Presidents in step at launch of Clinton library

BOTH Presidents Bush, rock stars and ordinary admirers of Bill Clinton turned out yesterday to pay homage to the former president at the opening of the Clinton Presidential Centre in Arkansas.

An estimated 30,000 guests were on hand for the dedication of the $165 million (€127m) glass and steel home of artefacts and documents gathered during Mr Clinton’s eight years in the White House.

Such libraries have become standard for US presidents after they leave office.

Clinton, President George W Bush, and former presidents George Bush and Jimmy Carter took the stage in Little Rock together while the US Air Force Concert Band played Hail to the Chief. Their wives took the stage moments earlier.

“Welcome to Little Rock, Arkansas, the first capital that President Clinton called home. Thank you for being a part of this special celebration,” said Skip Rutherford, president of the foundation that built the riverfront library, as he opened a ceremony that also was to feature remarks by Hillary Clinton and music by U2’s Bono and The Edge.

But the true star was Mr Clinton, whose library collection includes more than 80 million presidential items.

Mr Clinton has promised to give scholars early access to previously private policy advice and other documents he isn’t required to release until 2006.

Torrential rain and lengthy security queues did little to squelch the enthusiasm of thousands waiting to attend.

“Bill Clinton is the best president we’ve ever had,” said Sister Judith Dalesandro, who taught school in Little Rock when Clinton was Arkansas governor.

Sandy Berger, former National Security Adviser, said the Clinton Library is “chock full of the accomplishments of the Clinton administration, the sad times and the good times.”

Visitors paying $6 (€5) can peruse the library’s 14 alcoves detailing aspects of Mr Clinton’s Oval Office years - one of which is dedicated to scandal.

The Monica Lewinsky affair is covered in an alcove dedicated to the “politics of persecution”.

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