Former president Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) took seats onstage during a surprise appearance Saturday night at the second installment of the Rev. Billy Graham's three-day crusade in New York, which the 86-year-old evangelist has suggested could be his last. The full-page newspaper ads in the city say, "Billy Graham. New York. One More Time."
Graham's staff says he has prayed with all 10 presidents starting with Dwight Eisenhower and has known all of them except Eisenhower before they became president. Graham, who has appeared 47 times on the Gallup poll's annual list of 10 most admired men in the world, has participated in eight of the past 10 inaugurations.
The senator did not speak, but Graham called on the former president, who grasped the evangelist's forearm as he spoke. "What an honor it is for me to be here, as a person of faith, with a man I love and whom I have followed," Clinton said at a vast park near Shea Stadium. "He is about the only person I have ever known whom I have never seen fail to live his faith."
Clinton recalled the time that Graham had refused to speak before a segregated crowd in Arkansas during the fight over school desegregation. "I was just a little boy, and I'll never forget it," Clinton said. "I've loved him ever since."
Graham drew a big laugh from the former president -- who theatrically buried his face in his lap, then threw his head back and closed his eyes with mirth -- when he recalled once saying that Clinton should become an evangelist "and leave his wife to run the country."
"Because he has all the gifts," said Graham, who used a walker but spoke in a strong voice. Graham was effusive about both Clintons, returning to them after the altar call and telling the crowd, "I love them both with all my heart."
It was a subtle reminder of a less divisive time in politics, when Graham's more bipartisan approach was the public face of evangelical Christianity. Graham -- speaking from an outline, without a script or prompter -- used a specially built pulpit that allowed him to sit if he needed to, but he was able to remain standing through the 20-minute sermon. He promised that God will "bring a peace and joy to your heart that you've never known" and will "fill the void that's in your heart."
The three-day crusade drew 230,000 people in the first two days, resulting in 8,282 commitments to Christ, according to Graham's aides.
Graham teased last night's crowd by saying he hopes "to come back again someday."
Swift Rewards for Pickens
T. Boone Pickens, the oilman who gave $1 million to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's assault on the presidential campaign of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), is feeling the Republican love. Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) has introduced a bill to name the post office in Holdenville, Okla. -- birthplace of the longtime Bush-family backer -- the "Boone Pickens Post Office." Inhofe said in a statement that Pickens "emulates the Oklahoma spirit of hard work, entrepreneurship and," ahem, "philanthropy."
Aspiring Politico Blair?
Euan Blair, 21, the eldest son of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, will intern for three months next year in the office of House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.), according to a GOP aide. The unpaid assignment was reported yesterday by the Sunday Telegraph of London under the headline, "Is Euan incredibly bright? Or is his coveted intern job in Washington a result of being incredibly well-connected?"
Young Blair also plans to intern in the office of Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, according to diplomatic sources.
"Trash for cash."
-- Philippe Reines, press secretary to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), giving some variation of his response to the Edward Klein book, "The Truth About Hillary," that was quoted in 34 articles in 17 days, the Nexis database shows.