For Hillary Clinton, who needs enemies when you’ve got friends like these?
According to a new Clinton book by veteran political reporters Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, HRC: State Secrets And The Rebirth of Hillary Clinton, top congressional Democrats like Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer stabbed her in the back during the 2008 Democratic primary campaign.
Reid, for example, publicly appeared neutral during the primary but was actually advising then-Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and his campaign behind the scenes.
Schumer was even worse. While he publicly supported Hillary because they represented the same state, like Reid, Schumer was also quietly helping Obama.
“Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), had advised Obama behind the scenes, even though Reid had technically been neutral and Schumer had publicly been in Hillary’s camp,” Allen and Parnes write.
Pelosi, then Speaker of the House, also presented herself as a neutral party in the primary but secretly helped Obama – leading aides to both women to take steps to keep them from coming in contact. In early 2008, Allen and Parnes write, Pelosi’s entire inner circle jumped on the Obama bandwagon. She was motivated, they write, “partly by jealousy and partly by a desire to tap into Obama’s base.”
The book’s accounts of Democratic infighting raise questions about how Clinton could have been so thoroughly blindsided by her own colleagues. At the time, Clinton was the front-runner by a large margin. Her husband had cultivated deep ties with congressional Democrats while in office, but that support didn’t translate into support for Hillary Clinton, apparently.
HRC delves into stories about members like Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA), and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who promised Hillary they would support her or at least remain neutral in the primary but supported Obama in the end.
The reception Clinton received upon her return to the Senate after losing to Obama was also a chilly one.
Landrieu is described as counting “herself among Bill Clinton’s biggest supporters and among Hillary’s greatest admirers. But when Obama came calling, armed with the fact that Landrieu was running for reelection and would need a big black turnout in New Orleans and across the state, she had privately committed to vote for him at the convention.”
Feeling guilty about her Obama endorsement upon Clinton’s return to the Senate, Landrieu begged Reid to give Hillary a chairmanship.
“Reid responded by half-jokingly telling the oft-troublesome Landrieu that Clinton could have her spot as chairman of the Small Business Committee,” Allen and Parnes write.
Additionally, according to the writers of HRC, Reid and other senior members especially did not want to give Clinton any major responsibility in the Senate leadership that could give her a platform to run against Obama in 2012, specifically a role in the health care legislation.
“Reid ultimately blocked Hillary at every turn. He and Schumer weren’t going to irritate other Democratic colleagues by giving Hillary a leg up. There was an inherent risk in giving her a more prominent role in the Senate, particularly on health care: she’d have a better spot from which to challenge Obama,” Allen and Parnes write.
Instead of taking such “an inherent risk” they write, “If any Democrat was going to be the face of health care reform in the Senate, it was going to be the dying Ted Kennedy, whose endorsement of Obama was one of the most pivotal moments of the primary and one of the most stinging rebukes of Clinton.”
Clinton asked Sen. Chris Dodd for a health care subcommittee, but he instead offered her a special task force on the health insurance industry – the very industry that had strangled Hillarycare to death in the 1990s.
The Clintons are legendary for holding grudges, and the book includes juicy details of their political operation in action. The writers discuss how Bill and Hillary Clinton keep a naughty and nice list of Democratic members who did not endorse her, who did endorse her, and who remained neutral during the 2008 Democratic primary. The authors stress that if the Clintons could not personally give payback to those who betrayed them, at least Clinton aides could take pleasure in misfortunes that befell such traitors.
Allen and Parnes write:
Clinton aides exulted in schadenfreude when their enemies faltered. Years later, they would joke among themselves in harsh terms about the fates of officials they felt had betrayed them. “Bill Richardson: investigated; John Edwards: disgraced by scandal; Chris Dodd: stepped down,” one said to another. “Ted Kennedy,” the aide continued, lowering his voice to a whisper for the punch line, “dead.”
According to current news reports of the 25 members currently retiring, 17 Democratic members are leaving after the next midterm in November. Sixteen of those members were around during the 2008 Democratic primary; only Rep. Ed Pastor (D-AZ) endorsed Hillary Clinton.
The book also touches on the distrust between Hillary Clinton and Obama after the race.
Although Clinton was eventually wooed by Obama to join his administration as Secretary of State, she only agreed to do so if she could hire whom she wanted at State. In return, Hillary agreed to support Obama on any State presidential appointments as well as his agenda. However, friction between “Hillaryland” and the “Obamans” within the administration happened as a result of Clinton hires and leaks to the press, among other issues.
While Hillary and Barack Obama have mostly mended fences since the thorny ’08 primary, bad feelings toward members who Clintons feel were disloyal toward them still remain. For one thing, although McCaskill was one of the first Democrats to hail a Hillary 2016 campaign, Clinton aides never really forgave her for her 2008 remark when she said of Bill Clinton, “He’s been a great leader, but I don’t want my daughter near him.”
Allen and Parnes write, “Many of Hillary’s close friends and aides rolled their eyes at McCaskill’s sudden love for the early front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination–McCaskill was so enthusiastic about letting everyone know her choice that she re-endorsed Hillary in June after her initial statement, reported by the St. Louis Beacon, didn’t get much national attention.”
In 2008, then-Congressman Jason Altmire (D-PA) was a one of 12 Democratic super delegates. The Clintons helped Altmire in his political career during the 90’s, and he was assigned to Hillary’s health care reform task force in 1993. “It was the only big job he’d had in Washington before winning an election,” Allen and Parnes note.
However, when endorsement time came in 2008, he dragged his feet, claiming to Hillary and Bill that he would remain neutral. Ultimately, though, he endorsed Obama.
Altmire eventually received his payback from the Clintons when Bill campaigned for Altmire’s 2012 primary candidate Mark Critz, helping Critz win. The book concludes with the runup to the beginnings of the possible Hillary 2016 campaign. Apparently attempting to carbon copy the 2008 Obama campaign, Hillary is looking to create a historic moment in political history–to become the first American woman to be elected president.
Though dismissed by some in the media, HRC is a great read for political junkies and raises some big questions for the “Ready For Hillary” crowd.