- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 4, 2000

William Jefferson Clinton is poised on the cusp of reinvention. His days at the White House are numbered, his future uncertain. A new possibility surfaced yesterday, though.

Mr. Clinton might consider a run for Congress down in Arkansas after he leaves office.

That was the coy implication, anyway, in a chat between Mr. Clinton and NBC's Katie Couric that aired yesterday morning.

Would the president consider pulling "a John Quincy Adams and run for Congress in Arkansas?" Miss Couric asked.

"I think having one person in my family in Congress at a time is probably quite enough, although it might be I might get to see her more if I did that," Mr. Clinton allowed.

"That might be something I ought to think about," he said.

The notion drew some mixed reactions back home.

Folks at Doe's Eat Place in Little Rock a longtime Clinton favorite famed for its jalapeno cheeseburger had not heard the news that President Clinton might consider becoming Rep. Clinton.

They were, in fact, quite mum about the whole thing, though one anonymous feminine voice emerged from the clatter of luncheon china to state, "He won't stand a chance."

"I don't see him running for Congress," said Vaughn McQuary, director of the Arkansas Democratic Party. "We've already got a perfectly good incumbent in Vic Snyder."

"I thought he was a resident of New York," said Chris Carnahan, director of the Arkansas Republican Party.

Mr. Clinton would have a fund-raising base to tap, Mr. Carnahan said. But local support?

He doubts Mr. Clinton's prowess after he "aired a bunch of dirty laundry" and fell short of political patronage benefits that Arkansas residents expected once he was in the White House.

"He's really done nothing for the state but bring dishonor on it," Mr. Carnahan said.

Arkansas State Rep. Sandra Rogers, a Democrat who lives in Hope the president's proverbial home town still believes in Bill Clinton.

"He remains a brilliant man," Mrs. Rogers said. "He still has genuine compassion for people because he was born into rural Arkansas. And if you're from the South, you know what I'm talking about."

But the idea of Mr. Clinton in Congress gave Mrs. Rogers pause.

"Where do you go after you've been president?" she mused. "Can you drop down and be in Congress?"

Time has marched on down in Arkansas.

Republican political strategist Ed Gillespie thinks Mr. Clinton would be "hard-pressed to beat an incumbent down there. [Republican Reps.] Jay Dickey and Asa Hutchinson are very well-respected in their districts. My guess is the people of Arkansas are comfortable with their representatives."

Mr. Gillespie said the ex-president would have problems running a congressional campaign based on issues, rather than his personality.

"He would become the issue. The constituents would end up being second or third," he said.

Mr. Clinton, however, still has a very strong sense of history. In yesterday's interview, he said he admired America's sixth president for setting a precedent in the 19th century.

After leaving the White House in 1829, John Quincy Adams was elected congressman from Massachusetts and served 17 years. He suffered a stroke while speaking on the House floor and died two days later at the age of 80, known, affectionately, as "Old Man Eloquent."

Adams' persistence appeals to Mr. Clinton, who is determined to lead a "useful" life out of office.

"He's one of my heroes for an ex-president," Mr. Clinton said yesterday. "He is reported to have said that there's nothing as pathetic in life as an ex-president. But he turned out to be wrong about himself. He served eight terms in Congress."

Many have pondered Mr. Clinton's future; some have suggested he become a professor, speaker, diplomat or media mogul of sorts, courtesy of his chums out in Hollywood.

A congressional seat, however, has not been on the short list. The notion, however, has interesting implications.

Mr. Clinton would return to Arkansas and forgo a permanent roost in Chappaqua, N.Y., with his wife, New York Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Mr. Clinton remained breezy in his interview which was actually taped at the White House 10 days ago and aired in four parts.

Yesterday, we learned that Mr. Clinton intended to "enjoy every day" and was "looking forward to kind of creating another life for myself."

He has hobbies and pursuits, he said. He likes to travel, wants to work on his presidential library and admires former Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter.

And Mr. Clinton may have a showman's smarts about his political career after all.

"Something like this that has a beginning has to have an end," he said. "The reason it's a great democracy is that nobody gets to stay forever. And the reason it works is that no one is irreplaceable."

David Boyer contributed to this report.

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