IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Highlights, history, saxophones and scandal

Visitors to the new Clinton library will find a full-scale replica of the Oval Office, an authentic presidential limo, a saxophone exhibit and a display of political buttons -including one that declares, "I LIKE SOCKS," a reference to the cat who once lived in the White House.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Visitors to the new Clinton library will find a full-scale replica of the Oval Office, an authentic presidential limo, a saxophone exhibit and a display of political buttons - including one that declares, "I LIKE SOCKS," a reference to the cat who once lived in the White House.

The scandals are here too - but not the notorious blue dress - in a small alcove dedicated to the "politics of persecution." But not surprisingly, the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Center focuses on the accomplishments of Clinton's administration - from the booming economy of the late '90s to his international diplomacy - rather than the failures.

The museum and library complex on the south bank of the Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock opened to the public Nov. 19. The institution was dedicated a day earlier at a ceremony attended by Clinton, his wife and daughter; President Bush, his wife, his mother and his father, the former President Bush; and former President Carter and his wife.

Except for its limited treatment of the various Clinton controversies, the museum complex is a history buff's dream: selected documents and artifacts from a collection of 80 million items gathered during Clinton's eight years in the White House.

Library director David Alsobrook says visitors should allot two hours for a self-guided tour. Those who intend to read every panel and look at every object will need four hours, while those with just an hour to spare should make a point of seeing the gifts from foreign leaders. The collection includes a miniature "Last Supper" inlaid with mother of pearl, given to Clinton by Yasser Arafat.

A presidential timeline opens with Clinton's 1993 inaugural address and his dream for the nation: "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America."

Hundreds of visitors wait in line for free admission to the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Ark., Saturday, Nov. 27, 2004. (AP Photo/David Quinn)David Quinn / AP

In a series of eight 18-foot-wide (5.4-meter-wide) panels, the library marks ups and downs from each year of Clinton's presidency, such as the Oklahoma City bombing, Clinton-led peace efforts in Northern Ireland and the Middle East, and Clinton's impeachment and acquittal over the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Regarding the Oklahoma City bombing, Clinton notes in a speech delivered April 23, 1995: "Let us teach our children that the God of comfort is also the God of righteousness. Those who trouble their own house will inherit the wind. Justice will prevail."

On the back of each display panel, visitors can access an electronic version of Clinton's daybook. Eight touch-screen monitors call up a specific day in Clinton's presidency to discover what was on his official schedule.

For instance, on Nov. 6, 1997, Clinton was in Texas for the dedication of George H.W. Bush's presidential library and on Dec. 9, 2000, he was in Washington unveiling plans for the Little Rock library.

And on Aug. 17, 1998, Clinton had "no public schedule." It was the day Clinton testified before a grand jury investigating his relationship with Lewinsky. The next day, he left for a vacation in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.

The sole revelation in the "politics of persecution" exhibit is seeing how library organizers presented it.

Lumping together Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America," Kenneth Starr's Whitewater investigation and the Lewinsky affair in the "politics of persecution" alcove evokes Hillary Rodham Clinton's assertion that her husband was the victim of "vast right-wing conspiracy."

"We had to show this was a systematic attempt by Republican leaders to delegitimize Bill Clinton and the administration," said former Clinton adviser Bruce Lindsey, who worked with the ex-president through much of the exhibit-design process.

Library director David Alsobrook acknowledged that many wouldn't be satisfied.

"His supporters will say, 'Oh, why did you give this so much space?'" Alsobrook said as reporters received advance tours on Nov. 17. "But his detractors will come up and say, `Dave, where is the blue dress?'" The stained dress, worn by Lewinsky, was sought as evidence of one of her encounters with the president.

Former Whitewater business partner Susan McDougal is pictured in an orange jumpsuit in the custody of U.S. marshals. Kenneth Starr is pictured prominently, but so are newspaper headlines screaming "Acquitted" after the Senate failed to convict Clinton.

"It's the way we believe history will record it. We have a point of view. I don't know if we have influence," Lindsey said.

In contrast to the small space allotted for describing the impeachment, Clinton asked specifically for a double alcove on his diplomatic efforts in Northern Ireland, the Balkans and the Middle East, according to exhibit designer Ralph Appelbaum.

Other bays - there are 14 in all - cover Clinton's intended legacy of "Putting People First," "Building One America," "Learning Across A Lifetime" and "Expanding Our Shared Technology."

A videotape prepared for a mid-1990s political satire show in Washington shows Clinton and his wife, in the role of regular Americans, spoofing the failed plan to reform health care that Mrs. Clinton put together at her husband's request.

In the spoof, Mrs. Clinton thumbs through a document thousands of pages thick only to discover in the fine print: "We're all going to die."

If You Go:

William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Center:
Open Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Christmas and New Year's Day. Adults, $7 ($5); seniors and college students, $5 ($4); children ages 6 to 17, $3 ($2); children under 6, free.