Would It be Worthwhile For Bill Clinton To Discuss Hillary's Role In His White House?

For better or worse, Hillary Clinton's political image is largely dominated by her tenure as First Lady. It seems fairly clear that Hillary was a key, if not the key, advisor to President Clinton on many many issues. And while Tim Russert's questions on documents from the period is not really an attempt to shed light on this, it is rather more of the same gotcha nonsense, it does inadvertently get to a lot of questions about Hillary.

In today's WaPo, Michael Kinsley writes:

[First ladies] must have a better understanding of how the presidency works than all but half a dozen people in the world. One of those half a dozen is Hillary Clinton, who saw it all -- well, she apparently missed one key moment -- and shared in all the big decisions. Every first lady is promoted as her husband's key adviser, closest confidant, blah, blah, blah, but in the case of the Clintons, it seems to be true.

That seems true to me. But here's the thing - my recollection of the Clinton years had Hillary supposedly playing the liberal in the lion's den of Centrists role in the Clinton Administration. I'll never forget the reaction of Peter and Marian Wright Edelman to welfare reform. Peter resigned his post and Marian Wright Edelman made sure everyone understood how she felt personally betrayed by HILLARY, not Bill. Hillary was to be the liberal conscience of the Clinton Administration. How time changes images. Now Hillary's supposed liberal past is long forgotten. For those who favor DLCism, this is a sign of Hillary's good sense. For those who disfavor it, it proves hillary is a corporatist sellout DLCer. This is a central question about Hillary Clinton. Who could best answer this question? I believe Bill Clinton would be that person. I think it would help us all, and probably mostly Hillary Clinton, if he and Hillary were to discuss her role and views on the Clinton Administration and the issues faced at the time. Release of documents to add to this telling would be even better. I think it is time to tell the story - not of the personal lives of the clintons - but the public policy lives of the the Clintons. Tell us what Hillary did, said, advised and thought. To me it is the most interesting and relevant question of the entire campaign.

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    Spouses tell the truth about each other? (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Lora on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 09:47:48 AM EST
    I believe Bill Clinton would be that person.

    It would be interesting, to be sure, but whether or not you would get the true story is another matter.

    I am curious why you think he would lie? (none / 0) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 09:53:18 AM EST
    And what lies would you expect him to tell?

    Which lies would help?


    The whole truth? (none / 0) (#9)
    by Demi Moaned on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 10:34:38 AM EST
    It's more a question of omission and emphasis. If he chose to address it at all, no doubt he would tell the story as he thought would best reflect credit on his wife's candidacy. That's only natural. But he could not tell the story as though he were a disinterested observer.

    Sure (none / 0) (#12)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 10:40:43 AM EST
    Do you think we would not learn from that?

    By that measure, nothing a candidate says should be listened to. They are NOT disinterested observers.


    BTD... (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by Teresa on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 10:28:31 AM EST
    I hate going through this primary season without your voice on DailyKos. That place is getting irrational (not meaning the front page). I find myself coming here more and more to read your analysis.

    It's a wasteland (5.00 / 3) (#10)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 10:37:50 AM EST
    Worse than I have ever seen it.

    I lived and in may ways, WAS, the last primary war there and let me tell you my foes were smart, fact based people. The arguments were harsh, but enlightening and I think, interesting.

    Now the are well, awful.


    Mydd has also deteriorated. (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by Molly Bloom on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 11:19:15 AM EST
    Can't stand reading candidate diaries in either place. I keep asking were they always this bad and I just didn't notice?  

    Hillary Clinton would be the (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by oculus on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 01:12:10 PM EST
    better person to discuss her role during Bill Clinton's presidency. She's the candidate.

    Together I think (none / 0) (#20)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 01:46:31 PM EST
    Who is your choice to conduct the (none / 0) (#21)
    by oculus on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 01:49:07 PM EST

    Paul Krugman (none / 0) (#22)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 01:58:02 PM EST
    High praise. (none / 0) (#23)
    by oculus on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 02:04:31 PM EST
    BTD, I want to hear from the candidate (none / 0) (#31)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Nov 25, 2007 at 10:19:30 AM EST
    I expect Bill to do what the other candidates spouses do and say stupid things that the press runs wild with!

    they had 8 years to prove themselves, (none / 0) (#3)
    by seabos84 on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 09:59:17 AM EST
    and they did - they're sell outs.

    before someone wastes their time telling me about political reality, cuz, like I'm a bambi among all the big brains -

    fixing / redirecting ONE, 1, UNO, of the BIG sectors of our society / the globe would be a huge accomplishment.

    look at any 1 sector, like security / defense OR health care OR education OR transportation OR housing OR food OR power / electricity OR ...

    any ONE, 1, UNO of those sectors also happens to be a big part of our economy, each with its own crooked slime oligopolists who've got decades of experience stacking the deck to make sure they don't have to compete and they ain't accountable and they are raking in the dough.

    when you take on 1 sector crooks and all sectors band together cuz if you're successful, you might go after another sector of crooks...

    the clintons did try to go after healthcare, and they seriously blew it. and then they focused on staying employed with their triangulating baloney.

    robert reich wrote about them a few years ago - I wish they'd just join a wal-mart's, exxon's and gm's boards of directors and go away.


    eh (none / 0) (#5)
    by RalphB on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 10:03:18 AM EST
    Bitter little guy, aren't we?

    try angry, negative, cynical (none / 0) (#14)
    by seabos84 on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 11:08:46 AM EST
    too -

    I know my analysis doesn't win friends among the happy happy affluent college crowd - but, about the only thing that works with that crowd is

    happy happy upbeat positive happy happy.

    given how many of that crowd have been in charge in the dem party over the decades,

    given how completely the rove fascists have stomped the happy happy crowd,

    maybe you'd be better served with an approach that is a little more realistic and a little less Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music ?

    sing, be good, marry a rich person, and you'll escape!



    Honestly (none / 0) (#6)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 10:06:05 AM EST
    I do not understand your comment. In that I do not understand what you are trying to say. I understand you dislike the Clintons, but not sure what you are saying beyond that.

    it is hard to fix anything IF (none / 0) (#16)
    by seabos84 on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 11:12:54 AM EST
    you want to and IF you try.

    Maybe they wanted to and maybe they tried with healthcare - but it wasn't for long enough and it wasn't hard enough and it wasn't smart enough.

    I didn't see them want to and try to with any of the other huge problems / sectors of our economy.

    The worked long and hard and smart on winning in 1996 and getting hillary her senate seat in 2000.



    Truth (none / 0) (#4)
    by RalphB on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 10:01:52 AM EST
    I don't think it would matter what Bill said, the supporters of other candidates would just say it was  all lies.  Then they could go forward with their previous beliefs intact.

    From my own standpoint, it could be helpful but I doubt it would gain much support.

    One thing I do know is that Dick Morris hates her for some reason and I think it's because she fought his advice and won a few times.

    DLC? (none / 0) (#7)
    by masslib on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 10:23:06 AM EST
    Hillary does use sort of centrist rhetoric(too much for my taste sometimes), but her policies are not DLC.  Also, people always bring up welfare reform, well, who running was against welfare reform(I was, but that's irrelevant)?  Obama expressed support for welfare reform in his book.  I would also find it interesting though, if Bill talked about some of Hillary's advice.  I believe he has done so in terms of Kosovo.

    Obama on welfare reform (none / 0) (#11)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 10:39:26 AM EST
    That is certainly little known.

    Welfare is considered the quintessence of traingulating DLC-style.

    Personally, I think the "reform" was ot a good thing.

    A reform was needed, but not the reform done.


    Well, I didn't read his book, but I have (none / 0) (#13)
    by masslib on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 10:44:51 AM EST
    read that he expressed support for it in his book, though like Hillary, mentioned not enough was done to get recipients into jobs and training programs.  I actually don't believe the welfare program needed reform.

    MSM (none / 0) (#15)
    by BDB on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 11:12:05 AM EST
    In theory, I think it's a great idea for former President Clinton to discuss his wife's role.  I think that's especially true since the release of documents is completely outside of their control.  So long as they do not object to the release of any papers, and they haven't, they can't move the process along any faster than the National Archives can move since every piece of paper has to be reviewed before release for a million different things (classification, privacy act, privileges).  

