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Jimmy Buffett sings for Clinton

WASHINGTON (CNN ) -- Reprising one of the high points of then-Gov. Bill Clinton's run for the presidency, Jimmy Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band serenaded President Clinton on the White House South Lawn Friday -- a belated birthday gift from Chief of Staff John Podesta.

Buffett and his band played for candidate Clinton in Florida in 1992, an event Maria Echaveste, one the president's top advisers, described as a highlight of that victorious campaign.


With stealth and secrecy, White House staffers smuggled Buffett and his band onto the White House grounds for the concert, which began about 1 p.m. EDT, shortly before Mr. Clinton was to fly for a weekend trip to Nigeria and Tanzania.

The press corps was excluded from the party and no cameras captured Buffett, his band, the president or any of the assembled 200 staffers. Buffett sang "Happy Birthday," his signature song "Margaritaville," and other standards. Mr. Clinton turned 54 on August 19.

"The only song the young staffers seemed to recognize was Margaritaville," said Echaveste, who provided details of the party to CNN.

White House Chief of Staff John Podesta also playfully gave Mr. Clinton a "charts and pointer" briefing on how to adjust to life as a private citizen after his presidency. Unsure of what to give a man who has been president for nearly eight years, Podesta settled on what he called a "gift of knowledge."

The seminar was meant to gradually reacquaint the president with some of the fundamentals of civilian life.

Podesta's first topic: red lights.

"Red means stop, yellow means slow down, green means go -- except when driving in New York, yellow actually means hit the gas."

Podesta then explained the president will no longer receive news clippings from several of the nation's leading newspapers. As a result, Podesta said the president would have to plow through newspapers, dropping a stack of papers before the president to illustrate the task ahead.

Then came the chart of fast-food options. Podesta showed the president how to order from a Chinese take-out menu. Then he walked the president through McDonald's nutritional guidelines, showing that a nine-piece order of chicken McNuggets with large fries contains twice the fat as two Big Macs.

Podesta then showed a picture of a commercial airline boarding pass.

"You actually need one of these to get on the airplane," Podesta said.

Finally, Podesta pointed to the time listed on the boarding pass, reminding the chronically late chief executive: "You see this time. You actually need to be there by this time."

The president laughed throughout Podesta's presentation, but the message on punctuality was utterly lost. Mr. Clinton boarded Marine One for his trip to Nigeria 55 minutes after his scheduled departure.


Friday, August 25, 2000


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