Partners in POWER: The Clintons and Their America

Re: Partners in POWER: The Clintons and Their America

Postby admin » Fri Jun 17, 2016 3:18 am

7. Wellesley: "Tomorrow, When You Are the Establishment"

Of America's most exclusive women's colleges, Wellesley was the wealthiest, its endowment one of the twenty largest in the nation among private schools overall. In the academic world, the college had been known since opening in 1875 primarily for lavish art and library collections and, after the war, for well-funded science laboratories. Even by the mid-1960s, however, Wellesley remained largely what it had been for decades, a staid, prestigious, conservative institution performing a traditional role for daughters of the upper classes. It was part liberal arts college, part finishing school, the intellectual reputation of its faculty and students never matching in rank -- or expected to match -- its financial assets.

To take classes among the picturesque Oxford-inspired buildings and green lawns, Wellesley students generally paid higher tuition and fees than even Princeton or Harvard men did. Their campus sat beside rustic Lake Waban and the neat, expensive colonial villages of Wellesley and Wellesley Hills, a still comfortable fifteen miles from Boston Common. First-year students could not have cars, be out after nine on most nights, or leave for weekends without parental permission. "Women in those places in those years weren't really encouraged to go to a school but to be educated and be well-bred," said one of them. "You have to remember that, for all its money and name, Wellesley was still mainly just a 'girls' school' in that sense."

Hillary Rodham found it "all very rich and fancy, and very intimidating to my way of thinking," she said later. She had "stayed apprehensive for about three months," she told Arkansas reporter Mara Leveritt. At the same time, others saw her as an eager, proper freshman who "at once signed on with the campus Republicans," according to one account, "and sat down to tea." "I was worried about her," her mother told a friend, "but Hillary adjusted to Wellesley without a problem. She joined clubs and was active immediately."

Fleeing their cloistered setting -- "The biggest social life on campus was tea . . . one lump or two," said her classmate Kris Rogers -- Wellesley women in numbers traditionally took the Boston transit trains on Fridays and Saturdays into Harvard Square, and Hillary joined the migration from the beginning. Not long into her first semester she began to date Jeff Shields, a quiet, diligent Harvard junior destined for law school. They saw each other more or less steadily over the next four years, in an essentially platonic relationship he remembered as "based on a lot of discourse."

There were dances, football games, parties at Shields's Winthrop House, strolls along the Charles in Cambridge and around Lake Waban back at Wellesley. At the beginning she was quiet, "tended to listen more than talk," Shields recalled. Her reticence soon disappeared. "The things that I remember most were the conversations," he told a writer. "She would rather sit around and talk about current events or politics or ideas than go bicycle riding or to a football game." The young Harvard man "fell in love with her earnestness," professed author Gail Sheehy, though while they were dating she also saw other boys from time to time, all of them, like Shields, "poli-sci, earnest idealist, policy-activist, good-government types, not wild-eyed radicals," according to Rogers.

Her freshman speeches took the Republican side of current issues, including Southeast Asia and Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty. But the winter and spring of 1966 were also spent in her own methodical, characteristic sampling of college preoccupations, as if she were trying them on for style as well as substance. In the beginning she had been the grind, then the partier. "After six weeks of little human communication or companionship, my diet gave me indigestion," she wrote Don Jones about her regimen of reading and composition. "The last two weeks of February here were an orgy of decadent indulgence -- as decadent as any upright Methodist can become." Having played "social reformer" for the month of March, involved in assorted campus improvements, as she told Jones, she turned in April to become a thirty-day hippie, painting a flower on her arm. By May it was gone and she had returned to a more familiar role.

Jones thought her then and ever afterward in searching, often sharp rebellion against what they both called "sentimental liberalism"; a "sense of human frailty" pointed up for her, he told writer Donnie Radcliffe, the "difficulties of achieving justice and even the necessities of using power." The imperfection and irrationality of the mass seemed both to excuse the oppression of institutions and to render futile a more direct confrontation with power. In either case she came out of her freshman identity tasting with more scorn than ever for radical student movements. Earlier she had taken a black student with her to the Wellesley Methodist Church. "I was testing me as much as I was testing the church," she confided to Jones about her symbolic act. But when riots erupted in Chicago ghettos the following summer, giving new prominence to Martin Luther King, Jr., and Stokely Carmichael's Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, she was caustic about the more insistent young activists. "Just because a person cannot approve of SNCC's attitude toward civil disobedience," she wrote Jones, "does not mean that one wishes to maintain the racial status quo."

***

During her sophomore year of 1966-67, a new militancy on Vietnam and civil rights was already marking other college campuses. With a handful of other students, including some of the African American women beginning to trickle into the college (ten attended that year), she began to urge greater black enrollment. Civil rights leaders were invited to speak to a sea of white female faces about the moral imperative of racial integration. "We were all still afraid to talk about it," Jan Piercy remembered.

Later, as a member of the student senate, Hillary would become one of the leaders of the exclusive school's version of the 1960s rebellion -- protesting Victorian curfews, asking for a reduction of mandatory courses, advocating a pass-fail grading system, even proposing to lift the century-old ban on men in Wellesley dormitories. Conducted with no reproach to administration or alumnae, it was tame and polite reform, hardly comparable to the chanting, fists-in-the-air student upheavals at other colleges throughout the nation. Like Don Jones's taking his youth group to the forbidden interior of Chicago, her Wellesley acts would seem daring if only because of the stolid setting. The wider ferment of the 1960s merely opened the way for relatively modest reformers like the young woman from Park Ridge, Her reforms addressed outmoded or embarrassing conditions while posing no threat to the basic arrangements of power.

Her college protests would be "a Hillary-style rebellion," wrote Martha Sherrill, "methodical, rational, fair." She was intent on being individually successful in her causes -- though success, as always in such easy pragmatism, increasingly defined the cause itself. "I wouldn't say she was angry," Jan Piercy said, comparing her to other student activists. "Intense anger is sometimes the result of frustration, from not being effective. And Hillary has always been effective."

By her junior year she was a recognized student leader, seen as serious but not too bookish and known as a natural go-between in increasing controversies pitting students against the administration. She had earlier chaired and held in check a volatile campuswide meeting on racial discrimination in admissions, what black students had attacked as Wellesley's "secret quota policy," and she would later act as a mediator between an African American women's group and college officials. "She had a talent for serving as a bridge between different groups of students ... tried to keep everybody talking," Kris Rogers remembered. For the moment she had found a role and obviously relished it. "Hillary couldn't say no to a meeting," thought Martha Sherrill. "Get out the Robert's Rules of Order and she would come flying through the door."

Some still wondered about her own eventual political purposes. An admiring, affectionate Jeff Shields saw her as "someone who wanted to be involved and have an impact but didn't exactly know how." Apart from her good offices in campus issues, friends observed a change in Hillary over her last two years at college, a growing involvement, as one put it, in social issues away from Wellesley and a steady shift from Republican to Democratic politics. Despite a busy schedule, she would volunteer to teach reading to poor black children in Boston's ravaged Roxbury ghetto and later help out at one of the new alternative newspapers springing up in the city. As a Young Republican she had favored the right's old nemesis, GOP moderate Nelson Rockefeller, or Representative John Lindsay of New York against more conservative rivals Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Now, by the winter of 1967-68, with opposition to the Vietnam War reaching a crescendo, she joined the student supporters of Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota in his challenge of Lyndon Johnson.

Her Wellesley roommate, Johanna Branson, remembered Hillary's returning to their dorm the night of April 4, 1968, after hearing the news of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis. "She came in, the door flew back, and her book bag went crashing against the wall," Branson said. "She was completely distraught about the horror of it." While young blacks rioted in eighty cities and students prepared campus uprisings at Columbia and other universities, Hillary and a small group of Wellesley women put on black armbands to join a somber memorial march in Boston. She and others planned to march in Wellesley itself, only to have local veterans' groups threaten, as a young local minister remembered, "that we'd have our heads beaten in if we did."

In the wake of the King murder, the mood on campus was tense. She was among those asking students to boycott classes and attend a teach-in on civil rights issues, and when a professor scolded them for not giving up "weekends, something we enjoy," her reply in the college paper was instant, the first of many sharp responses to public criticism. "I'll give up my date Saturday night ... but I don't think that's the point," she wrote. "Individual consciences are fine. But individual consciences have to be made manifest." Her own was soon plain. Within weeks she was running a carefully organized campaign for president of the student government. Like her two opponents, she advocated more student control over Wellesley's social regulations and even a role for class leaders in the institution's decision making. But like them as well, she was "vague as to exactly how they would implement the change in the power structure," as the Wellesley News put it in refusing to endorse Hillary Rodham or the others. When she won the race, she was astonished at her popularity and acceptance, despite her organization and the reputation she had cultivated for three years. "I can't believe it. I can't believe it," she told a faculty friend incredulously.

Her election was only the beginning of a remarkable series of events over the months between her junior and senior years. In early June 1968 -- the bleak moment of Bill Clinton's graduation from Georgetown -- she was in riot-scarred Washington on the Wellesley Internship Program. One of thirty chosen from among three hundred applicants to aid Republican congressmen in assignments directed by Wisconsin representative (and Nixon's future secretary of defense) Melvin Laird, she spent the next eight weeks working routinely in the office of reactionary Harold Collier from Park Ridge's district. But the internship also gave her a chance to research and write for Laird and others on issues of revenue sharing and to meet several ambitious young rightwing aides who would later be prominent in the Reagan years.

In this first exposure to Washington, she left, as always, the impression of an assertive intelligence and effectiveness, whatever the substance. "She was for it," Laird would say of the Republican plan to "share revenues," shifting control of federal money and programs to states and localities. On the surface it seemed a benign scheme to dilute distant federal dictation and return decisions to communities where tax money was spent. But as is so commonly true on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures and courthouses, bland principle masked brutal politics. The vaunted "sharing," as many well knew, would simply turn over the money in state after state to more parochial, conservative, often corrupt local regimes, who could be counted on, in turn, to blunt whatever change or impact the original policies and appropriations might have intended. "Hell, can't anybody see it," a frustrated, courthouse-tutored Lyndon Johnson would say to his aides. "They want to share revenues with the boys that got all the real revenues to begin with."

From the Washington internship she went briefly to the Republican Convention in Miami, where she worked in the already failed campaign of Nelson Rockefeller to head off the presidential nomination of Richard Nixon. Like her passing involvement with Gene McCarthy's insurgency in the Democratic primaries earlier that winter and spring, her commitment to Rockefeller was spurred by his apparent promise to end the Vietnam War and address social and urban problems anew. There was, of course, a naive inconsistency between her work in Washington and that in Miami: the men she had served and impressed on Capitol Hill, the issues to which she devoted herself as an avid GOP intern, belonged to Richard Nixon and to a Republicanism that deplored Rockefeller and his policies as much as it did the Democrats. About Hillary Rodham's whole heady summer of national politics in 1968 there would be the air of the freshman sampler, trying on Congress one month, the convention the next, a matter more of scouting than of conviction.

Back in Park Ridge later that summer, she spent what was left of her vacation in languid poolside talks with old friends, punctuated by heated political arguments with her father at home. If she remained the moderate and the mediator at Wellesley, her political evolution felt far sharper in Park Ridge. "When fights flared between them," Judith Warner recounted, "the bottom line always was politics." In late August she and a neighbor, Betsy Johnson, took the train to Chicago to see for themselves the stormy demonstrations surrounding the riven Democratic Convention.

Inside the Chicago Amphitheater, the Old Guard, in the form of Mayor Daley's machine and presidential nominee Hubert Humphrey, suppressed the last remnants of Vietnam dissent in the wake of the primary defeat of McCarthy and the murder of Robert Kennedy. Blocks away, near the Conrad Hilton Hotel, a symbolic spectacle took place. There had been bloody clashes earlier in the week, with student demonstrators chanting their familiar "Fascist pig" and "Hell no, we won't go" and Chicago police shouting back, "Kill the Commies" and "Let's get the bastards." On a sultry Wednesday night a disorganized crowd, already teargassed, milled about near the hotel, "most of them pacifically inclined middle-class kids," a reporter scribbled in his notes. Then suddenly, without warning, cohorts of billy club-swinging police charged. What a later inquiry termed a "police riot" was seen in part by shocked television viewers, including young Bill Clinton in Hot Springs, and the initial revulsion in the national press was widespread. "The truth was," Tom Wicker wrote afterward in the New York Times, "these were our children in the streets, and the Chicago police beat them up."

"We saw kids our age getting their heads beaten in. And the police were doing the beating," Betsy Johnson remembered. "Hillary and I just looked at each other. We had a wonderful childhood in Park Ridge, but we obviously hadn't gotten the whole story."

In the longer aftermath of the fury, there was a systematic backlash against the victims, Mayor Daley calling the student demonstrators "a lawless violent group of terrorists [threatening] to menace the lives of millions of people." "I think we ought to quit pretending that Mayor Daley did anything wrong," presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey would say of the repression at the convention as well as in the streets. "He didn't." Within only weeks, polls showed much of the public agreeing with Daley and Humphrey. Protests continued to rage on campuses, but the nation watched with a growing unease and resentment, despising the dissenters for being wrong, hating them for being right. Having broadcast the bloody images from Chicago and deplored the brutality, most of the press soon shed its initial editorial indignation and fell in behind the recoiling public mood.

Symbolic of the divide within a generation, Hillary Rodham watched the brutality at a political as well as a physical distance -- shocked, as Betsy Johnson remembered, yet detached and apart in many ways. Elected president of the student government association, she would return to Wellesley to help organize teach-ins on the war, after similar meetings at other universities. Later that autumn, while many students boycotted the election, Hillary seemed far removed from the screams outside the Hilton or the disillusion in their wake, leaving Wellesley again and again to drive through New Hampshire and western Massachusetts, avidly distributing literature and working on phone banks for the long-compromised Hubert Humphrey, with his "politics of joy" a cheerleader still for Washington's war policy.

***

Hillary Rodham's last year at Wellesley was a combination of public accomplishment and personal disquiet. As student government president she continued to be the campus conciliator, with a genuine "empathy" for both sides, as Kris Rogers and others saw her. She was in favor of change, they remembered, but never too committed to it, thought the status quo oppressive or wasteful but was never too outraged by it. "She was really very mainstream ... not a counterculture person ... going to drop out or become radical, even in her thinking," Jeff Shields would say. "Because even when she became definitely liberal, it was always within a fairly conventional scope."

She presided over her own small salon in the common area and dining room of her dormitory. "Not a frivolous person in the least," remembered Eleanor Acheson, the granddaughter of Secretary of State Dean Acheson and a coworker in the Humphrey campaign. Acheson also thought her friend free of the usual family pressures. So many students were "tortured by insecurity, have parents driving them," Acheson told a writer decades later. "Hillary never had any of that." Her relationship with Jeff Shields ended early in her senior year. "Read between the lines," said a classmate, "that she just wasn't getting in bed with him." But despite her successes, the years at Wellesley were often more difficult than she acknowledged. Looking back on a presidential race fraught with personal attacks, her mother would insist to Judith Warner that "the trials Hillary faced as an adolescent ... made the troubles of the 1992 campaign look like a cakewalk." At that, her undergraduate years seemed still worse. "The most difficult time of her life," Dorothy Rodham would say, "[was] when she was at Wellesley."

There had been no one for her at the college quite like Don Jones. Among the faculty, Patsy Sampson thought her very "intense," giving her A-pluses in child psychology courses, which Hillary obviously relished. Alan Schechter, a young political science professor who taught constitutional law with a devotion to civil rights and liberal politics, saw her as "the best student I had taught in [my] first seven years ... at Wellesley." It was with Schechter that she wrote her senior thesis on the community-action programs of Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty.

No subject could have been more prophetic of the politics she and her future husband would inherit. Born in the euphoria of Johnson's early power in the mid-1960s, the larger antipoverty program was rooted in the faith of liberal economists that US postwar growth would be constant and that no meaningful redistribution of wealth or power was necessary for the realization of American democracy. "Poverty could be abolished without anyone's pocket suffering," as one historian described their presumption. The Democrats could "achieve the millennium without changing the system."

Yet there had been a fatal flaw from the beginning. A new cigarette tax in 1964 might have provided crucial billions for a direct, less politically vulnerable jobs program for the thirty to fifty million poor. Under powerful pressure from the tobacco lobby, however, Johnson and the Democratic congressional leadership had abandoned the tax. They chose instead to concentrate on regular Capitol Hill appropriations for "community action," designed to encourage economic power and popular participation at the grass roots in both urban slums and rural depressed areas. Barely two years later, by mid-1966, the efforts were doomed -- not only starved of money and attention in the vast sinking of resources into the maw of war in Southeast Asia but also under attack by Democratic officeholders all over the country, threatened by the new political and economic assertiveness of the dispossessed. Governors and mayors, congressmen and legislators had lobbied Vice President Humphrey, and Humphrey in turn warned Johnson, who with escalation of the war could afford no major defections in the ranks.

"The poor were being organized against the establishments," wrote historian Robert A. Levine, "and, not surprisingly, the establishments didn't like it a bit." Politicians of both parties were soon joined by a resentful middle class -- its own status threatened by the fiscal and social catastrophe that was Vietnam -- finding it easier, then as later, to blame those below and nonwhite than to understand political economy.

This vivid story of reform and reaction Hillary Rodham now viewed in her Wellesley thesis. Like the author of a literate but blanched bureaucratic report, she meticulously described various programs and assessed their clinical impact. In the spring of 1969 she judged that the already moribund community-action programs had been "constructive" and that the poor would now require something "broader" and more "sustained," as one of her thesis readers recalled her conclusion. But she stopped well short of analyzing the actual political murder of the programs or of discussing what the episode revealed in a larger sense about power and politics in America.

