• U.S.

The Man on the Phone

2 minute read
Karen Tumulty

When he was still in the White House, Bill Clinton often worried about how he would “make myself useful” when he left office. Lately he has shown how. He was there last month to give Andrew Cuomo a nudge out of the New York Governor’s race. And it was his go-ahead that NewJersey Senator Robert Torricelli sought last week when scandal forced him to quit his reelection bid. “If he’s on the phone,” says a Democratic strategist, with alaugh, “you probably don’t want to take the call. He’s the Tony Soprano of tristate politics.” Or at least the go-to guy for most of the potential Democratic contenders in 2004. Says an adviser to one: “The road to the nomination goes through the Clintons’ living room.”

–Clinton advised Massachusetts Senator John Kerry to make hisattacks on Bush less directly, by quoting news articles. Kerry tried it in a speech on April 14 to the Florida state Democratic convention, quoting five papers in attacking Bush on such issues as the environment and Medicaid. The speech was a hit.

–Before his speech at this summer’s Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) meeting in New York City, John Edwards consulted Clinton, who sees much of himself in the North Carolina Senator. Insiders say Edwards’ calls get returned faster than those of any other 2004 wannabe.

–Dick Gephardt was never close to Clinton politically, but has paid him a visit. Lately some very Clintonian-sounding themes–“opportunity, responsibility, community”–have been creeping into Gephardt’s speeches.

–Hillary Rodham Clinton’s rousing speech at the DLC conference also showed the hand of the speechwriter in chief: it recalled one he gave at a 1991 DLC meeting that put him on the political radar. –By Karen Tumulty

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