On Hillary's White House Experience

Update: The Quad City Times in Iowa endorses Hillary Clinton.

We tested her, too, in our editorial board interview, looking for evidence of the partisan rancor that is destroying our country. We found none. Instead, we found a proven, passionate, intelligent leader with a breadth of legislative and executive experience that is the best of a good bunch. For Iowa’s Democratic caucuses, we support Hillary Clinton.


Sally Bedell Smith, author of a book on Hillary Clinton, has an article in Newsweek today, Hillary's Hidden Hand. It examines her years in the White House in an effort to determine her experience and preparedness to take the reins as President.

Conclusion: She is experienced. First, on an advisory level:

Hillary Clinton was no spectator at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In campaign speeches, she often talks about what "we" thought and achieved—an acknowledgment that she and her husband have operated jointly for decades. And indeed she was uniquely immersed in the policies and politics of Bill Clinton's administration. Hillary was the first presidential spouse to have an office in the West Wing rather than the traditional First Lady's domain of the East Wing. She had no official position or specified duties, yet she was so involved in decision making that the president's staff called her "the Supreme Court" because they knew she was the last person he consulted before making up his mind.

Her advocacy for women appointees: [More...]

Hillary oversaw the hiring of White House staffers and pressed her husband to fill half the top positions with women.

On judicial and cabinet appointees:

The First Lady also participated in screening nominees for the federal bench through her chief of staff Melanne Verveer, who met each week with representatives from the Justice Department, the president's staff and the White House Counsel's Office. She interviewed cabinet nominees and prospective senior presidential advisers. Hillary tracked down and interviewed Robert Rubin, her husband's choice to head the National Economic Council, while he was on vacation in the Virgin Islands.


At other times Hillary showed a willingness to yield. In the summer of 1993, she tried to sink the North American Free Trade Agreement, which the Bush administration had negotiated. Hillary opposed the treaty because she believed it would take jobs away from American workers. She also worried that a campaign for the treaty's passage could divert the nation's attention from her health-care-reform efforts. Yet she relented after Mickey Kantor, the Clinton administration's trade representative, described NAFTA's political advantages. "I said, 'If you want to drop NAFTA, we can kill it, but we shouldn't'," Kantor recalled. The treaty's ratification that November became the major bipartisan success of the first Clinton term.

On foreign policy:

In May 1993 the president wanted to intervene to stop the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. He initially agreed to bomb Serbian military positions and help the Muslims arm themselves, but quickly reversed himself when NATO allies balked. The key factor in the president's shift was Hillary. She viewed the situation as "a Vietnam," recalled a Hillary friend. But two years later, after more than 250,000 deaths, Hillary became "an advocate for the use of force in Bosnia," according to one of the president's advisers.

On welfare reform:

In 1996 she pressed her husband to veto two Republican welfare reform bills for being too punitive. She then helped persuade him to sign a slightly modified third version when she recognized that the public overwhelmingly favored welfare reform in an election year.

Conclusion: Hillary is ready, as she says, to be sworn in and start leading on day one.

There is no doubt that Hillary's proximity to the Oval Office has given her a familiarity with the presidency that is unsurpassed by any of her rivals. She knows the mechanics of the White House and the demands of the job. She also has plenty of firsthand experience managing political crises.

The question, according to Bedell:

Would that make her a better president? The answer to that may turn on larger concerns—whether her vision suits the times, whether she can handle the pressure when the buck truly stops with her and whether she has learned to learn from her mistakes.

That's for the voters to decide. My point is only her assertions on the campaign trail that she is experienced and ready to lead on day one are accurate. We'll have to wait and see whether the voters think experience is as or more important than visions and promises of hope and change.

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  • Display: Sort:
    on polarization (none / 0) (#1)
    by Rojas on Sun Dec 23, 2007 at 12:22:08 PM EST


    "Smith tells of the Clintons attending a 1995 retreat called the "Camp David Seminar on the Future of Democracy," where a dozen scholars -- half liberals, half centrist "New Democrats" -- were there to "replicate the stresses and strains inside the Democratic party."