In the thesis she dealt in passing with Saul Alinsky. Since meeting him in Jones's youth group, she had heard him speak in Boston and had even gone to see him in Chicago before coming back to Wellesley for her senior year. His own reformer's approach to poverty -- "an embarrassment to the American soul," he called it -- had evolved to an elegant simplicity. The poor were poor because they lacked power and must be locally, practically organized to acquire it. Hillary Rodham judged Alinsky and his methods only marginal at best. "Organizing the poor for community actions to improve their own lives may have, in certain circumstances, short-term benefits for the poor but would never solve their major problems" is what Professor Schechter remembered as her thesis conclusion. "You need much more than that. You need leadership, programs, constitutional doctrines." Though she never defined precisely what the "much more" entailed, hers would in some respects be a sound verdict on the era that followed, when Alinsky and his disciples around the nation won hundreds of meaningful small battles for the poor and disenfranchised only to see poverty and disenfranchisement grow as never before. Packing a city councilor embarrassing a corporate board here and there would be no real remedy to the massive corruption of federal power and the lethal redistribution of national wealth and resources in the 1980s. Yet to focus on Alinsky's localism and organizing tactics was to miss just that, the other dimension of his larger critique, the apportionment of power itself. Like her appraisal of the community-action programs, her self-confident dismissal of the old Chicago hero and nemesis did not come to terms with the underlying point of it all -- politics.

Schechter and three other graders gave her As on the thesis. Her adviser thought her, like himself, a "pragmatic liberal" in the spirit of the early 1960s, someone who shared what he called his "instrumental liberalism: using government to meet the un met needs of the society to help those people who are not fully included within it." He had "high hopes for Hillary and her future," he wrote in a recommendation to Yale Law School. "She has the intellectual ability, personality, and character to make a remarkable contribution to American society." Her Wellesley thesis, however, would not be part of that contribution. Not long after graduation, enmeshed, like her husband, in politics, she instructed the college to seal her senior thesis from the public, even the tactical criticism of Alinsky and nebulous call for "leadership" having become possible career liabilities. "Hillary can't afford the negative image of the sixties," an admirer would explain a quarter century later.

Friends remembered her as in search of a "calling" those last months. The overwhelming majority of her class were still anticipating no more than marriage and family, but "feminists visiting Wellesley ... turned Hillary toward a legal career," according to Martin Kasindorf. She had decided on Yale Law after an encounter with an arrogant and sexist Harvard Law professor. "She's trying to decide whether to come here next year or attend our closest competitor," a Harvard friend said, introducing her to the faculty member. "Well, first of all, we don't have any close competitors," the man had replied. "Second, we don't need any more women."

The choice led to one last encounter with Saul A1insky. She had once contemplated following A1insky's example and "doing something in the area of organizing," Hillary would tell the Chicago Daily News in a special graduation interview. She thought his view of change through social agitation "a good point," like his political concern for the sensibilities of the middle class, "the kind of people I grew up with in Park Ridge." But when A1insky himself offered her a job that spring as an organizer, she turned him down, telling him she was going to Yale. "Well, that's no way to change anything," he had said. "Well, I see a different way than you," she replied. "And I think there is a real opportunity. "

Afterward there were repeated testimonials to her more idealistic purposes at the time, repeated surprise at the life she eventually led. "She didn't go to law school because she was interested in being a lawyer," thought Jeff Shields. "Not for the purpose of making money or becoming a corporate lawyer, but ... to influence the course of society," Schechter would add. ''I'm not interested in corporate law," she herself would declare. "My life is too short to spend it making money for some big anonymous firm." Shields believed her undecided about a career but, in any case, fiercely independent. "She didn't have any fixed ambitions in terms of knowing that she wanted to be elected to some office," Shields remembered. "She certainly didn't give any indication that she was looking to attach herself to a politician -- and I'm sure probably would have been offended by that concept if someone had raised it at the time."

With Schechter's sponsorship and a concerted last-minute campaign within the class, she became Wellesley's first student commencement speaker. An apprehensive college administration stipulated that the speech reflect a "consensus" of the class of 1969 while also being "appropriate." A drafting committee was formed, and student ideas poured in, urging her to speak candidly about the war, the assassinations of King and Kennedy, the Chicago riot, campus protests, and more from their turbulent last years. In the end the committee proudly refused to submit the speech for final review by the college president.

Though her mother stayed in Park Ridge with her brothers, Hugh Rodham drove to Boston to hear his daughter speak. The ceremonies began with Senator Edward Brooke, a Massachusetts Republican and the only African American in the Senate, making a perfunctory speech not even alluding to the war or popular unrest. Hillary Rodham followed with an unrehearsed response, "chewing out" the United States senator, as one account described it, "for being out of touch." To audible gasps from the crowd she scolded Brooke for his fey performance, "gave it to him, no ifs, ands, or buts about it," Schechter recalled. "I find myself in a familiar position, that of reacting," she said, "something that our generation has been doing for quite a while now." "Hillary just sort of launched off on her own," Eleanor Acheson said. "Some people, largely mothers, thought it was just rude."

She began her prepared text with words from a classmate and poet. "The challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible possible. We are not interested in social reconstruction, it's human reconstruction .... You and I must be free, not to save the world in a glorious crusade, but to practice with all the skill of our being the art of making possible.

"The issues of sharing power and responsibility, and of assuming power and responsibility, have been general concerns on campuses throughout the world," she said of the unrest of 1968-69. At stake were "integrity and trust and respect." Students were struggling to "come to grips with some of the inarticulate, maybe even inarticulable, things that we're feeling," she told them. "We are, all of us, exploring a world that none of us understands and attempting to create within that uncertainty." Only minutes into the address she seemed already to be losing some of the audience. "A murmur of whispered commentary buzzed under her words," said one account. "But there are some things we feel," she went on. "We feel that our prevailing, acquisitive, and competitive corporate life, including, tragically, the universities, is not the way of life for us. We're searching for more immediate, ecstatic, and penetrating modes of living. And so our questions, our questions about our institutions, about our colleges, about our churches, about our government, continue." In more elaborate language it was the plaint of so many in the paradox of postwar prosperity: "Is this all there is, all we have to look forward to?" But her speech brushed the larger political reality only to retreat to abstraction, without asking or venturing more.

"Every protest, every dissent, is unabashedly an attempt to forge an identity," she said. "That attempt at forging ... has meant coming to terms with our own humanness." At one point she seemed utterly lost in ambivalence: "Within the context of a society that we perceive -- now we can talk about reality, and I would like to talk about reality sometime, authentic reality, inauthentic reality, and what we have to accept of what we see -- but your perception of it is that it hovers often between the possibility of disaster and the potentiality for imaginatively responding to men's needs." By now there was a small background din of people shifting noisily in their chairs, whispering, even beginning to move restlessly in and out of the long rows.

Closing, she tried earnestly to reconcile dissent with the old order. "There's a very strange conservative strain that goes through a lot of New Left collegiate protests that I find very intriguing because it harks back to a lot of the old virtues, to the fulfillment of original ideas." But that idea, too, she left dangling and ended abruptly on a banal, almost nationalist note: "And it's also a very unique American experience. It's such a great adventure. If the experiment in human living doesn't work in this country, in this age, it's not going to work anywhere."

Her class, a few of the more recent alumnae, and some parents gave her a standing ovation, though the distraction during the address had been telling. Twenty-four years later she would look back on the speech as "full of uncompromising language." Puckered Wellesley thought so at the time. Uttered as it was only in passing in her reproach to Senator Brooke, the word Vietnam did not appear in the officially printed version of her address, and the college's first student commencement speaker appeared nowhere in a 1975 official chronicle of the institution. Yet what stood out then and later was the uncertainty and equivocation of what she had actually said, when so many others of her generation were coming to grips more simply with realities of "power and responsibility." Had she spoken at Harvard, a reporter wrote years later, the speech would have "invited a mass walkout." As it was, a few miles away at Brandeis University, more typical of the class of 1969 and sadly more prophetic, a student commencement speaker was talking about the rule of "an economic elite in our society ... which has a vested interest in preserving the social order on which their holdings depend." Valedictorian Justin Simon put it plainly: "If you support the war in Vietnam, pay for it. Don't have tax lawyers out making sure you don't pay too much."

Excerpts of her address were published by Life in a collection of student commencement speeches, accompanied by her first national photograph, showing a round-faced austere young woman with long straight hair, peering out through thick rimless glasses, the fingers of her outstretched hands joined pensively in front of her. In the same feature was a future White House aide and her own later collaborator on health-insurance reform, Ira Magaziner of Brown, who admonished his classmates, "The way things should be has got to be the way things are .... We should lose sleep because we are doing things that are wrong and we're allowing things that are wrong to go on in our society and we're accepting them." Beside the students was a premonitory passage from Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, who denounced the "sniveling, hand-wringing power structure" tolerating the era's "violent rebellion." He seemed at one point to be speaking to the Rodhams and Magaziners in particular. They should accept the "rational" status quo and reject "immature" dissent, Agnew advised them scarcely four years before he left office in a bribery scandal. "Ask yourselves which kind of society you want for tomorrow -- tomorrow, when you are the establishment."

Hillary Rodham graduated from Wellesley already a paradoxical, guarded, concealed woman. Combing the same ground decades later, even the most sympathetic reporters would be troubled by how one-dimensional she then seemed, how "rational, cerebral," as one account described her, with "pain ... fears ... dreams" all seemingly missing. "She rarely, if ever," concluded Frank Marafiote, "is described by friends or family members as creative, innovative, emotional, empathetic, intuitive, introspective, sensual." Ultimately, he thought, she seems "unknowable, certainly to others, and perhaps more ominously, to herself."

After the commencement speech she left the crowd, including her father, for Lake Waban, indulging a last act of ritual revolt by stripping to a bathing suit she had worn under her graduation robe and dress and plunging into waters where student swimming was strictly prohibited. While she was out in the lake, a school security guard happened by and spitefully took her things, including her thick-lensed glasses.

She finally told the story at a 1992 Wellesley commencement. "Blind as a bat," she remembered, "I had to feel my way back to my room at Davis." The audience laughed. No one seemed to notice the more poignant meaning of the incident: literally and symbolically, she had spent the triumphal moment of her college career much as the years before and after -- ultimately, defiantly alone.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 24362
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Partners in POWER: The Clintons and Their America

Postby admin » Sun Jun 19, 2016 12:03 am

8. Yale I: "She Saw Right Past the Charm"

It was the same summer of 1969 that Bill Clinton spent so anxiously in Hot Springs trying to escape the draft, and Hillary Rodham started her life after graduation with another act of restless independence. Shunning a contentious summer at home in sultry Park Ridge, she struck out for Alaska -- to the consternation of both family and friends, even hitchhiking part of the way. There she took a job in a cannery, soon to be fired when she earnestly told the manager that the fish they were packing for US grocery stores seemed tainted. "They really were dark and half spoiled," she told a friend, "but I guess nobody wanted to know that." She had come back from the Northwest with a new air of self-sufficiency, if not cynicism, her friends thought, and that autumn, as Clinton returned to Oxford with his ROTC deferment to await the lottery, she confidently enrolled as one of the few women at Yale Law.

People remembered her flannel shirts, thick glasses, and sheer plainness, austerity worn as a notice -- or warning -- the overall impression "somewhat intimidating," in Gail Sheehy's later description. She immediately joined the moratorium protests against the war and led her own campus campaign to have tampon dispensers placed in the women's rooms at the law school. There would be softening recollections of her Tammy Wynette records and of whispering and giggling with girlfriends. But above all, her Yale classmates marked her as "studious and solemn," and often solitary. The ever-disciplined daughter of Hugh Rodham trooped regularly to the Yale undergraduate gymnasium to follow her own regimen of calisthenics.

From the beginning, there seemed no question about the strength and even passion of her scholarship. For an interval she worked on the founding editorial board of the short-lived Yale Review of Law and Social Action, a consciously progressive competitor to the school's traditional review. Given to indignant but duly cited articles on government repression of groups like the Black Panthers and on other political issues, the new journal represented a lively challenge to the law school's orthodoxy. "There was a great amount of ferment and confusion about what was and wasn't the proper role of law school education," she remembered. "We would have great arguments about whether we were selling out because we were getting a law degree."

She dated little in her first year, and some thought her lonely despite her outward, sometimes flaunted indifference to sex and convention. "Hillary was deliberately dowdy and colorless as a young law student but a radical and feminist only of sorts," said a close friend. "As I look back on it, regardless of her pose, I think she always wanted male attention as much as anything else." Whatever her deeper sense of self or of men, there were soon social frictions. "I think that those years were those of her greatest challenge," her mother would say. "She was a young woman and was the equal of men. At that time that wasn't yet accepted." But it was not only a matter of sexism. At twenty-two she was already unable or unwilling to mask a blunt, impatient, often acid distinction between those who interested her, seemed worthy of her attention and courtesy, and those who did not. "She was direct, she could be sharp, but she could also be very warm to people she liked and trusted," recalled Alan Bersin, a friend. "In other words," added another male friend, "Hillary could be extremely nice, or else she could be a real bitch. Not a lot in between."

Still, she continued to impress both peers and elders. As she had done at Wellesley, she volunteered to chair stormy campus meetings on protests against the school regarding community controversies, including, in 1969-70, a New Haven trial of Black Panthers, for which she organized shifts of students to monitor the courtroom under the direction of Yale constitutional scholar Thomas Emerson. As always, she seemed at once engaged and strangely disengaged. Ever neutral, coolly summarizing the less artful or more agitated speeches of other, more committed students, the young woman with the heavy glasses and severe demeanor was soon accepted here, too, as crisp campus moderator and the available mediator between student dissidents and a nervous, groping administration -- though she made sure, some thought, that she took no stand that jeopardized her own position. "She was so ambitious ... already knew the value of networking, of starting a Rolodex even back then," a classmate told journalist Connie Bruck. "She cultivated relationships with teachers and administrators even more than with students."

Unlike at Wellesley, however, her role cast her in a different light for more discerning students and faculty. "In the years since, she has dissembled about her own ambition, but at Yale Law School she did not dissemble about her desire to be an important political figure," another related to Bruck for a 1994 profile. "Here were all these great struggles over rights and foreign policy and all the rest, and she always seemed to join the fray yet hold back any conviction," said one peer who watched her. "I think her great struggles may have been over gender and professional opportunity, but most of all it seemed to be over her own viability. Her real cause was Hillary." A veteran of Washington politics in the Kennedy era, Yale law professor Burke Marshall thought her highly intelligent, hard-working, magnetic, but in the end unexceptional, even pedestrian, in her approach to politics. "A run-of-the- mill Democrat," he would call her afterward.

Mter Life published the excerpt of her Wellesley commencement address, she was invited to a League of Women Voters conference of "young leaders of the future," one of a series of anxious efforts by the two parties, as well as by conventional nonpartisan groups like the league, to deliver sixties student leaders from the sins of radical protest. It became Hillary Rodham's introduction to a discreet nexus of Washington contacts -- "candidate members of the establishment," as one observer called the younger political figures assembled to mingle with students at such gatherings. There she first met various congressional staff and other capital figures later instrumental in the political rise of her future husband. Typical among them was an ambitious young black voter-registration attorney named Vernon Jordan, who twenty-three years later, having evolved into a wealthy corporate lobbyist, would preside over Bill Clinton's presidential transition.

More immediately, however, the gathering prompted an invitation to speak at the league's fiftieth anniversary observance, and in the spring of 1970, in the wake of the Cambodian invasion and the atrocities at Kent State and Jackson State, she delivered what some would look back on as the most telling speech of her career from Park Ridge to the White House. Her address was suffused with much of the sense of epiphany, and frustration, of the moment, as the character of the Nixon regime became painfully evident and the shadows of war seemed to lengthen without visible end. "Here we are on the other side of a decade that had begun with a plea for nobility and ended with the enshrinement of mediocrity," she told the audience at the league's national convention, appealing to them "to help stop the chain of broken promises" that marked her coming-of-age. "Our social indictment has broadened," she went on. "Where once we advocated civil rights, now we advocate a realignment of political and economic power. Where once we exposed the quality of life in the world of the South and of the ghettos, now we condemn the quality of work in factories and corporations. "''here once we assaulted the exploitation of man, now we decry the destruction of nature as well." They were not powerless, she admonished the largely white, upper-middle-class women, if only they asked and answered the right questions: "What kind of stock one owns? What do you do with your proxies? How much longer can we let corporations run us? Isn't it about time that they, as all the rest of our institutions, are held accountable to the people?"

In terms of what followed, the passages proved stunningly, sadly ironic. It would be as if the Hillary Rodham of 1970 were mocking the Hillary Clinton of two decades later -- the Arkansas First Lady who condemned neither the exploited labor nor the environment of her adopted state, who had held her own highly lucrative stocks in a corrupt commodities market and in companies profiting from racist South Africa. She would sit on the boards of, and serve as counsel to, several corporations and would long since have ceased to advocate a "realignment of political and economic power." The evolution of one into the other was foreshadowed by much that was already shaped in her life, and it could be explained further by the most elemental forces of love and ambition yet to play out. But the league speech, soon forgotten, revealed with rare clarity the character of her passage from what she might have been to what she became. Hillary Rodham Clinton had, after all, once known the difference.

Contacts at the league gathering smoothed a next step in her career. One of those she met was a former aide to Robert Kennedy, Peter Edelman. When his wife, children's rights lawyer Marian Wright Edelman, later spoke at Yale, Hillary was instantly impressed and asked her for a summer job with her Washington Research Project. Supported by a Yale grant, she worked briefly at the project and then, on the recommendation of both Edelmans, went on to a coveted staff job with Senator Walter Mondale's Subcommittee on Migratory Labor, studying firsthand the plight of children and their families in wretched, disease-ridden migrant camps in Florida and elsewhere.

