Bill ClintonIt’s no fun arguing about whether the president of the United States from 1992 to 2000 was influential, with New Yorkers or anyone else in the world. Especially because of the charges of opportunism when the Clintons bought a house in Chappaqua in 1999, the case for Mr. Clinton should be based on Bill Clinton of New York, not Mr. Clinton of Arkansas or Mr. Clinton of Washington.
It’s still a slam dunk.
First, Mr. Clinton deserves a spot on this list because of his and Mrs. Clinton’s opportunism. The former president can live anyplace. Perhaps the real question should be why all former presidents don’t move to New York City. Other than not being the seat of the federal government, New York is a—or the—world capital of nearly everything.
Second, in addition to continuing the trend of presidents monetizing their former office, Mr. Clinton has maintained his focus on issues of global importance through the Clinton Foundation, operating from Harlem in 2001 and now from lower Manhattan. The foundation’s HIV and AIDS Initiative and Global Initiative have raised big money for public health and fighting poverty. He has also become the go-to guy after natural disasters, working with his predecessor, former President George H.W. Bush, on relief efforts after the Indonesian earthquake and tsunami in December 2004, after Hurricane Katrina and after the Haiti earthquake.
Third, he probably has more political power now than when he was president. His reputation and success grow with each day separating him from the Oval Office. With the Democrats at risk after the 2008 Obama-Hillary Clinton primary season, Mr. Clinton gave an impassioned speech for Mr. Obama at the Democratic National Convention. In fact, he healed the potential rift so well that Mrs. Clinton became the Obama administration’s secretary of state.
By the 2012 presidential election, Mr. Clinton’s support went beyond political politeness and became a rescue mission. Bill Clinton became the Democrats’ embodiment of economic growth, and the former president tirelessly campaigned for Mr. Obama, decisively rallying the troops after the president’s weak effort in the first debate.
If Mrs. Clinton seeks the White House in 2016, her husband will be an even more effective weapon. Look how he helped her political opponent. He owes his wife at least as much.