The XX Factor

Bill Clinton, Revealed

We spend so much time dissecting First Ladies living in the shadow of their husbands that this portrait of Bill Clinton as First Man is startling, and so poignant. New York Times reporter Peter Baker addresses how little access Clinton has in the Obama administration, but the story succeeds mainly as a character sketch. Clinton is a Philip Roth character somewhat restrained, trying to explain his outbursts during the campaign, coming to terms with the indignities of aging, and of being eclipsed by a younger, more vibrant man. A man who, to top it off, now has his wife’s loyalty. Some key scenes:

  • Clinton browsing a trinket shop, looking for the right jewelry and carvings for his wife and other female friends.
  • Clinton showing off his cool new hearing aide.
  • Clinton complaining, sort of good-naturedly, about how hard it is to get his wife on the phone.
  • “I’ve got plenty to do. I’ve got a full life here. If I come up with an idea I think that’s helpful to them, I give it to them.”
  • Clinton trapped in the audience listening to Obama praise Edward Kennedy, whom he now hates, for his work with the Americorps program, which Clinton founded.
  • “Stay in touch,” said Obama.
  • Clinton and Vladimir Putin talking well into night, presumably because Putin believes Clinton has the ear of the new administration.
  • “I also noticed since I had the surgery-and this is what you picked up in the campaign-that if I’m really, really tired … It’s neither an excuse for any mistake I made or anything else. I’m just explaining. It’s something I’ve noticed. My life has changed.”