- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 29, 2001

As they filed into the Harlem office building last week, riding the elevator singly or in small groups to the 14th-floor headquarters of former President Bill Clinton, they must have looked like something out of a Hercule Poirot episode, or maybe even a Thin Man movie the inevitable round-up of the usual suspects, coming together at the appointed time at the behest of Mr. Big. Or, in this case, Mr. Big He.
There they were, not all but many of the familiar faces and voices (some participated via telephone) of the Clinton years: Maggie Williams, then Hillary Clinton's chief of staff, now Bill's; confidante Bruce Lindsay; former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger; former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson; Democratic Leadership Council Director Al From; former Deputy White House Counsel Cheryl Mills; former Chief of Staff John D. Podesta. And more.
Had they come together on this crisp December day to solve, once and for all, the Case of the Lost Legacy? Hardly. That is, this was no time for a denouement, or even a post mortem. On the contrary, these once and future Clinton aides were gathered together not to move on, as they all used to say, but to dig in for a new kind of Clinton campaign not for another office, but for another image.
As the New York Times put it, Mr. Clinton is "frustrated" that his reputation has been "battered" since leaving office, most recently with all the talk of his failure to protect Americans from both Osama bin Laden and the current recession. As a result, he has decided to mount an organized, aggressive effort to save not the nation, of course, but his own face. Hence the gathering of the Clinton clans (sans the wife and veep), which one anonymous participant described as a meeting of top lieutenants of a political campaign.
And why not? Amid a war on global terrorism and a worldwide recession, there could be nothing of greater urgency that burnishing Mr. Clinton's tarnished reputation. Far be it for this former prez to waste his office space writing a book, or his time building a habitat. Accordingly, Mr. Clinton, who, not too surprisingly, is said to have "dominated" the nearly two-hour strategy session, has now mobilized his troops to 1) compile a list of his achievements that "supporters could have handy"; 2) build a staff to coordinate the appearances of "former Cabinet secretaries and other Clinton surrogates" on television talk shows; and 3) plan to "raise Mr. Clinton's profile on the lecture circuit."
And that's not all. Having expressed his concern "that Democratic leaders had not sufficiently spoken up for his administration," Mr. Clinton also voiced a desire to "play a central role in setting an issue agenda" for the Democratic Party, including its congressional and presidential candidates. (No response as yet from Messrs. Gephardt and Daschle.)
What Napoleonic complexities are contained within this here "post-presidency." Little wonder that some participants in the meeting seemed to think it was the better part of valor not to discuss it publicly. Others acknowledged the possibility that Mr. Clinton could "be portrayed as preoccupied with his reputation and not conducting himself appropriately for a former president."
Then again, who would do a thing like that?

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