In his recently released book “Clinton, Inc.,” Weekly Standard online editor Daniel Halper recounts an extraordinarily revealing tale about former President Bill Clinton.
The story comes by way of an interview with Jim Nicholson, who served as Secretary of Veterans Affairs under President George W. Bush and as Republican National Committee chairman during the last years of Bill Clinton’s presidency.
In April 2005, President Bush led a delegation to Rome to attend Pope John Paul II’s funeral. Among those who joined him on Air Force One for the flight across the Atlantic were Clinton and Nicholson, who had served as ambassador to the Holy See during Bush’s first term.
Halper reports that Clinton had never met Nicholson, but when the two encountered each other on the plane, the former president pressed Nicholson for insight into who would be picked to be the next pope. Nicholson reportedly brushed off the former president, telling him, “the Holy Spirit’s not talking to me about that.”
But during the journey over, when Clinton, Bush and Nicholson were sitting together, Clinton asked Bush to get Nicholson provide some insider analysis, writes Halper. “George, make Nicholson tell us who the next pope’s going to be,” Clinton reportedly asked.
At Clinton’s prodding, Bush pressed his subordinate for the inside scoop.
“I think it’s going to be Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger,” Nicholson said, according to Halper’s reporting.
But Clinton wasn’t buying it, says Nicholson via Halper. “It won’t be Ratzinger; he’s German. They’ll never elect a German pope,” the potential future first gentleman countered.
But Nicholson doubled down and laid out his reasoning.
“Clinton maintained a look of skepticism,” Halper writes in his book. “But as the conversation in the room turned to other matters, the former president disappeared.”
Where did he go?
“The former president wandered down the corridor of the presidential plane and, as if by happenstance, soon found himself in the small compartment in the back of the plane reserved for the press corps,” Halper writes.
“I think it’s going to be Ratzinger,” Clinton told the press on board Air Force One Clinton, reports Halper, “making it seem like all his own thoughtful analysts had led him to what would be a prophetic conclusion.”
Now, The Daily Caller couldn’t find any newspaper articles from the time quoting President Clinton’s “prediction.” But if the story is true — and we have no reason to believe Nicholson told Halper a fable — it’s a rather revealing tale about how the former president operates.