    The problem, I think, is that the MSM have never treated the Clintons' relationship rationally.  So I'm not sure any discussion by Bill Clinton won't be subjected to the Clinton rules - which means even things that are demonstrably true will be deemed lies, any error by either will be magnified, and some small point will be picked out and interpreted through the Dowd-Matthews-Broder psychological lens to illustrate some part of the marital relationship.  In short, I'd expect any discussion by Bill Clinton on his wife's policy role will quickly be reduced to weeks and weeks of discussion on their "relationship."   Which I suspect HRC would enjoy about as much as surgery without anesthetic or perhaps I'm projecting my own reaction onto her.

    The sick thing about our current media is that, with a few exceptions, not only do they not seem interested in pursuing stories or analysis that is useful, they actually tend to punish people who try to put out information or shed light on matters by trivializing and bastardizing those matters.  

    Bill Clinton's welfare reform efforts (none / 0) (#18)
    by Artificial Intelligence on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 11:30:04 AM EST
    Although I had missed Kenneth Baer's November 15, 2007, New York Daily News article After bashing Bill Clinton, Obama needs a history lesson after the JJ dinner, it was on-point:

    "Obama delivered an impassioned, retooled stump speech making the case for his campaign and against the front-runner, Sen. Hillary Clinton. The problem is that the heart of his argument is based on a basic misreading of Clinton - Bill, not Hillary - and what he did in the 1990s.

    "I don't want to spend the next year or the next four years re-fighting the same fights that we had in the 1990s," Obama told the rapturous crowd. Yet throughout his speech, Obama did just that, by reviving a persistent argument, popular among the left of the Democratic Party, that Bill Clinton and the New Democrats sold out liberal principles for cheap electoral gains. [snip]

    "While Bill Clinton's 1996 campaign guru Dick Morris likes to claim his 'triangulation' strategy is what steered the campaign to victory and guided Clinton's presidency, that is more self-aggrandizement than anything else. Clinton entered office espousing a coherent, progressive alternative to the strain of liberalism that dominated the Democratic Party through the 1970s and '80s.

    "Instead of aiming for equality of results and the redistributive economic policies that accompanied it, Clinton and the New Democrats stressed equal opportunity and policies that gave people a chance to better themselves - like job training, access to higher education and government-matched savings accounts.

    "Instead of stressing Americans' entitlement to government benefits, they preached the responsibility of citizens to contribute in exchange for taxpayer help - calling for welfare reform, national service, and expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit to supplement the incomes of the working poor. [snip]

    "Let's not kid ourselves: It would have been far easier for Clinton to have gone along with the prevailing orthodoxy. Opening markets abroad to American goods, balancing the budget, supporting charter schools and passing welfare reform were deeply unpopular ideas in the Democratic establishment.

    "But, at bottom, Clinton stood by them, and the results at the end of his presidency - 22 million new jobs, the lowest crime rate in a generation and the lowest African-American poverty and unemployment rates on record, just to name a few - are accomplishments that Democrats of all stripes should be proud of.

    "This doesn't mean that all that's needed now is a return to what worked in the 1990s. The challenges we face today, from terrorism to hyperglobalization, are significantly different from those we confronted a decade ago - and they demand fresh approaches."

    Well said, I'd say

    A dysfunctional relationship... (none / 0) (#24)
    by Dadler on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 02:46:03 PM EST
    Bill and Hillary's relationship, IMAO, is far too complex and largely dysfunctional for anyone to hope that asking Bill to explain Hillary's role in his administration would result in anything of value.  Simply stated, I don't think your average American, on whatever side of the political aisle they reside (or if they sit on the fence) believes that an honest assessment is possible.  Bill Clinton's presidency is remembered fondly and he is well liked politically if the polls are true, but I don't think that trust extends to anything having to do with his wife, their relationship, or anything stemming from it, which certainly includes her stint as first lady.  I mean, come on, what's he going to do, downplay her role?  He'd be looking to spin it as positively and profoundly as he could.  Then, however, that opinion would be contradicted by former administration officials, those on the other side, and the entire thing would turn back into slick Willy b.s..

    Hillary should be able to speak clearly and consistently for herself, as any candidate should.  That she isn't doing so (yet or not yet)speaks volumes.

