Bye-Bye D.C., Hello New York

President Bill Clinton at news conference.
Another chapter of the Bill Clinton era is ending with the closure of his transition office, Clinton's command central during a bumpy transformation from president to private citizen.

Six months have passed since Clinton exclaimed on President Bush's Inauguration Day: "I left the White House, but I'm still here. We're not going anywhere."

But Clinton, politically if not personally, is leaving Washington. This was his final toehold in the nation's capital.

He is headed to Harlem in New York City, home of the permanent office of his post-presidency. The shutdown of the Washington transition office, which the government provides to ex-presidents for six months, means Clinton's only haunt in the capital will be the home bought after his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, was elected a senator representing New York.

It also means Clinton is saying goodbye to some longtime loyalists who are not joining him in New York. One is his former personal secretary Betty Currie, who is retiring and keeping the Clintons' cat, Socks.

Clinton's dog, Buddy, lives at the Clintons' home in Chappaqua, N.Y.

Clinton saw Currie - and Socks - when he stopped by the transition office Wednesday.

"There was some cake and other food. He came by to thank everyone for all their work the past six months," said Clinton spokeswoman Julia Payne, who is going with Clinton to New York. "Next week he'll be in New York, getting that office up and running."

Clinton will have a staff of 10 in Harlem.

"It's not sad - at least for those of us moving to New York," Payne said. "The majority of the boxes were sent up to the Harlem office on Tuesday. People are very excited."

Among those at the Clinton gathering, a block from the White House, were volunteers who have handled thousands of letters Clinton has received. Others were old hands who helped Clinton weather the tumultuous months after he left the White House.

There was criticism about the presidential pardons Clinton issued the day he left office, including one to financier Marc Rich, who was on the Justice Department's list of international fugitives. There were stories about missing Ws (essential for typing George W. Bush) from computer keyboards at the White House. There were questions about a few hundred thousand dollars in gifts the Clintons chose to take with them when they left. And the uproar over Clinton's initial decision to lease pricey quarters in

As Clinton's profile dims in Washington, his wife remains in the spotlight.

Mrs. Clinton has worked to quell questions about her presidential ambitions, but a slip-of-the-tongue Thursday fueled them instead. At the National Press Club, she denied any interest in running for president or vice president.

"I'm having a great time being pres ..." she began.

She quickly corrected herself and continued: "... being a senator from New York."

By Deb Riechmann
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