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EDITIONS
Friday, 4 October, 2002, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Bill Clinton: What Bill did next
Bill Clinton

Leaving any job can be disorientating. But what do you do after eight years as president of the United States? Bill Clinton has been finding out about life after the Oval Office.
Twenty one months after leaving office, he is still The Player.

Rolling into town like a latter-day gunslinger, Bill Clinton brought a little bit of Hollywood glamour to the Labour Party conference at Blackpool.

His magisterial rhetorical performance, coupled with his customary charm, wowed the audience and provided his old buddy, Tony Blair, with crucial support over the Iraq question.

But Clinton's appearance begs the question: what does one do after relinquishing the presidency? How does one define a new role after one's political sell-by date has passed?

Clinton at the Labour Party Conference
Bill Clinton - Arkansas Constituency Labour Party
Different presidents take different roads when they leave the White House. Some, like Ronald Reagan , Lyndon Johnson and Harry S Truman - "The 'S' stands for nothing, just like him," quipped a political enemy - slip into retirement and fade from the scene.

Others, like Jimmy Carter, carve out new roles as peacemakers and conciliators.

And those with reputations to salvage, most notably Richard Nixon, brood, write their version of history, and try to convince the world that they were right after all.

Clinton's most pressing problem after vacating 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was financial. Legal fees, for the Whitewater and Lewinsky investigations and other cases involving Paula Jones et.al., added up to a figure approaching $5 million.

Record Memoirs

With the upkeep of two houses - a townhouse on Embassy Row in Washington and a $1.7 million mansion in Chappaqua, New York - his presidential pension, of $158,100 a year, would hardly cover the interest on his debts.

But the 42nd president has taken to the task of money-making with typical gusto. In the past two years, he has delivered more than 200 speeches, on all five continents. At up to $300,000 a time, Clinton's bank balance is now firmly back in the black.

Monica Lewinsky
His affair with Monica Lewinsky cost him dear - literally
If that wasn't enough, there is also the record-breaking $12 million advance on his memoirs - still in an embryonic state - due for publication in the autumn of 2003.

The book, the writing of which has been hampered by Clinton's jet-setting lifestyle and a lack of contemporaneous information - none of his White House staff gave interviews upon leaving for fear of being subpoenaed - will probably be as noteworthy for what it leaves out as what it includes.

But, at the age of 56, Bill Clinton is still healthy, still vital, still a political animal from head to toe. Only Teddy Roosevelt was younger when he left the Oval Office, and Clinton is said to have lost none of his appetite for politics and to relish an opportunity to serve his country.

Indeed, he recently claimed, "I hope within five years to be in public service full time."

Biding his time

Unlike Roosevelt, though, he cannot run for the presidency a third time. The only way the Comeback Kid could make it back to the White House would be as the First Gentleman to President Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose career, as a senator for New York, he supports with all his customary flair.

Clinton with daughter Chelsea
He regularly visits Chelsea in Oxford
Besides this, as a self-confessed liar, former serial philanderer and an icon of the Democratic Party in a new and shiny Republican world, Slick Willie will probably have to bide his time before his country's call finally comes.

Mindful of his legacy, he told one interviewer, "the biggest wounds are self-inflicted."

When not travelling, Clinton takes life easy. He plays the occasional game of golf, hangs out with old friends like Jack Nicholson, Kevin Spacey and Anthony Hopkins, runs a lively office in Harlem and dotes on his daughter, Chelsea, whom he often visits at Oxford University.

His power now gone, Clinton continues to wield huge influence. Many of his ideological soul-mates, including Tony Blair and the Canadian prime minister, Jean Chrétien, regularly consult Clinton about the Big Idea: the fabled Third Way which re-defines traditional social democracy for a post-industrial age.

Once the biggest beast in the jungle, Bill Clinton's roar is again being heard. How long before this battle-scarred political leviathan finally returns, to face new challenges, and old demons, once again?


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