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Clinton on the Vineyard

Clinton on the Vineyard

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Published by BritHume
The hyperactive president finally relaxes in the perfect place for him.
The hyperactive president finally relaxes in the perfect place for him.

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Published by: BritHume on Jul 31, 2013
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08/12/2013

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ON THE
SCENE
Letting
Go
UK IT HUMi:
HAVEN, MASSACHUSETTS
T
HE LONG political odyssey ofBill Clinton seemed to pass amilestone of sorts, as he vaca-tioned here on Martha's Vineyard withhis wife and daughter. The frenziedpace of his first six months in ofRce,to nearly everyone's surprise, juststopped. Mr. Clinton seemed suddenlyto realize that the nation and theworld could get along for days, evenweeks at a time without any action byhim, and, perhaps even more surpris-ingly, without any comment from him.He shut down and shut up.The press corps that follows himeverywhere caught glimpses of him,mostly through the TV pictures shoteach day of his vacation activities.They were the images of a man ruddyfrom the sun and relaxed from therest. He was doing none of what he isthought best at: thinking out loudabout any and every policy issue be-fore the nation. Ironically, he neverseemed more likable and appealing.
Mr. Hume is chief White House correspond-ent for ABC News.
There was something unmistakablycomforting about seeing the Presidentacting like a normal person on vaca-tion. It's hard to tell if it was more ofa relief to see him being left alone orto have him leave the rest of us alone.His most quotable comment of theweek was "Whoa, Mama," shouted athis golf ball from a tee at the FarmNeck Country Club. Shades of GeorgeBush? Not really, not when the mostconspicuous member of the foursome,besides Mr. Clinton
himself,
was Ver-non Jordan, late of the Urban Leagueand, despite his standing as a big-timeWashington lawyer, a shield againstany charge that the populist Presidenthad gone high-hat on his holiday.The choice of Martha's Vineyard,late as it was, seems in retrospect tohave been inspired. It may be the oneplace in America Mr. Clinton could gowitbout any danger of running intoanti-tax protestors, anti-abortion pro-testors, or anti-gay protestors. TheVineyard is a redoubt of Sixties liber-alism; even the island's one radio sta-tion plays mostly the music of thatera. The waitress—pardon me, wait-person—who attended the Presidentand his party at the fabled Black DogTavern said she had marched onWashington but had never before meta President. She was thrilled. So wasnearly everybody else, to judge by themyriad of welcome signs posted allover the place. The only message thathad even a faintly discouraging wordwas nailed to a tree along one of theisland's byways. "Bill," it said, "weknow you're trying."Even the place where Mr. Clintonstayed seemed perfect, the private es-tate of Robert McNamara. Thus theonetime Vietnam War resister man-aged to associate himself with theman who ran the war, without break-ing poiiticai ranks. McNamara ofcourse is a Democrat. Nearly everyonehere seems to be. The curator at theCounty Historical Museum says shewas pressed into service as the Repub-lican registrar of voters because "thelast Republican on the island whocould write died last year." That maybe an exaggeration, but not by much.This is, after all, the vacation home ofsuch luminaries as Carly Simon,James Taylor, William Styron, JulesFeiffer, Art Buchwald, Katharine Gra-ham, Sheldon Hackney, JacquelineKennedy Onassis, and Spike Lee. Notmany Dittoheads in that group. Suchpeople may not be easily impressed,but one senses that they would all begiddy if
Mr.
Clinton chose to make thisthe site of his summer White House.They certainly gave the Presidentthe full treatment. Mrs. Graham hadhim over twice, and Mrs. Onassis tookhim out for a luncheon cruise on a 70-foot yacht owned by her beau, MauriceTempelsman, the diamond dealer. Af-terward, she entertained him at herhouse. For Mr. CHnton, who dates hispresidential ambitions from the dayhe met JFK in the Rose Garden dur-ing a Boys Nation photo-op, hobnob-bing with his widow must have beengratifying indeed. Alas, the camera-shy Mrs. Onassis did not oblige withthe kinds of consecrating poses withthe President that the White Housewould no doubt have loved. She sentbrother-in-law Ted and boyfriendMaurice out to greet the Clintons onthe pier. "Welcome to Massachusetts,"said Ted heartily. T. R. Reid of the
Washington Post
once described a tu-mescent Ted as having had "an epicu-rean summer." From tbe look of himhere, he's had another one.The summer regulars here, Vine-yarders as they call themselves, do notmerely regard this picturesque islandas a nice place to visit. They share analmost cultish devotion to it as a sortof Nirvana. The
Vineyard Gazette,
thelocal paper owned by the eminentJames Reston and his family, wentinto rhapsodies tbe day Mr. Clintonarrived. In a welcoming editorial, thepaper said, "This place in the sea be-yond the land offers a special qualityof life, a certain quiet and peace . . .Ten days of vacation at the SummerWhite House is not much time. Butthe Vineyard holds out unimagined re-wards for those who pause longenough to experience the beauty ofthis fragile land." Whew. The paperSEPTEMBER
2 0,
1993 /NATIONAL REVIEW 29
 
