Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Monday, October 24, 2016

Back in 1993, a Washington Post reporter asked me which Clinton was smarter, Bill or Hillary. As a magazine journalist long resident in Arkansas, I’d never covered state government and would have described the president and first lady as friendly acquaintances of mine, nothing more.

I said that we had a saying in the Central Arkansas Beagle Club that you can’t train no dog that’s smarter than you. Since both Clintons clearly topped me in the IQ department, I had no way to judge their relative brainpower.

Needless to say, this was the wrong answer, deeply violative of journalistic protocol. Making glib pronouncements about near strangers is what we do.

So when I read that Hillary told her friend Diane Blair that the press has “big egos and no brains,” I’m neither shocked nor offended. Is there anybody in politics who doesn’t think that?

Anybody in the world?

Nor was I astonished that Hillary admitted to her friend during the 1996 Whitewater media feeding frenzy that “I know I should do more to suck up to the press…I know it confuses people when I change my hairdos, I know I should pretend not to have any opinions, but I’m just not going to. I’m used to winning and I intend to win on my own terms.”

And so she did.

If you’ve forgotten, 1996 was the year all the best minds in the Washington press, heeding Kenneth Starr’s leak-o-matic prosecutors, were predicting her imminent criminal indictment. To publicize an excerpt from James B. Stewart’s Whitewater book Blood SportTime published a cover photo of the first lady that looked like a vampire movie poster.

Maybe you remember Stewart, the eminent financial journalist who appeared on Nightline, NPR and anywhere else they’d have him, gravely accusing Hillary of bank fraud—all based, as it turned out, upon his own failure to read the second page of a two-page loan document.

Last I heard the also-eminent Judge Starr, once ticketed for the U.S. Supreme Court, was president of some Texas Bible college.

So yeah, Hillary won on her own terms.

Now something called the Washington Free Beacon, which unearthed these nuggets from the collected papers of the late Ms. Blair, the accomplished University of Arkansas professor who was Hillary’s dearest friend and confidante, pronounces her “ruthless” and a “cutthroat political strategist.”

This because she’d confided to Blair that President Clinton’s inability to “fire people, exert discipline, punish leakers,” and his lack of a strategy to deal with Whitewater, Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Arkansas state troopers and other partisan mercenaries made her crazy.

“Inability to organize, make tough choices,” Blair wrote “drives her nuts.”

Indeed, history records that it was Hillary, who once served on the staff of Watergate independent counsel Leon Jaworski, who warned her husband it would be a terrible mistake to agree to an open-ended inquisition to finesse a temporary political problem.

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2014 The National Memo
  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    Let’s ask ourselves a real simple question. “Why do people on the Right continuously attack Hillary Clinton for anything they can, even stuff that Kenneth Starr could not substantiate?” The answer is, “They are terrified of her!” She is the one person the Democrats currently have who can outfundraise the entire Republican machine without bankrupting their primary donors!
    Is she the most polarizing figure in politics? No. Thanks to Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan and Sarah Palin, she is no longer on the top slot in that area.
    Of course, Palin has lost all relevance in real politics and has become a side show where people just wait to hear what blurts out of her pie hole. Sort of like Ann Coulter only with a better hairdo.
    Paul Ryan has managed to alienate the core voters of the Republican party all the while managing to endear himself to those who provide the financial backing. One of these days, though, guys like Addelson and the Koch brothers are going to realize they cannot buy a national election. Then the Republican party is going to have to scramble to learn how to win back those $10 to $100 donors that Karl Rove built up.
    Finally, we have Ted Cruz. He has become the Tea Party darling (they love to vote in primaries) but has alienated more of the party members than Ryan could do in a lifetime. The only one better at alienating the base than him is Rick Santorum.
    Here is the thing. Based on history, the Republican ticket for 2016 will probably be Santorum and Cruz. If Hillary cannot beat them, she should shave her head and enter a Tibetan Monastery.

    • sealbeams

      Yes, and then the American people can spend the next four years helping the politicians pay back these donors with what ever favors the donors want. Not citizens united, rather corporations united.

    • Gary Graves

      It is good to hear the truth spoken about Hillary, you told the rest of the story.

    • darkagesbegin

      “Based on history, the Republican ticket for 2016 will probably be Santorum and Cruz.” Scary thought, but even scarier is trying to decide who would top that ticket, Santorum or Cruz? I hope the Koch’s are never able to buy a national election–until now I have thought of their wasted billions as a sort of “stimulus spending,” but it is increasingly evident that they are trying to buy the house and senate, which is a lot easier to do than to buy the white house, and thus take over through the back door.

      and, of course, the republican strategy for years has been to concentrate on the rich for their funding sources, so I doubt if they ever will be able to return the party, let alone the country, to the Eisenhower days…

  • latebloomingrandma

    A politician ruthless? I’m shocked, I tell ya, shocked!!

