Aides and advisers to both Clintons say he tends to explode in anger more often and more fiercely than his wife, whose temper is usually described as that of a slow-burn and clipped-tone variety.
His so-called “purple fits” and “earthquakes” have been a constant to those who have worked with him. Some have dealt with it by avoiding him, others by simply responding with silence. One senior White House aide, George Stephanopoulos, who was often a target of Mr. Clinton’s fury, has written of taking an antidepressant because the vicissitudes of the job were so intense.
Mr. Clinton has reflected on his temper over the years, perhaps most revealingly in his autobiography. At one point in it, he recalls a day in junior high school when he hit a boy who had been taunting him. It was a moment from which he came to draw lessons.
“I was a little disturbed by my anger, the currents of which would prove deeper and stronger in the years ahead,” Mr. Clinton wrote. “Because of the way Daddy behaved when he was angry and drunk, I associated anger with being out of control and I was determined not to lose control. Doing so could unleash the deeper, constant anger I kept locked away because I didn’t know where it came from.”