Mondale staff aides remembered her that summer, only two years after she worked on the other side of the aisle for the right-wing Harold Collier, as a quiet, dour assistant -- "an apparent liberal," one called her -- intensely involved in the subcommittee's inspection and documentation of one of the crueler by-products of American politics and economics. Through Don Jones's Methodist youth group she had known some migrant families passingly, but nothing prepared her for what she now found. The experience, she told friends and fellow workers, was "shocking." Late in July 1970 the subcommittee held hearings on the gruesome conditions in the camps, including those run by Coca-Cola through its newly acquired Minute Maid subsidiary. When Coca-Cola president]. Paul Austin arrived at the Senate hearing room to testify on July 24, he was accosted in the corridor by what onlookers, including other members of Mondale's staff, saw as a furious young Hillary Rodham, uncharacteristically emotional and "losing her usual cool," as one said. "She was really something, this young activist breathing fire," a company lawyer said later. "We're going to nail your ass," more than one of them remembered her angrily blurting out at the astonished executive. "Nail your ass."

Austin blandly promised the subcommittee to improve treatment of migrant workers, and the hearings eventually trailed off with no essential change in the conditions. In Washington's enveloping culture of money, exposure and reform had a way of dissipating in discreet irony. When Mondale ran as the Democratic candidate for president in 1984, it was with Coca-Cola's onetime corporate counsel as a ranking adviser and with large contributions from many of the same agribusiness giants who profited from the migrant agony revealed in the 1970 hearings.

Coca-Cola and Austin were hardly the only names implicated in the scandal. Hillary Rodham and a gasping hearing room heard witnesses describe what one called "some of the most squalid, inhuman conditions in the world" in migrant camps in Texas, where the laborers and their families toiled for, among others, a former congressman and millionaire landowner named Lloyd Bentsen. In 1970 Bentsen was a successful candidate himself for the US Senate on the strength of a fortune made in banking and insurance as well as migrant labor -- and later, in 1992, would be chosen as secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton administration.

Rodham returned to Yale soon after the hearings concluded. Proud of her work for the subcommittee, she would be visibly angry about the migrant labor scandal for months afterward. Yet that ardor, too, faded. Only seven years later, in an extensive public resume that listed every other remotely notable accomplishment and affiliation all the way back to her undergraduate record at Wellesley, Hillary Rodham omitted her senatorial staff work on the migrant camps, not to mention her fervent Washington confrontation with Austin and her prophetic speech to the League of Women Voters.

That autumn of 1970 the members of a new law school class were already much in evidence in New Haven, prominent among them a charming, garrulous young man from Arkansas with "Elvis sideburns" who talked proudly about the miraculous watermelons of a place called Hope.

Repeated often in the 1992 presidential race, the story of the first meeting of Hillary Rodham and Bill Clinton at the law school library became a kind of political celebrity folk tale. As another student tries in vain to persuade him to join the stodgy law review, he is staring down the long reading room at Hillary. Eventually she gets up, walks all the way to where they are standing, and says drily, "Look, if you're going to keep staring at me and I'm going to keep staring back, I think we should at least know each other. I'm Hillary Rodham. What's your name?" It is a line, Martha Sherrill writes later, "worthy of Lauren Bacall." In Clinton's own version, it leaves him uncharacteristically speechless, grappling for his own name.

In terms of both the private turmoil and public gravity of the relationship that followed, the charm of the story was less revealing than the roles of the two people at the moment. The young woman of studied plainness, always proving her seriousness, is in effect picking up the tall, handsome, story-spinning Southerner she has unavoidably noticed around campus. He, who has been tirelessly selling himself like Hope watermelons to everyone for years, suddenly finds himself the customer. As the two of them described it later with obvious candor, both fell in love with the unexpected -- or at least the novelty in their own felt experiences. "He wasn't afraid of me," she would explain. "I could just look at her and tell she was interesting and deep," he told one writer.

Before the introduction in the library, he had tried to approach her but had held back as perhaps never before; for a time he even sheepishly "stalked her," as Gail Sheehy described it. "I had just broken up with another girl," Clinton told a biographer, and there was no question that Hillary Rodham was only the latest in a long line of encounters for him. "Before Bill Clinton, Hillary had dated a number of men at Yale," her own biographer wrote later. Others remembered men "in and out" of her life, as Donnie Radcliffe related. But one man who did see her socially before Clinton insisted that she had been with no one often -- or in an intimate relationship, as she was with Clinton from the beginning. "She certainly wasn't his first, but he may well have been hers," he said, "and that's as significant as anything else in what followed."

***

Entering the law school that autumn, William Coleman III was the son of a well-to-do Nixon cabinet secretary and one of ten African American students in a class of 125. He remembered in particular the "friendly fellow with a southern accent and a cherubic face ... plopping himself down at the 'black table,' " around which Coleman and his fellow African Americans promptly segregated themselves in the law cafeteria. But Bill Clinton soon drew them in, as he had so many others, with his cheerful openness and infectious conversation. "He had the gift of a true storyteller," Coleman would say. "He could take the simplest event and, in retelling it, turn it into a saga complete with a plot and a moral."

Along with the personableness was an ease about, almost a condescension toward, the law school courses most others took far more seriously. Yale friends remembered Clinton's joining a "countercourse" during the first semester, a student-organized study group trying to reach beyond interpretations or opinions in the prescribed curriculum, and his carefully writing and rewriting occasional papers. one of his peers doubted how bright, quick, or articulate he could be behind that soft drawl. But here as elsewhere, he was more practice and persona -- jaunty, warm, magnetic, ever sincere -- than substance or conviction. Over their three years in New Haven, Coleman and several others thought him "somewhat casual about his formal studies," attending few classes, paying little attention to significant precedent cases or legal and constitutional theory, avidly reading murder mysteries or novels but rarely the law itself. "He did not spend lots of time trying to master Marbury v. Madison," a classmate said bitingly. What they did recall was his inveterate last-minute cramming. Three weeks before the end of the term Bill Clinton would borrow several sets of notes from his more conscientious friends, hide himself away, and emerge to do "quite well," as one of them put it, on the final examination.

There was never any coyness at Yale about his patent ambition to run for political office at the earliest opportunity. Nor was there disapproval or discouragement from peers or faculty. "He was a very good student, he's very, very smart. But I'd never have thought Bill Clinton was law-firm material," Burke Marshall told a writer. "He was obviously going to be a candidate." Clinton was unashamedly someone, said a Yale roommate, "who at the age of twenty-four was prepared to define himself as a politician." As at Georgetown, his boyish gregariousness and seeming lack of artifice dispelled any suspicion or distaste. "After all, nobody in law school was cheerfully announcing, 'I'm going to be an ambulance chaser,' but what he did was a little like that," remarked one classmate. "In Bill Clinton there just didn't look to be any real cunning, though that, I guess, was the point." The backwardness of his home state could even justify to some the skimming and skating through law school. William Coleman thought "his ambition ... so reasonable," the plan to put "a political apprenticeship ahead of scholastic pedigrees" quite practical, because Clinton would have a realistic chance of being elected in "the congenial environment of a small state" like Arkansas. "To Clinton," as Gail Sheehy summed up how most of them saw him, "law school was just a credential."

Lost in the prodigal image, of course, was something deeper, and less flattering to them all -- the implicit assumption that politics and high public office might require credentials or prestige but not serious substance or knowledge, that a would-be state governor, say, needed to be glib and facile, needed to cram, do well on the final, and move on. "Whatever it tells you about Bill Clinton," one professor said of the future president's approach to Yale courses, "it tells volumes about this law school." Clinton discovered early that the heralded "paper chase" was not often the television image of dedicated, grinding, overworked law students extending the frontiers of justice. "Let's face it. I taught a kind of vo-tech for Wall Street mechanics and other shysters," one disillusioned professor said later. "There were the few serious and the many hacks, and the curriculum was such that they all did well." "In many ways it was a sausage factory," said another who studied, taught, and then administered at Yale Law, "an impressive trade school, but a trade school nonetheless."

Only weeks into the 1970 fall term Clinton moved to a four-bedroom beachfront house on Long Island Sound about twenty-five miles south of New Haven, sharing it with Coleman, fellow Rhodes scholar Doug Eakeley, and Don Pogue, a midwesterner from a working- class family. The breezy house soon became a popular social venue where Clinton's classmates remembered his relish and conquest of young women and, in seeming equal measure, his gluttony -- his frying everything in sizzling, spattering grease and then customarily devouring it "in one continuous motion from frying pan to plate and into the mouth," as one housemate recalled with amazement.

One of the few sixties student radicals in their circle, Pogue thought his new friend from Hot Springs had "a reserve of decency towards everybody he met that just kept him going." While Clinton talked long and agreeably with other students -- with Coleman and other African Americans, deploring Arkansas's racist politicians like Orval Faubus; with Eakeley, pressing the virtues of southern literature -- he argued long and loudly with Pogue about foreign policy and, most often, about the advantages and pitfalls of "working within the system," as Coleman recalled. He left behind no enemies from these arguments, they agreed, but also no doubt about "his commitment to politics" -- that he would embrace the system as he found it, as he had already embraced it, smilingly confident he could handle any compromises a Don Pogue might warn against.

Clinton was as frequently absent from the beachhouse as from Yale classes, absorbed in a series of political campaigns and other part-time work. Though he had been given a Yale scholarship and continued to receive ample subsidies from Virginia's seemingly inexhaustible resources back in Hot Springs, he took various jobs to eke out expenses, teaching in a community college, working for a local city councilman, and investigating civil cases for a New Haven lawyer, a job that afforded him a fleeting glimpse of the teeming backstairs of urban America. "I wound up going into tenements where people were shooting up heroin, doing stuff like that," he once recalled. "I mean, I had some interesting jobs." (The next time he was near such casual drug use would be in very different surroundings and circumstances, at the posh cocaine parties of Little Rock speculators and his own political funders more than a decade later.) His errands into the inner city as a law student were the future president's only authentic exposure to this portion of the nation's underside. He would never work again at the street or neighborhood level of that world of chronic poverty and deprivation, never live in or around it, never genuinely touch its urban or even worse rural reality in Arkansas -- never even tour its wreckage except in the crafted, sheathed role of candidate or officeholder.

Clinton's principal jobs continued to be political. At Yale he would work in the campaigns of a Connecticut state senator and a local mayoral candidate. But the more significant experience and connections came at the federal level. Back from Oxford, he had used his Rhodes contacts, notably Rick Stearns, to get a job for the summer of 1970 with Project Pursestrings, a Washington lobby backing the Hatfield- McGovern amendment to cut off appropriations for the Vietnam War. There he met Carl Wagner, a future Democratic political consultant and backer, and Anthony Podesta, who in turn steered Clinton that autumn to the US Senate campaign in Connecticut of the Reverend Joseph P. Duffey. An antiwar insurgent and former Gene McCarthy supporter, Duffey had won a primary against the old Democratic machine and was running in a tortuous three-way race in the general election. On one side Duffey faced the scandal-ridden incumbent Democrat Thomas Dodd, who had dropped out of and then reentered the race as an independent, and on the other a lavishly financed Republican congressman, Lowell Weicker, heir to the Squibb drug fortune.

As his classmates were buying law books and taking notes at their first lectures, Bill Clinton was busy organizing for Duffey the precincts of Connecticut's Third Congressional District, a heavily industrialized, largely Italian area gerrymandered out of New Haven and surrounding towns. The mainly ethnic, evenly divided blue- and white-collar constituency was resentful of Yale and fearful of the small but exceptionally vocal African American community around the university, which amounted to a mere 2 percent of the district population. Nominally Democratic, the district was represented in Congress by what amounted to a right-wing Democrat who voted consistently with the Nixon White House on root issues of class.

Building on past third-party congressional antiwar candidacies in the district, using the most advanced methods of telephone banks, data files, and student volunteer canvassing door-to-door, Clinton would mobilize the Third District for Duffey, everywhere emphasizing the minister's reasoned argument against the war but avoiding more volatile, if basic, economic and social issues. Despite Clinton's efforts, Duffey was to split the usual Democratic machine vote with Dodd and lose decisively to Weicker statewide. The gain for the law student from Arkansas was in further contacts: Duffey himself was a chairman of the Americans for Democratic Action and would be a future official in the Clinton administration, while Duffey's campaign manager and eventual wife, Ann Wexler, became a prominent Washington political consultant, corporate lobbyist, and Clinton backer.

What was to be called in 1992 a New Democrat would derive in large part from Bill Clinton's experience in Arkansas in the 1980s and from a thinly refurbished version of the old mercantile southern Democrat of the earlier postwar years. But in some measure, it would trace to Connecticut's third district in 1970, where a beset middle class might deplore "radicals" or resent assertive minorities, might be prey to reactionary manipulation, and still be efficiently organized to vote Democratic without confronting their fears or ignorance.

***

Once asked if she had ever experienced one of those "ecstatic ... modes of living" she had hoped for in her Wellesley commencement address, Hillary Rodham answered without pause, "Falling in love with Bill Clinton." One friend said, "She saw right past the charm and saw the complex person underneath. I think he found that irresistible." In temperament, thought, style, they seemed the ideal complement in a fitful new era of relationships between men and women, her own conventionally "masculine" force, rigor, endurance matching the best of his "feminine" warmth, feeling, responsiveness. "Rationality meeting intuition," her biographer Judith Warner wrote. Not least, it was the convergence of ambitions. "She not only understood how nakedly he wanted to be president but that he really could be," said someone who knew them through the years. "She got that right away." Many sensed her further calculation as well. "And she's always seen she could have political power with him -- just not elected," another intimate told Connie Bruck.

"They have been looking at each other," Gail Sheehy wrote more than two decades later about their famous library meeting, "with mixed feelings of fascination and apprehension ever since."

Early in 1971 Hillary Rodham became a regular visitor and guest at the beachhouse, where the texture of their love affair and alliance became more apparent. Increasingly they seemed a partnership as well as a pair, Rodham helping him occasionally with courses in his otherwise relaxed approach, the two joining as what seemed an unbeatable team in the moot-court competition of Yale's Barristers Union. Under her discipline, they prepared meticulously. She organized the substance of the case, as friends remembered, and they all coached the rambling Clinton to focus on breaking the hostile witnesses. Yet in the end they lost the prize trial. "I just had a bad day," Clinton told a reporter twenty years later, still feeling their shared failure.

He was unrelenting in his own habits, then regretful, reluctant to face her judgment above all -- while she could be just as unsparing as he feared, yet abiding. There was, everyone saw, genuine passion and affection, though with blunt edges from the start, and then a marriage of political convenience with pain and bitterness -- though never one-dimensional. Clearly one of the most significant love affairs in twentieth- century politics, it is a drama being played out between two people that has immeasurable effect on the governance of a nation. "I can still hear Hillary's humorous and fond admonition of Bill when he would wax a little too eloquent on some idealistic vision," a friend is quoted in a 1992 campaign biography as saying demurely of their beachhouse exchanges. "Oh, for Chrissake," another witness more candidly describes Hillary as exclaiming in the same setting. "Come off it, Bill. We've all heard it before."

In 1971-72, her senior year at law school, they lived together in a small colonial house near the campus, attracting as a couple much of the social life Clinton and the others had drawn to the beachfront, including later advisers and appointees like Robert Reich. To the outside world, Clinton was still the pungent storyteller, although in the fall of 1971 somewhat subdued about his own usually ardent ambition. "The best story I know on them," he wrote in a November 17 note to an Arkansas friend asking about White House fellowships, "is that virtually the only non-conservative who ever got one was a quasi-radical woman who wound up in the White House sleeping with LBJ, who made her wear a peace symbol around her waist whenever they made love." But then he struck a more serious note in remarking on the friend's own political ambitions. "If you can still aspire, go on; I am having a lot of trouble getting my hunger back up, and someday I may be [so] spent and bitter that I let the world pass me by." He concluded the typewritten letter on Yale Law School stationery, "So do what you have to do, but be careful."

To what Dorothy Rodham herself admitted was a "chilly" reception, Bill Clinton visited Park Ridge during Christmas vacation. "To be honest, I sort of wanted him to go away," the mother said about opening her door to the first young man remotely serious about twenty-five-year- old Hillary. "I knew he had come to take my daughter away." He stayed with them "a whole week," as she remembered. The Rodhams were at pains to ensure that Bill slept in one of the brothers' rooms and that "he stayed in there." Typically, Dorothy was soon charmed by Bill Clinton's encouraging her to go to college and his readiness to discuss her academic interests with her, signs of respect she had quietly longed for and never been given in her comfortable suburban house.

They talked politics incessantly. "It was always the same subjects," she recalled. "Okay, you'll go back to Arkansas to realize your ideas, but what about my daughter?" Dorothy Rodham asked the tall, handsome young suitor at one point. It was the question of a woman who had sublimated herself and hoped for more for her daughter. Clinton had already announced his intentions to his own family. "He told them long before that he would never marry a beauty queen. He was going to get the smartest girl in the class," said a longtime Arkansas friend. "You have to remember," said another, "that Billy grew up where women who dressed flossy and used a lot of cosmetics were 'available,' and he wasn't ever going to marry that kind." Leaving from the Little Rock airport after a brief visit in 1971, Bill had turned to Virginia suddenly and blurted out, "Mother, I want you to pray for me that it's Hillary, because if it isn't Hillary, it's nobody."

Virginia met her in passing during a trip to New Haven. But it was not until Bill brought her to Hot Springs in 1972 -- the young woman looking particularly plain and "scraggly," as the mother remembered- that the first of many clashes took place. Bill had been coming home lately with "so many girls from all over," Virginia would reminisce, "all beauties" he took around to his favorite haunts and then out to the lake for a speedboat ride. Now there was this girl "with no apparent style." Virginia and sixteen-year-old Roger were disapproving and distant to the point of rudeness. When Hillary left the room to unpack, Bill took them both aside for an angry rebuke, his eyes boring through them, Virginia wrote, "like my mother's used to do." He told them then, according to the family story, "I've had it up to here with beauty queens. I have to have somebody I can talk with."

His scolding suppressed the mother's hostility for the moment. It was only the beginning, Virginia admitted later, of "a long, long road ahead of us." At the same meeting she thought Hillary "quiet, cool, unresponsive ... offended." She was right. "The tension and contempt for the mother was there from the first time she set foot in that house," said a Rodham family friend. "She didn't particularly care for Arkansas, and she sure as hell didn't care for her future mother-in-law and nasty little brother-in-law."

