Based on former president Bill Clinton’s enthusiastic speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention on behalf of Barack Obama, one would perhaps be surprised to discover the hostility that exists between these two men and their powerful political families.
Ed Klein is the author of The Amateur and The Truth About Hillary, both of which proved to be exposés on the Obamas and the Clintons as individuals. Now, he’s provided a revealing look at the testy relationship between these families in his newest book, Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. The Obamas. Klein spoke with Townhall about his newest project on Monday, providing some intriguing insight into the political grudges. Blood Feud just debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. Klein also offered details into the Obamas’ waning relationship with Oprah Winfrey and how some of Hillary Clinton’s friends discussed her possible resignation as Secretary of State after the Benghazi scandal. Here’s our full interview:
How far back does the animosity between these two political families go?
“It certainly can be traced back to the 2008 primary battle between the Clintons and the Obamas when they hurled all kinds of invective and names at each other. Bill never has forgiven the Obamas for referring to him as a ‘racist’ and of course the Obamas still harbor a lot of resentment for a lot of the things that Bill said about Barack Obama. But, Bill being the consummate politician, was prepared to bury the hatchet. He and Obama had a golf game in September of 2011 in which they discussed Bill supporting Obama in 2012 in return for Obama supporting Hillary in 2016. And Bill thought they had a deal. And he went, as we all remember, all out for Obama, gave that wonderful convention speech for Obama and after Obama won, he called Bill Clinton and said thank you, by the way, I’ve changed my mind, I don’t know who I’m going to back in 2016 - and Bill has never forgiven him for that.”
In The Amateur, you mention that Bill urged Hillary to run against Obama in 2008. Is this true?
“Of course it’s true. This has never been denied by the Clintons and Bill even after Hillary said, 'No, no, no I’m not going to challenge a sitting Democratic president, and get the whole party to be down on me for doing so,' Bill still thought she could’ve beaten Obama in the primary campaign in 2012, but she wasn’t about to do that - and probably wisely so I would say.”
Another testy relationship has been Oprah’s relationship with the Obamas.
“A lot of people in various camps: the Oprah camp, the White House camp and so forth, have denied what I’ve written about the rift between Oprah and the Obamas as though they’re still great friends. In fact, we know Oprah went all out for Obama in 2008. Went out, with the expectation that she would have unique access to the White House and after he won, once again, he reneged on his promises and she found herself essentially frozen out of the White House, never invited and was so upset that when 2012 came around, and this is just well-reported facts, she refused to lift a finger to campaign or support Obama in 2012 or Obamacare. And, it’s my reporting with sources inside the Oprah camp - she didn’t even send him a congratulatory tweet after he won. So, though they pretend to still be friends, in fact Oprah has not had the Obamas in her magazine, O Magazine, she’s kept them out, she’s also not had them on her new network, except for once when she had the Romneys on one time and the Obamas on one time - equal time. That’s a huge blow to the Obamas, because they thought that Oprah would be a major supporter.”
Is there any other reason she could have had this change of heart toward the Obamas?
“No, she felt snubbed. She felt that they had promised her a lot of access. She felt that she, being Oprah, and being responsible for God knows how many votes in 2008 for Obama, among not only African-Americans, but a lot of women that she would be treated like an important adviser in the White House and instead she was ignored - totally ignored by Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett, who are essentially the gatekeepers to access to the president.”
Do you think the reason Oprah was frozen out of the White House was largely due to Michelle Obama?
“Well you know, I spoke to Vernon Jordan, who is a longtime wise man in the Democratic Party. Very close friend of Bill Clinton’s and has been advising presidents for years and years, including Obama. I asked him, ‘Why do you think Valerie Jarrett has so much power?’ His wife, Vernon Jordan’s wife, is an actual relative of Valerie Jarrett, so he sees a lot of her at dinners. He said she has the power because of proximity. She’s close to Obama, she lives in the White House. She actually sleeps there, she has dinner with the Obamas. And she decides essentially who’s going to be on Air Force One, who’s gonna see the president, who’s not going to see the president when he goes on trips and she calls a lot of the shots - more so often than the chief of staff. And it was her feeling, according to things she’s told her friends and colleagues, I’ve discussed with them, that they did not want Oprah to be influencing Obama in policy. They didn’t want anybody influencing him in policy other than themselves and the people who they helped Obama pick to be his advisers.”
Looking ahead to 2016, if Hillary does run, what kind of support do you think she’ll get from the Obamas?
“Unless they have no other choice in the matter, the Obamas are not going to be supporting Hillary. I think, as Bill Clinton has said to many of his friends, Obama has been looking for a mini me, a clone. Somebody like him, who will challenge Hillary for the nomination. And, it’s Bill Clintons feeling that the Obamas will go to any length to prevent Hillary from getting the nomination, because they don’t want the Clintons to take control of the Democratic Party and the direction of the Democratic Party. Obama represents the far left wing of the party, the Occupy Wall Street, the reform America, more like a European socialist state wing. Whereas the Clintons are much more centrist than him, and much more active in foreign policy than he has been willing to be. So, it’s not just a personal feud, it’s an ideological point as well.”
Did Bill tell Hillary to resign as Secretary of State after the Benghazi scandal?
“He didn’t tell her to resign as Secretary of State. He said, given the fact she knew of the terrorist attack and that the president wanted her to say quite the opposite - that it was a video-motivated attack, which is nonsense. They discussed on the phone and then told their friends about this - the possibility of her resigning in protest, and they decided against it because if her resignation hurt Obama’s chances for reelection, the Democratic Party would never forgive her, and it would harm her chances of getting the nomination in 2016.”
What kind of sources did you acquire for this book?
“I couldn’t have written this book if I didn’t have the sources who are close to the Clintons, the sources who are close to the Obamas. These are sources that I’ve been cultivating for many years, going back to when I wrote The Amateur and going back even further when I The Truth About Hillary, which was published nine years ago. So, I’ve been piling these major figures through their inner circles for many years. I have a vast Rolodex of sources, who have been willing to speak to me for a variety of reasons, one of them is they like to boast about how close they are to power. Another very important reason is they want to get their side of the story in my books. So, the way to do that is not to stay silent, it’s to talk to me - and they do. ”
Do you think either of these families will ever stop being power hungry and eventually lead a quiet life?
“I don’t. I think the Clintons have no interest in a quiet life. As we’ve seen they’ve been pursuing power more than 30 years. And the Obamas certainly want to continue their legacy after they leave the White House. How they’ll do that is not clear yet. I would think that Barack Obama will certainly write books and certainly will probably create a foundation like Bill Clinton did, I think he wants to be an influential voice in the Democratic Party and in the direction of this country.”