WASHINGTON'S SOCIAL SET WARMS TO THE INVASION OF BILL CLINTON'S ARKANSAS MAFIA
WASHINGTON'S SOCIAL SET WARMS TO THE INVASION OF BILL CLINTON'S ARKANSAS MAFIA
In the salons of Washington’s posh Georgetown neighborhood, established socialites such as Pamela Harriman and Sally Quinn are mastering a new vocabulary: “Arkspeak,” the jargon of Arkansas’s power elite. In Arkspeak, the defeat of President George Bush has left the Republican party “too dead to skin.” Astonishment might be expressed by: “My eyes popped out like a stomped-on toad frog”—perhaps at the overwhelming numbers of Democrats seeking “bird nests on the ground” (cushy jobs in the new administration). But Arkspeak is only one sign that a new style has arrived in Washington. Suddenly, the University of Arkansas Razorbacks football team is “in,” as are barbecues and informed discussions about the Canadian medicare system. As Harriman prepared to host a party for Bill Clinton on the Arkansas governor's first trip to Washington since winning the presidential election, she told Maclean’s that the new style is “very with-it, upbeat and forward-looking.”
In a city where the social style is set by the president and his White House court, decoding the manners of the incoming Arkansans has become an obsession since Clinton’s Nov. 3 victory. So far, most Americans have focused on how easily Clinton evokes the down-home manner of his rural Arkansas roots. But few Washingtonians really expect the “40-something” Clintons to recreate the sense of remoteness that the city’s smart set accused Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter of importing in 1976. Clinton, they contend, will be at ease in the capital, whether he is wearing a black tie and dining with Harriman, widow of East Coast brahmin Averell Harriman and the godmother of the Democratic party, or walking the violent, drug-ridden streets of inner Washington. Last week, the president-elect did both. The combination of Ozark folksiness and Ivy League smoothness has “electrified” the capi-
tal, according to Quinn, an author and wife of former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. Clinton’s arrival, she said, represents “new people, new ideas, a new vision and new ideals.”
The president-elect tried to put that charm on display last week when he met for 90 minutes in the White House Oval Office with President George Bush. “They had a real cordial conversation,” said Clinton spokesman Dee Dee Myers, whose own laid-back conver-
sational style betrays her Californian roots. But the mood in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, where the Republican and Democratic transition teams met to discuss the 3,000 political jobs that will change hands, was not as openly friendly. “This has been a painful time,” said Andrew Card, Bush’s transition chief. “It is a hostile takeover.”
But the transition had hitches for the Democrats as well. The presence of two consummate Washington insiders at the head of the
transition team punched holes in Clinton’s carefully cultivated image as a newcomer to the corridors of power. The key target of controversy was Vernon Jordan, the wellconnected Washington-based lawyer who heads Clinton’s transition organization. Jordan’s numerous corporate directorships, particularly his seat on the board of RJR Nabisco Holding Corp., a major tobacco and food company, was attacked by critics who pointed out that he would be involved in selecting candi-
dates for cabinet posts such as health and human services.
Critics also noted that the other senior transition team member, Warren Christopher, is a partner in 500-member Los Angeles law firm, O’Melveny & Myers, which counts powerful entertainment and aerospace industries among its clients. In response, Clinton announced an ethics code that prohibits members of the team from lobbying any government agency that they deal with during the 78-day transition.
But Clinton was determined to signal his
common touch last week. After meeting with Bush, he set off to walk—campaign-style— through a predominantly black Washington neighborhood. Under the watchful eye of sharp shooters and within a perimeter screened by metal detectors, Clinton stopped by hair salons, liquor stores and other small businesses to talk with owners and residents about ways to revitalize inner cities. The exercise clearly impressed some onlookers. “For the last 12 years we’ve been locked out,” said John Snipes, president of a small business association in a city where the murder rate is the highest in the country, as he watched Clinton go by. “Here is a man who lived the American dream, who’s come up from the grassroots and poverty, who can set an example.” That is a message that Clinton himself has stressed ever since the Democratic convention in July, when television producers—and Clinton friends from Arkansas— Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, captured his boyhood roots in a 20-minute biographical film. It was praised for humanizing Clinton’s sometimes technocratic image. The Clintons have a strong connection to many Hollywood personalities and they clearly understand that style can be as important as policy in delivering a message.
The Clinton team has already hired the BloodworthThomasons to plan the estimated $20-million inaugural, which will feature 10 separate balls and a host of performances from such stars as Barbra Streisand and Jane Fonda. As producers of the successful network sitcoms, Evening Shade (set in Arkansas) and Hearts Afire (based in Washington)—the hus| band-and-wife team is well jjt suited to bring a measure of I both worlds to the gala. Through their television shows, the BloodworthThomasons have been widely credited with altering the nation’s perception of their home state as a backwater of hillbillies and ignorance—an image that upsets many members of the Arkansas entourage. Arkansas native and Clinton campaign director Bruce Lindsey showed that sensitivity in response to a question about the president-elect’s style. “This is not Dogpatch,” he snapped to Maclean ’s. “It’s a very informal style; he enjoys informal events.”
