Despite Signs of Strain, Bill and Hillary Still Celebrate New Year’s Eve With a Kiss
There was no time off over the holidays for the White House or Republican spin doctors. Insiders say Robert Byrd, a Democrat senator from West Virginia and a stickler on rules, holds the key to President Bill Clinton’s future. The White House wants a deal before the impeached president’s annual State of the Union Address to Congress on Jan. 19. One obstacle is Mr. Clinton himself — rather than compromise on a censure deal, under which he would have to admit perjury, he is holding out for full acquittal in the Senate, which must decide whether to remove him from office. Trent Lott, the Republican Senate leader, favors a quick trial and test vote.
While spin masters worked behind the scenes, the First Family “vacationed” as usual. Bill and Hillary Clinton with daughter Chelsea and their Labrador, Buddy, rang in the New Year as they’ve done for the past 15 years, with friends and policy wonks at the elite Renaissance Weekend retreat in Hilton Head, S.C. Mr. Clinton managed to pack his mini-escape with golf, beach walks, and late night tete-a-tetes with friends. Renaissance organizers Phil and Linda Lader (he’s now U.S. ambassador to Britain) invited the Clintons at the last minute to engage in the traditional New Year’s Eve question-and-answer discussion with the 1,300 other party goers, but the word “impeachment” was taboo. The retreat is dedicated to personal and policy renewal as well as rest and relaxation, but the usually forthcoming president wouldn’t say if he’s made any New Year’s resolutions. Any he makes to Mrs. Clinton better be genuine, because their relationship has appeared strained in recent weeks. Insiders say he has been dining alone or with aides in the White House, while she takes meals in her sitting room. She still gave him a New Year’s Eve kiss, though.
William Rehnquist, U.S. Supreme Court Chief justice and amateur historian (he penned a book, Grand Inquests, about two famous Senate impeachment trials), has the task of presiding over any impeachment trial in the Senate. While preparing for the big event, Judge Rehnquist can’t help but remember that his court appointment came through a strange twist of fate. Richard Nixon, the former U.S. president, wanted to appoint Howard Baker, but the senator was traveling and didn’t return Mr. Nixon’s call in time. Mr. Rehnquist got the job.