William Jefferson Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton

Serves: 5



When George Bush joined Jimmy Carter at the Clinton White House in 1994 to push for the North American Free Trade Agreement, he listened to his successor’s pitch for the trade pact and remarked, “I thought that was a very eloquent statement by President Clinton, and now I understand why he’s inside looking out and I’m outside looking in.”

A Rhodes scholar, and a Yale Law School graduate, Bill Clinton became the youngest governor in America, representing Arkansas.

A Georgetown University friend recalled, “Bill exhibited all the signs of someone who was on the way to somewhere else, and in a hurry to get there. If he had not been so totally amiable, genuinely kind, open, and friendly, he would have been intensely disliked by one and all. But he has no pretense about himself and that, of course, makes him irresistible.”

Bill Clinton met Hillary Rodham at Yale Law School in the library. Hillary, annoyed at the furtive glances from Bill Clinton, finally came over to introduce herself by saying, “If you’re going to keep looking at me, and I’m going to keep looking at you, and we’re going to be looking back and forth, we ought to get to know each other.” They began dating soon after.

Bill and Hillary Clinton became the most political couple ever to occupy the White House. At the beginning of the Administration, Mrs. Clinton’s office was located in the West Wing of the White House where senior staff members work. Later, she moved it to the old Executive Office Building. She is also the first lawyer to become First Lady.

Hillary Clinton is probably the most valuable asset the President has ever had. Voted one of the 100 best lawyers in the United States, Mrs. Clinton takes a very active role in children’s rights and her husband’s career.

After Clinton became President, he remarked after criticism for trying to give his wife a government job, “Heck, if I weren’t married to Hillary, she’d be first in line for any of the appointments.”

An old friend replied, “If you weren’t married to Hillary, you wouldn’t be making any of the appointments anyway.”

President Clinton clearly enjoys being President. He enjoys the responsibility and all the trappings. He firmly believes in having fun at his work and when he no longer enjoys the work, he believes he should move on to something else.

When Clinton entered law school, there was a table in the cafeteria where black students ate. This was self-segregation and accepted by one and all with one notable exception—Bill Clinton. He violated the unspoken taboo by sitting at the table one night to eat and chat. At first, his presence caused discomfort, but soon Clinton engaged the blacks in good conversation and he became a regular at their table.

Bill Clinton hates bigotry. He hates the thought of someone in America feeling unequal. He reaches out to people and when he hugs you, it’s genuine. He is really concerned about people and their problems, and takes the problems to heart. His mother used to say that even as a young boy, Bill would bring people home for dinner. He couldn’t stand the thought of someone missing out on a Thanksgiving dinner. A very sensitive man who appears incredibly loyal to friends, he demands the same loyalty in return.

The President does have a temper, though, and this is usually displayed every morning—as was evidenced during his campaign for a second term. Mr. Clinton stopped in my hometown, Buffalo, New York, on his way to the Chautauqua Institute, to prepare for the upcoming debate with Bob Dole. When Air Force One landed in Buffalo, he was scheduled to transfer to Marine One, the helicopter that was to take him on the last leg of the trip to the institute.

The White House hired me to cater a buffet luncheon out of my restaurant for the White House press corps. My orders were to have plenty of “Buffalo food” plus lots of regular fare. The President wanted to try some of it and came to the shelter where we were serving. The Secret Service prevailed and said they didn’t recommend it because the area was not secure for his visit. Well, he blew his top because the area was supposed to be secure and he wanted to try the food and mingle with the press corps on an informal basis.

We fixed a nice plate for him and under the watchful eye of the Secret Service, he ate it alone on Air Force One. I felt sorry for him. The Secret Service uniformed division was really doing its job well. As a matter of fact, they even made CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, a native Buffalonian and senior White House correspondent, go through the metal detector twice because it beeped the first time through.