    Hillary Clinton seemed to play the role of liberal conscience to Bill Clinton's master conciliator.
    "I think we can do both," Bill Clinton would say.

    Writes Smith: "Somewhat surprisingly, Hillary also attacked working-class white southerners who had forsaken the Democratic party, and in an oblique way she took on her husband as well. 'Screw 'em,' she said, 'you don't owe them a thing, Bill, they're doing nothing for you.' Bill rose to their defense, 'as if rehearsing an old but honorable debate he had been having with his wife for decades,'" as one attendee recalled.

    "'I know these boys,' Bill said. 'I grew up with them. Hardworking poor white boys who feel left out.' He pointed out that liberal reforms had often 'come at their expense' and that the Democrats had to 'find a way to include these boys in our programs.' Hillary had no rejoinder, but during cocktails after the seminar she stood apart, 'opaque and unsmiling.'"

    As an aside (none / 0) (#2)
    by koshembos on Sun Dec 23, 2007 at 01:09:34 PM EST
    'I know these boys,' Bill said. 'I grew up with them. Hardworking poor white boys who feel left out.'

    The distance between "these boy", whether from the South or any where else, plaques the Netroots and indirectly is involved in the Obama is King cult of personality that is widely practiced by the Netroots. Progressive doesn't mean anti-Bush, it doesn't mean befriending Cuba, it means these and above all support of social issues, being actively against poverty, for affordable housing for all, for strong support for unions (and only civil unions), remembering that Rosa Parks was a poor seamstress before she became a national treasure.

    By the way, none of the national unions supports Obama! Most support Hillary and some support Edwards.

    they're a team (none / 0) (#3)
    by 1950democrat on Sun Dec 23, 2007 at 03:14:50 PM EST
    I'm glad these details are finally being posted, all together. Having watched the Clinton team since 1992, I'm boggled at people claiming Hillary was "just someone's wife" or "is new to elective office."

    In a Mom and Pop operation, it's common for things to be Pop's name, and often for him to be the front person. But while he's out front shaking hands, Mom is in the back room doing the brain work.

    In the 1992 campaign and in the early years of the Clinton team's terms, they were attacked on the groudns of Hillary having too much influence. I wonder how many of those attackers are attacking her now as not having real experience. In the negative movie PRIMARY COLORS the wife was shown negatively -- for being the real brains behind the campaign.

    Imo not just Hillary has more experience than, er, one of her opponents. Jackie Kennedy and Laura Bush have more experience than he does, too!

    And where is common sense? I suppose it's nice that no one is talking about 'Bill's third term' and few are calling her 'Evita.' But even if there are areas where Bill has more experience -- he'll be right there. It's the team, again.

    i think that, in a way, is what (none / 0) (#4)
    by cpinva on Sun Dec 23, 2007 at 04:21:46 PM EST
    truly scares the heck out of the republicans; the clintons will show them up as being transparently opportunistic, venal and incompetent, in a way none of the other democratic candidates can.

    in 7 years, the bush administration, and (for most of his terms) a republican dominated congress, have almost totally destroyed all the accomplishments of the clinton administration. not in a good way.

    and so, with their MSM servants, the republicans/conservatives have tried to demonize sen. clinton, for years. painting her as this "polarizing" personality, apparently raised in a cave in the gobi desert. for their true believers, it's paid off. i think the undecideds among us aren't quite so quick to be drawn in by the limbaughs and coulters.

    we'll see how it pans out in iowa.

    "...we hurt the people who voted us in." (none / 0) (#5)
    by Wes on Sun Dec 23, 2007 at 04:28:35 PM EST
    "So here's a little reminder of what Clinton's foreign policy was composed of. Hold on to it in case Lady Macbeth runs in 2008 and tries to capitalize on lover boy's record."