Afterward they all explained the instant and enduring mutual dislike by what Bill Clinton himself called "a kind of cultural tension" between the distinctive Arkansas mother and the Chicago suburban daughter-in-law, by Virginia's later confessed envy of Hillary's intelligence, and even by some underlying similarity between these two strong, strikingly different women. "Well, the only thing I know," Virginia remembered Bill's telling her, "if you and Hillary don't like each other, then you don't like yourself."
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 24362
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Partners in POWER: The Clintons and Their America

Postby admin » Sun Jun 19, 2016 12:04 am

9. Yale II: "She Never Drew Her Identity from Him"

In the autumn of 1971, the Duffey forces in Connecticut had called on their former organizers to join the presidential campaign of Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine, Humphrey's running mate in 1968 and now the putative front-runner for 1972. "We got everyone in the room except Bill," Ann Wexler recalled. "He said quietly and firmly that he was for McGovern."

Against a cautious, grinding Muskie, already a captive of the party's Washington establishment and its major individual and corporate contributors, George McGovern embodied both an authentic commitment to end the war and, seemingly, a more open, representative governance. The earnest South Dakota senator would attract at the grass roots hundreds of potential insurgents against the Democrats' constricting core of Washington lobbyists and hangers-on, who gravitated to Muskie or even the spent Humphrey. Though many McGovern operatives were eventually absorbed into Washington's mercenary culture, two decades later the old distinction from 1972 still marked the Clinton administration. One-time McGovernites became lesser officials in the White House and various departments, while many in the cabinet and among Clinton's senior advisers in economic policy and foreign affairs were former Muskie or Humphrey backers. "It's a little too clear who won in the end," one of them would say.

Weeks before the Duffey meeting, Clinton's earlier contacts around Project Pursestrings -- Carl Wagner, Anthony Podesta, and Rick Stearns (who was among the first hired by the McGovern campaign) -- had led to an offer to play a meaningful role in the challenger's race. "We gave Bill Clinton in his twenties a chance to direct whole states in a presidential campaign, and to be a player in Arkansas as well," said one former McGovern adviser. "Hell, he couldn't turn it down even though a lot of us knew that deep down he probably preferred Muskie and those people."

A year later, in October 1972, McGovern having won the nomination to run against Nixon, one of the senator's aides, Sarah Ehrmann, drove out early to the airport in San Antonio, Texas, to meet the candidate as he arrived for a rally at the Alamo. She was surprised to find someone already there on the tarmac, eager to greet the campaign plane, "a tall young fellow dressed in a white linen suit," as she remembered him, "standing at the foot of the stairway." That's Bill Clinton, another aide said. He was one of the campaign's state coordinators in Texas and would be briefing McGovern personally on the events and politics at hand. Talking later to the figure in the ice-cream suit, Ehrmann was duly impressed. "That kid is really going somewhere," she remembered saying to herself.

The scene in San Antonio came at the climax of a pivotal period for Clinton. Both he and Hillary, who volunteered to do voter-registration work for the Democrats, spent much time in 1972 away from Yale, particularly in Texas, at one point sharing a small apartment in Austin with Taylor Branch, also a McGovern volunteer and a future biographer of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Canvassing as a registrar in the dusty sun-bleached barrios of San Antonio, Hillary Rodham thought her rounds "a big eye-opener," as she later told the Arkansas Times. She had always believed that "politics is the process of change -- you get involved and you can affect the outcome." But in Texas she found "stunning" indifference, apathy, and fear. These were "American citizens," she remembered in evident astonishment, "who wouldn't register to vote."

Clinton's own experience, as a McGovern envoy within the protocols and rites of the state Democratic organization, was as different from hers as the world of party politics was from that of ordinary people. Texas liberals were behind McGovern. But they had to be kept happy as the campaign reached out to appease Bentsen and other conservatives as well. Here, as in so many other states, the process was played out less in substantive issues than in acts of petty tribute -- seating arrangements at a rally, private moments with the candidate or his people, due deference to minor satrapies. Branch found himself appalled at the contrast of "the gravity of the issues at stake with the silliness of the decisions we had to make on a daily basis."

Bill Clinton "loved the game," Branch remembered. He moved from faction to faction, audience to audience, with an instinctive and utter fluency, paying every obeisance, telling each just what they wished to hear. "He seemed fully at home in a roomful of county chairmen or a roomful of radicals," according to Branch. "Look, we've got to expand our base to appeal to people who don't see the world the way we do," Hillary remembered his "always saying" in 1972. But in sprawling oligarchic Texas he made expedient campaign allies rather than converts to McGovern.

Working out of Austin, Clinton met an ambitious local operative, Onie Elizabeth Wright of Alpine, Texas. Shrewd and acerbic, she was a chain-smoking organizer who had been an activist at the University of Texas in the 1960s and the youngest president ever elected by the state's Young Democrats. Later known in Little Rock as the "enforcer," the proud, fiercely devoted, crisis-managing Betsey Wright was to be one of Clinton's closest advisers and a tireless gubernatorial chief of staff for nearly a decade. By the 1992 campaign she was entrusted to guard his most personal and redolent Arkansas files as well as to compile dossiers to discredit knowledgeable local critics. Still later, though a lobbyist pointedly outside the administration, Wright was once again the de facto damage-control officer coping with revelations of pre-presidential philandering and other Arkansas scandals. But in 1972 she was simply a Texas country girl in awe of the extraordinary young couple living with Branch. "I'd never been exposed to people like that before," she remembered. "I mean, they spent the whole semester in Texas, never attended a class -- then went back to Yale and aced their finals. They were breathtaking."

That fall of 1972, as Betsey Wright and others apparently did not know, Hillary Rodham had already graduated from Yale Law School and was doing independent research for the university that allowed for political diversion, while Bill Clinton, in his senior year, was sloughing off his classes and showing up to cram for finals much as usual. Wright, an ardent feminist herself, thought the serious young lawyer from Park Ridge might possess the drive and ability to lead a new generation of women politicians and once told a friend she was more impressed with Rodham's potential than with Clinton's. Rodham hardly seemed ready to determine her next step, much less to commit herself to a life in politics. Branch remembered that, "whereas his purpose was so fixed, she was so undecided about what to do."

Before Texas Clinton had worked for McGovern in Connecticut, where he extracted from the national campaign the authority to make his first real political foray into Arkansas. In early June 1972, with McGovern already assured of the nomination, Clinton went to Little Rock to mend political fences at the Democratic state convention prior to the national convention and, most of all, to establish his own presence. Whenever home from Yale, he ritually made rounds at the state capitol, enlisting Raymond Clinton's old Hot Springs contacts like Arkansas House Speaker Ray Smith to introduce him to legislators and other local politicians. Now, only weeks short of his twenty-sixth birthday, he came as one of the presidential candidate's men, suddenly dealing with Arkansas's ranking Democrats as a peer and -- equally important -- with the local media as the prodigal he would represent to them for long to come. Cultivating McGovern support without offending Arkansas's powerful congressman Wilbur Mills in his vain favorite-son candidacy, he was "treading softly in Arkansas political circles," the Arkansas Gazette prominently reported. "I was asked to come to Arkansas essentially to make as many friends as I could," he said of his deferential contacts with Mills, Governor Dale Bumpers, and others.

In an interview that emphasized his impressive credentials at Georgetown, Oxford, and Yale, Clinton pointed out that his formative experience in politics, unlike that of most other young people of his generation, was not with a Gene McCarthy or a Bobby Kennedy, but in the ranks of familiar, respectable homegrown Arkansas politicians like Frank Holt and Senator Fulbright. Despite doubts about McGovern in the South, native son Bill Clinton would work with anyone, regardless of their views.

In the aisles of the state convention, Clinton would be far more aggressive. Claiming to have inside information on the various races, he tried to pressure delegates into withdrawing in favor of McGovern supporters who would vote for his man on a second national-convention ballot after the pro forma Mills delegates were released. Stephen Smith, then the youngest state representative, whom Bill had met at the capitol in Little Rock the year before, resisted his blandishments, won a delegate race, and nonetheless became a fast friend of Clinton's, going on to become one of his aides.

The sequence was a small foreshadowing of the public and private Clinton, a congenial image and rather more conniving reality. Campaigning for McGovern against Nixon in Arkansas in the summer of 1972, Clinton carefully avoided the great issues of the day: Nixon's racist appeal throughout the South, the GOP attack on poverty programs vital in Arkansas, a major escalation of the war that May as the US carpet bombed Hanoi and mined the port of Haiphong, even the Watergate break-in of only weeks before, which was already linked to the White House. He was "light stepping" in a "ticklish situation," the Gazette observed sympathetically of the young man it called "a good politician. "

Meanwhile, coming with him to Arkansas for the first time, Hillary Rodham seemed typically less concerned with appearances. While he made the rounds to see his old circle in Hot Springs, including former girlfriends, she stayed home reading. Several people noticed. "There were hardly any other women who had been in Bill's Clinton's life who didn't try to spend all their time with him," said a former date. "She had her own interests and never drew her identity from him."

***

"The wonderful thing about going into a McGovern headquarters is to find that there is no ego-tripping," Clinton told an Arkansas reporter on the eve of the convention that July in Miami. "Most of us on the staff -- however good we are -- realize that we are only mediaries [sic]," he said, diminishing his behind-the-scenes performance at Miami. Through Stearns and others high in the campaign, Clinton had positioned himself to be the nominee's sole coordinator for the Arkansas delegation. His small desk and direct phone to the floor were jammed in among other state coordinators' in the "boiler room," the candidate's mobile trailer drawn up next to the arena -- where the operation would be generally known for its freedom from the usual petty jockeying, jealousy, and hierarchy. As many remembered vividly, however, Bill Clinton and his state were the glaring exceptions.

"He was going to be somebody in Arkansas, which was not the case with others on the staff, and so he did Arkansas. You couldn't touch Arkansas, no contact by anyone other than Clinton, like barbed wire around the state," said one McGovern aide. "You'll always have to work through Bill on Arkansas," a caucus worker remembered being told. If anyone encroached on the authority Clinton reserved to himself they faced not the usual sunny smile but a florid, yelling rage. "Hell, he really blew up at the slightest cross on that," said a coworker. But Clinton had the ranking Rick Stearns "running cover," playing the "enforcer or protector" for him. "I'm working the phones inches away from him," one campaign coordinator in the boiler room remembered, "and I resented that I couldn't talk to [Arkansas delegate] Brownie Ledbetter or anybody else on resolutions or other things I was working on. A lot of us resented it." "You didn't horse around," said yet another McGovern aide, whose desk was only a few feet away from him. "Bill Clinton was going to be governor of Arkansas or something, and everyone came to see it was a lifetime ambition, that he was obsessed."

On the convention floor, meanwhile, there was the desired effect. Hot Springs's own Bill Clinton was the voice on the headquarters-to-floor phone, from the inner chamber of power. Arkansas delegates, many decisive in Clinton's career, saw and heard him once more as a prodigy, already influential at the national level. "I was thoroughly impressed at how well this twenty-five-year-old Yale student moved among the famous and powerful in the party," said Stephen Smith, who like others was unaware of the "barbed wire" around Arkansas in the boiler room. Among Clinton's Miami delegation conquests, too, was a thirty-seven-year-old Springdale, Arkansas, lawyer and former Fulbright aide, James B. Blair, whose inseparable connections and advice were to be not only vital in Clinton's political rise but also instrumental in the personal enrichment of Hillary Rodham.

***

In November, barely six months before the first testimony to Watergate prosecutors and Senate investigators, Richard Nixon won reelection with a landslide of nearly eighteen million votes, the largest numerical margin in American history. As Clinton and Rodham watched their efforts overwhelmed in usually close-run Texas, Nixon crushed McGovern by more than a million votes, or over thirty percentage points. Only days after the election, at a private dinner in Washington, one of McGovern's exhausted campaign managers, Frank Mankiewicz, fascinated the room with what seemed a frustrated loser's fantasy. "In a little while we'll rediscover the Watergate scandal the press buried for the election," he told them. "We'll find we've elected a crook after all, and it'll all be so ugly that nobody will ever want to know what really happened in 1972."

As if to bear out the prophecy, two great myths promptly fastened in the aftermath of the debacle, despite Nixon's fall. The first was that McGovern's campaign represented an aberrant radicalism in American politics. The second, equally fixed, was that voters had turned in some vast, consciously reactionary tide toward historical reversal of the New Deal, to what Theodore H. White called "slowing the pace of power" in public control and balance of private wealth and corporate influence.

Missing in the simplistic imagery was how diverse and even conservative the McGovern ranks had been, from their mild South Dakota leader on down, how much their common opposition to the war hid deeper differences among them about root issues of equity and power. "The glue holding it together was the war, and people in the campaign really didn't talk about other issues. It was Humphrey and the Democratic hacks attacking McGovern in the primaries, and then later Nixon, too, that sold the radical label. Take the war out of the McGovern camp and it doesn't exist," said one ranking aide. "None of the men running the campaign, like Gary Hart or Rick Stearns, were exactly sixties protesters or real reformers. They were yuppies, politicians-in-training wanting to take power themselves, which some did eventually -- not redistribute it or clean it up," another veteran of the campaign reflected years later.

Lost as well in continuing demagoguery around the myth of national reaction was the extent to which American government and politics were being marshaled to intervene on behalf of vested economic power, while the public was supposedly deploring the "intervention" visible in programs for minorities or the powerless. The 1972 election itself would be a watershed in the gushing of big money into congressional as well as presidential races, the corruption growing apace despite the later so-called Watergate reforms in political finance. Not surprisingly, it was the Nixon-Ford regime and accompanying Congresses of 1973-76 that laid the foundation for the bloated Pentagon budgets of the 1980s and other unprecedented corporate plundering of the federal Treasury. "Nobody will ever want to know," as Frank Mankiewicz had presciently told his fellow diners.

As the Democrats moved fashionably and lucratively rightward, demonizing their spurned 1972 candidate, Bill Clinton went with them. "What was so disturbing to the average American voter was not that [McGovern] seemed so liberal on the war but that the entire movement seemed unstable, irrational," Clinton told columnist David Broder in a solemn postmortem on his first foray into presidential politics. "This campaign and this man did not have a core, a center, that was common to the great majority of the country."

Running for office, Clinton would never again mention his once-impressive McGovern ties in Arkansas, and his own politics reflected the post-1972 contrition among certain Democrats, who began to see themselves through the eyes of Richard Nixon, as it were. Though several former McGovern aides arrived at the same accommodation -- Mankiewicz himself became a highly paid Washington lobbyist -- others stood apart. "Those who were willing to make compromises with the system that took over after '72 were successful, and Clinton was a classic case in point," said one who had been beside him in the boiler room in Miami. "Bill cared enough about the morality of the war," remembered another. "But he was not a liberal who later sold out, [or] a progressive who grew up. He was one of those who was just a lot less liberal to begin with, a Muskie-ite at heart, I guess."


"Clinton may actually have started out that campaign much more liberal than he's let on over the years since," said someone close to him in 1972. "In Arkansas he'd learn how to hide, to be a closet liberal, and having done it for so long, you have to wonder where the 'there' is. What did Bill Clinton take from the McGovern experience? That's pretty clear -- at the human level you can have good values, but in this political system, after that election, everything was negotiable."

***

They came back to New Haven, still living together, he to finish his law degree before returning to Arkansas for a first political run, she to complete the research she had arranged in order for them to stay together at Yale his last year.

However compelling Hillary's love for Bill Clinton, her postgraduate work in 1972-73 was more than just a convenience. Under a special program of Yale's law and medical schools and its Child Study Center, she was assigned to review the legal rights of children in terms of public policy as well as legal doctrine and judicial practice. Her interest in the subject dated from her study of child psychology at Wellesley and had been furthered by her shocking exposure to migrant children with the Mondale subcommittee and in her study of family law at Yale. The postgraduate project would result in three articles published between 1973 and 1979 in the Harvard Educational Review, the Yale Law journal, and an academic anthology entitled Children's Rights: Contemporary Perspectives. It was the beginning of a long career of speaking out on children's issues.

Unlike later speeches or lectures, her writing at Yale was unaffected by Bill Clinton's electoral career, and thus they stand alone as rare documents, glimpses of what Hillary Rodham then believed about the society she and Clinton were one day to lead.

Her studies were prompted and funded amid a wave of discussion of children's rights arising out of the political and intellectual ferment of the late 1960s. For a time she worked as a research assistant to Yale law professor Joseph Goldstein, whose edited collection with Anna Freud and Albert Solnit, Beyond the Best Interests of the Child, was one of the prominent volumes of the moment, along with social psychologist Kenneth Keniston's All Our Children, which she also helped research.

Hillary Rodham's articles from the 1970s, written as the skeletal legal briefs they were, would seem to many relatively ordinary. She stopped short of advocating the emancipation sanctioned by some at the time and appeared to suggest only that the courts stop automatically regarding minors as legally incompetent until eighteen or twenty-one and that instead judges or other arbiters decide on a case-by-case basis if younger children might be competent to make certain specific, defined decisions about their parents, at least on the gravest matters. "I prefer that intervention into an ongoing family," she wrote, "be limited to decisions that could have long-term and possibly irreparable effects if they were not resolved." Her views likely would have been destined only for footnotes in the field had the words not been written by a future First Lady.

Behind the pages were flesh-and-blood choices and family drama -- issues such as abortion, surgery, selection of residence or schools, often the well-being and emotional or physical survival of a child. She had already witnessed agonies of abuse and deprivation firsthand while working during 1971-72 in the local federal Legal Services program for the poor and for the New Haven Legal Assistance Association, an organization then litigating with Connecticut over the state's gruesome bureaucratic neglect of foster children. The work left her critical of figures like her former employer and ostensible children's advocate, Senator Walter Mondale, for often casting such human agonies in fiscal terms. Mondale "upset her at times," remembered a New Haven colleague.