  • James Bowen

    GOP members have long had an irrational disliking for the Clintons. I think Bill Clinton was treated far worse by the GOP than Obama has been. I suspect jealousy and chauvinism (in the case of Hillary) has something to do with it, especially considering that Hillary isn’t even that liberal.

    • JD Mulvey

      He was the first Democrat who ever out-fundraised them.

  • Joanna Clark

    I don’t think she is ruthless, as the Republican’s claim, but I’m having a difficult time forgiving her for her big Bosnia lie in 2008. Up until then I think she had a good shot at the White House.

    • Independent1

      It’s unfortunate that in the heat of campaigning that politicians feel the need to stretch the truth; but I also think it would be very rare to find one that doesn’t; especially when they’re trying to gain some advantage with voters leading up to an election. Romney even admitted lying to Newt Gingrich during the Republican debates when Newt challenged him about the false ads a Super Pac was running for him: Romney replied that it was okay to lie when you’re trying to win votes. Unfortunately, although it’s probably true that some will also continue that if they get elected into office, at least 3 of the last 5 Republican presidents have taken that to another level – Nixon, Reagan and Bush 2, all of whom have been pathological liars.

      And that’s where my problem lies, with those politicians who not only come out with the occasional lie but are, in fact, actually pathological liars, the most recent of which are Bush 2, Cheney and Romney. I would actually get sick to my stomach whenever George Bush would give a speech and would have to change the station because more than 75% of what he said was a baldface lie.

      And during the presidential debates last year it was all I could do to contain myself when more than 90% of what Romney was spewing for over an hour were one outright lie or distortion after another – because I knew the clueless American electorate was believing it. And not only that, but it’s my feeling that his lies are what caused Obama to look so poorly during especially the first debate – Obama was so taken aback by someone who could spew one lie and distortion after another during a nationally broadcast debate that he simply didn’t know how to deal with it. It had to be racing through his mind “How do I deal with someone who is going to reply with an outright lie or distortion of the facts in response to virtually every point I make.”

      • Joanna Clark

        Amen! I could not agree with you more.

      • Sand_Cat

        Finally, someone else says it: Bush 2 told more lies in the average speech than the Democratic “liars” the right wing is always carping about did in their entire lives.
        Thank you!

        • Douglas Johnson

          It was indigenous in the family. Look at Laura’s opening speech at the republican convention when dubya ran the first time. Three simple statements, three lies.

      • Allan Richardson

        Referring to the baldfaced lie: in the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates, at one point Kennedy opined that no one could call Nixon a BALDFACED liar. Kids, you should be able to find the old monochrome video on YouTube; that will explain the joke.

  • Lovefacts

    The Republicans only hurt themselves by trying to tar Hillary with Bill’s “sins.” One, Bill’s flings are old news. Two, most Americans don’t hold the wives or husbands responsible for their spouse’s bad behavior. Three, bringing up Bill’s behavior and trying to tie it to Hillary will NOT be viewed as fair play, as it was when the Republicans went after Hillary when Bill was running. Four, criticizing Hillary for behavior and actions that are considered a plus for a man will enrage female voters. (We’re tired of hearing: “He plays hard ball. versus She’s a hard, cold bitch.”

    SHOULD Hillary run–and the Republicans stay true to form in selecting a right-winger as their candidate–she’ll win. And it won’t be because people love her. It’ll be because the majority of Americans prefer someone who is in the middle or just a little left or right of that middle. If a presidential candidate to far right, moderates and liberals will vote for the other candidate, and vice versa.

    • Joanna Clark

      I agree with you. My only problem with Hilliary during the 2008 campaign was her remark about her trip to Bosnia. She lied about the conditions on the ground when they approached the airport. Other than that one incident, I felt she did a remarkable job.

      If she does run, I hope that she remembers the incident and avoids repeating it. I’d love to see her run with Tammy Duckworth or Wendy Davis as her running mate.

  • ransol

    If she really is ruthless and, at the same time, has characteristics of being a leader, then she is the very type of person I want leading my country for the simple fact that she won’t take any nonsense from anyone or anybody and that incl. foreign leaders that will try to usurp her power because she is a woman and because Obammy has led this country to being a weak and powerless nation, Clinton will weed out the weak in the federal govt. and will not tolerate any nonsense from foreign leaders . She cannot be judged on her skills as being Sec. of State because she had a boss and really had several bosses that overruled or could over rule her decisions which happened occasionally to the point of her frustration. Give me her ruthless character and at the same time held in check by the legislative branch and she will turn this country around unlike the current clown we have now and that we must tolerate for the next couple years.

