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But the real cynosure of the occasion last August was the smiling, snowy-haired man who is the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral he attends, the 42nd president of the United States, Bill Clinton.He had come to the City of Light with the motley crew that constitutes some of the post-presidential rat pack to celebrate the marriage of Douglas Band, the man who for the last decade has been his personal aide, gatekeeper, enforcer, and—more recently—counselor in the multifarious business, philanthropic, and political dealings that keep Clinton restlessly circling the globe.But through it all, it has been easy enough to retain an enduring admiration—even affection—for a president whose sins against decorum and the dignity of his office seemed venial in contrast to the systemic indifference, incompetence, corruption, and constitutional predations of his successor’s administration. This winter, as Clinton moved with seeming abandon to stain his wife’s presidential campaign in the name of saving it, as disclosures about his dubious associates piled up, as his refusal to disclose the names of donors to his presidential library and foundation and his and his wife’s reluctance to release their income-tax returns created crippling and completely avoidable distractions for Hillary Clinton’s own long-suffering ambition, I found myself asking again and again, What’s the matter with him?

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Virtually no one, except his doctors and family, knows the precise state of Clinton’s health.

Virtually no one really knows what strategic role he has played in his wife’s campaign.

Old friends and longtime aides are wringing their hands over Bill Clinton’s post–White House escapades, from the dubious (and secretive) business associations to the media blowups that have bruised his wife’s campaign, to the private-jetting around with a skirt-chasing, scandal-tinged posse.

Some point to Clinton’s medical traumas; others blame sheer selfishness, and the absence of anyone who can say “no.” Exploring Clintonworld, the author asks if the former president will be consumed by his own worst self.

I first really met him on New Year’s Eve 1994, when he shook my hand on the beach at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, and let his eyes travel ever so subtly to the newly issued White House press pass hanging around my neck, so that he could know to say, “I’m glad you’re here, for more than two years, I spent some part of almost every day watching, thinking about, worrying about, or writing about Clinton and his never-a-dull-moment presidency.

I found it hard not to admire his roving intellect, his protean political talents, his outsize personality, and the tactical skill with which he eventually confronted the Republican congressional majority that bedeviled so much of his tenure.No former president of the United States has ever traveled with such a fast crowd, and most 61-year-old American men of Clinton’s generation don’t, either.“I just think those guys are radioactive,” one former aide to Clinton who is still in occasional affectionate touch with him told me recently, referring to Burkle and (to a lesser extent) Bing. Whatever they’re doing, they definitely view me as somebody you cannot confide in.”A longtime Clinton-watcher, who has had ties to the former president since his first campaign for governor of Arkansas, said of Clinton’s sometimes questionable associations, “I don’t know what to make of any of that, if it’s a voyeuristic experience, or if he’s participating in it.”Yet another long-serving Clinton aide said simply, “If you figure it out, would you let me know?(The suit was later settled out of court.)In fairness, it should be said that Clinton’s entourage that weekend also included his daughter, Chelsea, and her boyfriend, Marc Mezvinsky, and no one who was there has adduced the slightest evidence that Clinton’s behavior was anything other than proper.Nor, indeed, is there any proof of post-presidential sexual indiscretions on Clinton’s part, despite a steady stream of tabloid speculation and Internet intimations that the Big Dog might be up to his old tricks.Clinton had no use for the string of pure and noble losers that had come to define the Democratic Party’s presidential prospects for so long. (I should add, by way of disclosure, that my wife, Dee Dee Myers, was Clinton’s first press secretary.

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