Like her experience with the subcommittee on migrant labor and in voter registration in the Texas barrios, this was exposure to another America. Yet later critics would find a disturbing absence of human reality in what Hillary Rodham recommended as legal practice and public policy. "There is something overly abstract and unsatisfying about these articles," wrote one; in them, this critic said, "functioning families are not organisms built around affection, restraint and sacrifice. They seem to be arbitrary collections of isolated rights-bearers chafing to be set free. And there is no indication in her writing that what children want and what they need are often quite different." Some, like Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, writing in Commonweal, judged the most important of her writing "historically and sociologically naive." Though Steinfels and others do not, of course, suggest as much, it is not hard to see the shadows of Park Ridge and Hillary Rodham's oppressive father behind the young woman lawyer of the 1970s who is sometimes angrily "opposed to the principle of parental authority in any form," seeing advocacy of children's rights as "another stage in the long struggle against patriarchy."

Her proposal for children's legal competence "amounts to a defense of bureaucracy disguised as a defense of individual autonomy," concluded the eminent historian Christopher Lasch, who thought her an unoriginal echo of earnest reformers of the early twentieth century. "Only trying to help," as Lasch described their unctuous credo, the "child savers" of the Progressive era left behind a structure of arbitrary state power as prone to its own abuses of children as any torturing family was.

But what may have been most revealing about Rodham's Yale writing was not so much psychological or historical as political. Behind her explicit indictment of "incompetent" families was a looming reality no juvenile court or earnest social program could touch. If families were disintegrating, if there were cruel deficits in neighborhoods, schools, and institutions, the havoc could be traced to the very heart of the nation's society and culture -- and to a political system that served the special-interest arrangements that made the country what it was.

America's children were the most naked results of those values, that array of power and priorities. Theirs was the highest toll under the rule and example of the political fixers' market, in which corporate giants gorged while schools and other public institutions starved, in which vast official subsidies and exemptions to wealth were only good business while public day care and health insurance and free higher education were insidious dependence and state interference. It was children who suffered most the destructive, stunting bondage to rampant commercialism and material consumption. Most of all, there was the immutable lesson that American children sooner or later learned so graphically, that in the "real world" money and power -- and their inevitable companion, hypocrisy -- are what prevail and endure, nowhere more plainly or cynically than in politics and government.

"Unless we have a family policy in this country," Rodham wrote in the mid-1970s, "then whatever we do on behalf of children in relation to their families will continue to be band-aid medicine, lacking clear objectives and subject to great abuse." At no point in her deeply felt advocacy of children, then or later, did she come to grips with the larger system responsible for their plight -- the national ideology of private gain and the political culture of collusion and complicity in Washington and in state capitals. No more now than in her Wellesley study of poverty did she seem to see politically beyond the obvious symptoms of that deeper problem. As it was, the system she ignored continued to make her own advice "band-aid medicine."


***

Their last weeks together in New Haven in the spring of 1973 were fraught with the tensions of Dorothy Rodham's unanswered question, "What about my daughter?" Several people remembered Clinton's genial possessiveness toward the fiercely self-possessed woman with whom he lived. To everyone he bragged about what a "star" Hillary was, "a little like he owned her," said a friend. For her part, she was completing one struggle for independence only to face a new dilemma of love and ambition. It was not easy to follow Bill Clinton back to Arkansas. "He was from somewhere. . . . He knew what he wanted to do there," she once told a reporter. Her own place and purpose, if she went to Arkansas with him, were far less clear. He obviously wanted her to like and adopt the place. Picking Hillary up at the Little Rock airport on her first visit, Clinton had taken eight hours to drive the fifty miles to Hot Springs, boyishly squiring her to every scenic overlook in the soft green hills, every favorite haunt and drive-in.

"She's a feminist and she's just wonderful," he told his Democratic Party friend Brownie Ledbetter, a Little Rock activist involved, like her, in family issues. She would need a local job that was "not just some make-work thing," maybe something in her field of children's rights. In Arkansas, though, there was little choice in work of that sort -- or in suitable work for a woman connected to an ambitious politician.

In the early 1970s, in fact, Arkansas was just awakening to the possibilities of public-interest law. There were only the first grass-roots consumer movements and community action, the first steps toward holding local governments accountable, the first broader civil rights, labor, and gender challenges to the oligarchy that ruled the state. Lawyers and activists who did that work stood to be low-paid, operating out of dingy offices and run-down houses, often unappreciated by their own constituencies, dismissed or grinningly despised by the regime and social elite. They were a lonely remnant facing long odds against the money, lawyers, and politicians of the Little Rock power structure.

"It was a job to help people and maybe make a difference, but not in any conventional sense, somewhere to help yourself or make your husband governor," remembered one public-interest lawyer who knew both. "The name on those letters and briefs," another said about public-interest challenges to Arkansas power, "was never going to be Hillary Rodham Clinton."

How much the couple recoiled from local public-interest law as a sacrifice to Clinton's ambitions, how much was her personal choice, was never clear, though friends believed the implicit decision as much hers as his. They had agreed on her career independence and the political imperative as well. "There certainly was a period of time when they were working out how they might do this. And I don't think there was any problem in terms of their personal relationship about her independence -- he was perfectly open to that -- but perhaps her feeling was that she might somewhat harm his political career, which was so clearly what he was aiming to do," Brownie Ledbetter told a writer later. "That relationship was a lot more complex than a lot of people say."

They left Yale in May without undergoing the ritual graduate interviews with prestigious law firms. As he had always promised he would, Bill Clinton simply headed home. He stopped along the way to call almost casually for a job teaching at the University of Arkansas Law School at Fayetteville, where he had once told Colonel Holmes he would be a student, impressing them now with his Oxford and Yale credentials, charming the dean with his apparent guilelessness. "You might want me to come teach up there a year because I'll teach anything, and I don't mind working," Clinton told him, "and I don't believe in tenure, so you can get rid of me anytime you want."

Using earlier Washington contacts as well as her research project patrons, Rodham went back to work with Marian Wright Edelman, now as an attorney for Edelman's fledgling Children's Defense Fund, a foundation-and corporate-financed Washington group that lobbied and litigated at national and state levels on behalf of poor, minority, and handicapped children. It seemed to her friends a natural, defining choice, though in the summer of 1973 she also took the bar exam in Little Rock.

"What in the world are you doing here?" asked Ellen Brantley, an astonished Wellesley acquaintance whom she ran into at the test. She explained that in her Washington job she was required to pass a state bar, could take it anywhere, and had simply "chosen Arkansas," as Brantley remembered.

She had been with the Children's Defense Fund less than six months when she was recruited by John Doar, the new chief counsel to the House Judiciary Committee for its historic 1974 inquiry and hearings on articles of impeachment against Richard Milhous Nixon. A Wisconsin Republican who joined the Justice Department during the Eisenhower era, Doar stayed on under Kennedy and Johnson, conducting dramatic civil rights prosecutions before leaving to head Robert Kennedy's Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation in New York. He was a vanishing breed, an old-fashioned GOP moderate, incorruptible, someone reflexively associated with integrity and intellectually respected on all sides. To assemble a staff he had called his old Justice Department colleague, Burke Marshall at Yale, who gave him the names of both Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham -- the latter, Marshall thought, "very smart, very articulate ... an organized mind." Already absorbed in his congressional campaign, Clinton turned down the chance but quickly recommended his girlfriend. "I'd have called her anyway," Doar said drily.

In mid-January 1974 Hillary Rodham started work with the new impeachment inquiry staff. She was at the lowest rank among forty-four lawyers, who were joined by some sixty investigators, clerks, and secretaries. Most of the attorneys, both junior and senior, came from corporate practices in Doar's circle in New York and Washington. "We were considered the radicals," said Fred Altshuler, a westerner whose legal background was not corporate and who soon befriended the young woman from the Children's Defense Fund. "I think we were both somewhat affirmative-action choices." More typical among her other young associates was the well-connected William Weld, a future Republican governor of Massachusetts. "This was a very conservative, gold plate-law firm kind of group," said a member of Doar's staff, "mostly an establishment posse out to hunt down the heavy-handed Mr. Nixon."

The inquiry staff moved into the slightly seedy old Congressional Hotel, across the street from the Rayburn House Office Building. The job also meant implicit, if not overt, gender discrimination. "Capitol Hill in general was incredibly sexist," Altshuler recalled. Rodham would be one of only three women on the professional staff. Subjected to the usual slights and remarks, she often bristled but was careful here as elsewhere not to appear the zealot. "She was sensitive to the issue, and without being shrill at all," an older male colleague would say afterward in his own telling terms.

In this, her first taste of government, Hillary Rodham was literally surrounded by dirty little secrets, immaculately kept. Doar turned the staffs floor of the hotel into a grated, guarded, wired fortress, sealing off the mounting evidence of the inquiry. He insisted on an air of scrupulous nonpartisanship among his staff and on mute confidentiality with respect to the media and the public. "We're so damned secretive," complained one Missouri congressman on the Judiciary Committee, "that we're going to impeach Nixon in secret and he'll never know it."

She told stories later of being assigned to hear some of the infamous Nixon tapes, saying she listened to one they termed the "tape of tapes" as the haunted president was recorded reviewing his own Oval Office conversations, muttering exculpatory interpolations of what he really meant at the time. But young staff attorneys rarely if ever had such privileges or responsibility. The traditionalist Doar relied principally on documentary evidence and testimony from other hearings, distrusting computers or other electronic "gimmicks," as he called them, painstakingly compiling material on some 500,000 index cards in "a cross-filing system," noted one observer, "with a level of precision that approached life." Nor in the strict staff hierarchy did junior lawyers have any appreciable contact with the politicians or politics of the Judiciary Committee, a grave role reserved to the chief counsel and his most senior men.

Instead, she was assigned under other male attorneys down the line to tend the process of the inquiry, dealing with subpoenas, submission of evidence, the role of White House defense counsel, and similar questions of form. Procedural work, it held her largely on the fringes and was never the sort of exposure that some others received to Watergate's seething evidence of political abuse. Even under Doar's imposed secrecy, however, the staff constantly talked about the scandal among themselves, and, whatever her duties, Rodham had an exceptional vantage point.

Into that spring and summer they worked grueling hours, their lives consumed. Like most of the others, she lived a spartan existence in a single room at a friend's place not far from the Capitol. Doar himself slept in the shabby basement apartment of an old rowhouse a block from the Congressional Hotel. She and Bill were "in constant touch by telephone," wrote Donnie Radcliffe. At one point Clinton scheduled a trip to Washington, and Hillary told a more senior staff attorney, Bernard Nussbaum, who was already in politics, that she wanted him to meet her "boyfriend," as Nussbaum remembered it. "He's really good," she pronounced with casual certainty one night driving home. "He's going to be president of the United States." At that Nussbaum "went a little crazy," as he put it. "We're under a lot of pressure on the impeachment, and here was somebody telling me her boyfriend is going to be president." They apologized to each other the next day and Nussbaum went on to stay in touch with Hillary Rodham over the years, passing legal business her way and, eventually, for a brief and ill-fated tenure, becoming White House counsel.

By midsummer 1974 Doar's methodical work from his index cards reached a climax. The committee pored over more than forty loose-leaf notebooks with their innocuously named "Statements of Information" detailing the generic beast of Watergate. It was John Doar's inquiry, resented and ridiculed by the regular House judiciary Committee staff, publicly overshadowed by special prosecutors Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski, that in the end constitutionally dealt with Richard Nixon. Its work brought the formal House vote of articles of impeachment, forcing the president's resignation before a convicting Senate trial.

Despite Doar's precise accounting, the larger and more ominous dimensions of the abuses were publicly understood only after Nixon's resignation and subsequent pardon by Gerald Ford. The political process that disposed of a corrupt president by moving toward veritable impeachment also, in a sense, closed in around the corruption rather than cleansing it. The tainted political money exposed by Watergate, and even some of the more thuggish political methods, would survive the era's superficial reforms in new forms and new places into the 1990s.

For the young woman who handled Doar's procedural issues there were special ironies. Two decades later, as First Lady, Hillary Clinton would witness Richard Nixon's triumphal return to Washington as an honored elder statesman welcomed by the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill and admired even by the Democrats. When Nixon died in the spring of 1994 her husband would lead a national chorus of eulogy and homage. At the lavish funeral in Yorba Linda, California, they would hear Watergate's unindicted coconspirator canonized as a hero and statesman. It was as if the inquiry staffs grim "Statements of Information" had never been published.


[Hillary Clinton] "It's not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called superpredators — no conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel."

-- CNN Tonight, with Don Lemon on Bill Clinton & BLM


***

Following Nixon's resignation in early August 1974, Hillary Rodham made the decision to join Bill Clinton in Arkansas. "It was not on her radar screen," Fred Altshuler said of her going. "It was not the sort of thing she had set out to do." Some thought she would return to work for the Children's Defense Fund, some that she might strike off on her own political career.

A few saw career advantages for her in Arkansas, but "there was some fear on her part that she would simply be an adjunct to him," Carolyn Ellis recalled. "My response at that time," Ellis told Judith Warner, "was that she had no political base of her own, and that she could do an awful lot down in Arkansas with her talent."

For a first job Clinton smoothed the way by promoting her with the University of Arkansas Law School much as he had sold himself. Already introduced by him to the dean the summer before, she called the school in August and received an offer to teach "right away," as they told the story. Nonetheless, she interviewed at the same time with the prominent Washington lobbying and political firm of Williams and Connolly, where partner Steven Umin was ready to hire her. Umin remembered Hillary Rodham as "already the Washington type at the faded end of summer 1974. She knew how things worked here, and she knew her way around the Hill."

Her inquiry staff colleague Fred Altshuler and others saw in the end her hesitation about teaching in Arkansas. "It was not what she had worked for," he said afterward. "She had anticipated something more, and 1 think she had a hard time with it." He described to Donnie Radcliffe a "poignant" last dinner of Doar staffers at which they all seemed to be going on to "exciting jobs," Altshuler himself to a public-interest practice in San Francisco, while Hillary's future was what they all saw as the backwater of Fayetteville. "I think the ultimate trade-off was the White House, not to mention the ultimate revenge," said another, reflecting on that moment, "and she worked hard to get both."

Their friend Sara Ehrmann drove her from Washington to Arkansas, trying to dissuade her all the way. "Why are you throwing your life away for this guy?" Ehrmann asked when they stopped only miles outside Washington. "We haven't gone that far. You can still change your mind." They were standing at Monticello, where little more than eighteen years later Hillary Rodham and her husband would begin their triumphal inaugural entry into Washington.

They drove into Fayetteville on a warm Saturday, the day of the Arkansas-Texas football game and went first to Clinton's campaign headquarters, a run-down bungalow owned by Uncle Raymond close to the school. A lone volunteer was thumbing through the worn index cards and small wrinkled notes that Clinton, typically, had spilled out onto a desk, expecting someone else to order them all. Hillary Rodham was "stunned," one person recorded, "at the absolute anarchic lack of discipline at Clinton's headquarters." It would not be the last time. From the nearby stadium the two women fresh from Washington could hear the screams, "Sooooieee, sooieeee, pig, pig, pig," the ritual Arkansas Razorbacks' chant of "calling the hogs."

"For God's sake, Hillary, are you crazy?" Ehrmann finally asked her. "How are you going to survive here?"

"I love him," she answered.

The next day Ehrmann watched her determined friend take over the campaign office with her usual command and efficiency. Then Ehrmann heard Bill give a campaign speech, and suddenly Hillary Rodham's sacrifice seemed somehow justifiable, politically as well as emotionally. "I knew that he was going to be president of the United States," the former McGovern aide remembered, "and 1 didn't question her judgment anymore."
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 24362
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Partners in POWER: The Clintons and Their America

Postby admin » Sun Jun 19, 2016 12:04 am

10. Fayetteville: "An Aura of Inevitability"

Bill Clinton began to run the moment he returned to Arkansas, days out of Yale. It was the start of a career, a life's purpose, spent solely in the winning and holding of political office.

With long, shaggy hair and an easy style, he was an engaging, if somewhat feckless, young law school lecturer. Students remembered his enthusiasm and "incredible sense of fairness," as one described it, though also that he "was not always well prepared and seemed preoccupied." They learned to endure annoying delays in Clinton's marking of final exams, which came back months late. At a golf tournament on Labor Day, 1974, one of his students stopped play to yell excitedly across the course to another that Bill Clinton "just posted his grades for the spring semester." Still, he attracted future political supporters and appointees among his students, a few of whom came and went in disillusion, others of whom remained loyal. His associations with some would haunt him later in the White House.

As soon as he began the law school job he asked Fulbright to help pave the way politically. The senator called state representative Rudy Moore, Jr., and others in Fayetteville to say his former intern was coming. Clinton immediately made the rounds, pouring out his plans with each new friend and speaking "lovingly" of Hillary Rodham, as one person recalled. Moore remembered the couple's almost magical, instant prominence in the Ozark community -- first his, then theirs together -- because of "the buildup that preceded them." After only a few days in town Clinton began talking openly about running for something important, and his sheer ability, charm, and enthusiasm seemed to cancel any questions. "It was only a matter of finding the right office," Moore would say, though Clinton saw no need for apprenticeship in lesser positions and never "gave any thought to running for a local office or for the legislature."

In 1973-74 Arkansas had a number of attractive young Democratic politicians, all formidable, all on the move. Governor Dale Bumpers, at age forty-eight, was finishing the second term of what Moore called "an enormously popular reform administration." Preparing to challenge Fulbright himself for the Senate in 1974, the attractive and thoughtful Bumpers was already mentioned as a potential presidential or vice presidential candidate. Ready to fill the governorship was thirty-nine- year-old David Pryor, who had served three terms in Congress, where he had become known nationally for a bold investigation of nursing home abuses, and in 1972 had lost only narrowly a Senate challenge to the entrenched John McClellan. Finally, there was Jim Guy Tucker, widely called a wunderkind of Arkansas politics, at twenty-seven a Little Rock prosecutor, and in 1972, two years later, elected state attorney general. In the summer of 1973 they all seemed to stand in the way of Bill Clinton for years to come. Their eventual dispersion and relative eclipse over the next decade would be one of the crucial elements in his rise to the presidency.

