Two headlines tell the tale: 1) "Clinton Eager for Public Role," and 2) "In Harlem, a Hero's Welcome for New Neighbor Clinton."
Bill Clinton wants to return to the swim. He has opened an office in his second-choice location - in New York's Harlem, prompting a Brooklyn lawyer to remark, "There goes the neighborhood." Clinton kept about 2,000 people waiting for 90 minutes in the sun before deigning to show up for the official opening of his office. Nearby, a guy in a hat labeled "The Hugmaster" led a group of youngsters in chanting, "More hugging/Less mugging/More hugging/Less drugging."
Another Clinton chapter opens. What of the past six months in the Clintons' lives? Some highlights....
Bill departed the White House indecorously. There was all that business about the Clintons' stuff, and what they could but should not have moved to their new Chappaqua digs to re-establish their lifelong New York ties. And the reported trashing of certain offices by White House staffers. And the departure ceremonies in bad-form competition with the Bush inaugural. Oh yes, and the dubious last-minute presidential pardons of despicable characters.
Since then, he has tried to adjust to life in the just-folks lane.
He has done big-buck speaking gigs to pay down his legal bills - and received some boos. He has checked things out in India, Africa and London. In Warsaw, an anti-globalization protester scored a direct hit on the Clinton face with an egg, prompting Clinton to reach into his bag of inane clichés such as: "It's good for young people to be angry about something." In June, his campaign for a Nobel prize having failed, he journeyed to Ohio as the grateful recipient of the first annual "Dayton Peace Prize." Who could be more deserving?
He's had his picture taken with groups of idealistic children and playing billiards with actress Elizabeth Hurley. In March, the victim Clinton compared himself to the victims of the Salem witch trials. Controversy has ebbed and flowed about his late-term flurry of executive orders doing what Congress would not - such as banning road building in 58 million acres of national forests (a federal judge ruled Clinton, on that one, likely broke the National Environmental Policy Act).
For her part, Hillary has pretty much gone her own way.
Her principal problem has been adjusting to life as one of 100 in the Senate, so accustomed was she to life as the queen bee in Little Rock and Washington. The Wall Street Journal's leftist Al Hunt has written of her this way:
"(In the Senate) she's earning a reputation as a methodical, hard-working well-informed lawmaker....(But) the ongoing Clinton melodrama has been a tale of two Hillarys. Anything outside the Senate has been a disaster. She's ensnared in the scandals over her husband's pardons....Her continuing obsession with money has created other problems. Her huge ($8 million) book advance and solicitation of gifts - before assuming her Senate seat - were unseemly, if not unethical."
She's bucking hard to become the Senate's new Teddy Kennedy. Hillary led the fight to kill the nomination of Mary Gall to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission, terming her too close to business. And she's blasting the new Bush administration. "The President has been on a charm offensive, but his administration is on a harm offensive...not just attempting to reverse the last eight years of progress and prosperity (but) to reverse the last 50 or 60 years," she commented. Real moderation there, perhaps right out of her psychic conversations with Eleanor Roosevelt.
At $514,000 per year, she has the priciest local (Manhattan) office of any senator. And the National Enquirer says Hillary has exiled Bill from their Washington house - reporting she has told friends, "It makes my skin crawl at the thought of him touching me again."
So Bill is back and ready for action.
The celebrity/statesman prefers fund-raising, but with this guy you never know. He hopes to promote racial reconciliation, always a worthy ambition. He also hopes to combat AIDS, but his personal history might suggest that given 1) his operating definition of sex and 2) the major role certain sex can play in the spread of AIDS, the Big Creep (Monica Lewinsky's term of endearment for him) is a walking, talking oxymoron.
At 54, Bill is likely to be with us for a long time, paddling around the periphery, fund-raising for his favorite causes and making ideological mischief. Jimmy Carter had a better idea. He found himself a hammer.
Bill Clinton may well not get his due until he meets St. Peter. This one making the rounds suggests how the final conversation might go:
Clinton: "Yo, St. Peter. I'd like to come in."
St. Peter: "Sure, but first you have to confess your sins. What bad things have you done in your life?"
Clinton: "Well, I tried marijuana, but you can't call it dope-smoking because I didn't inhale. There were inappropriate extra-marital relations, but you can't call it adultery because I didn't have full sexual relations. And I made some statements that were misleading yet legally accurate, but you can't call it bearing false witness because it didn't meet either the legal standard for perjury or my definition of (ital) is (end ital)."
St. Peter: "Let's see what the Book of Life says. ... OK, here's the deal. We'll send you somewhere hot, but we won't call it Hell. You'll be there indefinitely, but we won't call it eternity. And when you enter, you don't have to abandon all hope, but I wouldn't advise holding your breath waiting for it to freeze over."