Ghosts of Hillary Past

Adam's Apple

Senior Member
Apr 25, 2004
Written by one of the Star's resident liberal journalists.

Ghosts of Hillary Past
By Ken Bode, The Indianapolis Star
March 9, 2007

In the 1992 presidential campaign, it was Hillary who set up the war room in Little Rock, and she did the same thing again when, as first lady, she was put in charge of health care reform, the administration's largest domestic initiative. White House aide Jake Siewert once said, "She was the only person in the White House that people were afraid of." That included Mr. Clinton himself.

When the president announced at a conference of the nation's governors in Boston that he might compromise Hillary's plan for universal health care with coverage at less than her prescribed 100 percent, he got an instant response by telephone from the first lady: "What the (expletive deleted) are you doing up there?" she thundered. "You get back here right away!" Mr. Clinton came home and promptly backed off his offer to compromise.

With Hillary away at Camp David, White House aide Rahm Emanuel thought it safe to invite a bipartisan delegation of legislators to the East Room for a reception and briefing on the North American Free Trade Alliance. The group included former Republican Secretary of State James Baker. When word reached the first lady, Emanuel got a blistering phone call. Sobbing in anger, Hillary demanded, "What are you doing inviting those people in my home?" These people are our enemies. They are trying to destroy us."

In those days, Hillary had a fearsome reputation. These events return to mind because now, the Democratic frontrunner regularly tells audiences, "I may be the most famous person you don't really know." In a long article this week about the various Hillarys we have known, The New York Times characterized her current, remodeled image as "Nurturing Warrior," tough but inherently feminine.

Along those lines, former Brandeis professor Linda Hirshman noted that on the same day in Iowa that Hillary showed her warrior side (the "deck your opponents" remark), she also invited people to vote for her on the basis of her entire life experience: "The fact that I'm a woman, that I'm a mom, is part of who I am." In appreciation of Hillary's political acumen, Hirshman added, "The candidate had the good sense not to reveal the War Room Hillary at the same event as Mom."

This is the time when Americans are supposed to look carefully at the troop of would-be presidents. An important part of the job is to assess their temperament, insofar as that is possible. There is a bookshelf of biographies on the Clintons, and from them the impression is indelible that Hillary is a woman who divides the world into friends and enemies, much more so than her husband. As a father of daughters, I want to be alive when we elect our first woman president. But her current rhetoric conjures ghosts of Hillary past, and I must admit, considering her temperament, I have reservations.

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