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WASHINGTON — Presidential history books tell the stories of a select few pairs: Abigail and John. Eleanor and Franklin. Jack and Jackie. Yes, Bill and Hillary are on the shelf, too.

Indelible partnerships make memorable presidencies. Abigail and John Adams relied on each other’s Yankee work ethic and shrewd advice. The Kennedys scattered stardust a thousand ways in a thousand days.

But it’s the Roosevelts, Eleanor and Franklin, that Hillary and Bill Clinton aim to take after. The Roosevelts lived in the White House for a dozen years. The Clintons plan to stay a total of 16.

On a new page, weary Americans may welcome two Clintons minding the store again at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Hillary’s failed health care initiative and Bill’s sins with Monica Lewinsky are Whitewater over the dam.

In their marriage, Barack and Michelle Obama aren’t locked in a laserlike political duet. Too bad. Mrs. Obama could have saved the president from rudely cutting a senator of his own party, Elizabeth Warren, speaking of her in public anger by her first name. The talk of the town isn’t just trade anymore; Obama’s faux pas disrespected a female lawmaker. When Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), called out the personal outburst, the White House demanded an apology, stirring the tempest.

As the 2016 election churn gets going, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton is sure to play strings of shared memory. President Bill Clinton presided over peace and prosperity, with plenty of help from her First Ladyship. The 1990s were pretty golden.

The 21st century, since 9/11, has been pretty dreary. That sad fact is in plain sight, from the streets of Detroit to Baltimore. The tragic train wreck in Philadelphia is an object lesson in life falling off the tracks.

If history repeats or rhymes, the deep bond between Eleanor and Franklin Delano Roosevelt sets the stage for Hillary and Bill Clinton. In each case, the presidents were rock stars, with perfect pitch. Bill Clinton’s appearance on David Letterman’s Late Show brought back his disarming demeanor in a rush. That Huckleberry Finn smile.

Franklin D. Roosevelt exuded cheer, competence, and confidence. A nation in despair badly needed that when he took office. The Great Depression was the crisis that he faced and solved by trying new things, like creating government work programs. Conservation was one; another was a writers project for preserving folklore. Building bridges and civic buildings also became part of his lasting repertoire.

A jaunty patrician with a common touch, Roosevelt was a stellar president. My father’s boyhood was brightened by the father-like FDR, until age 12. Families in Chicago and New York kept his picture in the kitchen and huddled by the radio to hear his fireside chats as if he were speaking directly to them. The voice had a magical reach.

Of the famous presidential couples, Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt were the most consequential during their time together in the White House, from 1933 to 1945, through the Depression on the home front and then the Second World War. The nation trusted and believed in both Roosevelts.

Mrs. Roosevelt acted as her husband’s “eyes and ears” all over the country as a kind of ambassador, from the coal mines to the bread lines. (Few knew the president could not walk unaided.) She returned to the White House filled with stories and ideas for social programs that would help poverty and lift morale.

According to author Doris Kearns Goodwin, idealistic Eleanor knew what should be done, while Franklin knew what could be done. They were extraordinary. Their personal relationship foundered over an affair of Franklin, but they had an unwavering pact to shore up the common good.

As for the Clintons, give them this: never a dull day. They met as equals at Yale Law School, and always presented themselves as a team, for better or worse. Grand jury testimony one day, ending the war in Bosnia the next. They refused to let impeachment do them part, over a slight affair. Their bond proved unbreakable, proving the cynics and critics wrong.

Was it a co-presidency? Close enough so that voters will associate Hillary Clinton with the good times of the 1990s. Her ringing declaration in Beijing, that women’s rights are human rights, also showed her solo on the world stage before she became a senator and secretary of state. Everyone knew she was speaking for President Clinton.

And one day, Bill may be speaking for President Clinton.

Photo: Karen Murphy via Flickr


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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

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