DecEMBER 16, 2016

Mr. President, one more question

Local independent bookstores are wonderful places to talk to neighbors, browse new titles and catch up on a little politics. Just ask Bill Clinton.

Last Saturday around noon, during some unplanned holiday shopping in a nearby village, my wife and I ducked into the bookstore for what we thought would be a quick purchase of a few fiction hardcovers. “Look who’s standing over there,” she said, nudging me as she gestured with her head towards the small checkout counter a few feet away. A man with short, white hair and reading glasses propped on the bridge of his nose was standing alone, holding a small shopping bag of five or so books, talking to the storeowner about politics. The unmistakable voice from Hope, Arkansas, was the giveaway.

Former President Clinton turned and took a few steps away from the counter. We said hello, others did, too, and then the first question came, about the election. He stopped, answered succinctly, and waited for the next question. He was in no rush to leave. The group of book enthusiasts in the store at the time — just a few at first, growing to maybe 10 at most — formed a semi-circle around a low book display, hanging on his every word.

The historic moment was lost on no one. It had been a month since his wife, the former New York Senator and U.S. Secretary of State, lost the bitterly contested election. The world still felt upside down, and he needed to talk as eagerly as we wanted to listen. The night before, more news broke over the Russian hacking issue, which U.S. intelligence now concluded was intended not just to destabilize the electoral process but to help her opponent win. Did the finding surprise him? “You would need to have a single-digit IQ not to recognize what was going on,” he retorted. We relayed the Trump transition team’s rapid dismissal of the intelligence finding (“These are the same people who said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction”). That seemed to be the first he had heard of the Tweeted comeback, which also trumpeted the “landslide” victory for the Republican. “Landslide? I got something like 370 electoral votes (which he did exactly in the ‘92 election). That was a landslide.”

Mr. Clinton looked rested and vibrant. He was in casual weekend gear, wearing a sleek brown leather aviator-style jacket and jeans. A lone member of his Secret Service detail, a woman in a long, dark coat, blended into the group, shifting positions to keep tabs on the scene. The conversation moved along, at a quiet, calm pace. No TVs blaring in the background. No photographers. For the most part, smartphones stayed in people’s pockets. A woman asked if her 6-year-old son, a Hillary supporter, could pose for a photo. The boy was very shy, and buried his chin in his coat. The two-term president coaxed the child closer and put his arms around him for the photo. “When he came down for breakfast on Election Day, I told him who won. He said he wanted to go back to sleep for four years,” his mother relayed. “No, we can’t go to sleep, we need to stay active,” Mr. Clinton urged.

“What do we do now?” asked another woman who was distraught over the election results. There was desperation in her voice and she was looking for clear answers. We’re living in a new world, a “post-truth era where facts don’t matter,” he said. His message: stay vigilant, stay alert, we need to see where this changing political reality takes us.

Addressing the main causes of Hilary Clinton’s defeat, however, was a black-and-white matter. “James Comey cost her the election,” he declared early in the conversation, echoing his wife’s assessment. The FBI director’s announcement two weeks before the vote that he was re-opening the agency’s investigation into the candidate’s use of a private email server proved catastrophic, he maintained. “We were seven (percentage) points up” in national polls at the time, he said, and on a path to win four key states, which helped put Donald Trump over the top in electoral votes. In his view, no one made enough of the fact that the FBI director also said there was no further evidence of illegal activities. The damage was already done, both to Hillary and to the reputation of law enforcement as an independent institution “that the American people know that they can trust.”

And so it went. In the book-filled oasis, where knowledge and facts and history were recorded and analyzed, the former president was in his element. Ten, 20, 30 minutes passed. More questions came. On Donald Trump: Yes, he did receive a phone call from the president-elect the day after the election. Mr. Trump came across as cordial, he said, incredulous, “like it was 15 years ago” when the Clintons and Trumps were seen socializing. Mr. Trump threw out what was meant as a compliment about his opponent: “She was tougher than I thought she’d be.”

“Is Trump smart?” a man asked as a follow-up. “He doesn’t know much. One thing he does know is how to get angry, white men to vote for him,” Mr. Clinton replied.

Should President Obama use his power to make a recess appointment of Ms. Clinton to the Supreme Court? After a brief exchange about how President Eisenhower handled a similar matter, Mr. Clinton said, almost as a throwaway, “Anyway, I don’t think she’d want it.”

It was time to go. Was Mr. Clinton planning a visit to Katonah again this year before the holidays? Yes, he said, smiling, “I always go to Katonah for shopping.”

If you’re planning to stop by a few stores in Katonah soon, be ready to say hello. Have a few good questions handy. And be prepared to stay for a while.

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the The Record-Review. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

HOME     |     SUBSCRIBE     |     ADVERTISE     |     NEWSROOM     |     CONTACT

The official newspaper of the towns of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York



Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

  2. Pound Ridge Sunoco — 66 Westchester Avenue    

Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    

Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)

  3. Meme’s Treats — 17 Adams Street


  1. Little Joe’s Books– 25 Katonah Avenue     

  2. CVS – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  3. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road

  4. The Reading Room — 19 Edgemont Road

  5. Weinstein’s Pharmacy — 101 Katonah Avenue

Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    

Cross River

  1. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  2. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

The Record-Review is available from our office at

264 Adams Street, Bedford Hills, NY

and at these locations:

Single copies $1.00