George Bush once said, “There is a pattern of inconsistencies that go along with Bill Clinton.” He was referring to how Clinton avoided the draft, his ambivalence on the Persian Gulf, his artfully crafted position on the NAFTA that sought to support free trade in principle without alienating organized labor, and offered it as evidence of a pattern of deception. He coined a new disease called “Clintonesia” with the symptoms of weak knees, sweaty palms, and an incredible desire to say anything on all sides of any issue depending on who you’re trying to please.

The Clintons loved the elegance of the White House and entertained personally in the family quarters, preferring small, intimate gatherings rather than the large soiree events that plagued many first families. The privacy factor is held sacred by both the President and Mrs. Clinton.

When the Clintons had dinner, Mrs. Clinton tried very hard to make sure the President ate well. He is known for his love of comfort food.

Mr. Clinton received more mail than any President in history. Americans were very enthusiastic about their new President and they even included gift coupons for McDonald’s Big Macs, prescriptions for losing weight, jogging caps, and homemade remedies to clear his sinuses. Most Presidents receive letters written in a formal tone, befitting the office. But the letters written to Clinton were friendly and informal. There was no awe in the way the letters were written. People felt they could relate to him.

As I said before, Mrs. Clinton tried to serve healthy foods. I believe this was a sure sign that Mrs. Clinton was trying to get up to speed with the decision many other First Ladies dreaded and therefore hesitated to make: the decision to fire the White House chef. She replaced the great French chef, Pierre Chambertin, with a modern American chef who specialized in “light cuisine.” Some people speculated that getting rid of Chambertin and his rich food was an attack on her husband’s waistline. But most likely, it was an attempt to streamline the type of foods her generation purports to enjoy.

The President’s first state dinner was the team effort of Mrs. Clinton and her new chef, Walter Scheib III, for the Emperor and Empress of Japan in June 1994. Mrs. Clinton decided to hold the dinner on the White House lawn, partly because the Emperor’s father, Hirohito, had been entertained there in 1976. It was risky, but brilliant, because Washington, D.C., is usually very hot and humid in June. The First Lady equipped the huge white tent with air conditioners, but it worked out perfectly. By 9:00 p.m., when the guests sat down for dinner, a cool breeze blew in from the Potomac and there was no need to turn on the air conditioners. Since that big event, President and Mrs. Clinton have hosted state dinners for Russia’s Boris Yeltsin, South African leader Nelson Mandela, and many others.

“I like working with the staff on these dinners,” said Mrs. Clinton, “I worry about the flowers, the menus, and about everything you have to do to make it look beautiful.” This is a side of Mrs. Clinton that few people saw and it’s a shame.

The zone of privacy in the lives of President and Mrs. Clinton was very important. Most chief executives before Mr. Clinton had given up on the zone because of the relentless pursuit of the media. Bill Clinton loved being President, but at times he couldn’t help feeling confined by the exact regimen that goes with the job. This exalted position puts these people in a glass house that covers 18 acres.

Once, soon after his inauguration, President Clinton invited political consultant, Paul Begala, to the White House and gave him the “official presidential tour.” When it was over, he and Clinton adjourned to the Oval Office for coffee. Begala was overwhelmed by the grandeur of the room and started to buckle at the knees when he thought of all the momentous and historical decisions that were made there.

“Don’t let it get to you,” said the President as he observed his friend’s reaction. Then he added, “This is the crown jewel of the federal penal system.”

Beset by scandal, President Clinton, the only elected President ever to be impeached, remained unbothered by stress. Instead, he felt bolstered by a good economy, world peace, and a huge surplus at home.

Senator Harris Wolford once said, “Bill Clinton has been through the hottest fire American politics has ever had to test somebody, and has come out like fine-tempered Pennsylvania steel.”

Newsweek said, “Mr. Clinton may not have an agenda, but he does have a vision. Bill Clinton is the best politician of his generation. Bill believes in the value of public service. He refuses to be part of the belief that the American dream is lost. He believes there is a bridge to build and he is ready to build it.”

This William Jefferson Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton recipe is from the Secrets from the White House Kitchens Cookbook. Download this Cookbook today.

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