Hillary’s Heavy Handed History

Richard H. Collins
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Posted: Aug 27, 2007 4:23 PM
Hillary’s Heavy Handed History

One of the great ironies of this year’s Democratic presidential primary is that the very accusations that the rabid Left hurls at President Bush apply equally to Hillary Clinton. This, in addition to her waffling on Iraq and her centrist posturing, is a key element of the distrust the base feels towards the former First Lady.

The caricature of President Bush created by the left is an authoritarian, secretive, and arrogant politician who rewards loyalty above all else. Hmm, what other famous political name can easily be associated with these tendencies? It has seemingly been forgotten in the era of Bush Derangement Syndrome, but the Clinton White House wasn’t known for its openness to scrutiny or contrary opinion and had a pretty black and white view of who was friend or foe.

The First Lady in particular developed a reputation as an attack first, ask questions later type of infighter. And the memoirs of former staffers and the post-administration “tell-alls” are littered with stories about the instant retaliation faced by friend and foe alike that didn’t toe the party line as the First Lady demanded.

Why bring all this up again? Because Hillary is counting on the public’s desire not to rehash the scandals of the Clinton White House, but this history shines a spotlight on the very history she would like to claim as “experience.”

She should not be allowed to have it both ways. Either her time in the White House is the critical experience that differentiates her from her competitors and thus should be subject to the scrutiny it deserves. Or she is simply just another undistinguished Senator running for the White House.

Her decision to not release the documents related to her time in the White House only reinforces this hypocrisy. If she is intent on attacking the president for his supposed secrecy, cronyism, and over-reaching executive authority, then it is only fair that the voters have access to the documents necessary to judge her time in the White House.

What is shocking is that Hillary Clinton seems intent on acting as if none of this history exists. She is understandably working hard to soften her image and appear as a charming and likable candidate.

But in an effort to gain support with the angry liberal base of her party, she has opened herself up to charges of blatant hypocrisy. The very tendencies she claims the Bush administration represents – secrecy, cronyism, heavy-handed suppression of dissent, over reliance on loyalty, etc. - litter her history and define her personality.

For example, when earlier this year controversy swarmed over President Bush’s firing of eight US attorneys Hillary quickly dismissed any comparisons to the 93 US attorneys her husband fired upon taking office.

You see, when her husband fires all the attorneys and replaces them with loyal Democrats it was simply the “prerogatives of the office.” But when Bush does it, it is a dangerous attempt to “shift the balance of power in favor of the executive branch” and “a threat to the rule of law.”

During this controversy many also accused Bush of smearing upstanding civil servants in order to replace them with partisan ideologues. Well, Hillary has some experience with this as well.

Remember “Travelgate?” Longtime friend and campaign contributor Harry Thomason had been lobbying the Clinton’s to get rid of the White House travel office and give the contract to his travel company. Sure enough, four months into the first term the travel office staff was fired.

Rumors were put out that the staff was corrupt and mismanaging funds. The FBI was strong armed into an investigation and the head of the travel office, Billy Dale, was even indicted. When journalists and Congress looked into the matter the White House offered a host of contradictory reasons; then stonewalled any investigations; and even altered and destroyed documents to prevent the truth from coming out.

Eventually at least a partial understanding was reached. The First Lady was involved from the very beginning, she had lied about that involvement, and there was no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the travel office staff. It was all a botched attempt to replace civil servants with Clinton loyalists.

As the above examples make clear, what we already know about her time in the White House doesn’t paint a very flattering picture. Her refusal to release the rest of the documents continues to beg the question: what is she hiding?