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First Arkansas class on Clinton gets under way

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Slick Willie doesn't fit.

Bill Clinton was more like Velcro, a president who couldn't escape controversy, said Margaret Scranton, a University of Arkansas at Little Rock political science professor teaching the state's first college course devoted to Clinton.

The class began Thursday evening at the university's administrative offices.

"When we thought of Reagan, we often thought of Teflon," Scranton told the class of 25 students.

"But I have often used the term Velcro to describe what happens to Bill Clinton," she said. "All of us know that Clinton is a controversial president. . . . People have strong feelings. We often saw this with president Nixon."

Scranton said Clinton may have been a "slick" communicator, but he couldn't dodge controversy.

A slide presentation ended with a photo of Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, the intern whose affair with the president led to his impeachment.

"I selected this photo to make clear we're not going to ignore the controversies and investigations," Scranton said. "We have to confront the various controversies."

Thursday night's speakers included Hal Bass, a political science professor at Ouachita Baptist University, and David Alsobrook, director of the Clinton Presidential Materials Project, where the largest collection of U.S. presidential materials ever amassed is being stored and processed.

The items will eventually be moved into the Clinton Presidential Library slated to open at Little Rock in 2004.

Bianca Gatchell, 23, a senior and a staunch Republican, said she signed up for the class "to get past the tabloids and form more intelligent opinions."

She said although the controversies and investigations were intriguing — and trashy — "there's other things Clinton did that I disagree with."

The course, "The Clinton Presidency," offered in cooperation with the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation, will serve as the prototype for the planned Clinton School of Public Service at the former president's library.

Individual classes will touch on the achievements and travails of Clinton's political life — and the scandals and controversies that dogged his private life.