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Clinton: ‘I feel great’ after heart procedure

Former President Bill Clinton was recovering at his suburban home Friday after leaving a Manhattan hospital where he underwent a heart procedure.
Image: Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton departs New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Hospital after visiting her husband on Friday.Justin Lane / EPA
/ Source: The Associated Press

Right until he was wheeled into an operating room for a heart procedure, Bill Clinton was on the phone, talking about Haiti earthquake relief. An aide finally took the phone away from him.

On Friday, the 63-year-old former president seemed to have returned to multitasking, just a day after having a clogged artery reopened and two stents inserted into his chest.

"I feel great. ... I even did a couple miles on the treadmill today," Clinton said, speaking to reporters in a leather jacket from the driveway outside his home. He said doctors advised him "not to jog but walk. Not to walk fast up steep hills for a week."

Aides said Clinton's second heart procedure in five years seemed unlikely to slow down his brutal work schedule, which included two trips to Haiti, stumping for Senate candidate Martha Coakley and attending an economic summit in Switzerland — all in just over a month.

"He's working as hard as he's ever worked. He's done it for 63 years and will do it for the next 63 years. He's never going to stop," said Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist who helped guide Clinton's first presidential bid in 1992.

Slow down
But some other advisers said Clinton's brief hospitalization was a reminder that his health has become more fragile. They worried that he's running too hard.

"He's got to slow down," Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said on MSNBC Friday. "He's got to slow down to a good, human schedule. He's had a superhuman schedule for a long while, and he's got to cut back. There's no question about it."

Advisers said the Haiti earthquake-relief effort have been Clinton's main focus, and he appeared to return to that cause on Friday.

Through his foundation, Clinton put out a statement marking the one-month anniversary of the quake and urging people to donate. He said nothing about his health.

The Clinton Foundation's Haiti fund has given $7 million to relief organizations in the aftermath of the quake that killed more than 200,000 people.

Clinton said Friday that he had been working long hours on the Haiti relief effort, including taking three overnight flights in a week. He said his first symptoms were about four days ago, when he felt "just a little bit of tingling, not pain."

Full schedule
Clinton has been doing more than most people do in a day or a month: On Jan. 7, he met with President Obama at the White House. Five days later, he attended the funeral of Vice President Joe Biden's mother in Delaware.

On Jan. 15, he campaigned for Coakley in the race for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts. Three days later, he toured a destroyed hospital in Haiti.

On Jan. 28, he made an appeal for Haiti aid at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and was back in Haiti on Feb. 5.

"He's just constitutionally unable to say no to a good cause, to say no to a good candidate," Rendell said.

Terry McAuliffe, former Democratic National Committee chairman and a close friend of the Clintons, told CBS' "The Early Show" that it was probably time for Clinton to slow down. But "you can't change him."

"If I know President Clinton, he'll be on the phone ... calling people asking for more help for Haiti and where he can get pickup trucks so they can deliver food or generators. If I know Bill Clinton, he'll be raring to go in about 35 minutes," McAuliffe said.

Clinton consulted with his cardiologist Thursday after suffering discomfort in his chest for several days. He had the procedure at New York Presbyterian Hospital, the same place where he underwent quadruple bypass surgery in 2004.

Shortly before 8 a.m. Friday, three black Sports Utility Vehicles with tinted windows arrived in Chappaqua, a wealthy suburb about 35 miles north of Manhattan.

Clinton returned home with his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, advisers said.

Valentine's card
A couple of hours later, C.J. Williams, a second-grader from Connecticut arrived at the cul-de-sac carrying a get-well card and a red heart-shaped box filled with Skittles.

The sandy-haired boy said he wrote on the card, "Happy Valentine's Day. I hope you feel better, and here's a little heart to make your big heart feel better."

An officer told C.J. and his father that they would have to mail the items.

Aides said Mrs. Clinton plans to leave Saturday for the Persian Gulf. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the secretary of state is "confident enough that she can go on this trip as originally planned," especially after the former president's speedy return home.

Clinton's cardiologist said he expected Clinton to go back to work Monday.

Rep. Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat who visited Clinton in the hospital, said returning to a full schedule may help his health more than it hurts him.

"Bill Clinton operating at quarter-speed is twice what most people do at full-speed," Weiner said. "His work on behalf of Haiti and the Clinton Global Initiative, I think, keeps him young, much more than it wears him out."

Clinton said taking care of his health has forced him to sleep more. But he said it has not slowed his work schedule.

"It's what I should do. That's what my life is for," he said. "I've been given a good mind, a strong body ... It would be wrong for me not to work."