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President bonds with his cabinet

(First Edition)

FIRST we discover that the First Couple 'do fibres' (they like broccoli) and that smokers will have to light up in the doorways of the White House, not inside it. It has emerged that Mr Clinton and his cabinet members have been guided by professionals in the art of emotional bonding.

Two experts, known as 'facilitators', were hired for an exercise in 'human resource development' at a gathering of the cabinet at the presidential retreat at Camp David last weekend. The purpose was to nurture trusting relationships within the new team. No one is telling whether the participants had to sit cross-legged in a circle or if any hugging was involved, but the main point of the session was for each member to relate to his or her colleagues one pivotal event in their life that would otherwise not be in the public domain. Some apparently responded with tales of past personal and marital problems.

We do know that the President broached a period in his life apparently most unhappy for him when he was about five or six and fatter than all the other children. According to sources quoted in the Washington Post, Mr Clinton suffered the taunts of friends who mocked his obesity. Herein, perhaps, lies the secret of his commitment to jogging.

Bonding exercises of this kind are commonly practised in business retreats but have never before been heard of in a presidential context. Jimmy Carter once took his cabinet for a weekend outing to Camp David and fired four of them the following week.

Some of Mr Clinton's colleagues appreciated the departure, however, notably Donna Shelala, Secretary of Health: 'What everyone loved was the fact that we all liked each other.'

In true business-retreat style, the cabinet members were obliged to wear name-tags all weekend, in case not everybody recognised each other. 'Is that Christopher Warren or Warren Christopher?' someone might have asked.