Bill Clinton slows the show in South Carolina

January 26, 2008

CHARLESTON, S.C. – The campaign plane may be Sen. Hillary Clinton’s but her husband still has the political clout to keep it on the ground.

Leaving a rally in Charleston late on Friday night, the presidential candidate, her staff and the press rushed on board the campaign plane to fly back to hotels in Columbia, S.C.clinton3.jpg

But former president Bill Clinton climbed the staircase into the rear of the plane and stopped to say hello to reporters and photographers, already clustered around plates of free food.

He began describing the campaign stops he made that day and the kinds of questions he was asked. College students, he said, often ask about Darfur.

Then Clinton started to talk about Iraq, and the shoulders of a half dozen Secret Service agents, stuck standing in the plane’s aisle behind him, slumped.

As Clinton moved onto the topic of refugees, a member of his wife’s staff, balancing three pizza boxes, tried in vain to walk past. Looking oblivious, Clinton just kept talking.

A flight attendant tried to move matters along, getting on the loudspeaker to request that passengers take their seats. Clinton stood his ground. The frustrated flight attendant tried again, announcing that sitting down during takeoff was a federal regulation.

Clinton began to explain the origin of a colorful string bracelet he wears on his wrist, to the audible groans of the the Secret Service, still standing behind him in the aisle.

One agent finally broke his stoic silence.

“Stop nodding your heads like you’re listening,” he muttered to anyone within hearing distance. “Just stare blankly like we do.”

Ending his soliloquy on world affairs, the former president walked to his seat at the front of his wife’s campaign plane. The lights dimmed, and the jet began to taxi down the runway. 

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– Photo credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder

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