Bill Clinton's desire for Washington knows no bounds


President Bill Clinton waves to the crowd after speaking during the West Texas A&M Distinguished Lecture Series last month. (Michael Norris / Amarillo Globe-News/AP)

Edward Klein’s new book, “The Amateur,” says Bill was so unimpressed by Obama that he strongly urged Hillary to leave her post as secretary of state and run against him, according to the New York Post. On Friday, the Clintons and the White House closed ranks, dismissing the information as fictional, created in order to sell books. Klein is also the author of “The Truth About Hillary,” which also came under fire.

Of course, the denials are as unsurprising as the “news” itself. Did we expect anything else? But among Clintonites, it has been no secret that they — and especially Bill — would prefer Hillary to Obama. It’s also no surprise that Bill wanted Hillary to ditch Obama and run against him this year. But Hillary isn’t that kind of person.

Those who have known her for years in Arkansas always say she is — ultimately — grounded in her Methodist faith. She is loyal to a fault, I’ve been told repeatedly, and a woman of her word. That was obvious when she stood by Bill during the Monica Lewinsky and impeachment scandal.

As I wrote in January, Bill was instrumental in pushing the Hillary-as-veep rumor to anyone who would listen. Last year, the Clintons — all three of them — looked like a first family when they attended a bridge dedication in Little Rock, Ark., near the William J. Clinton Presidential Center. But it’s Bill, say friends, and not Hillary, who misses the limelight. She gets plenty. He has to seek it out more these days.

While he has his Clinton Global Initiative, Bill — let’s face it — is a retired politician. He has said himself that he thought presidents should be allowed to run for a third time if they took time off between the second and third terms.

“I’ve always thought that should be the rule,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in 2011. “I think as a practical matter, you couldn’t apply this to anyone who has already served, but going forward, I personally believe that should be the rule.”

Obviously, the White House was more on his mind than playing golf and relaxing like a proper retiree.

He so loved the blood sport of politics that he couldn’t help injecting himself deeply in Hillary’s 2008 campaign. In fact, many pundits think it was his actions and words that cost Hillary the nomination. He overshadowed her at times. He went so far as to even lash out at the late senator Edward Kennedy for endorsing Obama over Hillary.

Wealthy friends and admirers can only feed Bill’s ego so long. He itches to be involved in shaping the world in a way that goes beyond philanthropy. One Clinton confidant told me that he thrives on his foundation’s initiatives but it’s not as satisfying as the game of politics and policy. He misses the Oval Office.

What must he have been thinking when Hillary told him after the fact about Osama Bin Laden’s death? He likely thought “I wish that had been me in the Situation Room.”

Students at his Clinton School for Public Service in Little Rock wish he would come and teach some courses to them. When the school was in its planning phase, talk often centered on Bill lecturing. So far, that hasn’t happened. He doesn’t visit often.

In Klein’s book, he writes that Hillary said, “I’m the highest-ranking member in Obama’s Cabinet. I eat breakfast with the guy every Thursday morning. What about loyalty, Bill? What about loyalty?”

“Loyalty is a joke,’’ Bill shot back. “Loyalty doesn’t exist in politics.”

That part is hard to believe, because it doesn’t sound like Bill. Without loyalty all of these years, the Clintons would have never gotten to the pinnacle of politics. As Philip Seymour Hoffman’s politico character in the movie “Ides of March” — ever so Clintonesque — told Ryan Gosling’s character: “There’s only one thing I value in this world, Steve, and that’s loyalty. Without it you’re nothing and you have no one. And in politics it’s the only currency that you can count on.”

Bill and Hillary believe that. But Bill’s desire for Washington knows no bounds. That’s why he can’t stop thinking about tomorrow, and in his mind, his tomorrow still includes getting back the keys to the White House.

Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker

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