The Comeback Id
] places like this.” Minutes later, after a front-porch rally in nearby Louisburg, population 3,726, a woman in the crowd approached him, tears streaming down her face. I could not get close enough to hear what was said, but Clinton listened, then cupped her face in his big hands, in that way that only he can. It was classic Clinton, but not enough to prevent an Obama blowout in the state the next day.
Perhaps more than anything, Clinton, whose audiences in recent years have tended to be adoring crowds who hang on every word of what those who have heard his standard speech say is a rambling tour d’horizon of world problems, has simply lost a step.
“Look, the game has changed,” said Mike McCurry. “He ran his last national campaign in 1996, and remember, we kind of ran unopposed. It’s been a while since he did that, and the way you summon people up and get them to do things has changed. All of this stuff, the blogging and the YouTubing and the way in which everything is instantaneously available: I tell you, until you get out there and are actually dealing with the consequences—having what you just said as you were walking out the door [all over the Internet], that’s brand-new to him.”
A DICTATOR’S EMBRACE
When Clinton left the White House, aides say, he made a list of all the world problems he cared most about and might yet do something to help solve. At the top of his list was Mideast peace, but Clinton quickly realized that that was an endeavor in which uninvited meddling was inappropriate, so he concentrated on a range of other issues, from H.I.V./AIDS to clean water, childhood obesity, global warming, and—after the South Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina—disaster relief. Some aides have said they see a clear effort to redress problems that he let fester as president, whether AIDS or the Rwandan genocide. It is beyond dispute that Clinton’s foundation has done worthy work around the world, funneling low-cost anti-retroviral drugs to more than a million AIDS patients, shining the singular power of a presidential spotlight on the good work of others, and raising millions of dollars for practical programs in places much of the world’s power establishment never bothers with.
But it is also beyond dispute that Clinton has blended the altruistic efforts of his philanthropy with the private business interests of some of his biggest donors in ways that are surpassingly sloppy, if not unseemly, for any former president. A case in point is Clinton’s relationship with Ukraine’s Victor Pinchuk, a billionaire and philanthropist who has donated millions to the ex-president’s foundation. According to Newsweek, in 2007, at a Pinchuk-sponsored international conference in Yalta, Clinton wowed the crowd with a presentation on Ukraine but also sparked controversy when he was embraced by Pinchuk’s father-in-law, the country’s former president Leonid Kuchma. Kuchma’s repressive regime has been linked by a government investigation to the 2000 murder of a dissident Ukrainian journalist. The man was found decapitated—one of scores of journalists who have been killed or have disappeared in Ukraine since the country achieved independence, in 1991.
Even more troubling is Clinton’s relationship with the Canadian mining magnate Frank Giustra. This winter, a lengthy investigative report in The New York Times disclosed that, in 2005, Clinton flew to the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan on Giustra’s MD-87 jet for what was billed as a philanthropic three-country tour. The two men had dinner with President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has held the country in a vise-like grip for nearly two decades. At their meeting, Clinton expressed support for Nazarbayev’s bid to head the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which monitors elections and promotes democracy. That position was sharply at odds with official American foreign policy and came in the face of stinging criticism of Kazakhstan’s record on human rights from many sources, including the junior senator from New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Within two days, Giustra’s company signed preliminary agreements allowing it to buy into three uranium projects controlled by Kazakhstan’s state-owned uranium agency. And months after that the Clinton Foundation received a $31.3 million donation from Giustra that remained secret until a Giustra representative acknowledged it late last year. (Giustra has separately pledged another $100 million to the foundation.)
A Clinton spokesperson and Giustra have both said that Clinton was unaware of the specifics of the uranium deal. But critics of Clinton’s judgment say that misses the point.
“There’s no way in the world that President Clinton didn’t understand what was going on there, and no way in the world that he didn’t understand what his role was supposed to be in that visit: to lay the hands of the former president of the United States on the individual he was traveling with and thereby bring credibility to whatever reason that individual was there for,” says Fred Wertheimer, the president of Democracy 21, a Washington watchdog group that monitors money and politics. “To deny that is to, basically, take the position that you can fool all of the people all of the time.”
THE PUBLIC PENSIONER
It is for just such reasons that Clinton’s refusal to make public the names of donors to his foundation has drawn withering fire. (Some donors—including the Saudi royal family and the governments of Dubai, Kuwait, and Qatar—were made public by The New York Sun when a list of them was discovered on a public computer monitor at the opening of the Clinton library, in Little Rock, and others have since become known as the result of interviews and journalistic digging through the tax records of known Clinton friends and supporters.) Clinton aides say that donors were promised confidentiality, but they have also pledged to make public the names of future donors—though not past ones—should Hillary Clinton become president.
“I think there’s also a kind of sentiment that if somebody’s given us money to save the lives of tens of thousands of kids who have H.I.V., let somebody fucking bitch about it,” one senior Clinton adviser told me. “If they don’t want us to take that money, or if it offends some sensibility of Fred Wertheimer, so be it.”
Clinton is under no legal obligation to disclose such donors—or, for that matter, to disclose much of anything about his personal financial dealings. No one knows the details of the earnings—almost certainly many millions of dollars—that the first President Bush has made from his investment in the Carlyle Group, for example. Gerald Ford quietly raked in big director’s fees from companies such as American Express, and Ronald Reagan briefly scandalized late-80s Washington by taking $2 million for a single speaking trip to Japan. But their wives never ran for president.
Throughout our history there has been a strong presumption that former presidents should conduct their affairs in ways that do not seem to cheapen, degrade, or exploit the high office they held. Hillary Clinton’s own service as senator, and her presidential campaign, reinforce that imperative in Bill Clinton’s case. Harry Truman was so reluctant to accept any business or commercial offer, however high-minded, that might be seen as capitalizing on the presidency that he nearly went broke in retirement. A few years after leaving office, he had seen a $600,000 advance from Life magazine for his memoirs whittled away by expenses and 67 percent income taxes to a net gain of about $37,000. Only the sale of his family farm for a shopping center saved him from real embarrassment. Finally, he took his case to Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn and Senate majority leader Lyndon Johnson, and the first bill stipulating an annual presidential pension (initially $25,000) and money for offices and staff was passed.
Clinton benefits handsomely from Truman’s foresight. His presidential pension has totaled more than $1.2 million since he left office, and despite his fantastic private-sector income, an analysis this spring by the Web site Politico showed that he has taken almost as much in taxpayer dollars for his post-presidential existence as the other two living ex-presidents—Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush—combined. Since 2001, Clinton has received more in almost every category—pension, staff salaries, supplies—than any of his colleagues in that smallest of clubs. Before Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford died, Clinton’s telephone and rent expenses came close to exceeding the comparable expenses for all four then living former presidents combined. Part of the difference is that Clinton served eight years in office, entitling him to a federal health-insurance plan and a higher pension than Ford, Carter, or Bush, and part is that his office space in Manhattan is more expensive than space in Atlanta or Houston.
Still, there is a repellent grandiosity about Clinton’s post-presidential style. Before he settled on more modest space in Harlem, Clinton had intended to rent the entire 56th floor of Carnegie Hall Tower, in Midtown, for roughly $738,000 a year. He changed course after a rash of sharp congressional and public criticism. Each year at Christmastime, Clinton sends out to supporters a slim, paperbound volume of his Selected Remarks, with a gold-embossed “Happy Holidays” greeting card replete with the requisite “bug” showing it was printed in a union shop. Last year’s number ran 25 pages and featured three thoroughly ordinary efforts: a commencement speech at Knox College, in Illinois; remarks to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, in South Africa; and comments at the 50th-anniversary commemoration of the de-segregation of Little Rock Central High School. “Since leaving office,” the first page of the booklet states, “President Clinton has devoted his time and energy to causes of both personal concern and global significance.”
A SOLITARY MAN
Throughout his career, Bill Clinton has justified acts of extraordinary selfishness in the name of idealism—he’s always in it for the people, the plain folks who tell pollsters they trust him to look out for their interests, even if they don’t trust him. He has been forgiven colossal egotism, even cruelty, by those closest to him because of his superlative political talents, and because of the overreaching of his enemies. As president, Clinton often could not show grace in the smallest ways. He dithered about where and when to go on vacation, so that aides and Secret Service agents could not plan their own. He declined to release aides and reporters who had waited around all through a pointless Saturday of duty while he made up his mind whether to play golf (a game at which he has been known to cheat). He was never, ever, on time. In Joe Klein’s roman à clef about the Clintons, Primary Colors, the Betsey Wright character accuses the Bill Clinton character of always skating by on charm and talent and need. “You have never paid the bill,” she tells him. “Never. And no one ever calls you on it. Because you’re so completely fucking special. Everyone was always so proud of you. And me, too. Me the worst.”
In the end, this is Clinton’s most grievous sin, his steady refusal to take grown-up responsibility for the consequences of his own actions. In the White House, on the day of his last sexual encounter with Monica Lewinsky, Clinton told her that he was worried that a foreign embassy might be listening in on their calls, and that if she were ever questioned, she should say they were just friends. Then he looked into her eyes and sang, “Try a Little Tenderness,” a song that goes: “She may be weary, women do get weary, wearing the same shabby dress.” On the day this winter that he accused Barack Obama of spinning a “fairy tale” about Obama’s anti-war stance, Clinton went on to whine about an Obama campaign research sheet criticizing his business dealings and insisting, “Ken Starr spent $70 million and indicted innocent people to find out that I wouldn’t take a nickel to see the cow jump over the moon.” So, yes, let us stipulate: Ken Starr was a prurient, partisan zealot. Yes, other ex-presidents have made a lot of money and it is hard to begrudge Clinton his earnings (even if he did take six million nickels for a speech to the Australian Council for the Peaceful Reunification of China). Yes, Obama is a daring opponent who thinks he is hot shit and has benefited from the same enthusiasm, energy, and fresh-faced appeal that a fella named Bill Clinton once elicited (but he has suffered from some of the same skepticism, too). It is Clinton’s invariable insistence that his problems are someone else’s fault, and that questions or criticisms of him, his methods, motives, or means are invariably unfair, that is his unforgivable flaw.
He has told friends that he is not worried that his aggressive performance this year has done lasting damage to his reputation (some of them are not so sure). Whatever the future holds for Hillary Clinton, her husband is not fading away. He will remain a presence, a force to be reckoned with, as long as he draws breath.
But for a politician with so many admirers, allies, acquaintances, faithful retainers, and hangers-on, Clinton remains a profoundly solitary man, associates say, without any real peers, intellectual equals, or genuine friends with whom he can share the sweetest things in life. (The one who has always come closest, for better and worse, for richer and poorer, is simply too busy these days.)
So he spends his time veering between feeling sorry for himself and working to help others, between doing good and giving his enemies fresh ammunition, between vindicating his legacy and vitiating it. “So much of modern culture is characterized by stories of self-indulgence and self-destruction,” Clinton writes near the end of Giving, from which he earned $6.3 million and gave away $1 million (or 16 percent) to charity. “So much of modern politics is focused not on honest differences of policy but on personal attacks. So much of modern media is dominated by people who earn fortunes by demeaning others, defining them by their worst moments, exploiting their agonies. Who’s happier? The uniters or the dividers? The builders or the breakers? The givers or the takers? I think you know the answer.”
I used to think he did, too. But substitute the words “my life” for the words “modern culture” and “modern politics” in the passage above, and you’ll have a pretty succinct summary of what Bill Clinton has, at last, become.
Todd S. Purdum is Vanity Fair’s national editor.
ENLARGE SLIDESHOW1/16Catching Up with the Clinton Crowd
BILL CLINTON It’s been 16 years since Bill Clinton rode into the White House on a wave of middle-class frustration and anxiety after running a fast-paced, quick-witted campaign that set a new standard for media savvy. We’re still talking about him, almost as if he’d never left the premises, for a number of reasons. One is his presidential legacy, a subject of nostalgia after eight years of far more radical, unpopular leadership, but also a source of disappointment for supporters who wish the gifted politician had achieved larger progressive gains. Another is his post-presidential ubiquity: excepting a brief memoir-writing spell, Clinton has been a highly public figure, death-defying in his level of activity even after his quadruple-bypass heart surgery in 2004. He has worked tirelessly to turn his philanthropic organization, the William J. Clinton Foundation, into a force for good around the world, though he has faced criticism for controversial donors such as paramilitary contractor Blackwater Worldwide, mining tycoon Frank Giustra, and the governments of Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. And then there’s Hillary. This is not the place to recap the dynamics of the most dissected marriage in politics, or Bill’s complicated role in his wife’s presidential bid. Suffice it to say that, if Hillary is confirmed as Barack Obama’s secretary of state, Bill will retain his title as the most influential president emeritus for some time to come.
VERNON and ANN JORDAN Back in 1992, when Vernon Jordan was named to head President-elect Bill Clinton’s transition team, he was already being referred to as a “consummate Washington insider” and “consummate establishment figure,” and had a distinguished record of civil-rights leadership and advocacy on behalf of African Americans. Today, he and his wife, Ann, are the capital’s consummate power couple—invited to every party and able to get just about anyone on the phone at a moment’s notice. She is the chairman of the board of the National Symphony Orchestra and sits on several other nonprofit and corporate boards. He is a senior managing director at the investment bank Lazard, served on the Iraq Study Group, and somehow managed to remain in the good graces of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama during their bruising primary campaign. In 2007, he joined the ranks of former presidents and other esteemed Americans when the National Portrait Gallery, in Washington, added a three-quarter-length oil painting of him to its permanent collection.
CHARLIE LEDLEY Charlie Ledley, who as an 18-year-old intern ended up in charge of the Clinton campaign’s entire hotel operation during the 1992 Democratic National Convention, in New York, remembers the experience as “fun and crazy.” Now a partner at Cornwall Capital, a Manhattan-based hedge fund, he marvels at how he pulled it off—especially, he says, considering that he’s terrible at handling logistics. Once the campaign ended, Ledley returned to Amherst College, and the following summer he served briefly as a White House intern but decided that politics wasn’t for him. After graduating from Amherst (one semester late, due to his time on the campaign trail), he went on to such elite proving grounds as Harvard Business School and Bain & Company before settling into his current position. Now, after more than a decade, he is once again involved in politics, as a founding board member of a political-action committee called Democrats for Education Reform.
DAVID LEOPOULOS, CAROLYN STALEY, and JOE NEWMAN As governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton made a point of regularly getting together with childhood friends David Leopoulos, Carolyn Staley, and Joe Newman in a monthly “Lunch Club.” As president, Clinton brought Arkansas to the White House. Leopoulos traveled to Washington for visits several times a year. He now devotes himself full-time to the Thea Foundation, which he and his wife founded after their daughter, Thea, died in a 2001 car accident. Clinton is an active supporter of the charity, which provides scholarships to Arkansas high-school students who show promise in the arts. Staley, who sang at festivities for Clinton’s gubernatorial and presidential inaugurations, is now a minister at Little Rock’s Pulaski Heights Baptist Church. She and her daughter came up with the idea for the 1997 VH1 feature Bill Clinton: Rock & Roll President. Newman continues to work as an accountant in Arkansas, and he still meets with Clinton, Leopoulos, and Staley, now at Clinton’s presidential library. According to Leopoulos, the location has changed but the activities have not: “We meet to play hearts, tell jokes, and celebrate life.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS; MARY STEENBURGEN; ELAINE KAMARCK; STEVEN COHEN Clinton’s senior adviser and first White House communications director, George Stephanopoulos resigned shortly after the president’s re-election, citing stress and depression. He has since become one of the most influential figures in the political-media world as ABC News’s chief Washington correspondent and host of This Week. Actress Mary Steenburgen, an Arkansas native who campaigned for Bill Clinton as early as his 1978 run for governor, has stayed close with both Clintons. She campaigned for Hillary’s presidential bid, while also acting in films such as Four Christmases and The Brave One. New Democrat pioneer Elaine Kamarck served Clinton during his presidency, creating the National Performance Review (later called the National Partnership for Reinventing Government), through which she and Al Gore successfully streamlined the federal government, a singular accomplishment among modern presidencies. Since 1997 she has been a lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, with a detour as an adviser to Gore’s presidential campaign. Steven “Scoop” Cohen stayed in Clinton’s press office, where he served as an aide to Stephanopoulos and Dee Dee Myers and stood out for his youth (he was in his early 20s) until he became deputy communications director for the First Lady, in 1995. He later took his political expertise to Hollywood, co-creating the WB mini-series Jack & Bobby and then joining Commander in Chief, ABC’s short-lived but forward-looking series about America’s first female president, as a writer and consulting producer.
BRUCE LINDSEY; DEE DEE MYERS; PATTI SOLIS DOYLE; JUDY COLLINS Bruce Lindsey, one of Bill Clinton’s closest friends, served as deputy counsel to the president until the end of his second term, helping to direct White House responses to Clinton’s political hiccups. Today, he is the C.E.O. of the William J. Clinton Foundation and of counsel at a Little Rock law firm. After resigning as White House press secretary in 1994, Dee Dee Myers co-hosted CNBC’s Equal Time for two years and was a consultant on The West Wing. Today, she is a Vanity Fair contributing editor and an analyst for CBS News. Her manifesto Why Women Should Rule the World (Harper) was published last year. Having served as Hillary Clinton’s scheduler in the White House, Patti Solis Doyle signed on to assist her Senate campaign in 2000 and was executive director of the powerful HillPAC fund-raising machine. Solis Doyle went on to manage Hillary’s presidential campaign until February 2008, when, in a sign of Hillaryland’s disarray, she was axed shortly after disappointing Super Tuesday results. In June, she was tapped by Barack Obama to be his running mate’s campaign chief of staff. A frequent guest at the White House during the Clinton years, Judy Collins was the president’s unofficial First Folk Singer. She became a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, in 1995, and continues to work as a singer and songwriter.