    In 1993, he pursued George H. W. Bush's invasion of Somalia. He invaded Haiti in 1994. He bombed Bosnia in 1995 and Serbia in 1999. In 1998, he bombed Afghanistan; and, at the height of his Monica Lewinsky troubles, he momentarily diverted the headline writers to a major "terrorist target" in Sudan that he ordered destroyed with an onslaught of missiles. It turned out to be sub-Saharan Africa's largest pharmaceutical plant, the only source of chloroquine, the treatment for malaria, and other drugs that were lifelines to hundreds of thousands. As a result, wrote Jonathan Belke, then of the Near East Foundation, "tens of thousands of people - many of them children - have suffered and died from malaria, tuberculosis and other treatable diseases."

    The yawning gap in wealth distribution was by design. Quoting from Bob Woodward's The Agenda, Pollin reports that:

    Clinton himself acknowledged only weeks after winning the election that "We're Eisenhower Republicans here We stand for lower deficits, free trade, and the bond market. Isn't that great?" Clinton further conceded during this same period that with his new policy focus "we help the bond market and we hurt the people who voted us in."

    Hurt who? (none / 0) (#6)
    by RalphB on Sun Dec 23, 2007 at 11:03:58 PM EST
    The military went into Somalia before Clinton was inaugurated.  After Black Hawk down, six months later troops were withdrawn.  Haiti was invaded, with no loss of life, to seat the duly elected president and depose a brutal dictator.  There was no loss of American lives and was a noble pursuit.

    The bombing of Bosnia was to stop a genocide on European soil.  This was also a worthy use of the American military and was successful.  Ditto for 1999.

    The CIA still disagrees with the factory in Sudan only being a pharmaceutical plant.  At the time, the information was otherwise and it's a shame they didn't get Bin Laden there.  I thought all the wag the dog believers went out of business after Bin Laden hit us on 09/11, but apparently there are still a few of them out there, mouthing the old right wing talking points.

    Economically, if Bill Clinton was an Eisenhower republican then please give me more.  Poverty dropped more than in any administration in this century. Many of the gains in the '90s went to lower income groups.  That was reversed after 2000.

    thanks ralph, but don't (none / 0) (#7)
    by cpinva on Mon Dec 24, 2007 at 04:20:02 AM EST
    expect facts to penetrate wes' rush limbaugh reality. actually, according to the bush administration, bill clinton has been in office for the past 7 years, contrary to popular belief.

    i know, i know, the 22nd amendment (pushed by republicans, to stop another roosevelt from appearing), allows only two full terms, plus the remainder of a term, to any one person. apparently, that hasn't stopped the "stealth" bill clinton from holding the reigns of presidential power since 2000, though we all thought he'd retired.

    go figure.

    He retired (none / 0) (#8)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Dec 24, 2007 at 07:54:38 AM EST
    he just won't shut up.

    He presumably being Bill (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Molly Bloom on Mon Dec 24, 2007 at 10:52:58 AM EST
    Exactly why should he "shut up". He has as much right to speak as you and he actually has something worthwhile to say more often than not.

    Haha (none / 0) (#9)
    by RalphB on Mon Dec 24, 2007 at 10:26:58 AM EST
    I never expect facts to matter to the deranged.  Really shouldn't leave that stuff just lying out there unrefuted though.

    Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, whatever to one and all!


    Perhaps you could support this statement with data (none / 0) (#13)
    by Rojas on Mon Dec 24, 2007 at 11:14:20 AM EST
    Poverty dropped more than in any administration in this century. Many of the gains in the '90s went to lower income groups.  That was reversed after 2000.

    And assuming this is true, what policy shift after 2000 was responsible?

    And was there a policy shift?


    Dot-com (none / 0) (#14)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Mon Dec 24, 2007 at 11:40:59 AM EST

    If you recall the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, which resulted in a fair bit of job loss.  

