- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2000

Today's the longest day in the life of Bill Clinton.

For the first time in his adult life he can't vote for himself. All he can do is watch Al Gore drive his campaign to rest in the swamp, and grind his teeth in frustration.

Worst of all, the only Clinton he'll find on the ballot this morning is Hillary.

All those citizens who can't wait until Jan. 20, 2001 the folks that bitter Democratic idolaters call "Clinton haters" are getting a preview of just how miserable the president's life will be when he is no longer the center of anything.

He's trying to make it look reasonably good, but with Al Gore's campaign staggering toward the finish line the man who may or may not any longer believe in a place called Hope caught a ride late yesterday to a place called Chappaqua, which looks like not much fun to believe in.

He spent most of yesterday by himself in the Oval Office, quietly signing bills and pondering whether the telephone number he has for Monica is still good. Since Hillary was busy hundreds of miles away in upstate New York, practicing her Yiddish, it would have been a good day to haul out the humidor and repair to the pantry.

The presidential flunkies were vague about what else he might have been doing, other than mooning over lost possibilities, and they were vague about how he'll spend the day after he joins Hillary in a Westchester County polling booth. "I expect he'll spend the rest of the day secluded away from the press, hiding from all of you," Jake Siewert, a White House spokesman, said of Mr. Clinton's Election Day plans. No one can blame him for that.

The president poked his head out of his office only once, for a ceremony for the signing of debt relief legislation. Nothing cheers a Democratic president like signing away other people's money. He heaped effusive praise on somebody called Bono, an Irish rocker no kin to Sonny or Mary and who apparently lost his given name, for his "commitment to lowering the debt burden of poor nations."

He practiced feeling plain. "Next year," he said, "when I'm just Joe Citizen, I'll do my part."

The president pouted that it was Al Gore and not himself out there in the cloudy skies, flitting from Iowa to Tennessee to Florida in a frantic sleepless dash to the finish line on the last day of the 16-month marathon to the White House. Or not.

"The president felt like he's played a valuable role this year," his press agent told reporters at midafternoon. He was through trying to stir up the party base, even if mostly by remote control because Al won't be seen in public with him. (Tomorrow the president may not want to be seen in public with Al, and what a hoot that would be.) Being enthusiastic for Al now is almost as thrilling as quietly signing legislative bills, including one directing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to crack down on unsafe needles "and other sharp objects.".

"He's said he has thought for a long time now that Al Gore would win this election," his spokesman was sent out to say. And to add, quickly: "And the president continues to believe that. And he certainly expects and hopes that his wife will win. [Revealing emphasis mine.] But these are decisions that are in the voters' hands. And, frankly, what we expect here doesn't have much to do with what happens on the ground tomorrow, but we're hopeful. The reality is that this might be a long night. We'll make an assessment tomorrow and see where we are."

But curling up with C-SPAN just doesn't sound like as much fun as flying off to Florida to scare the old folks into thinking George W. will take away their supper at 4 in the afternoon, their Bingo games at 6 and their milk of magnesia at 7 o'clock bedtime.

He could watch Al exhorting crowds to "take your souls to the polls," denouncing George W. in black churches as the "evil" that only a "good" Democrat could overcome, and imagine how much better he would have done it. You wouldn't have caught him peddling ham like that. It was hard to believe that Al could have sat through Baptist revivals as a boy in Tennessee and still preach like an Episcopalian who's been nipping the Communion wine. Maybe the Baptist preachers were better in Arkansas. Al should know better than to preach in a black church if he isn't sure how to do it. Al Jolson and Bill Robinson and Eddie Cantor and George Burns didn't start out at the Palace, after all.

Oh, what fun he could be having. The blur of city after city disappearing beneath the wings of the campaign plane, the black coffee, the constant rush of adrenalin, the Krispy Kreme doughnuts, the girls on the rope lines.

Going, going, gone. All gone.

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