Bill Clinton's Aide, Now in the Story
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Who is this guy?
Velcroed to a very agitated Bill Clinton as he ripped into a TV reporter not long ago was a pale, silent gentleman with prematurely thinning hair. He could have been any political voyeur witnessing a campaign train wreck -- except, from a different vantage point, you might have seen him place his hand on the former president's back, trying to calm him down.
As Clinton challenged the reporter's questions over caucus rules, growing redder with every salvo, the tall man never strayed from the center of the picture frame. Since that confrontation in Oakland, Calif., last month, the video has been viewed nearly 800,000 times in various versions on YouTube . But the hovering mute in the khaki suit is never identified.
This is a good thing: Any experienced political "body man" knows not to become part of the story.
For more than a decade, Douglas Band has tried to hold fast to the rules of his trade: Stay close to the client from morning until night, guard all roads (and all phones) to the client and keep your mouth shut. Band has been glued to Clinton's side throughout these tense days as the former president campaigns relentlessly for his wife throughout Texas and Ohio in what is widely viewed as her last chance to stem Barack Obama's momentum.
Since Band's client in this case is one of the most complex, volatile and influential men in American politics, Band has had his hands full. Yet he has succeeded in elevating the historically low-level position to a globe-trotting post-presidency career of high finance, international access and Hollywood intrigue. Today, as counselor to the president, he is among his closest advisers.
Along the way, the former White House intern earned a master's and a law degree at night, dated model Naomi Campbell and married a successful businesswoman and handbag designer, Lily Rafii, in elaborate Paris nuptials that have been the talk of Clintonville. "I'd never been to a wedding with fireworks," reported one satisfied guest.
Still, for all this apparent sizzle, Band, 35, managed all these years to operate below the media radar -- a remarkable feat in a political organization not known for its discretion. He had never been profiled by the media -- and he is never quoted. He declined to speak for the record for this article.
But, as everyone in the Clintons' orbit comes to learn, life with Bill is anything but private. Band's moment came last fall when the Wall Street Journal wrote about his role in brokering a messy $100 million real estate deal involving a young Italian businessman, Clinton's California buddy Ron Burkle and Michael Cooper, a Canadian contributor to Clinton's foundation. The Italian, Raffaello Follieri, was looking for partners to join him in buying and developing land owned by the Vatican. He also said he could help Hillary Clinton with Catholic voters, according to the Journal. Band hooked him up.
Burkle has since sued Follieri for "misappropriating" his investment to support a high life of expensive dinners and private jets. (Follieri has been linked romantically with the actress Anne Hathaway.) The publicity was embarrassing for Clinton and Band, who were advisers to Burkle's company, Yucaipa, before recently severing business ties to avoid questions about Clinton's financial dealings in the middle of his wife's campaign; both Clinton and Band stand to receive generous financial settlements.
The story for the first time turned a spotlight on Band and his increasingly complex relationship with Clinton. It is safe to say he is now on the radar screen.
As essential as Band may be -- Clinton has said he "could not get through the day" without him -- there are those in Hillary Clinton's camp who have not been so satisfied with his performance at times. They point to the business deal and Clinton's tirade in Oakland as being emblematic of a broader problem, and refer to Band privately as an "enabler" for the notoriously undisciplined politician.