One of the odd but endearing things about American politics are those tableaus where the combatants periodically step out of the ring and acknowldge that it’s at least partially a big, fat show. Can you picture Hamid Karzai unveiling a portrait of Mullah Omar?
- For a moment in the White House on Monday morning, it seemed like a political mirage: President Bush and Bill Clinton, joking as they walked together into the East Room, then spending the next 20 minutes effusively praising each other.
But the even stranger sight was the audience, the men and women who make up Senator John Kerry’s brain trust, almost all of them veterans of the Clinton era who have not set foot in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for three years, four months and 24 days, vigorously applauding the sitting president they are desperately trying to ride out of town.
Peace finally broke out this morning – well, a truce that ended after lunch – between two administrations that make no secret of how viscerally they dislike each other. The brief lull in the street fighting permitted the unveiling of the official White House portraits of Mr. Clinton and his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton – which will now, by tradition, occupy the places where portraits of Mr. Bush’s father and mother now hang.
Graciousness oozed from all sides. Mr. Bush praised his predecessor – upon whom he bestowed the honorific nickname “42” to mark an eight-year interregnum between Bushes – as a man “with far-ranging knowledge of public policy, a great compassion for people in need, and the forward-looking spirit the Americans like in a president.” He offered up an advance plug for Mr. Clinton’s memoir.
His face reddening, his eye tearing a bit, Mr. Clinton returned the compliment, saying: “I had mixed feelings coming here today, and they were only confirmed by all those kind and generous things you’ve said. Made me feel like I was a pickle stepping into history.”
….The Bush administration said it believed this was the first time that Mr. Clinton had returned to the White House since he left on Jan. 20, 2001, having just issued a slew of midnight pardons over the advice of his own top aides. His wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, has been back many times, for official events. And on Monday Mr. Bush had kind words for her, as well.
“Listen, New York politics is serious business,” Mr. Bush said to laughs. “It’s rough business. It takes an extraordinary person to campaign and win the United States Senate. She has proven herself more equal than – to the challenge.”
….Chelsea Clinton .. smiled when Mr. Bush said, “The fact that you survived your teenage years in the White House speaks to the fact you had a great mom and dad.”
….Mr. Bush’s graciousness today was hardly surprising. He remembers well, his aides say, Mr. Clinton’s equally charitable comments about 41, the senior President Bush, when his portrait was unveiled nearly a decade ago. Ms. Cahill recalled that ceremony as a “similarly nonpartisan, historical moment” and said “and everyone rose to the occasion.” [NY Times]
Amid concerns that Bill Clinton makes John Kerry look like a bloodless cadaver, he has canceled plans for a book signing at the Democratic National Convention in July:
- ”My Life,” Clinton’s 957-page autobiography, will appear in stores on June 22, with 1.5 million copies printed. Representatives of the Clintons talked about hosting a signing party at the State Room, the 33rd-floor ballroom at Sixty State Street formerly known as the Bay Tower Room, said Elaine Twombly, director of catering and sales manager at the State Room, but the idea was ultimately dropped.
Currently there is a party at the State Room organized by friends of the Clintons, which the Clintons are expected to attend during the DNC, but signing books is not part of it, Twombly said.
….Clinton’s book has been selling well in preorder at stores and on the Internet.
At Amazon.com, the book is already selling seven times as many preorders as Rodham Clinton’s autobiography, said Kristin Mariani, spokeswoman for Amazon.com. The book is also the highest ever preorder title in the biography and memoirs category on Amazon, Mariani added. [Boston Globe]
- Starting at midday on Friday, Time Warner Inc.’s AOL.com will offer audio excerpts of the book as read aloud by Clinton, and Infinity Broadcasting Corp. will air excerpts on the radio.
“We love them,” AOL Executive Vice President for Programing Jim Bankoff said of the excerpts, which he said the online company obtained in a “cashless exchange.”
He would not reveal clues about the excerpts’ content, except to say, “It’s a nice assortment.”
Clinton has said the memoirs are broken into two parts — one ranging from his childhood to his election as president in 1992, and the second covering the White House years — the last term of which was dominated by the sex scandal involving the president and White House intern Monica Lewinsky and impeachment. Clinton, only the second president to face an impeachment trial in Congress, was acquitted by the Senate.
AOL expects “tens of millions” of people to listen to the excerpts or a question-and-answer session with Clinton next week.
Clinton’s first print interview in connection with the book reportedly has gone to Time magazine, said a spokesman for the book’s publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Bertelsmann AG’s Random House unit. Time hits newsstands on Monday but is typically released to the media on Sunday.
….Clinton will appear in bookstores in New York on Tuesday to autograph copies of the book. Once it is released, Clinton is set to appear in interviews with Oprah Winfrey (news), NBC’s “Today” show and ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Next Thursday, for anyone still curious, Clinton will answer questions in a Town Hall format broadcast online by AOL online and by Infinity on radio.
“We’re looking forward to next week,” said Knopf spokesman Paul Bogaards. [Reuters]
So is Bill, I’m sure: he’s back in campaign mode.
And, extending the Clinton media blitz into film, The Hunting of the President has been turned into a documentary:
- The 90-minute documentary re-creates interviews conducted for the best-selling book of the same name by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons. Rough versions have already played at four film festivals.
The first public showing, at $50 a ticket – with the proceeds going to a couple of Arkansas-based charities – drew a large crowd to a ballroom at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock, a short walk from where Clinton celebrated his two presidential election victories. It is also next door to the Peabody Hotel, formerly the Excelsior, where Clinton accuser Paula Jones said he harassed her when he was governor.
Attendees included Susan McDougal, who went to jail rather than cooperate with Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr; retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who sought the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination this year; and former Arkansas Sen. David Pryor.
During the film’s showing, appearances by Starr on the screen drew boos and hisses from the crowd, while Jones’ image produced laughter.
Afterward, McDougal, who plays a large part in the film, got a standing ovation when she was called to the stage.
….Producer Harry Thomason, one of Clinton’s good friends, said Tuesday that he read the book in 2001 and thought it would make a good movie, but he had a hard time digging up money to produce it.
“I thought this is a good yarn – there are villains, there are good guys,” Thomason said. “But every place I went to finance the movie, nobody wanted to touch it. They said, ‘It’s been eight years, there’s a new president, nobody wants to hear anything about (the Clinton) administration.”
….The film purports to uncover a right-wing manipulation of the media, which Thomason says began with President Nixon’s call to counter liberal messages in the 1970s.
Oscar-nominated actor Morgan Freeman is the film’s narrator. [AP]
Sounds like after a period of laying low – which allowed Hilary to establish herself as politician, personality and author – the time has come for a concerted effort to rebuild the former president’s reputation. Will this interfere with Kerry’s campaign? I’ll let you know in November.