- A strange, solitary
figure could be seen on the Army
and Navy Country Club golf course
outside Washington on Sunday night, whacking
ball after ball into the
pitch darkness as the rain poured down.
- It was Bill Clinton,
inadvertently offering the stark
image of an increasingly isolated and
frustrated President heading towards
the end of his second term, his
temper rising and his power waning.
- Dusk was already gathering when
he suddenly announced
that he was going to play golf, alone, and for
two and a half hours he
worked his way around the sodden course,
deserted save for his Secret Service
detail and a handful of damp
- "He was playing in the pitch dark," one reporter
said. "He was swinging and wildly hitting balls
- Mr Clinton's obsession with golf is well known, but his
eccentric solo session has inevitably invited speculation about his state
of mind in the twilight of his presidency. "It was odd. It was
one White House official was quoted as saying.
- With just over a year
of his last term remaining, Mr
Clinton is having to cede the political
spotlight to his would-be successor,
Al Gore, and to his wife, while
his ambitions for his own legacy have become
bogged down in partisan
politics and bitter budget wrangling. Recently
Mr Clinton has taken to
public bouts of introspection, and by his own admission
presidential temper is starting to fray.
- "Some days I wake up on
the wrong side of the bed,
in a foul humour," he told an audience
earlier this month. "It
has occurred to me really that every one
of us has this little scale inside
. . . on one side there's the light
forces and on the other side there's
the dark forces in our
- "Life is a big struggle to try to keep things in
balance," he added.
- Mr Clinton's darker side was on full display last week
after the Senate rejected the treaty banning nuclear tests that he had
planned as the centrepiece of his foreign policy.
- Mr Clinton lambasted Republican
senators for what he
called their "reckless partisanship" and
And the Senate is not alone in feeling the
rough edge of the presidential
- In the past few weeks he has
been heard to lash out at
his conservative enemies, unsympathetic media
and even the FBI. Earlier
this month, at a White House picnic, one
reporter for Investor's Daily
found himself in a slanging match with Mr
Clinton, who then gave instructions
that the journalist be banned from
all such functions in the future.
- Mr Clinton's frustration was
also evident recently when
he reflected on the stalled peace process in
Northern Ireland and compared
the opposing sides in the conflict to
drunks addicted to violence.
- The President's periodic bursts of ill humour may be
partly attributable to disappointment with the campaign being run by his
Vice-President, whose election Mr Clinton sees as crucial to preserving
his own place in history.
- He has been vociferous in his support of Mr Gore, but
last weekend the front-runner for the Democratic nomination clearly hinted
that he might forgo Mr Clinton's help. Many voters see Mr Gore as tainted
by the scandals of the Clinton presidency.
- The President is also said to
be finding it hard to adjust
to playing second fiddle to the political
ambitions of Hillary Clinton.
While he jokes about joining the
"Senate spouses club", associates
say he feels more than a
twinge of envy that his political career is winding
unglamorously, at a moment when hers may just be taking off.
- Some associates say
Mr Clinton is still determined to
leave an imprint from his final year
in office and is gearing up for a
battle over spending with Republicans
in Congress. "He's been in great
spirits and he has lots of
fight," Terence McAuliffe, a Democratic
fund-raiser and Clinton
confidant, told The Washington Post.
- But Mr Clinton's public
comments have taken on a mournful,
valedictory tone, and his
introductions to White House visitors now tend
to start with the
formula "as our time here draws to a close".
- On a recent trip to New York a
park guide joked that
the President could always get a job with the
National Park Service. "I
can work cheap, I've got a good
pension," Mr Clinton replied.
- But White House insiders say
that for all the jocularity,
the future is weighing heavily on his
the only thing that Mr Clinton has stated with absolute
his plans after leaving the White House is that they will
large amount of golf.
- When he climbed, dripping, into his limousine after
impromptu and solitary round of golf, his aides declined to
say what he
had scored. Perhaps he was not even counting.