Monday, Apr. 18, 2005

Bill Clinton

Since Bill Clinton is the most flagrantly underemployed person on the planet, a good part of his post-presidential life consists of flirting with and fending off job offers, real and media-imagined. He is mentioned as a possible Senator from Anywhere, mayor of New York City, television talk-show host, global peace negotiator and Secretary-General of the United Nations. A few years ago, a French political scientist named Patrick Weil suggested that Clinton—who was born within the boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase, a former French colony—was eligible to run for President of France. "I think he would be a very strong candidate," Weil said, smiling puckishly.

The sad truth is, Clinton, 58, is trapped in the blandly noble life of a former President. He will spend the coming year giving speeches; raising money for HIV/AIDS in the Third World; traipsing about with his new buddy, former President George H.W. Bush, to raise money for tsunami relief; and organizing a major conference in September to discuss global challenges. He will do all this at a more leisurely pace than in the past as he recovers from two surgeries to repair his famously expansive heart.

But he maintains another, more intriguing and fitfully covert role as well: political kibitzer. Clinton is regarded as the best political strategist in the Democratic Party, even by those who disagree with his Third Way philosophy. Some of his happiest hours are spent discussing short-term tactics and the long-term future of the Democrats with friends, candidates, former aides and current spouses. It is the colloquy with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York—who qualifies as all four: friend, candidate, former aide and spouse—that is likely to arouse the most interest over the next few years and provide the most titillating potential job offer of all: to be America's first First Gentleman.

From the Archive
Citizen Clinton: With his memoirs and media tour, the former President launches his latest campaign. This time it really is one for the history books, and Ken Starr is a major chapter