Celebrity Retirement Scorecard: Bill Clinton


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Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton


William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton
Former occupation/notable position held: 42nd President, United States of America
Activities during retirement: Philanthropist, foundation head; public speaker; best-selling author; political albatross
Retirement Report Card Grade: D

In the heat of the Presidential primary battle, now presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama publicly mused that he sometimes didn't know which Clinton he was running against.

America agreed. It wound up hurting Hillary, badly.

The damage the former president was doing to his wife's campaign went high-profile at perhaps the worst popular time, following her unexpected, comeback victory in New Hampshire. His thinly-veiled invocation of race on the South Carolina stump turned a campaign just catching the wind into listing sloop.

No one would ever confuse Bill Clinton with a political or media trainee. So what's to explain his well-documented campaign travails?

It does wash if you look at Bill as a guy finding his way into a new phase of life – not traditional retirement, but a period that requires sublimating a Presidential-sized ego, and finding a new identity.

It can be tough work establishing a new persona when you turn the page. For many traditional retirees, the cocktail party icebreaker "what do you do" becomes loathed if the best they can conjure is, "I'm retired." Bill was in uncharted waters for someone used to having the spotlight trained solely on him.

Look at Bill's public-facing activities since leaving the White House, and you see a similar pattern: worthwhile pursuits, starring Bill Clinton as, well, Bill Clinton.

Bill Clinton as a brand is a good thing if it means getting desperately needed dollars to Africa, or delivering what Homeland Security could not to New Orleans. But Brand Bill didn't fly on someone else's Presidential campaign trail. Maybe it did early on, but not during the campaign's latter, critical phase.

The former president gets a "D" for this marking period, with big potential to return to his former, higher-scoring self.

A smart guy once said (paraphrasing) when you're President, they play music every time you enter the room. When you're not, the music stops. Bill would have done well by his wife by remembering these, his own words.

Michael Burnham is CEO of My Next Phase, a consulting firm offering non-financial retirement planning products and services (www.mynextphase.com).