LOTTIE SHACKELFORD Little Rock’s first female mayor, Lottie Shackelford served as co-director of intergovernmental affairs during Clinton’s transition to the White House and was appointed a board member of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation as well as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, in Vienna. She continues to live in Little Rock and is the longest-serving vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, a post to which she was elected in 1989.
SUSAN THOMASES As a top adviser to Hillary Clinton, Susan Thomases was a key witness in the Whitewater hearings: she was questioned about phone calls she had with the First Lady and White House officials in the hours after the suicide of deputy White House counsel Vince Foster. She no longer practices law, having retired as a result of multiple sclerosis, but she remains a close friend and confidante of Hillary’s.
JAMES CARVILLE Since serving as an inspired strategist for Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, a role immortalized in the documentary The War Room, James Carville has become an unmistakable face in politics. After the campaign, the Ragin’ Cajun expanded his sphere of influence, giving speeches around the country, writing books, and consulting for international leaders such as Tony Blair and Ehud Barak. In 2002 he dove into media, as a host of CNN’s Crossfire, and he is now a regular guest on CNN’s The Situation Room and a co-host, with Luke Russert, of XM Satellite Radio’s 60/20. Carville has also made cameos in films such as The People vs. Larry Flynt and Old School, and his marriage to G.O.P. strategist Mary Matalin continues to be a model of bipartisan domesticity.
THOMAS “MACK” McLARTY Clinton’s kindergarten pal Thomas “Mack” McLarty served as White House chief of staff before being appointed the president’s special envoy for the Americas, playing a key part in advancing NAFTA. McLarty later formed a consulting firm, which merged with Kissinger Associates in 1999 only to break from it in 2008. More recently he has been chosen by the outgoing Bush administration as an adviser to the team aiding Barack Obama’s transition to the Oval Office.
RAHM EMANUEL (center), with brothers ARIEL and EZEKIEL Earning the nickname “Rahmbo” for aggressive antics that allegedly included mailing a rotting fish to a pollster, Rahm Emanuel served as a senior adviser to President Clinton from 1993 to 1998 after managing his campaign finances in ’92. Following a lucrative interim as an investment banker, Emanuel was elected to Congress, representing Illinois’s Fifth District, in 2002. As chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he gained even greater respect in 2006 by guiding Democrats to large gains in the House. Now, as President Obama’s chief of staff, Emanuel will be the gatekeeper and top adviser for a new commander in chief. Not to be outdone, Rahm’s older brother, Ezekiel, served on President Clinton’s Task Force on National Health Care Reform, the ill-fated initiative spearheaded by Hillary, and is currently chair of the bioethics department at the Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health. Younger brother Ari has found success in Hollywood as the co-founder of the Endeavor Talent Agency, modeling his life on Ari Gold, Jeremy Piven’s character on the HBO hit show Entourage, or the other way around—we forget which.
HARRY THOMASON and LINDA BLOODWORTH-THOMASON Television producers Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, whose friendship with the Clintons goes back to Bill’s first term as Arkansas governor, remained steadfastly loyal to the First Family throughout the ups and downs of the Clinton years. Already successful before Clinton’s presidency as the creative duo behind TV hits Designing Women and Evening Shade, the couple made a minor cottage industry of films promoting Bill and Hillary (The Man from Hope, Legacy, The Hunting of the President, and, for Hillary’s first Senate bid, Hillary 2000). Harry was also a major player in shaping the president’s response to the Monica Lewinsky scandal after emerging relatively unscathed from “Travelgate,” the Clintons’ first big public-relations disaster. Now, in the run-up to Barack Obama’s swearing-in ceremony, Harry is remembered for the impressive Inauguration Day spectacle he masterminded for Clinton in 1993. In 2004, Linda published a well-received first novel, Liberating Paris (William Morrow), which has been adapted for the big screen and is slated to start shooting in the fall. She has also established a foundation that has given away more than $1.5 million in college scholarships to young women in Arkansas and Missouri.