    Hillary as cabinet member (none / 0) (#10)
    by diogenes on Mon Dec 24, 2007 at 10:35:38 AM EST
    There were neither transcripts nor votes given here; friends of the Clintons remember what they think that she said at various times.  
    Is being opposed to NAFTA a good thing?
    No one here says whether Hillary told Bill to lie/stonewall the Monica investigation rather than confess immediately, but that coverup was the tragic flaw that wiped out much of 1998, at least.  That sort of hiding/coverup stuff was what undid Nixon.  Do you really think that there won't be one scandal in a Hillary administration?
    Why not release all the Bill Clinton administration records now, if they're so favorable?  Why wait until 2012?
    At best, all this stuff shows that Hillary could be a useful advisor to a skilled political president.  Maybe she could be in Obama's cabinet.  When she had something of her own to run, without Bill synthesizing things, she completely and utterly bungled health care reform.

    How did she completely and utterly bungle (none / 0) (#12)
    by Molly Bloom on Mon Dec 24, 2007 at 10:56:21 AM EST
    health care reform?

    With a fractured Democratic majority in 1992 and Bill Kristol advising Republicans to oppose and not compromise on health care, I don't think there was anything that was going to change the outcome.

    My guess is, unless progressives increase in congress, it isn't going to be any different this time no matter who is elected.


    Health Care Reform (none / 0) (#16)
    by diogenes on Mon Dec 24, 2007 at 01:30:22 PM EST
    Well, if you think that the top-secret Cheney-type commission process, the actual highly-bureaucratic proposal, and everything else weren't bungled, then one can't argue with you.
    Of course, one could have said that since Reagan was elected with a Democratic House that there was no way he'd enact a massive tax cutting agenda.  
    If Hillary's health reform reached the point of a filibuster in 1994 (which a Democratic congress could have done), then it'd be different.  If she couldn't craft a plan which even a Democratic Congress would want to pass, then maybe we need someone a little more adept at producing incremental change by building coalitions.
    And you didn't say what Hillary's shrewd political advice was on handling scandals, as in Monicagate.  As the aggrived wife, she could have told Bill to do whatever she wanted him to and if he didn't do it she could have done it herself.

    I asked you for specifics on bungling health care (none / 0) (#17)
    by Molly Bloom on Mon Dec 24, 2007 at 02:23:15 PM EST
    and I pointed out I don't know anything HRC could have done that would have made a difference.

    1. Democrats were willing to compromise with Reagan over tax cuts. Republicans were not willing to compromise with the Clinton Administration over health care. So far you haven't provided a rebuttal to my thesis.

    2. Why would a Democratic Congress filibuster healthcare? The idea was to pass healthcare legislation. Filibustering is a tool for when you are trying to prevent something. Here your response is a non-sequitur.  Again your response does not provide a rebuttal.  

    3. I didn't discuss Monica gate. That would be irrelevant to my question on "how did she bungle health care?".  

    So far your bill of particulars is she had a "top-secret Cheney-type commission process". Point granted. What was the reason for it (and the reason was made public at the time)?  How would opening it up make matters different, given the GOP was not going to agree to ANY compromise and most likely will not agree to ANY compromise in 2009? How will Obama the Grand Compromiser get a compromise with this situation. The Democratic Congress in 1992-93 was as fractured then as it is today, probably more so. The good news is there are less blue dogs today then there were in 93. My thesis remains nothing is going to change unless more progressives are elected to congress, regardless of who is elected President.

    Maybe you weren't actually trying to answer the question?


    Great campaigner too (none / 0) (#15)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Mon Dec 24, 2007 at 11:52:37 AM EST
    Hillary When to Compromise, When Not to Compromise (none / 0) (#18)
    by Aaron on Mon Dec 24, 2007 at 04:14:42 PM EST
    Recently Bill Clinton said that in 1994 Hillary urged him to send U.S. troops to stop the slaughter in Rwanda. He never did, and still regrets it. Yet if she did exhort him privately, she evidently failed to persuade him.  

