Clinton Global Initiative is a pretentiously named mechanism aimed to provide the adulation-demanding ex-president a continuing international platform and political eligibility in world affairs.
Other than having a keen desire to avoid military service in Vietnam, and a penchant during his year in Oxford, England for the town’s pubs, Bill Clinton showed no previous interest in world affairs until becoming president. Even his initial White House years were marked by relatively short weekly briefings by his national security advisor, Tony Lake, who as a result rather quickly retreated back to academia.
Last week just as his wife dashes toward the Democrat presidential candidacy, Bill played host to the third annual gathering of his eponymous organization. Tying his name to the word initiative suggests that he will be the catalyst for a host of altruistic international activities. Just what Bill wants: To be loved by all. George H.W. Bush fell for it, so why not everyone else.
To be invited to attend Bill Clinton’s bash at the New York Sheraton, one had to donate a conspicuous sum or otherwise give impetus to fighting some social ill. Of course global warming was a popular target in spite of its having been invented — or discovered — by Clinton’s former friend and vice president, Al Gore. Poverty was also a big seller, though education in Africa and other disadvantaged regions were more than well represented by Angelina Jolie and her husband, Brad Pitt.
Ms. Jolie usually doesn’t need to go to these do’s with her muscular mate, but this was, after all, a William Jefferson Clinton occasion and even though the beauteous and bright Ms. Jolie can karate kick quite well, the Clinton reputation for aggressive action with the opposite sex could not be ignored. (Perhaps a cheap shot, but certainly worth taking.)
On a more serious critical note was the format of the gathering itself. Maintaining the impression of his “attention to detail,” the original Slick Willy personally called out the names of each major donor/activist, read their accomplishments, and led the applause. According to an astute waiter (among others a source for this article), it was exactly like a gathering for any one of a number of competitive giving events he had worked in the past. (The UJA were far and away better tippers, he said.)
While it is never mentioned, of course, the Clinton Global Initiative provides Hillary with the useful implication that the Clinton tandem if elected already would have built broad ranging contacts in the international business and political world dedicated to solving global crises. One can envisage Willy selling the entire package to his wife as a win-win deal.
From Hillary’s standpoint Bill Clinton swanning about the world laughing it up with world leaders keeps him out of her hair. The problem is that Bill has never been able to resist taking whatever it is just one step further. Not content with holding a benefit for impoverished Cambodian temple dancers, the ex-prez conceivably might want to put his two cents into anything challenging that he can find elsewhere in Asia. Pity the poor Secretary of State in a Clinton family presidency.
BACK TO LAST WEEK in New York City: After finishing up with his high toned three days of self-congratulations by the collection of international business and political stars, Bill departed for the Apollo Theater in Harlem on Saturday night for a rousing panel discussion on youth activism with the intellectual giants Bono, Chris Rock, Shakira, and Alicia Keyes. One can smell the reinvention of the Peace Corps with a distinct rock beat about to burst forth. The limos with the celebrities from the downtown bash mixed with those of the uptown smash. Now that’s real democracy in action. Naturally, a party followed.
In a way this entire exercise would be tragic if it wasn’t so obviously contrived. William Jefferson Clinton has nothing to do and no place to go. His public life is finished if his wife doesn’t extend it; and he doesn’t have the intellectual firepower to compete other than as a business front man.
Bill Clinton now is a professional public figure and that’s all he is, although Alan Greenspan commended him as “a quick study.” He can talk glibly, and when he gets enough sleep looks presentable. He might be able to teach a course on the pitfalls of public service, but that’s about all. He makes a fair amount of money with his personal appearance gigs. Perhaps he should work on his golf. One thing is certain: Without a boost from Hillary’s presidential ambitions, Bill Clinton will soon find fewer and fewer high level potentates coming to his spectaculars. Of course there will always be Bono.
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