But clearly Washington’s elite is expecting the Clinton administration to energize the
capital. The fact that he will likely bring hundreds of young Democrats who reflect his belief in activist public policy into government, has cultivated a sense of impending change in Washington. Social life under the generally middle-aged Republicans was centred in the surrounding Virginia and Maryland suburbs, but the capital’s social set is now bracing for a more urban—and urbane—atmosphere that will focus on the bookstores and the trendy
Bookstores are already displaying ponderous policy tomes such as David Osborne’s and Ted Gaebler’s Re-inventing Government, and mystery novels by Walter Mosley, which reflect Clinton’s reading tastes. And once coveted dinner party guests, such as Bush budget director Richard Darman, will find themselves displaced by young newcomers such as Clinton communi-
restaurants of Adams Morgan and Georgetown, as well as other in-town neighborhoods.
cations director George Stephanopoulos and media adviser Mandy Grunwald, both 31.
With the Republican defeat, publishers of the jocular The Quay le Quarterly, which chronicled the stumbling of Vice-president Dan Quayle, have announced plans to close the magazine. But desktop publisher Frank Marafiote plans to fill that void with a Hillary Clinton Quarterly—with a much more serious treatment of its subject. As a professional working mother, Hillary Clinton, too, is likely to make a distinct imprint on Washington. “Anyone who thought Hillary Clinton would go to Washington and serve tea and cookies hasn’t been paying attention,” said Marafiote as he stamped buttons reading “Hillary Clinton 2000” to give to subscribers, adding hopefully: “Hillary Clinton is getting ready to run for president.” Clinton’s desire to temper presidential formality with the common touch, along with the presence of insiders on a team presenting itself as outsiders, was clearly in character for a politician who already has a reputation for sometimes trying too hard to satisfy too many interests. Still, his toughest criticism last week came from within his own home state, over his decision not to vacate the stately governor’s mansion in Little Rock until the new year. Arkansans have an expression for their peers who have become urban sophisticates; they call it “heading off to Memphis.” Social Washington is eagerly waiting to see which Bill Clinton is coming to live in thentown.
In Washington, Clinton earned his degree in foreign policy in 1968. There he met fellow Arkansan Bruce Lindsey, who travelled with Clinton as his campaign director in this year’s presidential race.
His first exposure to political Washington was in 1964, working part time on the staff of Senator William Fulbright, then head of the Senate foreign relations committee.
THE CLINTON NETWORK
Bill and Hillary Clinton have cultivated an image as outsiders coming to Washington from the tiny, remote state of Arkansas. But throughout their careers, both have forged an impressive nationwide array of political contacts, many of whom are under consideration for posts in the Clinton administration.
YALE LAW SCHOOL
Bill and Hillary met at Yale in 1970. Among their classmates was Robert Reich, the liberal economist who now teaches public policy at Harvard and who is the senior economic adviser to the president-elect.
The president-elect has a wide circle of associates who were Rhodes Scholar classmates from 1968 to 1970. They include senior Time magazine editor Strobe Talbott and Ira Magaziner, a Rhode Island business consultant who will advise Clinton on long-term budget cuts.
In 1972, Bill and Hillary worked in Texas on the losing presidential campaign of Democratic Senator George McGovern. Other alumni of that campaign include Betsey Wright, who became his chief of staff as Arkansas governor, and Eli Segal, now the chief financial officer of the transition team.
Hillary first worked on Capitol Hill in 1974 when, as a junior aide to the House judiciary committee, she helped prepare the impeachment case against then-President Richard Nixon.
LEGAL SERVICES CORP.
During the Carter administration, Hillary was on the board of directors of the independent corporation, which provides legal services to poor Americans. Another board member at the time was Mickey Kantor, now a Los Angeles lawyer and an influential California Democrat, who chaired Clinton’s presidential campaign.
NATIONAL GOVERNORS' ASSOCIATION
Clinton joined the club in 1978 when he was first elected, at age 32, in Arkansas. Through the association, Clinton extended his network across the nation. One governor who became a political confidant was South Carolina’s Richard Riley, who is now overseeing the hiring of senior bureaucrats for the new administration.
DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP COUNCIL
Formed in 1985 and dominated by moderate southerners, the group has dragged the Democratic party away from its tax-and-spend liberalism to a more centrist—and electable-position. There, Clinton forged a political alliance with Ronald Brown, the party chairman and his major link to the black community.
CHILDREN'S DEFENCE FUND
Hillary joined the organization, an advocacy group for children’s rights, in 1973. Marian Wright Edelman, its founder and president, is a Clinton adviser and leading candidate to become secretary of health and human services.
Both Clintons began attending that informal, annual gathering of professionals and politicians in Hilton Head, S.C., in 1984. Other participants included former Vermont governor Madeline Kunin and Colorado Senator Tim Wirth, both leading candidates for senior environmental posts in the new administration.
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