Survivalists, ranchers and Republicans. Senators like Alan K. Simpson instead of Ted Kennedy. Not a Hollywood star or tremulous folk singer anywhere in sight.
It doesn’t exactly sound like the natural milieu of President Clinton, but on Tuesday he is scheduled to collect wife and daughter and head to Jackson Hole, Wyo., for a 17-day sojourn that may be the longest vacation of his presidency.
The goal is to focus on enjoying America’s most spectacular mountain scenery as he did as a boy, and as several million Americans do every summer in a high valley where 13,000-foot peaks scrape a cerulean sky.
The President is entitled to liege lord’s treatment in this northwest corner of Wyoming, since 97% of the area is federally owned. Teton County has both the hugely popular Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, as well as national forests, lakes and streams, all generously populated with trout, grizzlies, elk, bald eagles and bison.
The Clintons will be borrowing the handsome stone-and-timber home of Sen. John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (Va.), in a fir-scented glade next to the 13th fairway of the Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis Club. Rockefeller’s grandfather, John D. Rockefeller Jr., bought much land in the area in the 1930s and donated 52 square miles to the federal government to help establish Grand Teton National Park.
This vacation will be a marked change from the earlier presidential holiday in Martha’s Vineyard, where he yachted with Kennedys and warbled with “me generation” folk singers, and the early trip to California, where he glided on the sequined path of Hollywood celebs.
The White House advance team has been frantically laying plans to make sure that the Clintons’ hastily planned landing is smooth. But nothing is simple for a President, and certainly not for this one.
Clinton’s running wars with the Wyoming Establishment over such issues as control of federal lands, environmental regulation and even relocation of livestock-threatening wolves on public land did not sweeten the initial reception.
On news of Clinton’s approach, Republican Gov. Jim Geringer snippily told a reporter from the Jackson Guide newspaper: “There’s a lot of good in Wyoming. Let’s hope some of it rubs off on him.”
Crusty Wyoming Republican Sens. Simpson and Craig Thomas let it be known that they would be in Jackson Hole at the same time as Clinton--and didn’t plan to look him up. The state’s governor, single House member and Legislature are all Republicans, and President George Bush carried the state in 1992.
And on first hearing the news of his arrival, many year-rounders in the Jackson Hole area, which swells with tourists from a population of 6,000 to 40,000 in August, muttered uncharitably about what their commander in chief might do to their quality of life.
“I’d probably turn my head if I saw him, but I’m not going to change my day at all,” one woman told the Jackson News.
The area’s 125 restaurants, dozens of lodgements and assorted amusements are already operating at full tilt, so local businesses don’t stand to benefit much. Some tax-conscious locals have begun muttering about the $20,000 the visit is likely to cost the county in overtime and promotional expenses.
Locals have been apprehensive to see stone-faced advance security teams casing the joint--some of them reportedly in the black helicopters that have become part of the lore of anti-federal activists.
Still, Wyoming natives feel a need to be polite to everyone, which only makes sense in one of the most thinly populated states in the union. Since the first shock of the visit wore off, most everyone is trying to extend a gracious welcome.
The all-Republican congressional delegation sent Clinton a letter tendering best wishes for an enjoyable stay. Joe Rogers of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce sighs wearily at the thought of the massive logistics for the visit.
But Rogers insists: “We’re honored that he would choose Jackson Hole for a vacation. Everyone here is putting a good face on it.”
National Park Service personnel have positively bubbled their enthusiasm. Perhaps it is only natural that they should be extra attentive to the ranger in chief, considering that the Administration, trying to cut costs, has been laying plans to shed more than a quarter of the Interior Department work force.
The Clintons will not lack for diversions: There is horseback riding, one of 14-year-old Chelsea’s favorites; the bike-riding, walking and swimming that Mrs. Clinton fancies, and golf at several highly regarded courses for the President. There are plenty of opportunities to float down unpolluted rivers in inflatable rafts that carry large parties.
The French Canadian trappers who held rowdy summer rendezvous in this valley 170 years ago tried to outdo each other with long-winded and colorful stories that sometimes dragged well on into the night. And in this, the trip will play to Clinton’s natural inclinations.
While the family plans are always in flux, it appears this vacation is different from some others in that only a small number of Friends of Bill will join his court at play this year. Bruce Lindsey, Clinton’s confidant from Arkansas days, is to be along, but perhaps no others, and only the most bare-bones White House staff.
It’s not yet even clear who Clinton will golf with, although Vernon E. Jordan Jr., the corporate lawyer buddy who helped run the Clinton transition, is rumored to be visiting. And the gathering could be atypically small when the Clintons gather Saturday to celebrate the President’s 49th birthday.