ad info

 custom news
 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

CNN Websites
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines

 message boards



 TIME CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics with Congressional Quarterly

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)

TIME magazine

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 coattails.

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.


Cover Date: September 6, 1999

Search CNN/AllPolitics
          Enter keyword(s)       go    help

© 1999 Cable News Network, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.
Who we are.