"It didn't take long for him to settle," Moore said later. Barred from high state office by popular Democrats, determined to run for something, he quickly chose the only plausible race in sight, challenging four-term Republican congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt in Arkansas's Third District. Comprising the western and northwestern portion of the state, including Fort Smith, Arkansas's second-largest city, and Fayetteville and Hot Springs, the largely white, rural, blue-collar district was what one observer called "the closest thing to a swing district in Arkansas," the only congressional seat where there had been any genuine bipartisan contest over the past decade. The so-called mountain Republicanism of its northern Ozark counties, dating to the Civil War, was the only GOP remnant in otherwise one-party Democratic Arkansas. But the race was still a long shot for Clinton.

Hammerschmidt, a wealthy lumber company owner with no visible interest in ideas, had upset the district's longtime Democratic congressman in the anti-Johnson surge of 1966 and had since erected his own incumbent's machine. Known amiably around the district as John Paul, he was a common type in Congress, the painstaking tribune who attends to every individual request, claims credit for every act of federal dispensation in his district or state, and, in a routine of power few notice, votes mercilessly against the interests of the majority of his constituents. His House record was relentlessly reactionary. He was against clean-water legislation, publicly funded health care for local miners suffering black-lung disease, economic and social rights for migrant farm workers, lowering the voting age to eighteen, and ending the Vietnam War. He found his passions in support of logging in public parks, "no-knock" entry by police into private homes, and the ravaging of the community-action programs Hillary Rodham and others already deemed pathetically inadequate. On Capitol Hill he became a close friend of another 1966 Republican freshman, Houston oil millionaire George Bush. In the late 1960s the two were often together aboard Bush's speedboat racing down the Potomac, raising a wake and joking casually about young George's becoming president someday.

Hammerschmidt also readily accommodated the great timber, poultry, mercantile, and utility interests in northwest Arkansas and throughout the state. The congressman "ingratiated himself with Democrats and Republicans alike," as one witness put it, and thus was always well financed. "Even by 1974," wrote one political observer, 'John Paul ... had become an institution."

Against such fortified local power Clinton confidently counted on the onrushing scandal and public disillusionment of Watergate; he "became convinced," said one observer, "that Nixon would take Hammerschmidt down with him." Organizationally, the Clinton campaign began modestly. Rudy Moore escorted him around the Third District to meet key Democrats. Rural leaders in the north had made their bargains with Hammerschmidt and were cool to the newcomer, and in the towns "a few of the city fathers," as Moore recalled, "didn't like Bill because they thought he was too young and too liberal." But there were also old ties. On a Sunday he showed up unannounced at the home of a childhood friend in Hot Springs and asked her to coordinate at least two counties, spilling out on the kitchen table the worn pile of four-by-six index cards on which he had carefully recorded contacts since high school. "Bill always kept those cards," said the friend, "and now there they were."

He soon found he needed more rank-and-file names and promptly got them a few weeks later when he befriended Carl Whillock, a University of Arkansas administrator who had been an aide to the Democratic incumbent whom Hammerschmidt had unseated. One night that autumn of 1973, sitting on the floor in front of Whillock's fireplace in Fayetteville, Clinton said he was running despite the odds, and the older man climbed upstairs and brought down his former congressman's dusty card file. Bill reacted to the favor with obvious emotion. "No one but his mother, until then, had encouraged him," Whillock remembered his saying.

"The only reason I ran for Congress is they couldn't get anybody else to do it," Clinton was fond of telling reporters, even though at nomination time there were three other Democratic candidates. In his political debut Bill Clinton was hardly a reluctant candidate. "He showed up at the Pope County picnic ... our traditional political kickoff," remembered one Democrat, "opened his mouth, and everyone just knew."

Moore and other Clinton volunteers believed their young candidate lacked "political heavy hitters," as one said, "who could raise a few thousand dollars for him here and there." Behind the scenes was a different reality. He did not command at the beginning the traditional party money raisers in the Third District, the older legislators, and local officials and their longtime patrons who would contribute to his later races. Nonetheless, he came to politics in 1973-74 with his own heavy hitters. From the start, Clinton received money from a newer, younger breed of Arkansas bankers and lawyers and from unexpected quarters like the stepdaughter of former Republican governor Winthrop Rockefeller. There were also substantial contributions from outside Arkansas, including $1,000 from New York banker E. David Edwards, money from friends at Oxford, Yale, and the McGovern organization like Texas housemate Taylor Branch, and $400 from one Hillary D. Rodham, listed as "the attorney for the Children's Defense Fund."

But the decisive early sum came in a $10,000 personal loan to Bill Clinton in January 1974 from the First National Bank of Hot Springs -- an amount equal to the yearly earnings of many families in impoverished Arkansas. The loan required special help. Making his appearance as he did so often at critical moments, Uncle Raymond Clinton had walked "in and out of that bank in a matter of minutes," said a relative. "Raymond promoted him when he really needed it, you bet he did," said another member of the family. "Billy'd never've got that loan without him."

It had all been arranged at a meeting hosted by Virginia at the Scully Street house soon after her son told her he was running. Cosigners on the otherwise unsecured note were Raymond himself, later identified discreetly on campaign reporting forms as R. G. Clinton, a "retired investor," and G. Crawford, "druggist" of Hot Springs, ever-present Gabe, the backroom bookie operator who had been Roger Clinton's abusive, pugnacious drinking partner. At the same meeting Raymond said he would provide some old houses he owned to serve as rent-free campaign headquarters, and Crawford offered his own private plane as well. "They had all been involved in his raising," the mother wrote later about those men who brought so much tortuous family history and shady ties to Bill's political start. "And now they were helping him become the man he wanted to be."

By late March 1974, two months before the primary, the Hot Springs bank money gave Bill Clinton an overwhelming seven-to-one advantage in campaign funds over his nearest Democratic competitor. It was the first of so many local loans, so many discreet arrangements for crucial support from the very beginning to the presidency itself. His backing didn't stop, however, with banks or the old Hot Springs connections. Clinton had gone as well to his old friend Vincent Foster. Educated at Davidson and Vanderbilt, graduated with high honors from the University of Arkansas Law School just two years before, Foster was already on his way to becoming a partner in Little Rock's powerful Rose Law Firm. The relationship between Foster and Clinton grew convoluted over the years, ending in tragedy after a fateful White House phone conversation between them one night twenty years later. But in 1973, he welcomed back his boyhood playmate with unalloyed warmth. Foster was surprised at Clinton's run against Hammerschmidt. "I ... questioned that decision," he told a reporter. "But it indicated a real can-do attitude." As always, he was prepared to help. Soon afterward, with the approval of the Rose senior partners who knew the young candidate from the Rhodes scholarship interview years earlier, Bill Clinton enjoyed his first lucrative, anointing political fundraiser among the Little Rock business and financial elite -- in the dignified offices of the Rose firm itself. "They did their part and then some," recalled a former Rose attorney who was there.

By mid-May, two weeks before the primary, he had collected more than $36,000, dwarfing not only the funds of his Democratic opponents but the war chest of a complacent, slow-starting Hammerschmidt as well. His primary contributions would eventually total nearly $50,000. It was a small sum compared to that collected in many districts and later campaigns elsewhere, including Clinton's own statewide runs. The money was decisively huge for the time and place. In the dark green hills and mountains of Arkansas's Third District in 1974, the strength and presence it purchased gave him a crucial advantage. In the May 28 primary election, Clinton led with 44 percent of the vote, against three relatively better-known opponents, including a state senator and mayor. He went on to win a runoff with nearly 70 percent. He was a stunningly good candidate.

Clinton had been equally effective and comfortable in raising the money, seemingly without effort much of the time. He had a natural affinity with his funders, aides recalled, his manner as easy in the suites and affluent living rooms of Little Rock as in small-town offices or on the telephone. National organized labor -- the United Steel Workers, the machinists, and others -- made generous contributions. Yet most of his money came from business, banking, and insurance executives as well as from lawyers who served the same interests-from the constituencies of vested advantage and power more than from any other. "Money from the money folks made the difference then and from there on," said one Democrat. "It was the difference between the white knight who went up against Hammerschmidt and went on to big things and just a smart, nice young fella who once ran in a primary in the Ozarks."

Clinton set an impressive pace, often working eighteen hours in a day. First in a dusty 1970 Gremlin, then in a small Chevrolet pickup with Astroturf lining the bed, he traveled the curving highways across the wooded ridgelines and hollows of the northern counties. He amazed campaign workers with his energy, especially his nocturnal restlessness. At first he used Gabe Crawford's plane only occasionally, preferring to drive and stop at will, but in the last two months of the race he flew often, frantically trying to cover ground. He would land at midnight on remote airstrips lit by the headlights of volunteers' cars, only to emerge eager to shake more hands. "Oh, we've got to talk to these people. We've got to go to that store that's still open," Patty Criner remembered his insisting.

His beard was shaved and his thick hair trimmed, but he was still "bushy-headed and sideburned," as Carl Whillock remembered, and thus faced what colleagues saw as "not only mistrust but also dislike" in the wary, isolated countryside. To win the locals over he invariably reverted to what he was underneath his impressive education: a homegrown boy from Miss Mary's kindergarten, ready to talk through differences, to make it right regardless of what they thought of him or the issues. Whillock, Moore, and others saw it again and again in drugstores, on street corners, at barbecues and potluck suppers. "I was convinced that Bill could persuade two of every three voters to support him," Whillock would say, "if he could have one-on-one conversations with them."

Unlike many politicians who relied on glad-handing, however, he also spoke sweepingly, if vaguely, about programs. The district was poor and correspondingly contemptuous of Washington's "handouts" yet always ready for its own congressional pork. Clinton spoke about the need for more federal aid to education "within a structure of local control," national health insurance that would "help everybody," and political reforms to prevent scandals like Watergate. He was in favor, he told people, of taking aggressive anti-inflation measures, improving teachers' skills and retraining workers, imposing an excess-profits tax and tighter regulation of oil companies in the wake of the Arab oil embargo, when spiraling gas prices aroused fresh anger.

"I was astonished to hear this twenty-eight-year-old law school teacher addressing conservative Rotary Clubs on the dangers of corporate abuse of power," wrote a reporter who covered the race. "Beware of the multinational corporations, he said. The Rotarians applauded." Yet the rhetoric, like the applause, was never alien to Arkansas, whose voters, including small businessmen like the Rotarians, were traditionally given impersonal foreign or Wall Street villains on whom to vent their frustration rather than face abuses -- and politicians -- closer to home.

Clinton's appeal and reception among such audiences mirrored, too, the larger moment of national disquiet in 1974, when the American economic decline from postwar preeminence was already beginning abroad and at home. Amid Nixon's forced resignation, it was an interlude when a kind of populism -- or what sounded like it -- was the bipartisan fashion. "Our nation's capital has become the seat of a buddy system that functions for its own benefit, increasingly insensitive to the needs of the American worker who supports it with his taxes," said one contemporary critic of the era, voicing many of Clinton's themes. "Today it is difficult to find leaders who are independent of the forces that have brought us our problems-the Congress, the bureaucracy, the lobbyists, big business and big labor." The speaker was Ronald Reagan.

To many in northwestern Arkansas, the young Democratic congressional candidate seemed to feel acutely their as yet undefined sense of public impotence. "He is most committed to making Congress a body of strength, a body that will check concentrations of power working against the people's welfare, whether it originates from other branches of government or from the private sector," said the Baxter Bulletin in an endorsement. "The good government we love has too often been made use of for private and selfish purposes," he told a party meeting that fall. "Those who have abused it have forgotten the people." As for Congress, the challenger would reform it by choosing committee chairs in party caucus and by reducing committees overall, along with the number of committees on which anyone representative could serve.

But the political realities that lay behind those "concentrations of power" and "private and selfish purposes" were not a part of his dialogue or agenda of reform -- the tyranny of money in congressional and gubernatorial as well as presidential politics, burgeoning lobbies, the narrowing, careerist party establishment he witnessed firsthand in the McGovern campaign. Like Hillary Rodham anguishing over the plight of American children, he began his quest for "good government" with sensitivity and indignation but then approached the essence of the failure, the larger menace, only to walk past it, seemingly unseeing.

Later that summer and fall, under mounting attack from Hammerschmidt for being "immature" and having "a radical left-wing philosophy," he voiced more and more, albeit in coded language, the old prejudices of the district -- a simplistic nativism on foreign policy, resentment of government bureaucracy, and on matters of crime and punishment an atavistic sense of vengeance. "We want America's needs to be met first. Charity begins at home," he told the Democratic state convention in September, going on to attack Washington's "wasteful spending and bloated bureaucracies. These middlemen of government meddle with our lives without increasing the common good." At another point he seemed to be talking both about bringing Richard Nixon to account and dealing harshly with common criminals as well.

The rhetoric of that first campaign was, like the money, a portent. It was an often brilliant blending of tone and tenor, of a populism and progressive impulse with an expedient demagoguery and pandering to reaction, that would be Bill Clinton's unique mark as a modern politician. A politics for all customers and all sales, it was "a powerful message," one writer recalled, "which he has not abandoned to this day."

***

Meanwhile, family crises roiled this first campaign. Before he returned from Yale, knowing Hillary was not coming with him, Clinton had turned on his mother in a series of bitter recriminations. "I hadn't displayed the warmth toward her that was my nature ... wasn't treating her with the respect she deserved," Virginia remembered his telling her. Her chill reception in 1972 had no doubt only added to Hillary's reservations, though it was never clear how much. "If Hillary had second thoughts to begin with about Arkansas," said one local acquaintance, "she must have had third, fourth, and fifth after meeting Virginia and Roger and seeing where he came from." In any case, what had been only rare in his high school and college years now became more common -- shouting fights with his mother that reminded her closest friends of nothing so much as the raging of his stepfather. He would treat her, witnesses thought, as he came to treat other intimates, as he treated his wife, with affection punctuated by tantrumlike explosions, followed by sullen contrition and then the sweetest of gestures and amends.

On the usually redoubtable Virginia the effect of his anger was shattering. Stubborn and proud, basically un reconciled to the distant young woman whom her son had settled on and whose contempt for her and her Arkansas was barely concealed, yet fearing the loss of her son, she took the once-in-a-lifetime measure of apologizing, in effect, for who and what she was. Driving home one day from a trip to Hope, as she related the story, she decided to write Hillary an abject apology. In her mind, she said, she "made peace with her." The younger woman did not reply, and over two decades they never talked about the letter, though Virginia at least felt a sense of relief. "I began to live again," she remembered.

She had married her hairdresser, Jeff Dwire, in 1969, to the initial dismay of her oldest son. Dwire had recently served time for investment fraud, and Bill was at first "apprehensive about our relationship," as Virginia put it. But the impeccably dressed, fun-loving hairdresser was also a bright, warm, engaging man -- indulgent toward teenage Roger, tender toward Virginia -- and Bill had been reconciled. "Whatever, mother," he told her casually in a call from Oxford when she announced that she would marry only months after Roger Clinton's death. By 1974 Bill had drawn Jeff into the campaign, and Dwire, sensing the tension between his wife and her son's lover, was even given to calling Hillary at headquarters for friendly, conciliatory, implicitly commiserating chats.

Then, in August 1974, Dwire died suddenly of complications of diabetes, and at fifty-one Virginia had lost her third husband. Clinton paused in the race to deliver a moving eulogy, seeing in the dead man a decency and selflessness he had never known in his stepfather yet unconsciously speaking, too, of a legacy that could have applied to both men and in a sense to his own destiny -- "the bad with the good, the torment of his past, the frustrations, the unfulfilled hopes." Afterward Hillary sent Virginia a copy of the address with a warm note that was, in its way, a kind of belated response to the mother's mea culpa and plea for forgiveness. "I have never known a more generous and stronger woman than you. You're an inspiration to me and so many others," she wrote. "A letter that meant the world to me," Virginia would call it.

As it was, the mother was characteristically persevering. Enlisting Rose Crane and other neighbors and friends, she threw herself into the campaign, phoning incessantly to gather contributions and volunteers, covering her big brown Buick with "Clinton for Congress" posters and bunting and herself with the buttons, sashes, and hats she would put on for her son each time in eight more races over the next eighteen years. Behind the scenes she had brought together Raymond Clinton, Gabe Crawford, and others for crucial backing and continued to do everything from eliciting old backroom money from the Springs, to buying her son a proper seersucker suit, to staffing his offices. The morning after Jeff Dwire's funeral, after she had spread his ashes over his favorite lake, she was back at Clinton headquarters, "my makeup as impeccable as it had ever been," she said. For the rest of her life she would keep the black size 13 shoes Bill Clinton wore out in his first political campaign.

***

In most followers he inspired a dedicated, sometimes even selfless loyalty. The campaign's Hot Springs office was in what a visitor called "an undistinguished suite" at the old Arlington Hotel, busy with devoted staff volunteers who unabashedly importuned reporters come for an interview. "We hope it's a good article. Your paper can bring us a lot of votes," one journalist remembered being told "repeatedly" by young retainers who exuded their own "hardihood and charm." It was an early manifestation of the zeal -- the constant, often naive promotion and assumptions of shared sympathy -- that the press encountered in his presidential campaign eighteen years later. Clinton staffers would commonly project a bitter animus toward political opponents or even partial critics and recoil angrily, almost as if betrayed, when a journalist covering their champion did not soon enter in.

The volunteers were largely women, drawn by the issues and by the candidate's sheer personal appeal. "Former campus politicians, joiners, and gadflies," as one account called them, they had an idealism Clinton readily tapped into. "These are the kind of people," Michael Glaspeny wrote for Fayetteville's alternative paper, the Grapevine, "who stand in the rain at high school football games to distribute campaign leaflets." But after spending time with the staff as well as the candidate, Glaspeny also saw something less innocent in the slavishness that a Clinton candidacy seemed to produce, if not require. "The workers are influenced by the Dexedrine-like effects of campaigning white-line fever," he wrote in September, 1974, "an inversion that naturally seizes the members of a cult. The volunteers are extremely reluctant to talk about themselves. They constantly mutter the aspirant's name in hushed tones: 'Bill thinks . . . " 'Bill feels ... " 'Bill does ... .' I feel as if I am either in a confession box or am party to the recitation of a first-grade primer: There is a monotonous circularity to all the conversation."

