The fullest picture yet of President Clinton's plans after he leaves the White House has emerged in recent days, suggesting a highly ambitious agenda that will have him shaping a new graduate program at the University of Arkansas, establishing a public-sector fellowship program for top executives and overseeing a busy public policy center.
After spending virtually all his working life in public office, sources familiar with the president's plans said Clinton also intends to earn large sums of money by delivering speeches at up to $125,000 per appearance and possibly by serving as a consultant to the investment banking industry. At least half his time, sources say, will be spent in his home state of Arkansas--a place his wife may visit only infrequently if she wins her U.S. Senate race in New York.
In public speeches and in private conversations with friends and associates, the president has begun dribbling out details of his heretofore little-known ambitions. His post-White House plans have been a source of intrigue and rumor for years, in part because Clinton, now 53, will rank among the youngest ex-presidents ever.
The most ambitious component of his life after Washington will likely involve the "Clinton Center" in Little Rock, a policy foundation he says will tackle some of the world's thorniest problems, such as ending racial and ethnic hostilities.
Alongside the center will be a new graduate program in public policy affiliated with the University of Arkansas that will bear Clinton's name and imprimatur. The program, like his new home and presidential library, will be located in a 27-acre complex in downtown Little Rock being financed by a $125 million fund-raising drive that's about to hit full speed.
Citing as a model Jimmy Carter--whose humanitarian efforts generally draw better reviews than did his presidency--Clinton has outlined hopes that border on the grandiose.
"I want to bring here people from Northern Ireland and the Middle East and Bosnia and Kosovo . . . to help to bridge the racial and other divides in our society and throughout the world," he said in a recent speech.
But Clinton has told associates--and suggested in recent public remarks--that he won't always be working for free. He has offered few public details, but said in a television interview last month with Fox News: "I've got to make some money for my family and take care of them, and I want to do what I can as quickly as I can to do that."
Associates say his ideas include not only business consulting and speechmaking, but also writing one or more books. A presidential memoir is virtually certain, they say, and some predict he'll also tackle big subjects such as international relations or ethnic divisions, a topic he often raises.
"I think he undoubtedly will do paid speeches, here and abroad," said a colleague familiar with the president's thinking. "He probably can command fees between $80,000 and $125,000, depending on the audience."
Ronald Reagan revealed a former president's potential earning power when he collected $2 million for a handful of speeches in Japan shortly after leaving office in 1989. Clinton's financial picture could brighten even more dramatically if his lawyers prevail in an expected bid for government reimbursement of all or part of the $5 million he and his wife owe in legal fees, which stem from various investigations during his presidency.
Friends say Clinton has cemented few firm plans, but they contend there's little chance he will tie himself to any one time-consuming job, such as heading a corporation or university. They scoff at suggestions such as one floated recently that Clinton might succeed Jack Valenti as head of the Motion Picture Association of America.
Al From, who meets frequently with Clinton as president of the Democratic Leadership Council, said a busy public policy center such as the one being planned in Little Rock will suit Clinton's intended goals. "Clinton is a guy who always had the ability to combine the broad vision with the operational detail."
Once he leaves office in January 2001, at age 54, Clinton says he plans to divide his time between Little Rock, residing at an apartment or house that will be part of the presidential library and "Clinton Center" complex, and New York state, where he and Hillary Rodham Clinton recently bought a home. If Hillary Clinton wins her New York Senate race, she would presumably need to divide most of her time between Washington and New York.
At the graduate program, called the Clinton School, about two dozen students a year will earn master's degrees in public policy, following a wide-ranging curriculum that will include projects in other states and nations. Clinton hasn't talked much about the details, but he and his wife helped design the program, University of Arkansas officials say.
"I certainly hope he'll spend some time there, teach classes there," said Skip Rutherford, a long-time friend who heads the effort to build and finance the library complex.
Clinton gave the greatest public insight thus far to his future plans in a Dec. 10 speech in Little Rock. He said he wants to spend his life grappling with "big questions," such as, "How do you create good jobs and a clean environment? How do you leave behind the ethnic and religious hatreds" seen in U.S. hate crimes and African "tribal slaughters?"
"We could, in this state, in this place, become a beacon of hope for those kinds of people," he said. "We could train people in societies where these problems exist to get rid of them."
To finance such ambitions, Clinton is asking supporters to help raise the needed $125 million. The money would build at least three major structures--the library and museum, the policy center and the graduate school--and establish an endowment to finance operating costs for years to come, Rutherford said.
Another Clinton plan that has received little notice is the fellowship program he's modeling after one at the White House, in which a handful of executives--usually in their twenties or thirties--from various corporations spend a year working in the White House or for a Cabinet secretary. In the recent Little Rock speech, Clinton said: "I want to develop partnerships with corporations all across America to bring their young executives here [to Little Rock] to be in public service" without harming their climb up the corporate ladder."
"If every company of any size would establish a policy that every year, one or two or three people" would take a year to serve in local, state or federal government, he said, "and then come back to the company to continue that career, we could change the nature of government, the quality of the ideas, the quality of the work."
Former presidents have taken widely different approaches to retirement. Gerald R. Ford largely relaxes and plays golf; Carter has written several books and poured himself into diplomatic missions and charities such as Habitat for Humanity. While Clinton is almost certain to indulge in golf, he cites Carter as his chief role model.
In a Dec. 11 interview with CBS Radio, Clinton said: "I really admire what Jimmy Carter's done with his life . . . He has lived a life of service. And he has recognized that it is an incredible gift to have the chance to be president, and that when you have this gift for four or eight years . . . you can't just walk away from it and not at least make yourself available."