also carried a letter to the First Fam-ily's cat. It was sent on behalf of catsabandoned here by vacationers. "AsFirst Cat," the letter said, "could youhelp us, the lost, the abandoned andthe hungry?" No minority, it seems, isbeyond the compassion of the goodpeople here.After a week on the island, theWhite House organized a bash for thepress at the sumptuous home of Inte-rior Department aide Susie Trees. Themedia throng, its numbers swelled bynumerous spouses and children, atebarbecue, drank, and danced on anoceanfront bluff with a stunning viewof the sunset. The President patientlyand good-humoredly made the rounds.This week, he admitted, had been thefirst time in years he had been able tosleep eight hours straight. It was alsothe first time in four years he hadtaken more than a few days off. "Wetook some time back in 1988, but afterthat we just never did," he said, shak-ing his head. He seemed almost mysti-fied that he could have waited so long.He seemed aware too that this res-pite had been a tonic not just for hishealth, but for his image as well. "Iwas overexposed," he said. "Some-times less is more." He didn't say if hewould come back. But on this night,with James Taylor's brother Living-ston singing Sixties folk tunes, andone of the contributors who financedthe party telling him the rich reallyare eager to pay more taxes, it washard to imagine Mr. Clinton could finda more congenial place. D
To Russia with Love
MARK CUNNINGHAM
PSKOV, RUSSIA
C
HRIS CHIAIA, a 25-year-oldregular guy from the idyllicsuburb of Darien, Connecticut,is in charge of about $2 million worthof medicines and medical supplies inthe heart of a country which is notori-ously descending into chaos. It's notunusual, in the world of internationalaid, for young men to be out on thesharp end of things; the unusual thingis that Chris is quite on top of thejob—though it undoubtedly helps thatour hosts have their act very much to-gether. These facts are not a coinci-dence, but rather a consequence of theway AmeriCares, the charity that employs Chris, does business.AmeriCares put together tbis hu-manitarian aid shipment as it haswell over a hundred others, worthmore than $100 million, to the formerSoviet Union. In the decade since itwas founded, in 1982, it has sent ship-ments worth some $600 million world-wide. I went along as a member of thedelegation that rode behind (and ontop of) the cargo as we flew fromWindsor Locks, Connecticut, to Van-couver, British Columbia, to St. Pe-tersburg. When we landed, the rest ofthe group went off to tour hospitalsAmeriCares has aided in that city;Chris stayed to oversee the unloading
Mr. Cunningham is
NR's
articles editor.
and follow the bulk of the aid 170miles southwest to Pskov, a small in-dustrial city near the Estonian borderand the center of the Pskov Oblast(administrative region). I volunteeredto go along and see the dirty end of theprocess.Our hosts are the Public HealthCommittee of tbe Pskov Oblast. Pskov,a Russia hand once explained to me, isto Russia as Peoria is to America. Therest of the oblast is quite rural—Melanie Barocas, a photographer whojoined us later, compared it to ruralArkansas (though the buildings aremuch more substantial, since the cli-mate is quite rough). The authoritiesand the people alike are trying to copewith the difficulties bred by seventyyears' misrule, the alien challenges offreedom (a chance for the young, yetanother task for the old), and the in-stability, sometimes verging on anar-chy, caused by the lack of a fully es-tablished successor regime.These are matters Russians musthandle themselves; Americans canonly provide advice (sometimes bad)and some stopgap help. The PublicHealth Committee's biggest problem isthat supplies cannot be obtained lo-cally: in the division of labor withinthe old Soviet Bloc, pharmaceuticalproduction was the job of satellite na-tions; medicines from aspirin to antibi-otics, not to mention surgical supplies,are now available only on the blackmarket and priced out of reach. Pskovthe city has had some help from thecentral Russian govemment and fromsister cities like Roanoke, Virginia;the 600,000 people in Pskov Oblasthave had nothing.It is an awkward fact that much aidto the collapsing East has been wastedor stolen. The billions with which theWest Germans bribed Mikhail Gor-bachev to free their countrymen disap-peared, and the same still happenswith mucb government-to-governmentcash aid. Relief shipments are whit-tled away by a gauntlet of corruption;beyond the omnipresent and ruthless"mafias," even public employees whowere honest under the old regime areresorting to theft and extortion astheir salaries vanish in hyperinflation.AmeriCares prides itself on makingsure the product gets to the people it'smeant for. Elisabeth Whitaker, Ameri-Cares' project director for the formerSoviet Union and Eastern Europe, adaughter of diplomats, has built a net-work of reliable contacts throughoutthe region and regularly scouts it inperson. The Russian Federation'sCommittee for Humanitarian Aidpointed her to Pskov as a region need-ing help; informal contacts confirmedthat the Pskov authorities are sin-cerely trying to discharge their re-sponsibilities. She has arranged forSergei Albert, the deputy director ofthe St. Petersburg branch of the Inter-national Foundation for the Survivaland Development of Humanity, to ac-company us as translator, guide, andfixer. Chris, a veteran of a dozen pre-vious airlifts, is painfully aware of the30 NATIONAL REVIEW/ SEPTEMBER
2
0,
1993

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