Hillary Rodham soon took over the headquarters in the peeling bungalow in Fayetteville, reorganizing the effort and managing the staff much as she would in later races. In a display of support for both of them, as well as to see their daughter's apparent chosen ground for themselves, her entire family came from Park Ridge to join the campaign for a time, Republican Hugh Rodham manning the telephones, her brothers excitedly hanging posters around the district.

In this first race there were several premonitory signs of problems that would grow. "His mind and operations are mainly instinctual, and somewhat manic, making it difficult for him to focus on only one process at a time," one observer complained. But the liberal National Committee for an Effective Congress, having briefly watched the articulate candidate and his dedicated aides wage their battle, would pronounce Bill Clinton's "the most impressive grassroots effort in the country today." The committee's praise was widely publicized national recognition, the first of much to come. To help out the promising amateurs the committee promptly sent to the Ozarks a professional political consultant, though he had little impact for much the same reason the committee had been so impressed to begin with. "The principal strategist and tactician in that campaign was Bill Clinton," said David Mathews, a future Arkansas legislator who was one of his drivers in 1974.

By the last weeks the race had come down to a plain contest -- Clinton's own tempered reformism against the incumbent's personal hold on his constituency in spite of Watergate and the Nixon resignation. The "John Paul factor" seemed to frustrate Clinton's most energetic efforts. "I get sick and tired of hearing how nice Hammerschmidt is!" Clinton screamed at an assistant in the closing days. Like his outburst at the Hot Springs office of the selective service five years earlier, however, such displays of temper remained largely hidden. Hammerschmidt's own deliberate mildness had the effect of shielding his political vulnerabilities. After a handful of initial attacks on Clinton's "radical" views, he said remarkably little about his young challenger.

The cruder smears spread in the Republican campaign had the unintended effect of obscuring Clinton's background for years to come. In 1969 a Vietnam veteran had lifted a mattress into a willow tree across from the University of Arkansas's student union and had camped there to protest the war until his arrest a few days later. Now there were Republican-fed rumors that the famous tree-climbing radical had been Bill Clinton, a myth that would persist in Arkansas politics for the next several years. Then, too, there were whispers about Bill Clinton's being unmarried, a good-looking boy in his late twenties, already beyond the age for settling into a "normal" family life as it was assumed in the hills and towns of northwestern Arkansas. "They were even trying to say behind the door that he was a little queer," said a local editor who heard the gossip.

Clumsy fictions were as near as the Republicans, the Arkansas press, or anyone else seemed to come to the real story of Clinton's machinations to skirt the draft, his antiwar involvement, or even his involvement in the McGovern campaign -- any of which could have been liabilities in much of the district. For his part, Clinton said as little as possible about either the war or his role in the 1972 campaign. Behind the scenes, however, he was visibly agitated about how his escape from the draft might be exploited by the Republicans. He was "red-faced scared," said an aide who heard him discussing it with another campaign volunteer, and the result would be the first of many vain efforts to suppress or obscure the record.

In June or July of 1974 Clinton had confided in a supporter, Paul Fray, about the 1969 letter to Colonel Holmes, and Fray, according to his own account nearly two decades afterward, told the young candidate that "he could get into a pickle" if Hammerschmidt somehow obtained the letter. Fray urged Clinton to "try to get the original back." By then the colonel himself had retired. But Clinton again, as five years before, brought manifold pressures on the aging officer, including calls from Fulbright's people, a forceful intervention by Uncle Raymond and his friends, and now also earnest pleadings from Holmes's former associates in the University of Arkansas administration whom Clinton had ardently cultivated in Fayetteville. "They laid down another barrage on the old guy to make that letter go away," said a friend of Raymond Clinton's. Late that summer Holmes would telephone a noncommissioned army instructor named Ed Howard at the university ROTC office and tell him, as Howard put it later, that "he wanted the Clinton letter out of the files." Too junior to act on the request, Howard called his commander, Colonel Guy Tutwiler, then on maneuvers in Kansas at Fort Riley, and Tutwiler ordered him to give Holmes a copy of the Clinton letter but to retain the original. Someone from Holmes's family came promptly to the campus ROTC headquarters to get the letter, Howard remembered. According to still other sources, the letter was soon passed on to Clinton through a university intermediary. Apparently no one noticed or worried that it was a copy rather than the original so laboriously drafted and typed on Leckford Road, and everyone, including the nervous candidate, assumed that "the situation was done with," as Fray put it, and that, in the words of a university cohort in the purge, "this ghost of wars past had been put to rest."

The same day as Howard called him, Tutwiler called back to instruct Howard to take the original of the Clinton letter, as well as any other similar documents pertaining to Vietnam War dissidents, and send them to him at Fort Riley by certified mail. Tutwiler subsequently told Howard that he had "burned the file," since the army no longer kept files on dissidents, at least officially, and that he did not want the correspondence "used against [Clinton] for political reasons." Neither the two army men nor the beset Colonel Holmes -- and least of all Bill Clinton -- knew then that still another copy of the letter had been made earlier, by Holmes's deputy commandant, Colonel Clinton Jones, who like Eugene Holmes had been appalled by the 1969 episode but who was overlooked by the anxious Clinton camp.

***

On election night they waited anxiously at Uncle Raymond's place in Fayetteville. There were cheers and hugs as Clinton carried some of the old Hammerschmidt strongholds in the Ozarks and other rural areas on his way to winning thirteen of the district's twenty-one counties. But as the night wore on, Hillary irritably began to call the remaining areas where returns were strangely slow. Numbers from Sebastian County and Hammerschmidt-dominated precincts in and around Fort Smith were delayed for hours. When the returns finally came in, it was with notably larger GOP proportions than anywhere else in the district, even where Hammerschmidt was running well. It seemed almost as if those ballots had been in response to Clinton's early pluralities. Clinton would lose his first election by a razor-thin margin, Hammerschmidt slipping back into office with 51.5 percent, the narrowest victory in his three decades in Congress.

"Those votes were just 'lost' for hours, and I have no doubt the election was stolen," one Clinton county coordinator said afterward. "I know it was," insisted another in 1993. Hammerschmidt's strong showing in Fort Smith had been combined as well with suspect returns even in Clinton's home Garland County, where voting machines were being used for the first time. "There were nineteen machines in Garland that weren't right," acknowledged one poll watcher years later. "I don't know that Hammerschmidt himself was involved personally or exactly who did it," judged another prominent Arkansas political figure, "but that election was sure as hell stolen fair and square." Determining as it did that Bill Clinton would now go on to Little Rock, to the singular crucible of Arkansas state politics rather than to the somewhat more visible arena of Washington, the obscure and petty local fraud of 1974 would shape the future of the presidency.

Rudy Moore remembered Clinton that night in Fayetteville. "I think he was genuinely shocked that he lost. Most of us were surprised that he had come so close." Though reports and rumors of the fraud echoed for weeks and even years, there would be no challenge of the results. Clinton himself seemed gracious, even self-deprecating in defeat. Before the Arkansas Press Association a few weeks after the election, he deplored the incumbent congressman's advantages of franking privileges and a paid staff but said nothing about the suspect votes. He would now "try to be of whatever service he could to the Democratic Party," said the Arkansas Democrat, reporting his modesty and deference.

Everyone seemed to take for granted the victory in his defeat. "Clinton did something during that campaign that I don't know how to explain. He achieved an aura of inevitability. It became a foregone conclusion that he would hold a state office soon," said Bill Simmons of the Arkansas Associated Press. "He was anointed by political elites as a soon-to-be governor or US senator," thought Art English, a University of Arkansas scholar already watching Clinton's career.

Afterward there were fashionable myths about Clinton's underdog fight in 1974 -- how, spurning a tainted last-minute contribution that might have made a difference, he finished $45,000 in debt, how he had struggled to be "almost as well funded" as his GOP opponent, as Newsweek wrote in 1994. The less romantic truth -- and, among politicians and their funders, far the most important lesson of the race -- was that young Bill Clinton had overwhelmed everyone In campaign finance.

When it was over -- not counting all the in-kind and under-the-table gifts of Gabe Crawford's airplane, Uncle Raymond's property, and the rest -- Clinton reported amassing nearly $181,000, then the largest amount collected for a House race in Arkansas history and clearly besting Hammerschmidt's $97,000. As a challenger he outraised and outspent in 1974 even the Democratic congressional winners around Arkansas by more than two to one and marshaled as much as Dale Bumpers or others in the party had ever brought to gubernatorial races statewide. He had done it by drawing on many of the same sources that would later make him governor and ultimately president.

***

Bill and Hillary lived together in Fayetteville that fall and winter, renting separate apartments for the sake of appearances. Her friends elsewhere were "bewildered," she would say, that she was still in Arkansas. But there were many in Clinton's circle as well, including old girlfriends and women from the campaign, who still wondered about his attraction to her. "It was fascinating to his friends," said one account, "that Bill, with his reputation as a ladies' man, chose . . . the brainy and frumpy-looking Hillary."

After the election she stood back for a moment, not fully joining the law faculty until January 1975. But as soon as the race was over, Clinton turned to their courtship as a campaign of its own, arranging for the wives of political friends to invite her to their homes, surrounding her with the warm hospitality of the culture, drawing her in. "Bill beseeched us to make her feel good about coming to Fayetteville," Carl Whillock remembered. "He was afraid she would feel out of place."

With Clinton himself talking up her impressive background with John Doar, she came to the lecture rooms of the provincial law school as something of a "celebrity," one student remembered. In her "hippie clothes and northern accent," as Judith Warner described her, she "benevolently terrorized her students."

She plunged into her new work outside the classroom as well, becoming director of the University of Arkansas Legal Aid Clinic and setting up new inmates' rights programs at the notorious penitentiaries at Texarkana and Cummins, programs that might have been common in other states but were exceptional and obviously needed in Arkansas. In her first forays into the state's court system she fought blatant discrimination against what Arkansas judges still called "lady lawyers." At the university she pressed trustees to include women in the search for a new chancellor and enthusiastically helped brief a newfound faculty friend and political science instructor for a debate with Phyllis Schlafly on the Equal Rights Amendment before the Arkansas legislature.

At every turn there were reminders that it was "his state and his political future," a colleague remembered. As part of the prison project Rodham had soon joined in the writing of an empassioned brief opposing capital punishment that resulted in a successful appeal for a convict on death row. Later, when her husband was governor and a presidential contender, she would ardently support the death penalty, even helping stiffen his resolve in carrying out executions at critical points in their political climb. Then, too, though her legal aid clinic sawin a year some three hundred otherwise unrepresented clients, she also spent "a lot of time placating the bar association," as a student recalled, soon agreeing under pressure to place the clinic's criminal cases with the usual local lawyers, whom many poor clients ended up paying anyway, "as if the clinic was just a lawyer referral for the ole boys," said one disillusioned participant. Meanwhile the friend she coached for the Schlafly debate, Diane Divers Kincaid, was soon to become the second wife of Jim Blair, the corporate lawyer whom Clinton had impressed with his "boiler room" mastery of the Arkansas delegation at the 1972 convention. Blair already represented the Tyson Foods chicken empire and other local and regional giants, and the four of them socialized together and became the closest of friends. A prominent Democrat, Blair was in the process of becoming Bill Clinton's most influential adviser and patron. Beyond issues of women's rights or civil liberties, there was always present the larger shape of vast concentrated power in Arkansas, the forces that would determine the Clintons' future.

Early in 1975 Hillary Rodham stopped by a Marine recruiting office in Arkansas to ask about joining "either the active forces or the reserves," as she revealed later. For those who knew her childhood, it was not strange that the daughter of Hugh Rodham would consider the military. Nor was the ethos of the Marine Corps at odds with her deeper political or social convictions. But mainly what she was looking for was an escape from the decision closing in around her that spring. It ended in what became a joke. "You're too old, you can't see, and you're a woman," a female recruiter told the twenty-seven-year-old law instructor. "Maybe the dogs [army] would take you."

***

In the summer of 1975 she set off around the country, visiting friends in Chicago and the Midwest before going on to Washington, Boston, and New York -- hoping to discover, as she told Gail Sheehy, "anything out there that I thought was more exciting or challenging than what I had in front of me." Afterward some believed that she was still genuinely looking for alternatives, others that the journey was only a ritual in a decision already made.

Talking with one couple who had been particularly close to her over the past few years, she confessed with painful intimacy what some already knew well in Arkansas, that Bill Clinton was often involved with other women even as he ardently courted her. In the midst of the 1974 congressional campaign, even as she worked eighteen hours a day on his race and slept with him whenever they were together, Clinton was flaunting other conquests on the road. "I met a young woman, the daughter of a prominent Arkansas politician, who told me she was Bill Clinton's fiancee," remembered one witness. "Of course Clinton had lied to her. He was then living with Hillary." Despite all that, Hillary told her friends she loved him and believed in him and would take her chances in the relationship. She would fortify herself for love and marriage as she did everything else, with reserves of resignation as well as grit. "I know he's ready to go after anything that walks by," they remembered her saying. "I know what he's doing, but I'm going to go as far as I can."

"It was two people who needed and fit each other. It was love. It was also a kind of bargain," reflected one of the friends later. "But even at her most cynical or calculating I don't think she could have bargained for what she got." "It was just ironic," thought another, "that she chose so consciously to live out her life through a man when she, of all people, could have led her own." Still others came to believe that there had been a crucial imbalance all along. "There was always this something special about Bill, an identity, a place and a purpose, even if it was Arkansas," said someone who knew them both from law school. "Deep down there was this ordinariness about Hillary. She needed to belong somewhere." Yet most friends would later agree that she made her choice for no single reason but out of some swirling combination of motives -- "Hillary's usual mix," one called it. The wounded, derogated little girl from Park Ridge who found resources within herself early, the formidable young woman of potential, now made, they concluded, a Faustian bargain with her own heart -- out of love, ambition, disappointment, hope, and perhaps even a guarded cynicism.

After some weeks she headed back to Fayetteville. "I just knew I wanted to be part of changing the world," she told a writer in 1992 but then added what seemed a remarkable confession of the sacrifice she felt: "Bill's desire to be in public life was much more specific than my desire to do good." In her absence Clinton had purchased a painted brick and stone cottage behind a rock wall on California Street in Fayetteville, a small house she had once admired. Now he surprised her with it as he drove her home from the airport. As usual, Dorothy Rodham was more frank than most in her memories. "It was just a little, tiny house, only worth a handful of money. I think there were only two rooms," she told Pans-Match.

Her mother flew to Fayetteville not long before the early-autumn date quickly set for their wedding. They were still painting and putting together the small cottage. At the last moment Dorothy took her daughter to buy a traditional white wedding gown at Dillard's department store. Hillary had "not thought that much about it," said a friend; she "was in kind of a haze once it was all set . . . not like her, really."

Virginia had driven up from the Springs and was having breakfast with friends at the Holiday Inn the morning of the wedding when Bill came by and told her he needed to talk with her about something. The table fell suddenly quiet. "Hillary's keeping her own name," he said. He began to explain his own lack of concern or his approval but never finished. His mother burst into tears while the women with her fought to keep from doing the same. "Pure shock," Virginia remembered her reaction, "I had never even conceived of such a thing. This had to be some new import from Chicago." Nineteen-year-old Roger Clinton's reaction was equally vehement, adding to his own distance from his new sister-in-law.

A simple ceremony was performed by a Methodist minister on October 11 in the hastily refurbished cottage, and attendance was limited to the immediate family. Dorothy Rodham's mixed feelings were audible later: "To see these two brilliant students loaded with diplomas, which could have brought them all the luxury and money in the world, there, in Arkansas, in that modest house because they had dreams of realizing their ideals. It was so moving."

The reception followed at the spacious old Fayetteville home of Morris Henry, a state Democratic chairman. "Hundreds of guests from all over the Third District," as Ann Henry remembered, milled about the house and yard on a balmy Saturday evening. The party turned into one of the biggest political affairs not only in the district but in the state itself. Having shed her glasses and curled her hair for the occasion, a radiant Hillary Rodham seemed unrecognizable to many. Everyone appeared to understand that it was part wedding reception, part rally -- that Bill Clinton was running again. At one moment she had made a point of being photographed standing on a step, a head taller than her groom, smiling knowingly at the man whose fortunes were now her own.

Among the guests was Arkansas attorney general Jim Guy Tucker, who was already planning a 1976 run for the House seat of the disgraced Wilbur Mills, a move that would open his current office to Bill Clinton. Here again was a chance to climb the Democratic ladder. The two men had discussed it earlier that summer while Hillary traveled. "Just an absolutely terrific job to have," Tucker remembered telling him. Clinton had seen the possibilities right away, had been "capable," Tucker told a reporter, "of understanding what you can and cannot do with the law."

Clinton had argued that with the coming campaign he could not afford the time for a honeymoon. Dorothy Rodham, however, had presented the newlyweds with inexpensive tickets to Acapulco and had bought them for all the Rodhams as well (pointedly excluding Virginia and Roger in what was called a "family" excursion). "We had a marvelous time," the father said in a rare public comment about his daughter's famous marriage. The couple returned from Mexico that autumn to begin planning the race for attorney general in the May Democratic primary.

Hillary Rodham told friends she would certainly keep her maiden name, as she had resolved long ago as a little girl. She would be "a person in my own right," she assured Ann Henry and others, not the usual "sacrificial" political spouse. When Governor David Pryor's wife, Barbara, was ridiculed in Arkansas that autumn for an exotic hairdo and when the Pryors separated at the end of 1975, Hillary was incensed, showing up at a dinner of Clinton backers with her own hair frizzed in "support" of Barbara Pryor. "I thought that was a real principled thing to do," one of them told Donnie Radcliffe. They had all praised her at the time, and she was clearly pleased. The woman who had once lectured the League of Women Voters national convention on corporate responsibility and realignment of power would increasingly express her protest and principles in such symbolic gestures.