MARILYN HORNE; DIMITRIOS THEOFANIS; CRESCENT DRAGONWAGON and CONNIE FAILS; TABITHA SOREN Since singing “Simple Gifts” at Clinton’s 1993 swearing-in, mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne has been honored at the Kennedy Center, inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame, and given the prestigious Opera News Award. Retired from performing, she currently teaches vocal classes and runs the Marilyn Horne Foundation for aspiring singers. Dimitrios Theofanis was one of Clinton’s “Faces of Hope,” the ordinary citizens Clinton met on the campaign trail in 1992 and then invited to his inaugural festivities as honored guests. Clinton kept in touch with his Faces of Hope, as a sort of human reality check. Theofanis and his son Nick rode with Clinton on his 21st Century Express train during the 1996 re-election campaign. Patron saint of Arkansas foodies, Crescent Dragonwagon catered brunch for 1,000 on Inauguration Day. Also a writer of cookbooks, children’s books, and novels, Dragonwagon closed her Dairy Hollow House inn and restaurant in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, in 1998 to open the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. She currently lives in Vermont, where she just completed her 51st book. Connie Fails, who designed the suit that Hillary wore at Bill’s first inauguration, later shut down her boutique to head the gift shop at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center, in Little Rock. Tabitha Soren, the face of MTV’s 1992 “Choose or Lose” campaign, married writer Michael Lewis (now a Vanity Fair contributing editor), in 1997. The couple have three children.
IRA MAGAZINER; STROBE TALBOTT and BROOKE SHEARER; BETSEY WRIGHT; HAROLD ICKES and daughter CHARLOTTE JANE Ira Magaziner, who met Bill Clinton while they were both Rhodes scholars at Oxford, had a tumultuous time as Clinton’s senior adviser for policy development, especially in helping lead the failed Task Force on National Health Care Reform. He was attacked for his domineering approach and called “Hillary’s Rasputin,” but since then he’s become more popular, as the principal architect of the Clinton H.I.V./AIDS Initiative at the William J. Clinton Foundation. Another Oxford pal, Strobe Talbott became deputy secretary of state and helped advise President Clinton on the new countries formed by the breakup of the Soviet Union. A noted author and journalist, Talbott is currently president of the Brookings Institution. His wife, Brooke Shearer, was on Hillary’s White House staff and has since been an advocate for the advancement of women in the Third World. As deputy chair of Bill’s ’92 campaign, longtime Clinton adviser Betsey Wright successfully fought off the “bimbo eruptions” that threatened to derail the Arkansas governor. In 1999, she publicly called Hillary Clinton’s Senate bid “a stupid idea”—but only because she envisioned bigger things for the former First Lady. Harold Ickes, whose father served under F.D.R., was Clinton’s deputy chief of staff—Michael Lewis famously nicknamed him Clinton’s “Garbage Man”—until he was fired in January 1997. (Some speculate he took the fall for Clinton as the Senate was gearing up for a probe of the president’s campaign finances.) He was Hillary’s campaign manager when she won her Senate seat and a top adviser during her run for the presidential nomination. His daughter, Charlotte Jane, graduated from Yale in 2008.
GEORGE ELDRIDGE and LUCILLE ROBINSON Bill Clinton’s appetite for hot tamales and T-bone steak made Doe’s Eat Place, on the corner of West Markham and Ringo, the default clubhouse for his campaign staff in Little Rock, Arkansas. The then governor could be found in the kitchen, stealing hot French fries from the fryer. Clinton has since switched to a heart-healthy diet, but the menu at Doe’s remains the same. Owner George Eldridge still runs the popular spot, which last year celebrated its 20th anniversary. Longtime Doe’s chef Lucille Robinson retired “five or so” years ago. She visits Doe’s every Monday to check in on her daughters, who’ve inherited the family trade.
PAMELA HARRIMAN Democratic doyenne Pamela Harriman decked her life with expensive art and charismatic men—Bill Clinton among them. She raised millions for his 1992 campaign, and he rewarded her with a plum gig: the U.S. ambassadorship to France. Ever glamorous, she died of a stroke in 1997, at the age of 76, after a swim at the Paris Ritz. President Clinton delivered a eulogy at the Washington National Cathedral, confessing, “Today I am here in no small measure because she was there.”
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