Out of America: Youth falls out of favour at the court of Bill Clinton

WASHINGTON - Youth is a blunder, wrote Benjamin Disraeli back in 1844. A century and a half later Clinton's White House, once the chaotic kingdom of the young, seems to have reached the same conclusion. This summer has been a roll-call of misery for the administration: Paula Jones; Haiti; Whitewater hearings; humiliating legislative snarl-ups over crime and health care; and tumbling approval ratings.

But it has been an especially wretched time for the thirty- and forty-something Wunderkinder who were to be the cutting edge of the Clinton Revolution. Some have been shown the door, and others will be soon. Vacancy advertisements, however, carry a crucial proviso: if you are under 50 and without at least a decade of experience in Washington, don't bother to apply. The Revolution has fizzled. The consequence is a generational change in reverse.

The decline and fall of the brash young courtiers began in the spring of 1993, when David Gergen, image-maker to Presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan turned bland savant, was summoned to lend his insider's wisdom to an already faltering Clinton cause. The White House press secretary, Dee Dee Myers (then 32, now 33), and other Young Turks from the campaign are said to have wept at the appointment of a man who embodied everything they had successfully run against in 1992.

Mr Gergen's first six months at the White House were Mr Clinton's best, including bullseyes on a deficit reduction package, Nafta and Gatt. But if things were bad in mid-1993, they are far worse now. And the workaholic whizz- kids are in worse odour than ever.

First and most obvious, they are kept off television. Take George Stephanopoulos, whose cool political judgement has made him perhaps one of the President's closest advisers. But those skills are no longer aired in public; for all his icy composure, Mr Stephanopoulos looks even younger than his 33 years. His gravitas comes over as cockiness. These days, the defence of the administration is left to the new White House Chief of Staff, Leon Panetta, 56, a former California congressman and budget director who exudes charm and button- down efficiency in equal measure; and 76-year-old worldly- wise Lloyd Cutler, the White House Counsel.

But Mr Stephanopoulos' job is not in danger - which is more than can be said for some of his contemporaries. If Mr Panetta has his way, Dee Dee Myers' days are numbered. Just 37, David Wilhelm is to walk the plank as Democratic party chairman: his effective replacement is another hardbitten ex-congressman called Tony Coelho, safely over the 50 barrier.

Whitewater is about to claim more heads: certainly that of Roger Altman, the Deputy Treasury Secretary, and possibly the hapless Joshua Steiner, the 28- year-old Treasury Chief of Staff of disavowed diary fame, whose squirming before his Senate inquisitors even aroused the maternal instincts of one of them. 'When I look at you,' said California's Barbara Boxer, 'I see the exuberance of youth, the exaggeration of youth, the loveliness of youth, along with some of the problems of youth.' Americans might be excused for wondering, should people like that be running the country?

In fact, youth is the the preferred hallmark of Democratic administrations. Jody Powell was only a couple of years older than Ms Myers when he became Jimmy Carter's White House press secretary. JFK, Clinton's model, gave the job to Pierre Salinger, then 35, while Teddy Sorensen, President Kennedy's speechwriter, counsellor and confidant - the Stephanopoulos of his day - was just 32 at Camelot's dawn in January 1961.

There is further consolation for the threatened thirty-somethings. Boy wonders, too, can metamorphose into gurus. Take Clark Clifford, now a frail 87, but long the doyen of Washington's Democratic insiders. It is easy to forget that almost half a century ago, Mr Clifford was a young star at the court of Harry Truman. In her position, Ms Myers is remarkable because of her sex, not her age.

But unlike her, those youngsters of a bygone age did not fear for their jobs. They did not have Mr Clinton. Today's search for weathered authority has come about because he projects so little himself. Would JFK, Jimmy Carter or Harry Truman have answered a question on television, as Mr Clinton did earlier this year, whether his underpants were briefs or boxer shorts? Would anyone have dared ask? You cannot blame the infant prodigies for everything.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
Sport
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
News
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
music
News
i100
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Representative

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To promote and sell the Company...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager - Civil Engineering

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Business: This company is going thro...

Tradewind Recruitment: KS1 & KS2 Teachers Required

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind Recruitment are currently working...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea