Monday, February 10, 2014

Diane Blair's papers produce trove of insight on Hillary Clinton

Posted By on Mon, Feb 10, 2014 at 6:16 AM

click to enlarge THE PRIVATE HILLARY: A document that recounts a 1996 conversation between Diane Blair and First Lady Hillary Clinton.
  • THE PRIVATE HILLARY: A document that recounts a 1996 conversation between Diane Blair and First Lady Hillary Clinton.

click to enlarge ILLUSTRATION: The Free Beacon illustrated its report this way.
  • ILLUSTRATION: The Free Beacon illustrated its report this way.
This story dropped last night, but should set off a round of ceaseless re-examination on the web, cable TV and more

The Washington Free Beacon, an on-line source of news and comment written from a right-wing perspective, published last night a lengthy article on Hillary Clinton based on papers of the late Diane Blair, the University of Arkansas political scientist and long-time friend of Hillary Clinton.

The headline: The Hillary Papers: Archive of 'closest friend' paints portrait of ruthless First Lady.

"Ruthless" is the meme of the day and next few years, I'd guess. (UPDATE: A reading of the documents doesn't really back up the assessment. The word is drawn from some opinion research.)

The article, citing documents and reproducing images of many of them, focuses on major issues where Clinton once said things in private, according to Blair's recollection in her journal, at variance with things Clinton has said publicly. It is, of course, not particularly unusual for positions to evolve over time. These instances include intervention in Bosnia and the failed health care initiative of Bill Clinton's early presidency in which Mrs. Clinton was said to have privately expressed skepticism about managed competition versus single-payer. Publicly, she advocated the managed care approach.

The article includes a great deal of Blair's account of Mrs. Clinton's reaction to reports about her husband's infidelity and his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. It was a nuanced sort of reaction, not approving by any means, but defensive in some respects.  She didn't see her husband as a predator, for one thing.

Notably for Arkansas readers, the article recounts a private Hillary Clinton resistance to the appointment of federal Judge Richard Arnold of Little Rock to the U.S. Supreme Court. The article indicates at least part of the reason was the potential that his confirmation process could delve into personal issues in the divorce that ended his first marriage. She saw this potential as a byproduct of the focus on personal scandals that were besetting her husband.  She does write that both Clintons also had concerns about Arnold's health because of his treatment for cancer. This  was ultimately cited as the reason the nomination wasn't made. He died 10 years after his nomination was under consideration in 1994. But the papers reflect other concerns.

Hillary Clinton also argued that rejecting Arnold would send a “message” to the judge’s ally, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette publisher Walter Hussman Jr., whose paper often printed unflattering stories about the Clintons.

“Goddamn Hussman needs to know that it’s his own goddamn fault; that he can’t destroy everybody from Ark. and everything about the state and not pay the price for his precious Richard [Arnold],” Hillary said, according to Blair’s account.

“He needs to get the message big-time, that Richard might have a chance [to be appointed to the Supreme Court] next round if Hussman and his minions will lay off all this outrageous lies and innuendo.”

I think it's significant that the article leads — not with policy issues — but with findings in a private 1992 poll  on Hillary Clinton. It found admiration of the Clintons, but  also found a feeling that “they also fear that only someone too politically ambitious, too strong, and too ruthless could survive such controversy so well.”

In other words: Everything old is new again as Hillary Clinton aims toward a 2016 presidential race. Nobody doubts she's tough. But can that toughness be made a negative through portraits such as these?

I can't vouch for the documents quoted, but I have no reason to believe the copies provided are anything but authentic.

Much more to come. It's a fascinating view from the one person, apart from her husband, who seems to have had contemporaneous and full access to the thoughts of Hillary Clinton at pivotal moments.

For background: The Free Beacon, self-styled as "combat journalism," is a product of the Center for American Freedom, a political advocacy group established to combat the Obama White House and liberal media.

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