In this excerpt from Clinton, Inc: The Audacious Rebuilding Of A Political Machine, Daniel Halper, a political writer and online editor at The Weekly Standard, compiles candid interviews with former Clinton administration aides, friends, and enemies to reveal how this dynamic political power couple positioned themselves for even greater success.
In 1988, when Bill first considered a run for the presidency, he and Hillary had also considered the idea that she replace him as governor of Arkansas. By the time of his first inaugural four years later, the White House clearly was in her sights. This was part of the understanding she always had with Bill Clinton.
He’d get his turn. She’d put up with his crap. And then she’d get her chance. And he’d do what he could to help her.
Clinton aides told me they were astonished after Bill’s taking office, at a time when Mrs. Clinton was viewed by a significant segment of the country as a shrill, polarising radical, that this idea was such an active notion in the administration.
“Hillaryland was always, always, always a force,” a senior Clinton aide recalls in a wide-ranging interview for this book. He worked within steps of the Oval Office during the administration and, like pretty much everyone else who hopes to have a career in Democratic politics, will speak only without attribution.
“If you fucked up and were found out by [Bill] Clinton, you got a promotion. If you fucked up and were found out by Hillary, your throat was slit and you were left on the tarmac with no ticket home. It was brutal.”
In those early days, Clinton critics were demanding the release of Hillary Clinton’s records from her days as a partner at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock as part of the investigation of a now largely forgotten early scandal known as Whitewater.
Mrs. Clinton was reluctant to release documents or to comply with the requests of the special prosecutor in the case.
One aide approached the First Lady’s press secretary, Lisa Caputo, then in her midtwenties. “Why doesn’t she just come fucking forward and release them? The president had no business in the matter. It won’t hurt him.”
“We can’t,” Caputo replied. “Hillary’s got her own ambitions.”
“What do you mean?” he asked. “It doesn’t get better than First Lady.”
“Well, there’s ’04. Or ’08.”
It’s always been known that Mrs. Clinton had political ambitions, but never before had an aide confirmed with such assurance that she was envisioning the presidency for herself, even as her husband was just settling in.
Hillary Clinton wanted the keys to the White House herself and, as a former aide put it in an exclusive interview for this book, conjuring images of the popular movie The Shawshank Redemption, “She was willing to slog through all of [his] shit” to get there.
Hillary has been “the one to always play a long game, and she started playing that long game at the end of the second term, and I think she thought the Senate would lead directly to her own presidency in 2008,” another close observer of the Clintons tells me, again insisting on anonymity.
As her husband’s second term came to a close, the question was: Where to start? She was born in Illinois, went to college in Massachusetts, law school in Connecticut, had brief stints in California and Washington D.C., and had moved to Arkansas to be with her future husband, Bill Clinton.
Now she was back in Washington, D.C. — the nation’s capital, living in the White House. Along the way Hillary had picked up friends and networks across the country and even a pronounced southern accent that she mysteriously lost shortly after she arrived in Washington in 1993.
In other words, she had no strong roots anywhere — which, she believed, gave her licence to represent people as an elected official from … just about anywhere.
Excerpted from Clinton, Inc: The Audacious Rebuilding Of A Political Machine, by Daniel Halper, (HarperCollins Publishers, 2014). Excerpted with permission by Daniel Halper and HarperCollins Publishers.
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