Washington Prowler

Bill Clinton Does Africa

Upstaged and ignored, he wants back in as the anti-AIDS fighter. Plus: A special campaign roundup, including the latest unannounced Democratic savior.

By 7.14.03

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HIS TURN
After watching President Bush's successful trip to Africa, and having to endure his successor's push for international AIDS funding, former president Bill Clinton is mapping out his own trip to Africa and seeking a media partner who will cover the trip and give it the attention he thinks he deserves.

Clinton, who has been cultivating billionaire Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation as a big-time donor and financial backer for his own AIDS projects and for his library's construction costs, has met with advisers about staging a ten-day trip to Africa to tout his own ideas about combating the deadly disease on that continent. According to Clinton insiders in Washington, he'd like the trip to be covered by the media the same way a presidential foreign trip might be covered and maybe even turned into a documentary.

"He's looking to get credit for all the work he did -- and does -- on the issue of AIDS," says a former White House staffer for Clinton. "We did much more than the Bush people have done, but you'd never know it. President Clinton deserves all of the credit for pushing this issue to the forefront of our national consciousness."

But the Clinton White House was never able to get the money and the backing that the Bush White House has pulled together in a relatively short period of time. While there is still wrangling over the $2 billion to $3 billion funding level on Capitol Hill, it appears the Bush team has managed to mobilize and focus the federal government on the AIDS issue.

Evidently Clinton is concerned that a too-successful Bush team means less money from foundations and others for his own projects. But with his interest in press coverage, it also appears to be just another attempt by the diminished one to get some spotlight time back on himself.

Clinton, by the way, will be spending less time in the United States if everything goes as planned. Rumor has it that he plunked down a million or so for a condo and membership in an exclusive golf club in Ireland, where he has played several times over the years. This brings to three the total number of locales for the ex-president to hang away from Hillary's House in Washington and the joint abode in Chappaqua. He keeps a small rest area in his Harlem offices and will have a fully functional apartment in his Little Rock library.

THE END OF HERSTORY
Start looking for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's book to start hitting the remainder and cut-rate book bins soon. Her Living History tome has all but stalled out on the sales front after a nice six-week ride. While her publisher says she hit the million-mark in sales earlier this week, it looks like it will have be satisfied with that.

BIDEN HIS TIME
Sen. Joseph Biden apparently still thinks he can mount a presidential campaign that would put him in the top tier of candidates in the fall. Biden, who earlier this year appeared to squelch talk of a presidential run, now has friends and advisers telling Democrats around the country that he is leaning toward running.

"He still thinks he can be a top three candidate in short order if he announces in September," says a Biden adviser in Washington. "The assumptions are that the pack might thin a bit, the tiers will become clearer, and that there is still plenty of money to be raised. None of these guys is really pulling ahead."

Biden, who attempted a presidential run back in 1988 before being embarrassed by plagiarism charges and stepping out of the race, would bring similar credentials to the race that Sen. John Kerry and Rep. Dick Gephardt now currently tout. Given his own Senate stature, experience, and money-raising potential, Biden would probably be a bigger threat to Kerry than any of the other announced candidates.

GOING FOR THE GREEN
Advisers for Democratic front-runner, former Vermont Gov. Howie Dean, aren't taking any chances on their boss being left off the ballot in November 2004. They are looking at ways in which Dean might still be able to jump over to the Green Party nomination process if it becomes clear that their boy won't gain the Democratic nomination.

"You look at the support that he has and it's a natural option," says a Dean volunteer in New Hampshire, who previously worked on Ralph Nader's Green Party campaign in 1992. "A lot of us hope he does do something like that. He's all about grassroots support."

Currently, Nader is talking up another run as the party's presidential nominee, and some have even mentioned former congressperson Cynthia McKinney.

EDWARDSVILLE
While Dick Gephardt and John Kerry duke it out in Iowa, and Kerry and Dean fight it out in New Hampshire, very quietly John Edwards has staked his presidential hopes on South Carolina, the third primary state on the slate next year. Edwards, who claims that he has only just begun to formally campaign, has been racking up endorsements in South Carolina, hoping that a win there will propel him into the top tier of candidates during primary season.

"It's a strategic decision. He's the Southern candidate," says an Edwards campaign staffer. "He's just begun to really campaign in New Hampshire, so you'll see his numbers go up there, but South Carolina will make or break us."

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