The following is an excerpt from my book, “Irene and Abe: An Unexpected Life.”
As lifelong, ardent Democrats, we were delighted when
Bill Clinton was elected president and the party returned
We were delighted on a personal level too, because, by that
time, we knew the Clintons. I had been part of the group who
had interviewed him (and then later backed him) when Pamela
Harriman’s “Democrats for the 80s” was deciding which candidate
to support. Abe and I had contributed to his campaign and attended
many of his speeches.
“How does it feel to be here?” I asked President Clinton one
night when he had only been in office a couple of months and was
giving us a tour around the White House.
“I still can’t believe it,” he said.
An ardent basketball fan, Bill Clinton came to a lot of games
with us after he became president. Hillary came with him to
a Chicago game, but he was the more constant fan. He credited
his extensive knowledge of basketball to insomnia. He slept little,
he explained, and watched just about all the games he could find
Since Abe had always shunned the fancy “sky suites” we’d built
at Capital Centre (which was renamed USAir Arena in 1993) because
they were too far away from the action, we watched the games in
the stands along with everyone else. No one enjoyed mixing with
the other spectators more than Bill Clinton. This was the biggest
“people person” I’d ever met. Sitting in the fourth row with us, he
engaged anyone and everyone near him in conversation, teasing
and joking and happily posing for pictures, and even volunteering
to take pictures for those who asked him. He was a lot of fun.
One night when he came to the game, the Secret Service brought
in a huge cardboard box, which they put on the floor in front of his
seat. It was filled with soft drinks and snacks, and the next thing
we knew, there was the President of the United States offering its
contents to all the people sitting around him. Did he forget that he
was the President of the United States? He was a natural politician.
Soon after they moved into the White House, we were invited
to an informal dinner party that happened to be on my birthday.
It was in a lower-level dining room with about five tables of eight
people. I was seated at Bill’s table. Toward the end of the meal, a
birthday cake was brought in to my surprise, and everyone sang
“Happy Birthday, Irene!” I was stunned and flattered. Was I really
–From “Irene and Abe: An Unexpected Life,” available from Amazon at this link.