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Avis Bohlen – Paris 1994

We in 1994 had the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Chirac made this an all-out thing, and [President] Clinton came, and that was a very warm occasion. I was Mrs. Clinton’s Control Officer, so I took her around.

I should preface by saying I have enormous admiration for her [Clinton] and for what she’s doing at present. I have to say that dealing with their advance people, which is always a tricky situation, was just horrible. This was the first foreign trip that Clinton had made, and we forget what the first years of Clinton were like on foreign policy, these horror stories of foreign leaders being denied access to the White House and so on.

Politics was the only thing they knew. They knew nothing about foreign policy. They had no sense that one might need to tread carefully. So, we spent hours looking for good settings for events for Mrs. Clinton and things that would play well on the evening news.

One of the things we came up was a visit to the Rodin Museum in Paris, which is lovely old 18th century house and a garden which houses most of Rodin’s sculpture in Paris.

They thought this was a nifty place for Mrs. Clinton to meet with a bunch of school children who were to be taken out of school and brought to meet her. This was before the Chirac election. It was Mitterrand who did this. This event was organized.

Now the garden of the house is a maze of hedges. The staffers were positioned at various strategic points so that nobody could walk down these paths while Mrs. Clinton was being photographed with these children. Madame Chirac, who was the wife of the Mayor of Paris—she obviously wasn’t the President’s wife at that point or this wouldn’t have arisen—but she came and because Mrs. Clinton said there’s not time for a separate meeting with her, the scheduling was always very tight, and so she had come separately.

She tried to go down one of these paths, and this little twit said, “No! You can’t go there!” I said, “This is the wife of the Mayor of Paris.” Actually, I was looking after Madam Chirac and engaging her in small talk and trying to soothe ruffled feathers.

In fairness to Mrs. Clinton, she was quite consternated at what people were doing in her name.

Bill and Hillary Clinton’s Visit to France for the 50th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion | Association for Diplomatic Studies & Training (adst.org)

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