An hour with Larry, a night with Mick even moments with Mikhail and Sergei: Former President Clinton has had a full dance card this week.
Thursday night, Mr. Clinton spent an hour with CNN’s Larry King, talking over terrorism, the Space Shuttle Columbia, an encounter with former Vice President Al Gore, his daughter’s new boyfriend, tax cuts, his memoirs, his charitable work, his tendency to be a “pack rat” and the recent travails of former Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott.
The Mississippi Republican “made a boo-boo,” Mr. Clinton told Mr. King, referring to the lawmaker’s racial gaffe at former South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday, which ultimately caused the Republican Party to replace Mr. Lott as its leader in the Senate.
“It was the equivalent of, oh, you know, an uneducated guy scratching his ear or picking his nose at a dinner party. And they made him a scapegoat,” Mr. Clinton said.
The former president later alluded to his financial status.
He had benefited from “the American dream,” he told Mr. King, who suggested that money was never a “driving interest” in Mr. Clinton’s life.
“I never cared about money,” Mr. Clinton replied. “But I needed it. I had big legal bills to pay.”
Mr. Clinton could be a “queen maker,” noted CNN’s Jeff Greenfield in the aftermath of the interview, should his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, run for president in 2004.
Meanwhile, duty soon called.
The former president had to race from CNN’s Los Angeles studio to the Staples Center, where he introduced the Rolling Stones at a benefit concert for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The rock group was “just as old” as he was, Mr. Clinton quipped, though lead singer Mick Jagger, 59, is actually three years older.
“Even though the Rolling Stones once said it’s only rock ‘n’ roll, it’s way more than rock ‘n’ roll,” Mr. Clinton observed. He told his 18,000-member audience to adopt environmentally friendly lifestyles.
“We’re here not only to have a good time, but to alter lives,” California Gov. Gray Davis agreed during his moment in the spotlight.
The audience included many members of the ever-growing population of Hollywood activists including Leonardo DiCaprio, organizer Steve Bing, actress Cameron Diaz and former TV host Bill Maher.
Perhaps the former president needed his saxophone.
Mr. Clinton’s speech, noted Reuters news agency yesterday, “cast a pall over the crowd,” though one relieved attendee later told the Los Angeles Times, “I’m glad it’s not Gore that’s here. We’d never hear any music.”
But Mr. Clinton had some other show business news this week. The Russian National Opera has announced that Mr. Clinton will help narrate a new recording of Sergei Prokofiev’s childhood favorite, “Peter and the Wolf.”
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev will also lend his voice.
“We chose former politicians who have a great ability to communicate,” said orchestra conductor Kent Nagano.
The story will be sympathetic to the wolf, rather than the duck, cat or young Peter himself, the conductor told the BBC.
“We thought it would be interesting to see the story from the point of view of the wolf,” Mr. Nagano added. “He’s in the forest, but the forest is disappearing. [Urbanization] is cutting the trees away. And we see why the wolf is so desperate.”
Meanwhile, one Clinton project is quietly taking shape.
Plans continue for a proposed Counter Clinton Library (www.counterclintonlibrary.com) to be built opposite the $160 million William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock.
Meant to house an alternative vision of the Clinton White House years, the site will include the “Hillary Hall of Shame” and the “Dept. of Domestic Affairs,” among other things. A counter library exhibit drew many visitors at last week’s Conservative Political Action Committee convention in Arlington.
“Yes, we’re in our planning and fund-raising mode,” said Houston-based organizer Richard Erickson. “We plan to open in 2004 and have received thousands of contributions. We’re considering three different locations in Little Rock, and we are very confident.”