Clinton Swansong plays to different tune

ANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – In Auckland last year, Bill Clinton could hardly move without feeling the beady eyes of his mother-in-law tracking his every move.

The Clinton women: wife Hillary, daughter Chelsea and mother-in-law Dorothy Rodham, were not about to risk another bimbo eruption.

Hillary Rodham Clinton – stepping up her campaign to run for a seat in the US Senate – chose to stay home, rather than trek down to New Zealand for the Apec leaders’ meeting.

Chelsea stepped in as her father’s official partner. Despatched by her daughter to chaperone Chelsea, Mrs Rodham’s unofficial role was clear: make sure that nothing happens to undermine Hillary’s own political career.

The impeachment, the Lewinsky Affair and the many women who came forward alleging Mr Clinton had come on to them, was still fresh in the public mind.

Said Mrs Rodham sen: “He’s a hard dog to keep on the porch.”

It is a sign of Mr Clinton’s growing irrelevance to US politics – and, arguably, to his wife’s career, that neither Hillary Clinton nor her mother bothered to join him in Brunei on his Apec swansong.

Chelsea – seeming much more assured than in Auckland a year ago – is again the official accompanying partner. Hillary Clinton was, however, politically astute enough to join her husband on his subsequent visit to Vietnam – the first state visit there by a US President since the Vietnam War.

Like China’s Jiang Zemin, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and a range of political leaders from the 21 Asia Pacific nations in Apec, the US President was allocated a breathtaking mini-palace of his own in which to reside.

Rumours that Mr Clinton would stay at the 162ha Empire Hotel and Country Club, Brunei’s only beachfront resort, with a top suite costing $45,000 a night, were quickly quashed. The opulent resort on Jerudong Beach is a seriously extravagant building in a country laden with homages to the pursuit of Mammon.

The palatial hotel has an 80m-high atrium, built with Italian marble, and 24-carat gold inlays in the wall panels. The complex boasts a Jack Nicklaus golf course, a bowling alley, theatre and cinema as well as two huge swimming pools. The Empire was built by the Sultan’s playboy brother, Prince Jefri Bolkiah.

But well before Mr Clinton arrived in Brunei, Prince Jefri had been pushed off the scene for profligate spending as head of the Brunei Investment Agency.

Two of his private jets had been handed back to liquidators, his yacht called Tits, his speedboats – Nipple 1 and Nipple 2 – had disappeared, and the revolving door of starlets and concubines had stopped.

All that Mr Clinton would take home from this summit was an 18-carat gold brooch studded with three red ruby stones, the standard gift which the Sultan dished out to all the political leaders.

But political lame duck or not, Mr Clinton still exudes charisma. Inevitably, he faced questions over his own future. As a still-young man – just 53 – there is plenty of room for a new career once either George Bush jun or Al Gore is officially inaugurated.

When Mr Clinton became Governor of his home state, Arkansas, Hillary took on the role of family breadwinner. As a partner in Little Rock’s most prestigious law firm, her earnings supplemented his own more modest salary as chief executive for the state.

Mr Clinton’s wry comment: “Now that I have a United States senator to support – that’s an expensive proposition.”

Mr Clinton has his official presidential library to build. He has been offered sky-high sums to write his own biography on the Clinton Years – in the mould of former British Prime Minister Baroness Margaret Thatcher.

On his own behalf, he told business leaders he still wanted to be a “useful citizen of both my country and the world” and “pursue efforts to make the world a better place.”

“The United States can only have one President at a time” – but, “I’ll be around.”

Sayonara, Bill.

  • This NZ Herald column is republished courtesy of APN NZ.

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