    • JD Mulvey

      You’re the real clown. Take your racist bullshit elsewhere.

    • CrankyToo

      Doubtless, you’re one of the smarter kids in your third grade class down there at the Hooterville Elementary School. Your mommy must be so proud.

  • Joanna Clark

    One thing is clear . . . we need real campaign reform.

    1) Term limits: 12 years maximum . . . two six-year terms in the Senate, four three-year terms in the House. Inability to move from one house to the other if the 12 year rule would be exceeded.
    2) Limit campaign lengths: 60 days for local, 90 days for state/congressional, and 120 days for presidential.
    3) Abolish all forms of campaign contributions, including PAC and SuperPACs. Establish a public trust (We all contribute $5.00 annually). Candidates receive a fixed-amount depending on the office they are running for to run their campaign. They can not use personal or family money in their campaign. (In other words, the playing field is leveled for all candates, and the wealthy can not buy the office).
    4) Truth in Campaigning Act: If a candidate is found to deliberately tell a lie during his or her campaign, they are automately disqualified and must return all funds advanced from the public trust.

    Any other suggestions to restore our government to one dedicated “of people, by the people, for the people?”

    • DurdyDawg

      Yes! And any candidate who uses dirt of his/her rival will be disqualified from running.. Only personal accomplishments (with documentation) and failures should be discussed concerning the candidate during any political run, be that mayor to president.

      No more appointments.. Choose the most qualified and allow the people to decide via personal appearance, relevant Q & A and popular vote. We need people capable of preforming these duties, not appointed according to seniority..
      (I knew of a worker who celebrated twenty years of service but still didn’t know how to successfully print bank checks on a McAdams).

    • Allan Richardson

      One apocryphal rumor has it that in ancient Athens, when a member of the council made a speech in favor of a bill, he stood on a pedestal with a rope around his neck. Depending on the outcome of the vote, … you can guess the rest.

      A bit extreme, but there should be SOME personal consequence of lying or breaking a promise (at least a promise that the politician COULD keep with his or her own authority). Or for that matter, KEEPING an illicit promise, such as to a big donor to give favors.

      • Joanna Clark

        I could support that. I would also be willing to donate a fresh rope at the beginning of each session for displaying next to the Speaker’s podium as a reminder.

  • JD Mulvey

    Ruthless, calculating, ambitious…

    Women in politics are expected to have qualities of men, but when they do, they’re criticized for those same qualities.

    Male or female, our next President is going to have to be ruthless enough to fight and beat the right wing that’s destroying our country.

  • ThomasBonsell

    About that “big egos and no brains” quip.

    When I was studying constitutional law at Georgetown University Graduate School of Government, prof. Valerie Earle had about a half-dozen students in her office for a get-to-know-each-other session, She asked me why I had quit a job as a sports reporter in Portland, OR, to study con law at Georgetown. I reply that I didn’t want to spend my life writing about grown men playing children’s games and wanted to get into something more important, such as political reporting or editorial-page work. I added that I didn’t think people doing such jobs knew what they were talking about, so studying the Constitution would be a good idea.

    Dr. Earle, who read the New York Times and Washington Post daily, said, “I know they don’t know what they are talking about,”

    I never found a newspaper that wanted to know what it was talking about.

  • Lisztman

    Since the GOP really has no one to offer this Nation:

    a) who has true leadership skills, pulling things together that need to be done;

    b) who can articulate a clear path for improvement of “everything” that needs improvement, or change, or fixing (no — I don’t buy think-tank projections of what will happen 10 years later — they have a nasty habit of not working according to plan);

    c) who can obtain a nomination with clear favor of both the extreme right and the moderate right

    — they’ll put forward, again, someone like Mitt Romney. Who really has a mostly-invisible record that invites little criticism. But who, at the same time, fails to excite the electorate, or induce in them a sense that s/he can actually handle the job.

    At which point, we’re likely to see another President Clinton. If Hill decides not to run, the Dems have several others who have the visibility; who aren’t afraid of honest debates; and have the intelligence and drive necessary to fill the shoes.

    The sad part is that we’ll have to deal with another four years of RWNJs calling for impeachment. And someone in the House or Senate yet again promising that the GOP’s sole job is to limit the new President to a single term.

  • Douglas Johnson

    Quit putting popups on my page and then dumping my comment when I take them.