Former president Bill Clinton, whose recuperation from heart surgery last month has been slower than he anticipated, will not make more than a few cameo appearances on behalf of Democratic nominee John F. Kerry, and even an abbreviated schedule is far from certain, friends and Democratic officials said.
Clinton has been recuperating from his Sept. 6 quadruple bypass surgery at his home in Chappaqua, N.Y., with a recovery regimen that has included mile-long walks. He has completed the walks but finds himself exhausted after each jaunt, friends said, and he remains in considerable pain from the chest incision.
His continued fatigue, combined with recommendations of caution from his physicians, means that a frenetic sprint of last-minute campaigning -- the kind of barnstorming that was the 58-year-old Clinton's signature during his own campaigns -- is out of the question, friends said. Kerry officials had hoped that Clinton might spend some of the closing weeks of the campaign on the Democratic nominee's plane, appearing arm in arm at rallies in swing states.
Kerry and Clinton are still hopeful that he can fulfill a more modest schedule, say campaign aides and friends of the former president. This would presumably include a small number of appearances in the days ahead of the Nov. 2 election to encourage turnout -- most likely in venues with highly sympathetic crowds, such as African American churches -- in such pivotal states as Ohio and Florida.
While several longtime Clinton aides said they would be surprised if a longtime campaigner can be kept away from the crowds if Kerry wants him there, Democratic National Committee Chairman Terence R. McAuliffe said people should not make any assumptions. "He wants to do everything he can, but he may or may not," said McAuliffe, a Clinton friend who talks regularly with him.
At the time of Clinton's diagnosis and surgery on Sept. 6, many of his former advisers -- several of whom are working in senior positions with the Kerry campaign -- were full of predictions about the ease with which patients can return to their routine after modern heart surgery. But a procedure that had Clinton unconscious for eight hours -- during part of which his heart was stopped and his body kept alive with a heart-lung machine -- is serious, and heart experts have warned that full recovery can be slow.
Clinton does not need to be out and about to be helpful to Kerry. He does intend to tape "robo-calls" -- taped-recorded messages that play when someone answers the phone -- and may also be able to give interviews on Kerry's behalf.
Clinton talks frequently with members of the Kerry campaign, including occasional conversations with the nominee, aides to both said.
The surgery has also led aides to edit Clinton's schedule next month, two weeks after the election, when his presidential library will open with three days of events and festivities in Little Rock.
Clinton plans to leave Chappaqua for Arkansas soon, to continue his recuperation and work on final plans for the library opening. This will allow limited campaign events in Arkansas, though polls have Bush, who won the state comfortably in 2000, with a solid lead there. This is the second presidential election that has left Clinton bridling on the sidelines; in 2000, then-Vice President Al Gore spurned most of Clinton's offers to help on the campaign trail.