The First Family: No Home Base
Clinton's lack of a home of his own leads to controversy
By John King/CNN
MARTHA'S VINEYARD, Mass. (AllPolitics Aug. 20) -- President Bill Clinton often jokes that he's the country's best-known resident of public housing. But when he leaves the White House for vacation, Clinton isn't as predictable as some of his predecessors.
When Ronald Reagan needed a vacation, he retreated to his California ranch, nicknamed "the Western White House."
And George Bush ran off to his oceanside home in Maine, often inviting other world leaders to join him.
But Bill Clinton doesn't own a home -- vacation or otherwise. So he relies on the hospitality of friends, like Boston developer Richard Friedman.
Clinton is spending three weeks -- free of charge -- at Friedman's 20-acre oyster pond retreat, enjoying some reading time in a guest cottage and walks on the grounds with daughter Chelsea. "I've had a wonderful time here," Clinton told the press yesterday.
Friedman is a Democratic Party contributor who once spent a night in the Lincoln Bedroom at Clinton's invitation.
Ethics watchdogs object because Friedman often needs federal approval for his projects, including a controversial hotel plan for Boston's City Hall Plaza.
Charles Lewis, of the Center for Public Integrity, says, "It looks as though this real-estate developer is trying to take advantage of the president of the United States and the federal government because of his friendship with the president."
The federal official reviewing the Boston project says Friedman brags of his political influence. But he tells CNN Friedman has never mentioned Clinton and that he has never been contacted by the White House about the project.
Aides say Clinton, who's been a guest of Friedman three times, likes the island's golf and other recreation opportunities -- like today's boat trip with Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy.
The White House says there's nothing wrong with the First Family accepting accommodations, like these, worth $15,000 or more.
White House press secretary Mike McCurry said, "Just because someone has some issue pending before the federal government doesn't rule him out as someone who can grant an act of hospitality to the president of the United States."
Some veteran Washington watchers agree, and think Clinton's critics should lighten up. Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution says, "There's nothing in the Constitution that says you have to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth and you have to have a compound."
For now, Clinton has to worry about where to stay only when he wants a vacation. He has nearly three-and-a-half years left on his Wh