Hillary on Elba

From the sublime to the ridiculous with HRC

Are you wearing a wire? [HRC's nervous laugh lasts quite some time.] That's just my little joke--I mean, of course you are. We know the rules. So long as Bill, Vernon, and I stay on the island, we can't be extradited. But every visitor from the United States is working for Mr. Starr, and please, don't pretend you aren't--it's wasted breath. How is he, by the way? Hah, gotcha!

You just tell him I'm not ready yet. Not this frequency, Kenneth. But go on, sit down; I really don't care. It gets pretty samey when it's just the three of us. How does it go: Able was I ere I saw...

What's it been--a year now? Look, we never thought Bill's story about that emergency summit with Saddam would fly, but what could we do? The marshals were streaming across the South Lawn when we got into the helicopter. Then we got here, and whoopsie: no Saddam. Well, Arabs are unpredictable--blah, blah, blah. It took everyone a while longer to figure out we weren't coming back.

What's left of the press is staked out on that cliff. The Secret Service has the beach. We're on the rocks.

I don't know about Bruce [Babbitt]. He's got his own island. But we don't really have a hell of a lot to do here. Bill air-golfs, and sometimes he makes speeches to the seagulls; he wants them to stop eating fish. Vernon has a cell phone made of twigs he plays with. And me? Oh, what do you think--I stay home and bake cookies. Last month, to pass the time, we had a contest: ''Name the Best-Dressed Dude on Elba.'' It was Vernon's idea. He won.

Oh, yes, that's true. We do both call Vernon ''the Skipper.'' But have you heard what Bill calls me? Mary-Ann. That hurts--after all these years, you'd think at least I'd get to be Ginger. I mean, I'm the only one left.

It's hard for me to remember what that last week in Washington was like, before we broke and ran. Mainly, I was just like everybody else--I watched a lot of CNN. Maybe the worst part was having to hear Gennifer Flowers tell Larry King that she felt sorry for me. That skank! Oh, well--it's all hair dye under the bridge, now.

We started with the usual drill. Shove all the White House women out the front door to talk about what a wonderful guy Bill is--honest, what did we care about making Madeleine Albright look stupid?--while all the men came in the back way to figure out how to get him off the hook: Mickey [Kantor], [Harold] Ickes. We had one team working around the clock just to weed anything iffy out of the State of the Union Address; that line about asking America's young people to pay more than lip service to their ideals had to go. So did the one about the heavy blows this president has had to endure. By the time they'd taken out everything that might get a laugh, there wasn't a lot left besides, ''Country's fine! Yow! Gotta go now!''

But this time, it really didn't matter what we did. Not a lot you can do when every time you turn on the TV, Ted Koppel's wondering out loud if oral sex counts. When he was at the White House, Arafat asked me if it doesn't in our culture; I told him that if you're talking about Bill Clinton, there's a good argument to be made that it doesn't count for much. He thought that was pretty funny. But you know Yasir--when he's in the United States, he thinks everything's funny.

And then everybody kept rerunning that old 60 Minutes interview from '92, which was so embarrassing. You know, the time machine: there I am in the hairband, jest a-droppin' my ''g'''s like I'm Ma Joad or something. I'd almost forgotten I used to talk in that fake down-home accent, back before we got elected.

I know you didn't see a lot of me that week. They'd practically kept me locked in the attic since the Second Inaugural. People must've thought I was up there talking to Mrs. Roosevelt again, or something. I'll tell you, though--nobody ever understood about that. Who cared what that old bucktoothed biddy thought? I was trying to reach Vince [Foster]. ''Please, Eleanor,'' I'd say. ''Just let me hear his voice. Just once.'' She'd always come back and say Vince didn't want to talk to me. That's why I stopped.

But I can't say I was surprised. I knew what I was in for from the start--ever since Bill and I made our deal, back at Yale. If people really want to think of us as these cornpone Corleones, let's face it: I was Michael; he was Fredo. In this country, if you want to win elections, you've always got to put Fredo out front.

But yeah--deep down, I guess we both always knew Bill's zipper would do us in. To be honest, neither of us ever worried too much about Whitewater, since nobody in America could make head or tail of it. My god, even we weren't sure what we were up to with Whitewater. I mean, tell Bill and me that something is corrupt, and we're there with bells on, and a brass band on the platform playing Sousa. [Laughter] But we didn't really know what it was all about; just that it wasn't legal.

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