had voted against the proposed Department of Homeland Security,
Soon after the ad started running, GOP Senators John McCain and Chuck Hagel expressed their outrage at the dirty tactics. Cleland says that Hagel approached him and went so far as to offer to do a TV spot rebutting the hateful Chambliss ad "even though it was being aired by his own party."
Saxby Chambliss got wind of what Hagel had proposed. He called Chuck seven times in one day begging him not to side with me. Hagel asked him to take the ad down. Instead, Chambliss modified the ad somewhat, but still ran it.
Cleland still burns with indignation when he recalls the campaign and the negative ads that hurt McCain during the 2000 primary in South Carolina and the Swift Boat Veterans ads that helped defeat John Kerry in 2004:
The attacks on McCain, Kerry and me, all decorated wounded combat veterans, are a shameful legacy of the Bush administration, and among the most shameful political stunts in the nation's history.
One of Cleland's aides, Trey Ragsdale, was in the same intern class as Lewinsky and Cleland writes that Ragsdale told him that Lewinsky was on the prowl for the president from the moment she arrived in Washington, D.C.
Soon after arriving in the capital, Ragsdale, Lewinsky and other interns started going out to a local bar for drinks where the conversation turned to what they'd all like to do in Washington from visiting museums to padding resumes. According to Cleland, Lewinksy's response stunned the group: "I want to earn my presidential knee pads."
Later, Ragsdale realized that he was being used by Lewinsky to facilitate her intentions and then to serve as cover during the affair. Cleland relates that his aide was constantly being invited by Lewinsky to snacks in the White House mess hall because Ragsdale could escort her into the White House - she lacked the proper credentials.
The first time she came for snacks with Trey, the president made an appearance. Mysteriously, President Clinton was always there in the mess on the days Monica asked Trey to bring her for snacks. And each time the leader of the free world visited this pair of lowly interns. After this scenario played out several times, Trey became suspicious. He ultimately came to realize he was only being used as a cover to set up meetings between Monica and the president. In effect, Trey was being used to get Monica signed in to the White House without involving anyone on the president's staff.
During the Clinton impeachment vote, which Cleland opposed, the former Senator was suffering mono and he claims that one of his former colleagues ended up making him sicker.
"I wrapped a green scarf around my neck, trying to keep warm. Pete Domenici, the senator from New Mexico, insisted I remove my scarf, as it 'violated the decorum of the Senate.'" Cleland took it off and says he soon felt that he could hardly hold his head up and eventually came down with a massive sinus infection.
An aide to Domenici did not return calls from Huffington Post to respond to Cleland's claim.
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