How Hillary's 'Hit List' Struck Fear in the Hearts of Democrats

How Hillary's 'Hit List' Struck Fear in the Hearts of Democrats

A new book jointly written by The Hill‘s Amie Parnes and Politico‘s Jonathan Allen, HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton, details how the Hillary Clinton campaign composed a political hit list of those who had betrayed Clinton in the 2008 presidential campaign and supported Barack Obama instead. 

The book asserts that the list was finalized in June 2008 after months of keeping score of those who stuck with Hillary and those who stabbed her in the back. The job of finalizing the list fell to Kris Balderston, deputy assistant to Bill Clinton during his presidency and later Hillary’s legislative director and deputy chief of staff in the Senate, and Adrienne Elrod, who interned in the White House in 1996 and moved on to senior posts on Capitol Hill.

The book notes that the duo had been updating a list of those who had endorsed Hillary and those who had endorsed Obama for months. They used a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to go into great detail about exactly why candidates abandoned Hillary. One member of Hillary’s campaign team said:

We wanted to have a record of who endorsed us and who didn’t, and of those who endorsed us, who went the extra mile and who was just kind of there. And of those who didn’t endorse us, those who understandably didn’t endorse us because they are [Congressional Black Caucus] members or Illinois members. And then, of course, those who endorsed him but really should have been with her… that burned her.

One early version of the list featured a grade from one to seven for each Democratic member of Congress, with those the most supportive of Hillary marked with a one and those who most egregiously betrayed her having a mark of seven. Many of the sevens included those who had turned out for Obama after the Clintons had raised funds for their campaigns, appointed them to political jobs, or given a recommendation for the candidate’s child.

Some of the sevens on the list included Sens. John Kerry, Jay Rockefeller, Bob Casey, and Patrick Leahy; and Reps. Chris Van Hollen, Baron Hill, and Rob Andrews. Bill Clinton had campaigned vigorously for Kerry in 2004 just after Clinton had undergone major heart surgery, but in 2008, Kerry endorsed Obama right after Hillary had upset Obama in the New Hampshire primary.

The most fiery level of hate came for Claire McCaskill, who had been endorsed by the Clintons in her Senate campaign in 2006, but said of Bill Clinton in a Meet the Press debate against then-Sen. Jim Talent in October 2006, “He’s been a great leader, but I don’t want my daughter near him.” Hillary immediately canceled a fundraiser supporting McCaskill. Soon after, McCaskill called Bill Clinton to apologize, but she was still frightened of Hillary. She told a friend, “I really don’t want to be in an elevator alone with her.”

However, Hillary didn’t indulge her hatred of McCaskill just yet – she was launching a presidential campaign. Hillary even scheduled a one-on-one lunch in the Senate Dining Room in early 2007. Finding Hillary acting warmly toward her, McCaskill thought, “There’s a much more human side to Hillary.” However, after January 2008, when she became the first female senator to endorse Obama, she was in the drop-dead echelon of Hillary’s list. The authors of HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton state, “‘Hate’ is too weak a word to describe the feelings that Hillary’s core loyalists still have for McCaskill.”

John Lewis was forgiven by the Clintons because he was a civil rights icon; even Bill Clinton thought he had an excuse for siding with the fist black president. However, Ted Kennedy was at the top of the list for giving a powerful and crucial endorsement speech for Obama. The endorsement came just prior to the Super Tuesday primaries and implied that the Clintons were passé and Obama was the spiritual heir to JFK. Bill Clinton had begged Kennedy to wait until later in the campaign.

Many years after 2008, Clinton aides exhibited signs of joy joking about those who had betrayed Hillary. One said, “Bill Richardson: investigated; John Edwards: disgraced by scandal; Chris Dodd: stepped down.” Another said, “Ted Kennedy,” paused, then whispered, “dead.”

Balderston’s personal bête noire became Jim Moran, the congressman from Alexandria, Virginia, who was his close friend. Balderston had pursued Moran for months, then was delighted to hear in January 2008 Moran’s voice message saying he was “all in for Hillary.” Balderston was excited until he heard a couple of weeks later that Moran was going to endorse Obama. His response, “What the fuck?” preceded his next call to Moran, during which he snarled, “Do not ever call me again!”

Bill Clinton’s rage was directed at California representative Lois Capps, who had succeeded her husband Walter for whom Clinton had campaigned. Clinton later campaigned for Lois to succeed her husband, and the Capps’ daughter, Laura, had worked in the Clinton White House. Then Lois Capps endorsed Obama at the end of April. “How could this happen?” Bill asked. 

One of Hillary’s aides reminded Bill, “Do you know her daughter is married to Bill Burton?” Burton worked for Obama as a campaign spokesman and later was part of Obama’s White House staff.

One source for the book said, “I wouldn’t, of course, call it an enemies list… I don’t want to make her sound like Nixon in a pantsuit.”

Another Clinton adviser said the list wasn’t as insidious as it sounds, saying it was sent to Doug Band, a close adviser to Bill Clinton, but that was the extent of it. The source asserted, “I’m sure Doug does have some sort of fucking memo on his Blackberry like the rest of us, but the notion that it is updated, circulated, disseminated, and relied upon is absurd.”

Meanwhile, McCaskill has been doing penance. In June 2013, McCaskill wrote on the website of Ready for Hillary, “I worked my heart out to elect [Obama] president… Now, as I look at 2016 and think about who is best to lead this country forward, I’m proud to announce that I am Ready for Hillary.” In July she followed up with a public apology for her 2006 comments about Bill: “It was not necessary. It was gratuitous and hurtful and I have apologized to both President Clinton and Hillary Clinton for saying it.” She said of her 2008 support for Obama, “I think they understand that it wasn’t like I endorsed a good ole boy against her. A lot of the women were upset with me. Having said that, I couldn’t be more enthusiastic for her to be president now. And I can’t wait to work as hard or harder for Hillary Clinton as I did for Barack Obama.”