Washington Diary

Cherry and dogwood in full blossom, in a week or two the azaleas in all their splendour, and not a whiff yet of the murderous humidity of high summer. Few things beat spring in America's capital - unless you happen to be America's president, and you wander into one of the local bookstores. The compulsive fascination of the man escapes me, but Bill Clinton attracts writers the way a dog attracts fleas. He's barely half- way through his term, yet we've had by my reckoning four biographies, two full-out histories of his first two years, not to mention the memoirs of his late mother and enough tracts, reviews, essays and sundry scribblings to fill the Library of Congress.

For Clinton books, April 1995 has been a gruesome month. The other day I dropped by the extremely classy Politics and Prose, the bookshop that serves my upper north-west neighbourhood, to survey the latest offerings. First to catch my eye was Clinton Confidential, a 517-page tome by one George Carpozi Jnr, described as one of the country's most famous investigative writers (though, shamefully, I'd never heard of him). The opening line of the cover blurb sets the tone: "In the finest American tradition of bareknuckle journalism ..." Any remaining doubts are dispelled by chapter headings such as "A Joggin' Man's Orgies" and "Mistresses Queer Bill's '88 Run". In short, a compendium of every salacious tale and conspiracy theory that has ever been peddled about the Clintons.

Somehow, though, it wasn't quite as unnerving as the new book next to it, The Dysfunctional Presidency: Inside the Mind of Bill Clinton. Finally it's happened, this most over-analysed president in American history has been taken to pieces by "a licensed clinical psychologist", in the person of a certain Paul Fick, PhD. So our man's mad, right? Well, not quite. According to Dr Fick, Mr Clinton's problems are caused by a condition called the Adult Children of Alcoholics syndrome. Now that explains why he had Gerry Adams in the White House.

But, as Hillary Clinton will attest, the nastiest barbs come from closest to home. The latest to cash in is that black sheep of the Clinton family, the appalling would-be-crooner Roger. New York magazine this week ran excerpts from Roger's impending contribution to Clinton literature, due to hit the bookstands in July. "Hillary didn't fit my definition of attractive," he writes, adding that she's snooty as well. "She told me her family didn't have a crisis every few days. ... You get along with Hillary about as well as Hillary wants to get on with you." With brothers-in-law like that, who needs enemies?

Still, don't let me put you off Politics and Prose the next time you're in town. Along with home delivery pizza, baseball (at least until the strike) and button-down shirts, bookstores are among America's great contributions to civilised living, and P&P is the perfection of the genre. It offers comfy armchairs for unlimited browsing, plus its own coffeeshop, readings and discussion groups featuring topical authors, and about the nearest thing to an OJ-free environment in the Western hemisphere. And it's going to get bigger and better still. Last month it took over the next-door premises of a folded video store. Even in the US, Gresham's law can work in reverse.

But then again, not very often. Take the latest curiosity from that incestuous world of felons, talk shows, and politicians. Remember the Watergate burglar Gordon Liddy? As is well known, after serving four years in jail for his excess of zeal on behalf of Richard Nixon, Liddy saw the light, shaved his head and went into conservative talk radio, just as it was catching fire. These days, measured by bile and bigotry, he's right up there behind Rush Limbaugh. An ideal launching pad, in other words, for his daughter Alexandra to run for a Republican seat in the Virginia state legislature. "The Liddy name," notes a local official, "is certainly one that will generate money."

Speaking of money, more on that other local obsession - where the most powerful man in DC (who is not Bill Clinton or our soon-to-be-disgraced- again mayor, Marion Barry) plans to build a new stadium for the Washington Redskins football team. Now the Redskins have been even more dysfunctional than the President these last two seasons. But that hasn't stopped their owner, the eccentric, Canadian-born billionaire Jack Kent Cooke, from looking around. First he tried DC itself, then its Virginia suburbs, before being rejected by Laurel, the snooty racing town midway between here and Baltimore. Now the roving Cooke eye has lighted on a chunk of farmland east of the city as a possible home for his 78,000-seat monster. Alas, new disappointment beckons. The area, it transpires, is one of the prime fossil sites along the Eastern seaboard.

And while I'm on the subject of sport, a brief cautionary tale. Washington's crime rate is falling (murders this year are more than 10 per cent down on 1994). But Alexandria, just across the Potomac in Virginia, has just had its first random "jog-by" shooting. A 21-year-old woman was out for a run in a reputable part of town when a stranger jogging the other way pulled out a handgun and shot her in the stomach. I'm happy to report that the woman will recover, but is anything safe these days?

Finally, Washington's diplomatic blooper award of 1995, and no prizes for guessing the recipient - Republican Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who, in keeping with the mysterious ways of the Greatest Deliberative Body on Earth, was elevated this year to the chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Helms has, of course, never concealed his views that foreigners are no more than a bunch of Islamic weirdos, scroungers and crypto-Communists. But even by his own hamfisted standards he excelled himself this week, introducing Benazir Bhutto as ... "the Prime Minister of India".

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
books
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Chosen to lead the women's wing of the ruling Zanu-PF, the wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding the 90-year old
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model of a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution