One senator knew what it was like to be banished to Clinton hell
In the near empty headquarters of Hillary Clinton’s disastrous 2008 campaign for president, amid the detritus of posters, flyers, and abandoned coffee mugs, two aides poured over a spreadsheet.
The Excel document contained a political hit list. A draft of Democratic members of Congress who were graded from one to seven, the most helpful to Hillary earning ones and the most treacherous drawing sevens.
“There was a special circle of Clinton hell reserved for people who had endorsed Obama or stayed on the fence after Bill and Hillary had raised money for them, appointed them to a political post or written a recommendation to ice their kid’s application to an elite school,” wrote Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, authors of a new book, HRC about Hillary Clinton’s tenure at the US State Department.
Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, knew what it was like to be banished to the seventh circle. In 2006, when asked whether she thought Bill Clinton had been a great president, McCaskill was quick with an answer. “He’s been a great leader,” she quipped, “but I don’t want my daughter near him.”
The remark drew the instant wrath of Hillary, earning McCaskill a resounding seven on Hill’s hit-list and reducing McCaskill almost to “the point of epic tears”.
Woman Hell Bent on Revenge or Loyal Wife — take your pick — but until Hillary Clinton decides whether she is running for president, anecdotes such as the Hillary hit-list will continue to fuel gossip about the woman that most Americans either love or hate.
There are still nearly three years left until the 2016 presidential election but the drumbeat of “is she or isn’t she” surrounding Hillary refuses to die. Through it all the former first lady/senator/presidential candidate/secretary of state/ remains cheerfully oblique, saying only that she is enjoying the chance to see her husband again once in a while.
“We have a great time; we laugh at our dogs; we watch stupid movies; we take long walks; we go for a swim. You know, just ordinary, everyday pleasures.”
But according to Allen and Parnes, who were given unfettered access to Hillary, there is nothing ordinary or relaxing about being a Clinton and despite Hillary’s coyness about her future prospects, the former first lady, they say, is a definite runner in 2016.
“She's running for president. She's been running for president since 2008. If you
look at her concession speech, her convention speech, her decision to work at the State Department…”, said Allen in a recent interview. “[If] you go through all these things you realise this is an operation that's been up and running. It never really stopped running. And the real question isn't whether she will run for president but whether she will stop running for president.”
But how can Hillary make jaded American voters think about something other than her topsy-turvy personal and political past? Can she shed the image that she’s simply someone entitled to serve as president? Can she rein in the irrepressible Bill? And if she runs, will the ghost of Monica, the former intern reappear to haunt her?
“Assuming she runs in '16, I think people will be surprised by how much she is assessed as her own person,” Professor Larry J Sabato, a political expert at the University of Virginia told the Irish Independent. “One reason is that it will have been 16 years since Bill was president. Another is that few think President Hillary would let First Gentleman Bill freelance. I'd bet she would keep him on a short leash.
“On the other hand, Hillary has been intimately involved in many of the scandals of her husband,” he said.
But those close to Clinton say that her biggest challenge in the run-up to 2016 will be keeping control of the dysfunctional ClintonWorld — the allies who scuttled her 2008 campaign.
“Loyalty, for better and worse, has been the defining trait of Hillary,” write Allen and Parnes. “The failure of her 2008 presidential campaign could be attributed in part to the way she rewarded allies with jobs that they were ill-equipped to execute.”
Supporters point to her transformation during her years as secretary of state where she seemed to relish an almost political rebirth.
Those who worry that Hillary will be tainted by the dirty laundry of Bill’s past take heart in the fact that if she does win the Democratic nomination, she’ll have a chance to reintroduce herself to a much younger electorate who have no memory of her time in the White House.
Even at age 66 Hillary has a certain cachet among the youth — her “Texts from Hillary Meme” garnered her tens of thousands of hits.
But for the woman who has coveted the office for her entire adult life, pressure is mounting for Hillary to convince the American public why this matters so much.
“To this point she has no distinctive message other than, ‘It really is my turn,’ Professor Sabato said. “Lots of women want a woman president. Maybe it'll be enough — but maybe not.”