Bill Clinton frequently offers up his opinions and experience to his secretary of State wife, regularly speaks on the phone to vice-president Joe Biden, and sends memos to national security adviser Jim Jones. “If there’s something that’s going on that I feel that I have a particular knowledge of, I say that,” he told writer Peter Baker in a New York Times Magazine profile to be printed this weekend. As for Hillary, he says she asks him about foreign policy “quite frequently.” “She says: ‘Did you ever work with this guy? Do you know him?’” He doesn’t speak to Obama as frequently, maybe a handful of times since the inauguration, but his friends told Baker that he’s largely over the bitterness he developed during the hard-fought campaign between the president and his wife (he has not forgiven Ted and Caroline Kennedy, though). He does most of this advising over the phone or with memos his staff sends out — he doesn’t use a computer or BlackBerry. And when Hillary comes back to Chappaqua, his turf, “she just wants to rest.” They like to watch 24 and Damages.
Bubba needs to do more relaxing, too. Ever since extensive heart and lung surgeries tapped his stamina, he just hasn’t had the endless fire he used to (at least not the good kind). “Since I had the surgery — and this is what you picked up in the campaign — that if I’m really, really tired, it’s more difficult for me than it was when I was back in politics before I had the heart problem,” he told Baker. “I have no explanation for why that is. I’m just observing it. 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.”
Some things haven’t, though, and those include some familiar passions from when he was president:
In between his globe-trotting philanthropy, speech making and legacy burnishing, Clinton is a regular at crafts stores around the world and can tell you the best ones in Hong Kong or Arusha. “They’re a great thing,” he said. “If all of your staff are women and all of your family are women, you just buy what you like and bring them home and then figure out who to give them to.” The store owner showed him a selection of shoulder bags for women. Clinton selected one he thought would be great for his friend, Frank Giustra, the Canadian mining mogul, to give to Giustra’s girlfriend. Clinton said he likes picking out gifts for his friends’ wives and girlfriends.
His house in Chappaqua is filled with antiques and rare collectibles he’s gathered for himself, as well. He has a 4,000-year-old Chinese urn, rare presidential prints, a 700-year-old Vietnamese spear, and even a 100-year-old German cabinet he’s had for 30 years that Hillary Clinton calls “the monster.”
It’s Not About Bill [NYTM]