Obama Team Has Forged Another Link With Clintons
WASHINGTON — It’s official. The old Clinton gang really is back together again. Answering the phones these days for the co-chairman of President-elect Barack Obama’s transition, John D. Podesta, is none other than Betty Currie.
Emerging from retirement in southern Maryland to volunteer at Obama headquarters, Ms. Currie was the personal secretary to President Bill Clinton, who became caught up in an independent counsel investigation into his trysts with the White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Since leaving the White House, Ms. Currie, 69, has shied from publicity and kept a low profile in Hollywood, Md., where she lives with her husband, Bob, and Socks, the presidential cat, which she took with her after Mr. Clinton left office.
Ms. Currie, who works with local nonprofit organizations and serves on the Alcohol Beverage Board of St. Mary’s County, declined to discuss her work for Mr. Obama or her recent life, citing a transition office policy against volunteers giving interviews.
Compelled to testify to a grand jury five times about Mr. Clinton’s relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, Ms. Currie is widely admired in Clinton circles for her loyalty and effectiveness.
Mr. Podesta, who was Mr. Clinton’s last White House chief of staff, said it was natural for him to call Ms. Currie back to service.
“Of course I asked her because in the 30 years we have worked together, I have never known anyone with more grace, dedication and public spirit than Betty,” he said. “And she has one mean Rolodex.”
Ms. Currie is the latest familiar face from the Clinton era to assist Mr. Obama’s team. In addition to Mr. Podesta, Mr. Obama’s chief of staff, his White House counsel and his economics, energy and environmental advisers all served in the Clinton administration. So did most of the cabinet officers he has chosen and many of the transition aides conducting agency reviews. And the newly designated secretary of state is Hillary Rodham Clinton.
A longtime secretary in agencies like the Peace Corps, Ms. Currie left government to work for Democratic presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988 before joining Mr. Clinton in 1992. She then served in Mr. Clinton’s transition until he picked her to be his secretary. She stayed through all eight years, calmly managing the intersection of power and policy.
Other Obama aides said they expected Ms. Currie to help out through the transition but not to return to the White House after the inauguration.
Ms. Currie has kept in touch with the Clintons and donated $750 to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination this year. When she ran into Mrs. Clinton last spring, she told a writer from Southern Maryland Newspapers, Mrs. Clinton asked about Socks.
U.S. News & World Report has reported that Socks, now 19, has cancer.