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Monday, 21 May, 2001, 23:18 GMT 00:18 UK
Whatever happened to Bill Clinton?
Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton returns to Ireland to recapture the limelight
By Katty Kay in Washington

Former American President Bill Clinton is in Ireland and Britain this week, his first visit since leaving office in January.

At a golf course in County Kerry, Mr Clinton told a group of well-wishers that he keeps returning to Ireland because he loves it there.

It must also be a pleasant change to feel welcome somewhere.

A man and his dog

On his two foreign trips since leaving the White House, to India in April and now to Ireland, Bill Clinton has been met with warmth and enthusiasm.

Bill Clinton and Buddy
Hillary leaves Bill alone with his dog Buddy
Which is more than can be said for his reception at home.

The former president's aides - and there is still a loyal band of young devotees working for him in New York - reject suggestions that their boss is showing tendencies of becoming a hermit.

But the truth is he is rarely seen outside of his home in Chappaqua, New York.

Reports say the house is sparsely furnished, the fridge empty and the kitchen a student-style mishmash of different crockery.

Hillary Clinton spends most of her week down in Washington, leaving Bill alone with his dog Buddy.

Taint of scandal

A slew of scandals surrounded his departure from the White House and now it seems Bill Clinton is the man no one wants to know.

Like most past presidents, Mr Clinton had hoped to make some quick cash working the lucrative lecture circuit after he left the White House.

Bill Clinton
Mr Clinton is unwanted on the lecture circuit
But then the presidential pardons fiasco blew up in which Bill Clinton pardoned a notorious financial criminal on the day of leaving office.

Mr Clinton's name was abruptly dropped from America's list of desirable speakers.

At least 25 lecture engagements that were booked before the pardons scandal broke have since been cancelled.

On the few occasions that his lectures have gone ahead, demonstrators have inevitably flocked to the location with cries of "Jail to the Thief".

And even those corporations which have retained his services have faced public hand wringing over Mr Clinton's $100,000 fee.

Republicans have added their own criticism of Mr Clinton's style of government, comparing President Bush's orderly, punctual White House with the youthful, undisciplined era of Mr Clinton.

Still looking for a legacy

This is not the way it was meant to be.

Bill Clinton aspired to a post Presidential role of international statesman not unlike that played by former President Jimmy Carter.

Bill Clinton
Mr Clinton hoped to be an elder statesman
Certainly Mr Clinton's April trip to India to raise funds for earthquake victims was welcomed by aid agencies that said the publicity was useful.

This week's visit to Ireland and Britain takes Mr Clinton back to his days as peace broker. And there has also been talk of a trip to Africa later in the year.

But none of these visits has received much coverage in the American press and so far there has been no talk of dispatching Bill Clinton on missions of international urgency.

For a man who spent eight years in the White House obsessing over his legacy, Bill Clinton's immediate post Presidential career must come as a bitter disappointment.

But even now he has not lost his ability to charm.

In March, he gave a speech in Salem, Massachusetts, the famous town in which dozens of people were hunted down and killed as witches during the seventeenth century.

Mr Clinton began his remarks, joking, "I sort of identify with those witches at times."

See also:

21 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Row over Clinton's Derry visit
30 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
Clinton may get new peacemaker role
26 Feb 01 | Letter From America
The scandal of pardons and White House furniture
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