WASHINGTON – After two weeks of touring to promote his new book,Bill Clinton Tuesday returned to the city he called home for eight years to meet hundreds of fans wanting his autograph.
At Politics and Prose bookstore,Clinton admirers waited hours in a line that stretched around the block to meet the former president. People lined up as early as 6:30 a.m. to see Clinton,who started signing books about 12:30 p.m. He stayed until 5:30 p.m.
“I'm a big fan – big fan. I wish he was running again,” said Marian Smith,77,a retired dental assistant from Rockville,Md.,who got in line at 8:30 a.m. with the copy of “My Life” that she bought two weeks ago when the store handed out tickets for Tuesday's signing. “I like it I like anything he does.”
Richard Thompson,62,a retired military computer systems analyst from Silver Spring,Md.,said he admired Clinton for his efforts to reform the health care system and save Social Security. He arrived at the bookstore at 6:30 a.m.,he said,“but it was worth it.”
Inside,Clinton signed books with assembly line efficiency. Four aides assisted the process – one took the book from the person in line,two others held it open while it was signed and a fourth returned the signed copy to the smiling patron.
For some,the meeting was more than just a brush with celebrity. It was a reunion.
Anne Randolph met Clinton when he was a Rhodes scholar and she was studying in England. They stayed in touch. When her time for an autograph came,she showed the former president a picture of the two of them at a White House breakfast several years ago. Clinton chatted with Randolph much longer than with most of the autograph seekers.
Randolph was sporting a “Socks Rocks” pin in honor of the former first pet,and she said it was “fabulous” to get to see Clinton again.
“It's very touching what he's doing for the world,” she said. “He's the kind of person who has a very warm soul.”
To a woman wearing a Clinton-Gore campaign T-shirt,Clinton said,“Thanks for wearing that one.”
Alonita Vannoy,54,of Manassas,Va.,worked on Clinton's campaign and attended Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's book signing here last year. She said she told the former president that she wants his wife to run for the job some day.
The book store did not have an estimate of the number of people who had books signed,but police said they were prepared for between 1,500 and 1,700 people. The crowd spanned racial and generational lines,and one man was wearing his Navy dress uniform.
“I never had the honor to give him a salute as my commander in chief,so I plan to do that today,” said the officer,who refused to give his name. “If my boss knew I was here today,I'd probably get fired.”
Not everyone was a Clinton supporter. About 20 members of the conservative group Free Republic held anti-Clinton signs and shouted anti-Clinton slogans,including,“Don't forget your kneepads” and “You're entering a one-free-grope zone.”
The group accused Clinton of lying in office and not telling the whole truth in his book.
“The book should be called ‘My Lies,' not ‘My Life,'” said Kathy Wood,57,of Burke,Va.,a leader of the group,to anyone who would listen.