    I wouldn't be surprised if this were true, but I don't remember hearing anything about this at the time.  As 1,000,000 Rwandans were being slaughtered, and hundreds of thousands of innocent children were being hacked to death with machetes, I think it would have been morally right for Hillary Clinton to put her foot down in this situation, and demand that Bill Clinton take some action, and do so publicly, if he chose to ignore her private pleas. Because that's what mothers to when it comes to defending children, they don't have to think about it, it's instinct.

    The Clintons could've saved a generation of children, yet they CHOSE TO TAKE NO ACTION, let me say that again just to be clear they CHOSE TO TAKE NO ACTION, even though they knew GENOCIDE WAS OCCURRING, and the Clintons had the power to stop it.  Unconscionable as far as I'm concerned.  There is no excuse for inaction in the face of genocide, and I will except none.

    In July 1994, he was urged to accept a compromise plan with less than the universal coverage that Hillary wanted. When he unexpectedly told a group of governors in Boston that he would be willing to take 95 percent, Hillary immediately called her husband. "What the f--- are you doing up there?"

    So Hillary CHOSE NOT TO COMPROMISE, and the American people got nothing. I'm not impressed when a politician stands their ground on principle, and the people they represent are left to swing in the breeze, at the mercy of predatory insurance companies for the next 15 years.  That kind of principled stand and poor judgment doesn't impress me at all.

    So what we have here is a supposed leader who has a record of making no compromise when they should compromise, and throwing up their hands and saying, I tried, but there was nothing more I could do, in the face of genocide.

    Excuse me, if I CHOOSE TO TAKE A PASS on Hillary Clinton as my representative.  And I can hardly blame others for doing the same, when they are left with Hillary and a Republican candidate as their only choice. What am I supposed to say to these people, Democrat, independent and Republican, who tell me that they would never vote for Hillary, how can I, in good faith, make the argument that she is indeed the best candidate?

    It's very easy to claim this (none / 0) (#19)
    by DaveFox on Wed Dec 26, 2007 at 12:23:19 PM EST
    when all the records of her time as first lady are sealed.

    more on Hillary's influence in Bill's admins (none / 0) (#20)
    by 1950democrat on Sat Jan 05, 2008 at 11:19:32 AM EST
    People speaking about Hillary's experience now may be slanting it one way or another. So here are some sources from the 1990s and earlier.

    The Team Behind Bill & Hillary
    Time Magazine Monday, Aug. 17, 1992
    prodded by his wife Hillary, belatedly realized that the campaign structure in Little Rock had to be revamped for the general election. .... "She's quicker to clarify and make decisions than Bill,"
    campaign insiders are reluctant to publicly acknowledge her substantive role, her imprint on the staff shake-up seems clear.

    A Different Kind of First Lady
    Time Magazine Monday, Nov. 16, 1992
    She was much more likely to end a meeting than hold one, the one person who could cut off debate and force a decision. ...the Governor says proudly that he wants her mind brought to bear on whatever he is doing, including being President.
    [During Governorship]
    "the best thing that could happen would be to let Hillary run the country. I know that sounds ridiculous, but she has just never failed."

    This is from a long feature on the Clintons' health care planning.
    Behind Closed Doors
    Time Magazine Monday, Sep. 20, 1993
    The three spent a Saturday night in the Clintons' cramped hotel room going over the plan. ...Clinton sat on a bed poring over Reed's draft while Hillary paced the room suggesting changes. The session lasted several hours until the three were satisfied.

    Charged by her husband with leading a committee on education reform, Hillary Clinton sought to defuse tension over controversial changes and made a point of holding hearings in all 75 counties.
    By all accounts, she was a success. "We've done elected the wrong Clinton," Dumas recalled one conservative lawmaker saying, after listening to Hillary Clinton report on the committee's findings. "She became a very popular person in her own right."

    more facts at http://1950democrat.livejournal.com