Washington Prowler

Clinton Relations

A hot new date. Trouble back home. Plus: The White House does Tennessee.

By 6.3.02

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HOT NEW DATE
Mark your calendar for June 17. That's the day Bill Clinton may finally regain some footing as a speaker in America. And it won't be like one of those money-grubbing foreign gigs. The ex-prez is said to have agreed to speak before the Council on Foreign Relations. Gratis.

"He understands how important this speech is," says a Clinton aide. "It's an opportunity to step into the national spotlight in a serious forum. People will compare it to Nixon's return to the spotlight years after his disgraceful exit. But that isn't how we're looking at it. He's given the Bush Administration plenty of time to lay down their footprint for domestic and foreign policy. This will be President Clinton's opportunity to analyze what has happened in the past 18 months. And through his words, he may show his fellow Democrats how to frame the debate for the coming elections."

THE MAN FROM HOPELESS
Members of the Arkansas Democratic Party have gone to DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe demanding to know why Bill Clinton won't support their candidates by sponsoring fundraisers for them. To date, gubernatorial candidate Jimmie Lou Fisher has yet to hear back on four different requests his campaign made to the ex-president to attend fundraisers in Little Rock.

The state party's hackles were raised higher when Clinton showed up in Little Rock recently and spent an afternoon at the governor's mansion with its current residents, Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee and his wife Janet. Clinton walked through the mansion, reliving his halcyon days of sneaking out the back door late at night, using his study for anything but, and generally living the easy life, away from the glare of tabloid TV and investigative reporters. "He was wistful," says a current Clinton staffer. "This was where it all started, his dream of running for the presidency really took shape there. One of his dogs is still buried in the pet cemetery that is on the grounds."

Clinton was so overcome with memories that he committed to participating in a fundraiser later this summer that Huckabee has set up to raise money to restore the mansion. Then he turned around and declined yet another request from the state Democratic party for a statewide event. "I think someone need to remind Mr. Clinton just where he came from and who he owes for getting to where he is," says an Arkansas Democratic Party elder. "This doesn't smell right, his ignoring us. We deserve better."

TENNESSEE TWO-STOP
Dick Cheney made the first appearance by any Republican president or vice president at the Tennessee Republican Party Statesmen's Dinner, and pulled in more than $1 million for the state party by doing so. More than 2,300 GOP-ers paid $200 for the meal, and more than 50 of those ponied up an additional ten grand to meet Cheney in a private reception. A key question was how he balanced his duties as a loyal Republican with his duties to the White House. According to several Republican National Committee staffers, Cheney was under pressure from the White House to play up the U.S. Senate candidacy of former Gov. Lamar Alexander, who is running for the seat currently held by retiring Sen. Fred Thompson, though without wholly dismissing Alexander's more conservative challenger Rep. Ed Bryant.

"Alexander was the choice of the White House, the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, basically the party," said an RNC fundraiser. "He should be touted by the vice president." But there are still lingering doubts about Alexander's candidacy, which his supporters say he is answering as time grows short leading into the primary. "He's raised the money, he's shown he's as conservative as he has to be in this state, and he's running a positive issues-oriented campaign. He's doing everything right as far as we are concerned," says a staffer on the Republicans Senate campaign committee.

Cheney, in any case, wasn't about to burn any bridges, especially before a crowd of true-blue Republicans who had helped push the Bush team to victory in Al Gore's home state. In his 15 minute speech, he avoided mention of Alexander and Bryant and simply called for the state party to rally behind its nominees. "The Vice President wasn't going to go down there and embarrass anyone. Alexander and Bryant are both great Republicans, either would make a great nominee for the party," says a Cheney staffer. "Why create controversy when none is necessary? He wasn't going to do it just for the media's sake."

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