Clinton's Last Hurrah

In which Will Durst, trapped as he is in Hollywood, is unsure whether what he just saw was a Clinton speech or a screening of the movie 'Hollow Man.'

| Tue Aug. 15, 2000 3:00 AM EDT

It was a valedictory speech. It was Elvis' last concert. It was Rocky Marciano retiring undefeated. It was Ted Williams hitting a home run in his last at bat. It was William Jefferson Clinton running on "Clinton Time" (30 minutes late) bidding a fond farewell to the faithful. It was all of that and so much less.

The evening started with California Gov. Gray Davis referring to the Man From Hope as architect of "the best economy in the history of the planet." Obviously, a judgement call. Somehow I think the Romans and the Etruscans might beg to differ, but hyperbole does shine brightest when eyewitness accounts are fully eclipsed.

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Then a gaggle of Democratic female members of The House led by Maryland's Sen. Barbara Mikulski, introduced a prospective colleague to the stage accompanied by the strains of "New York, New York," (soon to be known as The Carpetbagger Song) while another Barbra (Streisand) attempted to lurk incognito in the shadows of a sky box wearing dark sunglasses indoors.

No wilting flower she, Hillary Rodham Clinton gave her own "I yam what I yam" speech, reiterating "It takes a village," to loud acclaim. She neglected to clarify however, if she was talking about the West Village or Greenwich Village. The First Lady managed to fashion a speech that mirrored her outfit: smart, sharp, and blending into the background. She should however, have the CNBC director shot. Or whoever kept cutting to that camera angle located behind the podium, which centered her butt in middle of the frame.

Then the boy born in a summer storm 54 years ago Saturday to a young widow in small Southern town slowly mounted his rhetorical horse and rode off into the sunset. Slowly. First on the agenda was an brief recitation of his resume. What better arena to seek a new position than cluster coverage on national TV? He ticked off an impressive list of accomplishments, curiously omitting the 1993 health-care reform debacle, gays in the military, and his experience with DNA testing. Selective memory around here is also known as Conventional Wisdom.

He closed with a couple shots at Republicans named Bush, a brief plug for his wife, and mentioned in passing that the politician to whom he is handing over the mantle of Democratic leadership wasn't all that bad of a guy, and that people might want to think about giving him a second look. Finally, with a bite of the lip and a skyward glance, he waved goodbye, and Al Gore's staff helped him out of town on a greased skid. And, for them, he wasn't gone a minute too soon.

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