Mar. 5, 2001: To Ex-President William Jefferson Clinton:

Somewhere in Harlem, New York

Dear Mr. Clinton:

I hope this letter reaches you. I had originally intended to send it to your penthouse in Manhattan but understand you have moved to an outhouse in Harlem. I trust you are still there. The last white guy that tried to set up shop in your new neighborhood opened a record store called Freddy’s. Your local Pentecostal minister, the kind and loving Al Sharpton, raised hell about him being there and the store mysteriously burned down.

From what I have been reading in the papers and seeing on television, you haven’t had a good retirement. I know the feeling. Right after I retired, I decided to reorganize my wife’s utensil drawer. Thought I’d make it more efficient. Bad mistake. I learned quickly that my finely honed management skills were not required at home and it was strongly suggested I go do something else, like write columns.

I never got a chance to be president of the United States but I was vice president of a big corporation and enjoyed the trappings of my job. Somebody put gas in my car, made my airline reservations, furnished me a schedule of where I was supposed to be and when and answered my phone. After I retired, I had to do all that stuff myself and found out it is a lot more complicated than I thought. I still can’t write a check without screwing it up. I can only imagine what you must be going through without all the perks that came with being president. Plus, it has to be frustrating to see George W. Bush move into your old job so easily. We all like to imagine that we are irreplaceable but, alas, we are not. I once bragged to a colleague about how indispensable I was to BellSouth. He replied it would take my successor two weeks to figure out my filing system and then nobody would recall I was ever there. He was right.

Because you were president, you will be in a lot of history books. However, I don’t think you are going to like the way you will be remembered. History is going to say you blew the chance to be a really great president because of your behavior while in office and for that, you have nobody to blame but yourself.

I can’t understand why the intelligence, charisma and leadership abilities you showed as a politician didn’t translate to your personal life. Since you governed during a time of unparalleled prosperity – thanks in part to your predecessors – we more or less gave you a free ride. With our bellies and our bank accounts full, we tend to be more forgiving. We endured Whitewater, the Rose law firm, Webster Hubbell, Travelgate, Paula Jones, selling the Lincoln bedroom like it was a Motel 6 and taking White House furniture that didn’t belong to you when you left. We weren’t quite so understanding of your dalliance with Monica and your inability to define “it.” I don’t mean to be critical but you went to Yale and I went to UGA and I can define “it.” What did you learn there, besides how not to inhale?

Now that you are no longer president, we are not as sympathetic. The pardons you granted and the fact your Porky Pig brother-in-law happened to bank $400,000 for a couple of them has even embarrassed Democrats and that is hard to do. The apologists who surrounded you after the Lewinsky affair and made you sound like a cross between St. Peter and George Washington, are now clearing their throats and staring at their shoes.

I don’t know if you care or not, but you are damaged goods. Protest all you want but you have a sleaze cloud hanging over you that isn’t going away no matter how often you bite your bottom lip.

Now that you some free time on your hands, why don’t you get in touch with Jimmy Carter? He wasn’t a particularly effective president but he may be the greatest ex-president in history. Some of his integrity and penchant for good deeds might rub off on you. Associating with President Carter would help your reputation immensely and frankly, at this point you could use all the help you can get.

In the meantime, enjoy your retirement and give my best to the folks in Harlem. But whatever you do, stay out of the utensil drawer.


Dick Yarbrough