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It's Been a Very Good Week for Clinton : Euphoric after the signing of the Bosnian peace pact--and teeing off for more than 300 yards--the President chats with party guests, reminisces and philosophizes about golf.


WASHINGTON — The Bosnian peace agreement to end the longest, bloodiest war in Europe since World War II had been initialed in Dayton, Ohio, only hours before and President Clinton was surfing on endorphins. He was beyond "the Zone," riding a crest not even Olympic champions can know--the flooding joy political leaders feel when they believe they have just won themselves a favorable page in history.

On Clinton's schedule, the evening event was a routine bit of presidential performance art, a drop-in at a party a few blocks from the White House. But it stretched to more than an hour, and to those who knew him, it seemed clear almost from the moment he arrived that Clinton was in no ordinary mood.

To begin with, there was the tie. Dark blue against a white shirt, it was covered with brightly colored leaping frogs. And there was a "back when I was a boy in Arkansas" story behind it.

That was followed soon after by philosophizing on golf, the lessons it offers for life, tips from the great Tom Watson about hooks and slices, thoughts on Republican nemesis Newt Gingrich and on and on.

The occasion was a reception at the Times Washington Bureau honoring its new bureau chief, Doyle McManus, newly appointed deputy bureau chief Jane Bornemeier and news editor Tom McCarthy. McManus is replacing Jack Nelson, who ends 21 years of service as bureau chief and becomes chief Washington correspondent in January.

The scene reminded Nelson of a small White House dinner hosted by then-President Jimmy Carter in 1978, the night after the signing of the Camp David accords that began the Mideast peace process. Carter had been on the same kind of high that night, Nelson recalled--uncharacteristically expansive and seemingly eager to prolong the evening.

For his part Tuesday night, Clinton seemed so reluctant to return to the relative solitude of the White House that he chatted with guest after guest, trading stories and reminiscing.

At one point, the President even stood in silence for almost five minutes while a guest, a foreign journalist, lectured him on the political pitfalls of an upcoming trip to Ireland. "Thank you," he said gravely when the tutorial ended. "I'll be careful."

On the subject of his tie, when a guest admired the design, Clinton responded with a story worthy of a country music song. As Clinton was growing up in Arkansas, he said, his stepfather, like many men of that era, was not always comfortable talking about his feelings.

"Whenever I would ask him whether I should do something," Clinton said, his stepfather would always answer the same way: "You never know how high a frog can jump until you punch him."

As for golf, Clinton said, "I like golf for the same reason that a lot of people don't like it." Pause. "It takes a long time.

"Everything else in my life I have to do in a hurry. Golf is slow, and if you hurry it, you get punished.

"Tom Watson once told me that golf is just like politics," Clinton said. "If you move [your hands] too far to the right--you've got trouble on the left [because the ball will hook]. If you move too far to the left--you've got trouble on the right [because the ball will slice]."

Was he bothered last week when Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole tweaked him publicly for playing golf instead of negotiating on the federal budget the day the government shutdown ended?

"Hell, no," Clinton replied. Indeed, he had hit the ball more than 300 yards that day, only the second time in his life.

When someone mentioned he had had a good week, Clinton replied, "The country had a good week." To another such comment, he said, "I've been lucky."

About 250 government officials and others attended the reception, which was hosted by Times Publisher Richard Schlosberg, Editor Shelby Coffey III and Nelson. Among the guests were Deputy Atty. Gen. Jamie Gorelick; Laura Tyson, chairwoman of the National Economic Council; Gene Sperling, special assistant to the President for economic affairs; David Kessler, head of the Food and Drug Administration; Calvin Mitchell of the Treasury Department; Reps. Jane Harman (D--Rolling Hills) and Steve Horn (R-Long Beach); former Democratic National Committee Chairman Charles Manatt; former Republican National Committee Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf; Washington Post Publisher Donald Graham; former Post Editor Benjamin Bradlee, and National Journal Publisher John Fox Sullivan.

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