Sunny days are here again
On their vacation, the Clintons pass the torch: now it's Hillary
who can't rest
By Margaret Carlson
August 30, 1999
Web posted at: 12:00 p.m. EDT (1600 GMT)
The Clintons aren't like you and me. Their summers aren't like
ours either. While most of us go on holiday to get rested, they
go away to get ahead, attaching the word working to vacation as
readily as most of us hang out the mental GONE FISHING sign. The
big difference this year is that it's Hillary who is driving the
agenda, soaking the rich where the rich are soaking, hoping to
raise well over $1 million in 10 days.
First in Martha's Vineyard and then in the Hamptons, Hillary gave
up her listening tour for sweet-talking the chattering classes
out of whatever Clinton fatigue they might be feeling. In one
sold-out fund raiser, at the waterfront home of former Universal
Studios CEO Frank Biondi in Edgartown, she took in $250,000, as
her husband held court on the porch, urging everyone to join the
large crowd lined up for a photo with the candidate. It's hard to
know what angst he's experiencing inside, but the President is at
least making a good show of being ready to step aside and take on
"spouse of" status. "He eased right in to being the No. 2 person,
an opening act, not the headliner," said Harvard law professor
Alan Dershowitz. "And he looked more relaxed and happy than I've
ever seen him."
All signs point to a peaceful transfer of power, and why not?
Being the husband of the Senator from New York might enliven
postpresidential life: building a library, making money and
playing Gerald Ford golf could get dull. And, of course, it's a
way to make up for the trouble he's caused. "On my visit a year
ago," Hillary said at the Biondi event, "the last thing I
imagined is that I would be standing here asking for your help in
a run for the Senate." Indeed, a year ago some people didn't
imagine she would still be standing. Her face swollen behind dark
sunglasses, using Chelsea as a human shield between her and the
man who'd just been outed by a blue dress, she barely spoke to
anyone, least of all to him. There was no celebrity-clogged
birthday dinner, no golf, no singing Gershwin around the piano as
in years past. It was, officially, a "healing" vacation, broken
up by speeches asking for forgiveness. It looked like two weeks
of root canal.
By contrast, this year was party central. It started two hours
after the Clintons landed in Martha's Vineyard, with a 53rd
birthday party for the President given by First Friends Ann and
Vernon Jordan and featuring such Vineyard A-listers as the
Washington Post's Katharine Graham and Miramax co-chief Harvey
Weinstein. It continued last weekend in the Hamptons, where
Hurricane Hillary and her husband swept in on Saturday to be
feted by Robert De Niro and designer Vera Wang, among others.
Since there are no "real" people in the Hamptons, the working
part of Hillary's working vacation will be this week, when she
retreats to the Finger Lakes, where voters who don't use summer
as a verb are known to congregate. For months, Hillary debated
whether she should spend her entire vacation upstate and unchic
to convince Empire State voters that she's no carpetbagger.
Remember how former adviser Dick Morris persuaded the pair four
years ago to give up their beloved Vineyard because polling found
it insufficiently American? Enough with the sailboats and James
Taylor crooning You've Got a Friend, he told them. The swing
voter wanted to see the family on a horse, if not in a tent, and
nowhere near a Kennedy--so it was off to Wyoming.
Hillary decided to split the difference this year and have it all
ways, much like the politician she's married to. It seems to have
worked for her. After he sees Hillary's huge haul, Al Gore may
want to forget his distancing strategy and that stuff about
"inexcusable" behavior and quickly cozy up. There's gold in those
There are advantages for the President too in ceding the
spotlight and letting someone else gear up while you gear down.
In his birthday toast, Jordan said, "Mr. President, if you're 53
and you wake up and nothing hurts, then you're dead." Clinton
responded, "I'm not dead yet." Indeed, hurting is a way of life
for the Clintons. Survival, like their mutual ambition, welds
them together in a way that nothing can put asunder.
While survival for her means running for office, for the
lame-duck vacationer it means golf and reading. On his first day
of vacation, Clinton was seen carrying a new mystery, Cold Hit by
Linda Fairstein; by the time he left for the Hamptons, he had
read that and several others. There's a rocking chair in
Skaneateles with his name on it. Hillary will once again be fund
raising. The torch has been passed.
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Cover Date: September 6, 1999