Elvis is not leaving the building. Neither is Mrs. Elvis. Bob Dole was onto something when he once joked that it would take a SWAT team to get the Clintons out of the White House. After secretly checking out houses as storied as the Auchincloss mansion in Georgetown, the couple agreed last Friday to buy a six-bedroom, seven-bath, $2.8 million colonial on a third of an acre in an exclusive neighborhood. Secluded and quietly elegant, it has a spectacular garden in back, with a pool tucked in amid hundred-year-old trees. Nearby is the Naval Observatory, the British embassy and Vernon Jordan. The Clintons are so close to the vice-presidential mansion they will be able to see Allied Van Lines pull up and cart the Gore possessions off to a modest residence in suburban Virginia, and then watch the Cheneys move in.
The Constitution says you can't have a third term, but it doesn't say you can't have a second act, and the Clintons have decided to break with tradition and have an ex-co-presidency a ZIP code away from the Rose Garden. Hillary wanted an instant Washington salon, as grand as her health care plan, with as many rooms as her ambition. There will be no cramped weekday existence for her, like the members who live large in their home states but modestly in D.C. Senator John McCain stays in a thin-walled Crystal City high-rise, with jets from National Airport shrieking overhead. The senior Senator from New York, Charles Schumer, bunked for years with four guys. Others sleep in their offices and shower in the gym, as House majority leader Dick Armey used to do.
A President dies twice, the first time when taking leave of the White House, with its massive power and all its trappings--the marble splendor, the world-class chefs, the Navy stewards bringing your Diet Coke on a silver tray. A temperature-perfect limo waits at the door. You have intersection control. Barbra Streisand croons just for you.
Although the Clintons can't take the butlers with them, they may well be taking the things that caused them so much trouble. Each Clinton has a character flaw that gets in the other's way. His is a sloppy self-indulgence. Hers is a haughty grandiosity--the tendency to think that because she is devoted to doing good, she is also entitled to do well. Biographer David Maraniss reports how she complained about not having a pool at the Governor's house in Little Rock. There wasn't a lot of surprise in Arkansas over the disclosure of her shady cattle-futures investment or their Whitewater deal.
Hillary's needs are expensive and immediate, which is why she is financing the beginning of her new life with a controversial $8 million book deal. Bill Clinton will soon bring in even more. His dream isn't DreamWorks, as rumored, but to save the Third World--to be Jimmy Carter, except for more money and without the carpenter's apron. A Washington lawyer will broker a book deal, and he may also talk to agents in Manhattan eager to package this most mediagenic figure into a brand: big-ticket speeches taped to become one-hour specials; missions to Africa turned into PBS series, to do for the starving masses in the sub-Sahara what Harvest of Shame did for migrant workers.