RUSSIAN leader Boris Yeltsin was once found near the White House late at night dressed in his underwear, seemingly drunk and looking for pizza, according to a new book detailing Bill Clinton’s presidency.
The claim comes in a 700-page expose, parsed from hours of secret recordings made by the former US president and Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Taylor Branch, excerpts of which were published in USA Today yesterday.
Clinton “relayed how Boris Yeltsin’s late-night drinking during a visit to Washington in 1995 nearly created an international incident” Taylor told the paper.
Yeltsin had been staying at Blair House, metres from the White House, when he was discovered roaming by secret service agents.
When confronted trying to hail a taxi, the former president slurred that he was looking for pizza.
Yeltsin, who died in 2007, is remembered for many embarrassing drunken incidents, once seizing the baton from a bandmaster in Germany to himself conduct and playing the spoons on the president of Kyrgyzstan’s bald head.
The book, by a long-time Clinton friend, also details the then president’s views of candidates vying to succeed him. In Clinton’s view George W Bush “was unqualified to be president... but he had shrewd campaign instincts”.
John McCain, who would eventually lose to Bush and again to Barack Obama in 2008, “might make a good president, but he had no idea how to run”.
The book, released next week, is based on 79 taped interviews, which were kept largely secret from Clinton’s staff.
The tapes were apparently hidden in Clinton’s sock drawer.
Clinton was said to be squeamish about the release of the book, not surprising given the history of audio tapes in US presidential history.
Recordings of president Richard Nixon discussing the Watergate break-in with aides eventually forced him from office and sullied his reputation.
On the subject of Clinton’s most notorious acts in office — his liaisons with Monica Lewinsky, the former president appears to have been guarded. After months of standard responses Clinton said the affair began because: “I cracked, I cracked, I just cracked.”
Meanwhile, it emerged Yeltsin spent his retirement in a “golden cage”, his phone tapped and the Kremlin controlling visitors, a close colleague said in excerpts from another forthcoming book.
Vladimir Putin, who replaced Yeltsin as president in 2000, forced Yeltsin to celebrate his 75th birthday in the Kremlin and controlled the guest list, former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov wrote in his memoir.
“Yeltsin was very upset that they forced him to celebrate his birthday in the Kremlin and not as he wanted, freely, informally,” Kasyanov wrote in the book, excerpts of which were published in the opposition weekly The New Times on Monday.
“I think he then finally understood that he was living as a prisoner in a golden cage.”
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