- The Washington Times - Friday, May 31, 2002

Clinton 101?

Indeed. Former President Bill Clinton will join the academic realm but not as a professor. Early next year, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock will offer a new class based entirely on his presidency, in all its permutations.

"Of course, we will cover the scandal and the impeachment, and the politics of self-destruction during the 1990s," said political science professor Margaret Scranton, who will teach the course.

"But the time of the tabloids has passed. It's time for the scholars to take over and put it all into perspective, looking at the presidency, the person and the office itself. That's what scholars do," she said.

Ms. Scranton, who is a Republican, aims to show both the man and his times from his down-home roots to early campaigns for Arkansas governor, and on to the White House. The class will peruse the "diversity and talent factor of the Clinton Cabinets," an examination of his policies, plus a whole section on "crisis management" of Whitewater, the Monica Lewinsky matter and other travails.

"We'll conclude with the Clinton legacy, though we really don't know what that legacy will be yet," Ms. Scranton said.

Will the man himself attend?

"That's one speaker we have for sure. Bill Clinton will lecture at one class, at least," she said. "We'd also like to try for campaign managers like James Carville or Paul Begala, and former Cabinet members."

Mr. Clinton's opponents may give lectures to the class as well. Ms. Scranton thinks former Arkansas Republican lawmaker Asa Hutchinson is a strong possibility.

Mr. Hutchinson himself donated 100 boxes of political papers and other historical records to the university library this year, along with $25,000 in unspent campaign funds to preserve the collection.

Ms. Scranton also has her eye on former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as a guest lecturer, along with one of Mr. Clinton's most high-profile foes.

"Kenneth Starr would be more than welcome," she said.

The university's new Clinton School of Public Service and the Clinton Presidential Library both will open in Little Rock in the fall of 2004. Ms. Scranton's class will serve as a kind of curriculum prototype for this new breed of Clinton academics.

Classes will be taught in the 103-year-old Choctaw Railroad passenger terminal, located on the grounds of the 27-acre library site, said a university spokeswoman. The terminal was one of the few neighborhood structures that escaped a series of contentious demolitions last year.

The destruction of an adjacent Civil War-era freight depot built by slaves raised the ire of both historic preservationists and black community leaders after Mr. Clinton was quoted in news reports saying the depot was "of no use to anyone."

In a lawsuit last year, its former owner, Gene Pfeifer, accused the city of Little Rock of unlawfully condemning, then taking possession of his property to make way for the library project.

"The city has rolled over and played dead for the Clinton Library Foundation," Mr. Pfeifer said at the time.

Meanwhile, Ms. Scranton is reveling in the wealth of resources for her class.

After all, Mr. Clinton left behind more subpoenas, personal papers and court records than any other president 77 million documents, 9 million photographs and 75,000 artifacts, to be exact. In many ways, she said, the huge paper trail left over from Mr. Clinton's scandal-ridden administration has hidden benefits for academics of many persuasions.

Her class is the first Clinton-based university course in Arkansas, but certainly not in the country. The University of Buffalo, for example, offered "Clinton: A Philosophical Exploration." The University of York in Pennsylvania and Mary Washington College in Virginia also have offered Clinton-based courses.

Neither Mr. Clinton nor any of his library staff will have a say in the design of the course. But the former president is pleased about it all, nonetheless.

"I hear through the grapevine that this has made him pretty happy," Ms. Scranton observed.

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