E. A. Hanks| BIO
Clinton Insiders Open Up to Carl Bernstein on Hillary and Bill
Posted May 29, 2007
Dan Brown better watch his back -- there's another potboiler threatening to take over the best-sellers list, and there's a possible sequel in the making. The cover of Carl Bernstein's book on Hillary Clinton, A Woman In Charge is more buttoned-up pantsuit than ripped bodice, but it's still pretty saucy. Get whips and leather out of your head, because when I say saucy I mean it in the way a real wonk means it: the steamy stuff here is in summaries being tied up in policy meetings, heated debate with health care consultants, and vying for dominant office space. There's no safety word when you're fighting to be in the West, rather than the East Wing. Bernstein notes that "with the notable exception of her husband's libidinous carelessness, the most egregious errors, strategic and tactical, of the Bill Clinton Presidency, particularly in its infancy, were traceable to Hillary," but people seem to be more interested in the juicy bits, committee hearings notwithstanding.
I spoke with the author today about what makes his book a must-read. With papers shuffling in the background, Bernstein told me: "What is so important is that we finally have a biography about Hillary. Until now it hasn't really been possible, partly because she's put up so many impediments, including her own book."
The book is causing some ruffled feathers and raised eyebrows, thanks to some choice interviews with compatriots of both President and Senator Clinton.
Betsey Wright, Bill Clinton's Chief of Staff while he was Governor of Arkansas, and the woman tasked with managing 'bimbo eruptions' during his 1992 campaign, pontificates on Bill's "ongoing inferiority complex... Bill Clinton has spent his whole life scared that he's white trash, and doing whatever he could to try to prove to himself that he isn't." She also dishes on the beginnings of his escapades: "I talked to Hillary several times during that period by phone, and we were pulling our hair about him. He was a mess. During one of the conversations she said, 'There are worse things than infidelity.'" Like divorce, perhaps?
Donna Shalala chimes in on the Clintons' stance as newbies in the Beltway: "They'd spent all of their adult lives in which they were the smartest people in the room. These were two extremely able people who had not really been tested before. So they really had to learn their way." The Clintons as little fish in the Big Pond of DC? Sounds like a prequel to me.
A quote from lawyer Mark Fabiani illuminates Hillary in the days of the Whitewater investigations: "She is so tortured by the way she's been treated that she would do anything to get out of the situation..." Hillary as a silky femme fatale, desperate to get away from da coppers? Suddenly we're in to some pulp fiction! M'yeah, see? I'd buy that if you're sellin' see? M'yeah!.
The Clintons managed to have their dirtiest laundry out on the line for everyone to see, and yet the general public is still mystified by them. Even with their personal lives made as public as can be, we're still not sure who they are or what they want. People are uneasy about Hillary for precisely that reason: they don't know why she's running, they don't know what she wants. A Woman In Charge draws on readers' curiosity: if Bill has the befuddling sheen of the presidency on him, Hillary is still downright mysterious. Juicy quotes might not explain who Hillary is to the voters, but they might just loosen people's corsets enough to get them in the mood to find out.
And there are people who get their political views from the Daily Show and Colbert too. But what I don't get is why all the Dems are against going on a debate on FNC. I think the GOP guys looked a lot better on Fox than they did when Matthews was questioning them on MSNBC, plus its another viewing audience and a shot at free air time. Anyone?
No Movement At All on Democratic Side. Hillary Clinton 18 Points Atop Obama. In a Democratic Primary in California today, 8 months to the vote, Hillary Clinton remains on cruise control, as she has been in 4 SurveyUSA tracking polls going back to March, according to a SurveyUSA poll conducted exclusively for KABC-TV Los Angeles, KPIX-TV San Francisco and KGTV-TV San Diego.
Here's the rundown, working backwards:
Today, Clinton is at 46%, 18 points atop Obama who is at 28%.
5/7/07, Clinton was at 48%, 21 points atop Obama, who was at 27%. 4/2/07, Clinton was at 43%, 17 points atop Obama, who was at 26%. 3/6/07, Clinton was at 44%, 13 points atop Obama who was at 31%.
John Edwards has finished in 3rd place in all 4 SurveyUSA CA Democratic Primary tracking polls.
Edwards is at 14% today
15% on 5/7/07, was at 17% on 4/2/07
10% on 3/6/07.
All interviews for the 06/04/07 release were completed prior to the New Hampshire Democratic candidate debate which began at 7 pm ET on 06/03/07.
The Democratic frontrunners haven't suffered the sharp declines that Giuliani and McCain have, but none are showing strong positive gains either. Clinton has fallen off just a few points recently, Obama seems stalled and Edwards has a very slight decline in support. So who do Democrats like more and more? Al Gore, the non-candidate.
The Gore increase is no where close to that of Fred Thompson, but of the four possible nominees pictured above, he is the only one with steady gains throughout 2007. Given the low level of encouragement Gore has given to a possible candidacy (FAR less than Thompson) it is remarkable that he's moved up at all. And while the Thompson candidacy looks increasingly likely, a Gore campaign seems a remote possibility to me at least. Nonetheless, a non-trivial number of Democrats are looking longingly at him while passing up the easy opportunity to support Clinton or Obama or Edwards. Clearly they are looking for someone else who can take this opportunity to exploit the moment. Other evidence (here and here) makes Gore seem an unlikely white knight. In terms of partisan feelings, polarization and support in a general election, Gore looks a lot like Clinton-- well known and well liked among Democrats but not very popular among independents and actively despised among Republicans. But that isn't the point here. He is "someone else" at the moment within the Democratic party.
The front-runners have won substantial support within their parties and one may yet go on to win. But the current flatness or decline in their support trends argues strongly that none have sealed the deal with their primary voters. The widespread public disaffection with current leaders and conditions can be seen as a difficult environment to run in. But it is also the great opportunity to be seized by an able politician, one who can convince supporters that they have a vision of how to lead the country out of these bad times and into a new "morning in America". Based on the evidence here, I don't think any of the top six candidates has managed that yet. And that leaves them all vulnerable to someone who can. Fred Thompson is evidence that it is not yet too late for such candidates to emerge.
Craig's potential trouble in Idaho draws attention to a part of the nation, the Mountain West, where the Republicans have been dominant for the past 40 years but which is turning more competitive:
- In Montana, Democrat Jon Tester was elected last year, defeating Sen. Conrad Burns, and Democratic Brian Schweitzer won the governor's seat in 2004, even as Bush was carrying the state with 60 percent of the vote.
- In last year's House elections Democrats picked up two seats in Arizona and one in Colorado.
- Even in the GOP bastion of Wyoming, Republican House incumbent Barbara Cubin only kept her seat with a 1,000-vote margin, or 48 percent.
Convention focus on Mountain West
Democrats will keep the focus on the Mountain West next summer by holding their presidential convention in Denver.
And Colorado has an open Senate seat that Jennifer Duffy at the Cook Political Report rates as a toss-up. Democratic contender Rep. Mark Udall had $2.5 million in cash in his campaign treasury as of the end of June, more than three times as much as Republican hopeful Bob Schaffer.
"Voters out here tend to be more culturally conservative, but also more open to economic populism and civil libertarianism," said Denver-based Democratic strategist and blogger David Sirota. "Republicans in Washington, D.C., are now losing to Democrats on those latter two issues areas out here, which is why the region is becoming more hospitable to individual Democratic candidates."