Bill Clinton as First Gentleman?

Bill Clinton on his role as the potential first gentleman, and his life's work.


July 31, 2007 — -- Bill Clinton at tea parties and library openings? If he becomes the first first gentleman in the history of the nation, Clinton said he won't be adverse to performing some of the more traditional functions of the first spouse.

In an interview for "Nightline," Clinton told ABC News' Kate Snow, "I wouldn't mind actually doing some of that work -- some of the, you know, some of the more social work. If I were asked to do that, I would be happy to do it."

That is, as long as he could also continue the work he's doing with his multinational Clinton Foundation -- which includes global projects to combat HIV and AIDS, promote economic development and combat climate change and a well-regarded domestic effort to combat childhood obesity.

"I think that, when someone you know and care about gets elected president, it should be all hands on deck," Clinton said. "This country's got some big challenges and some enormous opportunities and all of us who can help should just be there to help. That's the way I look at it."

Clinton suggested he would have an office in the East Wing of the White House and keep his office at the Clinton Foundation in New York's Harlem neighborhood if his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., were elected.

He said he would "not get underfoot too much" at the White House. "I don't want to get in the way, I want to do what I am asked to do and what I am needed to do," he said. But he also said he would be glad to travel the world as a sort of roaming ambassador on behalf of a Hillary Clinton administration.

"It's also not bad for America to have a former president out there helping people solve their problems," Clinton added. "I think that I could do a lot of double time, like if she wanted me to go someplace to work with some problem, I could also be doing my foundation work."

Speaking in Lusaka, Zambia, in the midst of an eight-day trip across Africa, Clinton stressed the importance of continuing his Foundation work if his wife were elected. By negotiating agreements with generic drug companies, the Clinton Foundation has been able to lower the cost of life-saving anti-retroviral treatments, making them available to some 750,000 people with HIV across the globe.

"I just think that when you reach my age and you have had all the benefits in life that I have had, your main concern outside your family ought to be trying to make sure that no child dies before his or her time and nobody is denied the right to live his dreams," Clinton said. "To me all these numbers and statistics, they're stories."

Clinton said he would continue the Foundation work both because of the number of lives the Foundation is helping and because, frankly, it's what keeps him going.

"You feel alive and it's interesting," he said. He called his Foundation work "the work of my life." Clinton said what he's doing now is much more interesting than "playing one more round of golf."

Asked about speculation that perhaps Chelsea Clinton would play a role as a first daughter in the East Wing of a Hillary Clinton White House, Bill Clinton smiled.

"Well, we would have to talk to her about that," he said. "I'd be surprised. We're very proud of our daughter but she's highly independent, likes her own life, likes her own work. She wants her mother to win, she wants to campaign for her, but I think that she will probably be more like me. She would like to be asked to do specific things."

Right now, Bill Clinton is being asked to do a lot of specific things -- like traveling to Iowa and New Hampshire and hosting fundraisers right and left for his wife.

And even in Africa, he is still plugged in to the politics of the presidential race back home. Clinton pulled an all-nighter last week to watch his wife on the YouTube debate at 2 a.m. local time in Arusha, Tanzania.

He admits it is sometimes hard to sit on the sidelines and watch.

"It's harder for me to hold my tongue when people make personally derogatory comments about her, and assume things I know not to be true," Clinton said.

"When I feel people talking about someone I am not familiar with, I want to step in, and I do have to hold my tongue because it's -- you know, again, I'm trying to do what's helpful."

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