It couldn’t be more than a coincidence, of course.
Just a few days after Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a presidential aspirant and Tea Party favorite said Democrats should return any campaign money raised by former President Bill Clinton to protest his affair with Monica Lewinsky, a conservative on-line publication revealed a rich trove of papers describing Hillary Clinton’s reaction to her husband’s infidelity.
The voluminous documents include correspondence, journal entries, memos and interviews from the mid-1970s to about 2000 from Diane Blair, a political science professor and one of Hillary Clinton’s best friends, who died in 2000. While these papers have been open to the public since 2010, it took The Washington Free Beacon to stir up interest by publishing the contents on Sunday night.
It will be five months or so before Hillary Clinton, the former Secretary of State and New York senator, brings out her latest memoir in the run-up to her all-but-certain run for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. But her Republican critics are wasting no time in digging up material to help inform a narrative of a hard-edged, “ruthless” politician who would do anything to advance her career – including rationalizing the reckless personal conduct of her philandering famous husband.
Indeed, The Washington Free Beacon article accompanying the archived information opens with a description of a May 12, 1992 confidential memo by Stan Greenberg and Celinda Lake, top pollsters for Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign, with the subject line: “Research on Hillary Clinton.”
The pollsters wrote that voters admired the strength of the Arkansas first couple. However, “they also fear that only someone too politically ambitious, too strong, and too ruthless could survive such controversy so well.”
Their conclusion: “What voters find slick in Bill Clinton, they find ruthless in Hillary.”
Nine months after the news broke in January 1998 that President Clinton had had an affair with the 22-year-old Lewinsky beginning in November 1995, Hillary Clinton described Lewinsky as a “narcissistic loony tune” in a phone call with Blair. She defended her husband and called the affair a mistake spurred in part by politics, her own failures and the loneliness of the presidency.
Lewinsky claimed to have had sexual encounters with Bill Clinton on nine occasions from November 1995 to March 1997. According to her published schedule, First Lady Hillary Clinton was at the White House for at least some portion of seven of those days.
She told Blair that the affair did not include sex “within any real meaning” of the term and noted that President Clinton had “tried to manage” Monica after they broke up but things spiraled “beyond control.” Blair described the contents of the Sept. 9, 1998, phone call in a journal entry.
“[Hillary] is not trying to excuse [Bill Clinton]; it was a huge personal lapse. And she is not taking responsibility for it,” Blair wrote.
“But, she does say this to put his actions in context. Ever since he took office they’ve been going thru personal tragedy ([the death of] Vince [Foster], her dad, his mom) and immediately all the ugly forces started making up hateful things about them, pounding on them.”
“They adopted strategy, public strategy, of acting as tho it didn’t bother them; had to. [Hillary] didn’t realize toll it was taking on him,” Blair continued. “She thinks she was not smart enough, not sensitive enough, not free enough of her own concerns and struggles to realize the price he was paying.”
Rand Paul has twice brought up the Lewinsky scandal in the context of the 2014 and 2016 campaigns. Late last week, Paul argued in a Sunday C-Span interview that Democrats are being inconsistent by talking about a Republican “war on women” while relying on the former president for campaign cash.
“The Democrats can’t say, ‘We’re the great defenders of women’s rights in the workplace, and we will defend you against some kind of abusive boss that uses their position of authority to take advantage of a young woman,’ when the leader of their party, the leading fundraiser in the country, is Bill Clinton, who was a perpetrator of that kind of sexual harassment.”
“Someone who takes advantage of a young girl in their office? I mean, really. And then (Democrats) have the gall to stand up and say, ‘Republicans are having a war on women’? Now, it’s not Hillary’s fault…but it is a factor in judging Bill Clinton in history.”
While insisting that the Lewinsky scandal doesn’t necessarily detract from Hillary Clinton’s possible run for president, he added that it is hard to separate the two since they are married.
The archives of Blair’s journals and records were donated to the University of Arkansas library after Blair’s death in 2000 by her husband, former Tyson Foods chief Jim Blair. Here are several other highlights.
- Days after President Clinton’s impeachment in 1998, the first lady called Blair in good spirits, telling her friend that, “Most people in this town have no pain threshold.”
“[Hillary] sounded very up, almost jolly,” wrote Blair. “Told me how she and Bill and Chelsea had been to church, to a Chinese restaurant, to a Shakespeare play, greeted everywhere with wild applause and cheers—this, she said is what drives their adversaries totally nuts, that they don’t bend, do not appear to be suffering.”
Hillary Clinton’s “adversaries” included the media, Republicans, and top members of President Clinton’s staff, according to a Washington Free Beacon analysis of the contents of the Blair archive.
- On Feb. 23, 1993, Blair joined the Clintons for a family dinner at the White House and the topic of health care reform came up. Hillary Clinton took the lead in her husband’s effort to pass health care reform early in his first term. “At dinner, [Hillary] to [Bill] at length on the complexities of health care—thinks managed competition a crock; single-payer necessary; maybe add to Medicare,” Blair wrote.
The account is at odds with public statements by the former First Lady that she never supported the single-payer government health care option – an approach that many Republicans derided as a move towards socialized medicine.
In an interview with the New York Times as she ran for president in 2008, Hillary Clinton said she had never seriously considered adopting a single-payer system, in which the government, using funds appropriated from taxpayers, pays for all health care expenses. “You know, I have thought about this, as you might guess, for 15 years and I never seriously considered a single payer system,” said Clinton in the interview.
- Blair spoke with Hillary Clinton on Thanksgiving Day 1996 shortly after Clinton returned from a trip to Australia and Thailand and celebrated the holiday at Camp David. During that phone conversation, Clinton spoke frankly about herself:
“She has about come to the conclusion that no matter what she does is going to piss off some people, so will just continue to be herself and let everybody else make whatever adjustments they have to,” Blair wrote. Clinton said: “I’m a proud woman.” “I’m not stupid.” “I know I should do more to suck up to the press, and I know it confuses people when I change my hairdos. I know I should pretend not to have any opinions. But I’m just going to.”
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