    Every couple's relationship (none / 0) (#32)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Nov 25, 2007 at 10:26:36 AM EST
    is far too complex for most other people and largely dysfunctional to most other people.  When couple's share like addictions or like attractions they are blind to it, see Johari's Window. We are imbalanced in our personal intimate relationships in some way and usually in many many ways. We are human beings and we can't avoid it.  We can work on dealing with it though and spotting it.  Their relationship is emotionally intimate meaning that the rest of us aren't going to know a whole lot about it and if we did then the Clinton's would technically have boundary issues.

    michael kinsley used to be rational, (none / 0) (#25)
    by cpinva on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 02:51:18 PM EST
    many moons ago. that stopped being true sometime around 1992, shortly after bill clinton was elected. subsequently, anything he says should be taken with a huge grain of salt, and sedatives.

    frankly, i'm not at all convinced of the relevancy of sen. clinton's activities during her husband's terms in office, she wasn't elected, he was. it might be interesting to see how her outlook, vis a vis certain current events, might have evolved since then, but i think her terms as a senator are a more enlightning indicator of what she might do as president, since they are of more recent vintage, and she's actually a player.

    all things considered, her husband (and she), left the nation in a far better position than the current administration will. if you just absolutely, positively have to know, there's your answer.

    Except That (none / 0) (#26)
    by squeaky on Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 03:10:39 PM EST
    Is the 800 pound gorilla sitting in the middle of the room. Airing it out and acknowledging it is better than making believe that it is a non issue, because people will spin it out with wild speculation.

    Her Senate career is minor compared to her fame as first lady.
    If Eleanor Roosevelt were to run for president would you suggest that her role as first lady was not a significant issue for her presidential bid?

    Having a three way discussion with Hillary, Bill and Krugman or someone of his caliber would be a good thing. It would relax the  situation that everyone is spinning about.


    if eleanor roosevelt's only (5.00 / 2) (#27)
    by cpinva on Sun Nov 25, 2007 at 12:14:35 AM EST
    prior experience was being first lady, than yes, it would be legitimate fodder for discussion. that's not true of sen. clinton. not only has she spent 7 years in the senate, she was an attorney in private practice, prior to her husband's election.

    certainly her white house years were formative, but not the essential ingredient in her personality that some would make it; she was fully formed before moving in, unlike say, jackie kennedy. she had her own career, apart from her husband's. she'd already had washington experience, as part of the watergate hearings.

    all of these experiences played a part in shaping her, not just her white house years.

    while i'd be happy to watch that interview, with dr. krugman, i'm not sure how much it will add, that we didn't already know.

    funny thing about the clinton's "dysfunctional" marriage, they're still married, to each other.


    Female taxi driver told me she wouldn't (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by oculus on Sun Nov 25, 2007 at 02:00:29 AM EST
    vote for Hillary Clinton because she didn't leave Bill Clinton after Monica revelations.  Go figure.

    Hey, I was pissed at her at first too (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Nov 25, 2007 at 10:31:25 AM EST
    She should have face planted him, but she did something much much better and much more dedicated and now that I'm getting older I find that under certain circumstances I might have chosen to do as well.  Make him extremely sorry for it and then make him hold my coat while I run for President and LIKE IT and he is.  I don't think cheaters make good spouses but there are so many things involved in a personal marriage who am I to say that everything else they have together doesn't make getting beyond the hurt of the past wild clenis possible and maybe even the healthiest most rational decision to make?  It isn't my marriage, he isn't my husband and father of my child.

    Bill Should Say (none / 0) (#29)
    by Edgar08 on Sun Nov 25, 2007 at 03:19:00 AM EST
    "My wife Hillary Clinton was responsible for all the successes, and I was responsible for all the successses."

    Here's what I should have typed. (none / 0) (#30)
    by Edgar08 on Sun Nov 25, 2007 at 03:27:23 AM EST
    "My wife Hillary Clinton was responsible for all the successes, and I was responsible for all the failures."

    800 pound gorilla (none / 0) (#34)
    by diogenes on Sun Nov 25, 2007 at 11:27:27 PM EST
    Whose idea was it to deny and cover up Monicagate until the blue dress appeared, when they both knew she was telling the truth and she was being pilloried for months as lying or being "troubled".  A gentleman and a feminist working together would more likely have confessed on day one and told the country to leave the poor intern alone because she was basically a victim of the power dynamic of the CEO.