"Hillary made her trade-offs early on," Jan Piercy said of her Wellesley roommate, "and I think she steeled herself not to look back."  
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 24362
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Partners in POWER: The Clintons and Their America

Postby admin » Thu Jun 23, 2016 2:56 am

Part 1 of 2

BOOK II  

11. Regnat Populus: "The People Rule"


From every part of the state they came to listen, parking their old trucks and cars and wagons in the dusty town squares, standing for hours in a burning sun. There were workers with no jobs, owners of small businesses struggling to survive, debt-crippled sharecroppers white and black, anxious young people whose prospects were grim, elderly couples whose savings were exhausted -- and everywhere, from the Ozarks to Little Rock to the Delta, the gaunt, unsmiling children standing beside weary parents. Again and again the politician made the same speech. Again and again they nodded and cheered.

"We have more food in this country than we could eat ... and yet people are hungry. . .. We have more houses than ever and yet people are homeless." They all knew why, he told them. Corrupted by wealth and power, their government was like a restaurant with only one dish. "They've got a set of Republican waiters on one side and a set of Democratic waiters on the other side," he would say, "but no matter which set of waiters brings you the dish, the legislative grub is all prepared in the same Wall Street kitchen."

It was August 1932, and the legendary Huey Long of Louisiana was barnstorming Arkansas on behalf of Hattie Caraway. Widow of a US senator who died in office, she had been sent to fill the remaining year of her husband's term while squabbling Democratic bosses back in Arkansas settled on a successor. But then the petite Mrs. Caraway proved rather too independent, even deciding to seek election herself, and the Little Rock machine set out to crush this upstart woman in the primary. Long had sat next to her on the Senate floor, fondly called her "the little lady" as she joined his votes against monied power in both parties. Sharing her enemies, savoring his own grand ambition, he decided to help her in her underdog race, and now he swept the state in a campaign never equaled, covering 2,100 miles, making thirty-nine speeches to a quarter of a million people in just a week. His purpose, wrote his biographer T. Harry Williams, was "to arouse into a full fury ... into a genuine class protest" the restiveness of what many saw as the most oppressed state in the union. He would do just that. Hattie Caraway won an upset victory and returned to the Senate. For a few fleeting summer days, telling crowds in the dusty squares what they already knew, Huey Long had "set Arkansas ablaze." In the politics of the place, it was a moment like no other -- before or after.

H. L. Mencken referred to "the miasmatic jungles of Arkansas" and called it "the worst American state." Its nineteenth-century founders, a local writer observed with casual certainty, "were a band of thieves." Others described the state more clinically, but the essence was, and remained, the same. In his classic study of southern politics between the 1930s and the 1960s, Harvard scholar V. O. Key thought Arkansas second only to Tennessee for "the most consistent and widespread habit of fraud." As if describing some benighted and distant foreign despotism, Key concluded that the unfortunate state still lacked "the essential mechanisms of democratic government."

Distrust of politics ran deep among the state's settlers, who were fleeing the class-dominated societies of the old Confederacy. As savagely and blindly as anywhere in the South, Reconstruction left still more aversion to government. Built for inaction, the modern state constitution hedged the power of both the executive branch and the legislature. Most tax legislation required a formidable three-fourths vote. A simple majority overturned the governor's veto. Yet the deliberately enfeebled structure proved easy prey for the state's omnipresent special interests. The regime in Little Rock subjected its wary citizens to a new, singularly Arkansan form of corrupt republic. Institutional rigidity thought to protect and curb became the protection of privilege and the curbing of reform. Supposedly passive government was relentlessly active in its insider concessions and favoritism. "Free enterprise in Arkansas," said a beneficiary, "was everything you were free to get out of your friends in the capital." The debauchery of the ruling Democrats was unrelieved, and even the few Republicans relished their own spoils. "About five old men who sat on a porch until there was a Republican president and then held out their hands for some patronage," one observer said of the state's GOP in the 1960s.

Beneath the political shell lay the implacable reality of Arkansas's economic and social power: the absolute, essentially colonial supremacy of a small financial elite and handful of corporate giants. First had come the planters, bankers, speculators, and owners of tenant farms, then the great extractive industries in timber, oil, and minerals, the big utilities, the huge mercantile and poultry operations. Open to raw profiteers as well as to courtly gentlemen, the Arkansas oligarchy propagated through money and influence far more than through birth or breeding. Its paternalism was now cruel and crude, now mincing and discreet, though above all constant. By the 1970s there had grown a new ganglion of banks, bond houses, holding companies, and, inevitably, law firms. Epitomized by the colossal Stephens, Inc., the nation's most formidable investment banking empire outside of Wall Street, all were bound up by retainer and return, mutual interests and mores, by an incestuous society and political sociology that made up Arkansas's singular culture of venality and power.

The system might seem on the surface almost banal, merely another example of legendary local vice in American politics. "We're no different, just more," one of its practitioners would say. But then, Arkansas's "more" was itself the difference. The state's farmers, found one study, were "the nearest approach to medieval serfdom ever achieved on the North American continent." Examining skeletal remains from the early twentieth century uncovered in an African American cemetery near Hope, anthropologists were shocked to find a people more ravaged by chronic starvation and disease than any other group in comparable findings from either prehistory or the modern era. Observers were invariably struck by the enormity of what a local paper nimbly called "great wealth in a poor state," the spectacle of one of the richest areas in the United States home to such widespread want, such a narrow, exclusive concentration of wealth and power. Inequity of income wasvast, with only a relatively small middle class wedged precariously between the exceptionally wealthy and a mass of the working poor or destitute. "Nowhere in America is the range so great as in Arkansas," wrote the Arkansas Times in 1992, "from the multibillionaire status of the Wal-Mart Waltons to the abject poverty of the Delta region." A local minister put it simply in 1993: "Oh, there's plenty of riches to go around in old Arkansas. The problem's that only a few folks got most all of it, and it ain't goin' around."

Self-proclaimed populists and reformers came and went more visibly than in much of the South, in a dreary pattern of promise and default. "Transient demagogues," as one writer called them, they were habitually absorbed by the enduring order, leaving ever-hopeful voters only "with memories." Nearly a half century after Huey Long campaigned for Hattie Caraway, the state remained "a wrenching mixture of beauty and squalor," according to a local writer. "It had about one country club -- full of rich people and landowners -- and two million peasants, sharecroppers, and struggling shopkeepers." Over them all unfurled Arkansas's mocking motto, Regnat Populus, "The People Rule."

As elsewhere, racism was a tool of demagoguery and division, masking the root economic exploitation of white as well as black. There had been an exodus of African Americans after the cotton collapse of the 1920s, leaving them scarcely 16 percent of the population, concentrated in a pale of veritable Third World poverty in the Mississippi Delta. The black vote was to be a crucial bloc for Bill Clinton in the 1980s, though civil rights politics on the whole were always less relevant than they were in more progressive states. Grateful to be rid of an overt racism so recent and so ugly, Arkansas's African American community would seem to many largely numbed and complacent -- if not politically suborned 00 in a system that gladly conceded them the forms of democracy without its economic substance.

The state's newspapers and broadcast stations were in the hands of ruling interests, their editors and reporters cowed or bought off. The rare independent journalist was soon made an example. Trying to expose ballot-box stuffing and other corruption through the 1960s and 1970s, publisher Gene Wirges survived nearly a dozen attempts on his life, was indicted seven times on trumped-up charges ranging from slander to conspiracy, and was once sentenced to three years at hard labor, only to be saved when the main prosecution witness was proven to have lied. Arkansas was just like Mexico, Wirges would tell friends, a tawdry one-party dictatorship in democratic guise in which the police and justice system -- including the Democratic Party-dominated courts -- were used to coerce and suppress dissent. With the equally venal, if less numerous, Republicans cooperating, third-party movements and other organized dissent would be ruthlessly eliminated by both legal means and crude coercion. Naturally enough, many of Wirges's professional colleagues, like the co-opted press of Mexico City, learned early to skate the surface of Arkansas's deeper political reality, tweaking its figurehead politicians but never going too far, never straying into a darker world they knew only through gossip or glimpses in the occasional court case.

By the closing decades of the twentieth century, however, the essence of the regime had become a matter not so much of blatant manipulation as of something more subtle, something unique to a state regarded as a painful hillbilly joke in the rest of the nation. Of the many legacies of repression, none was so ingrained, from the Ozarks to the Delta, as the popular sense of inferiority and resignation, overlaid with fierce sensitivity, a victim's pride and prickliness. It produced still more irony among Arkansas voters: not only a weary acceptance of their lot but a ready, grateful credulity toward politicians earnestly promising to change it. As in the old Communist tyrannies of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, there was often only resentment toward outsiders pointing out the enduring disgrace, a native refusal to face reality that further fortified the system. In "modern" Arkansas, gone from tenant serfdom to chicken processing and corporate law with no real break in its caste-ridden regime, morale was a last resort. "We just had to feel better about ourselves," one community leader said in 1993, "whatever the realities of politics."

***

"He warn't getting nowheres," poet John Gould Fletcher said of the common man who worked in factories, farms, and small stores. "Them politician fellers in Little Rock had never done a danged thing for him or his kind." The politicians' neglect was not, he might have added, accidental or temporary. Meeting biennially, its lawmakers plied with what a witness called "boodle and booze," the legislature was a haven for incumbents, a bastion of one-party domination. Arkansas's regime seemed to many a perpetual caricature, even by the most notorious southern standards, "a sort of unholy meshing of public and private interests," historian Harry Ashmore had written in the late 1950s, "without any effective restraint from an electorate bemused by other, perhaps more important matters."

So complete was the incest and co-option that lawyers and lobbyists "swarmed on the chamber floors ... and frequently joined in the voting," according to one observer, while legislators brazenly drew from corporate payrolls. By the late 1960s seventeen of thirty-five-state senators still received regular salaries or other retainers from the Arkansas-Louisiana Gas Company. "ARKLA didn't have to worry too much about regulations or rate controls," chuckled one longtime lobbyist. A representative shrugged off the pandemic corruption still flourishing a decade later: "Hell, we wouldn't have a government if there were no interest groups."

Across the domed capitol in Little Rock -- aptly enough a replica of the building in Washington -- the governor was strong only by default, collusion, or dint of extraordinary effort. Limited to two-year terms until 1986, executive power came "bastardized," as an aide put it -- fragmented by tangled jurisdictions and legislative feudalism. Still, the lack of genuine parties or issues lent the office what historians called a potent "personalism." Arkansas governors drew power from their personalities or appeal rather than from sustained principles or programs, and a politics of expedience and manipulation, fealty and personal accommodation became the habit of the office.

In that mold were four somewhat paradoxical figures of the late 1950s on. Son of an ardent back-country socialist, Orval Faubus was both the national villain of the 1957 Little Rock school crisis and a relative progressive for Arkansas, funding education and services, exposing the nightmarish state asylum where Edith Cassidy was committed, and eventually even reaching out to blacks and other opponents after his notorious confrontation. Winthrop Rockefeller, the era's first Republican governor, proved a feckless administrator and fitful reformer, a political moderate but a hopeless alcoholic whom one writer called "the failed hope of Arkansas liberalism." Yet he nonetheless tugged the state forward, courageously leading a chorus of "We Shall Overcome" on the capitol steps after the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Defeating him in 1970 was Dale Bumpers, a small-town lawyer who ran on little money, even returning a check from the imperial Stephens, Inc. Bumpers went on to provide some relief from regressive taxes, create a governor's cabinet, and affect other changes. "They hated him, but they had to work with him," one admirer said, remembering his public distance from the old bosses. "He didn't seem to know you couldn't do those things," an editor commented. Following Bumpers came David Pryor, who, despite his ever-ingratiating pose as "Ol' David," was the first to appoint blacks and women to ranking state offices in 1975-78, signaling a break with the traditional whites-only, good ole boy patronage.

All four men modernized the governor's office. All four puttered at the ragged edges of the system. Outwardly polished and progressive while sufficiently "down-home," Bumpers and Pryor both epitomized what a local writer called Arkansas's "more presentable politicians," a refinement demanded by the times and by the comparatively sophisticated patrons of the state's newer financial elite. In their more presentable train, they drew women, minorities, and young idealists formerly excluded from politics. Yet in Arkansas it all happened at the margins of genuine power. None of the four confronted the abiding rules or rulers of a state they governed in name only.

While Faubus lingered as a political relic, Rockefeller dissolved in alcoholism, and Bumpers and Pryor vaulted to the Senate, Arkansas power remained what and where it always was. The speculative bloat of the Reagan-Bush era added to the lineage of old planters and plungers new practitioners of monied control and political patronage. They worked in the discreet confines of executive suites and bank boardrooms, law offices and country clubs, and they lived in the gracious columned houses of Little Rock's White Heights and in sprawling pseudo plantations nestled among the Ozark hills and valleys.

It was in this setting that Bill Clinton entered state politics in 1975. When he left in 1993 he had been governor for twelve years, as long as Rockefeller, Bumpers, and Pryor together. He presided over the prospering political-corporate nexus in Little Rock as no other politician in the state's history ever had. What he did in and for Arkansas, he claimed, qualified him to govern the nation. And in a sense, ironically, his record there shaped and explained his presidency as much as any events in Washington did.

***

"I been shakin' hands all day, and on the phone raisin' money all night," Clinton laughingly told a relative during his 1976 race for attorney general. Behind the banter was a smooth, well-financed campaign in which, as an aide put it, "he was almost handed the key to the office." He "breezed into" it, wrote a reporter. "Willing to hew wood and draw water," according to someone who watched him at meeting after meeting, he prepared through avid work in party organization. Then, against two older, lackluster primary opponents, he far out-organized and outspent both together.

There were many of the same volunteers and in-kind gifts as in 1974, Uncle Raymond's real estate and other offerings, and crucial early contributions of over $30,000, the money flowing principally from banking, insurance, and real estate interests, including funds channeled from the Stephens financial empire in Little Rock. But his campaign funding also listed $15,000 of his own money, a surprising amount, given his meager law school salary. It was cash that came again through the quiet auspices of Raymond Clinton and old family ties.

With a Stephens executive as his deputy, Clinton coordinated jimmy Carter's 1976 campaign in Arkansas even as he ran his own race, adding national contacts and eventual federal patronage to his strength. He was obviously confident of his victory yet cautious and calculating to the point of turning against original allies. "Believing it hindered his candidacy as much as it helped," the Arkansas Democrat noted, Clinton now spurned the union support he had courted and depended on in his congressional race just two years earlier, pointedly refusing to oppose the state's "right to work" law and beginning a long, bitter feud with local labor.

He was constantly advised by his new wife, who was doing freelance legal work that spring in addition to teaching. "She called him all the time, every day several times a day, it seemed like," said a senior attorney who worked beside her. "And I'll tell you, she was a cold-blooded heifer, telling him exactly what he had to do with this group and that, who to dump and who to charm to win that election, no matter who'd backed them before." Another saw her as "a great pusher and mover," making sure that there were enough little American flags at his rallies, that supporters were dispersed through the crowd to give the impression of wide support. "By the time he arrived," said Clarence Cash, one of his primary opponents, "she had set things up for him perfectly."

When the candidate's own professional experience as a lawyer was questioned he quickly claimed he had represented clients from fifteen counties in cases from divorce to felonies to disability compensation, though in reality he lacked any such practice and had rarely been inside a courtroom in his three years as a law school lecturer and perpetual candidate. The misrepresentation was soon forgotten as his campaign showered the press and public with what he called "a set of comprehensive position papers" -- including plans to toughen criminal penalties -- released each day in the last weeks before the election. In the May 1976 primary he won 60 percent of the vote. Standing unopposed in the general election, he was, as one local editor anointed him, "obviously heir apparent to the Bumpers-Pryor moderate-progressive legacy."

With the office won, he went on to plan his attorney general's staff while directing the Carter presidential run in Arkansas, and in August Hillary made her own move into the Carter camp, joining the campaign as deputy director in Indiana and staying through the fall as she took a leave from both the law school and Arkansas politics.

***

The job came from Betsey Wright's lobbying of Carter operatives, though Hillary and her husband were already recognized in the party. The work provided political seasoning as well as capital with a likely president. Yet campaigning for Carter, whom the Clintons had met briefly during his visit to the university and whose candidacy they backed during the early presidential primaries, also involved for both of them a choice about competing forces and futures in the Democratic Party.

Running against the Georgia governor in 1976 were two of the party's last independent leaders, Congressman Morris Udall of Arizona and Senator Fred Harris of Oklahoma. Once they had been defeated there would be no escape from the party's growing bondage to big political money and Washington's oppressive lobbies and bureaucracies -- from the bipartisan corruption of Congress itself, in which Democrats would become virtual mirror images of their Republican cohorts. The triumph of money was implicit in Jimmy Carter's coded mercantile politics of the "New South." It was inherent, too, in the Clinton's choice of Carter in 1976 and would be reflected vividly in their rule of Arkansas over the next decade and, even more, in their own White House politics and policies seventeen years later.

Indiana was expendable in Carter's calculations, conceded from the start to incumbent Gerald Ford in a strategy that counted on a southern base and a split in the old Democratic strongholds of the Northeast. But the new deputy director from Arkansas seemed to give away nothing herself. Colleagues remembered Hillary Rodham's campaign management in Indianapolis for its old-fashioned professionalism, its characteristic astringency, and the Carter-party distaste for what was now seen as the unrealistic principles of the past. The new politics, according to the Washington Post's Donnie Radcliffe, were "an antidote to the party's idealistic binge of the 1960s," by which he seemed to mean the democracy of Kennedy, Johnson, Humphrey, and the Vietnam War Congresses.

Like Bill Clinton in Texas four years before, Hillary Rodham was now coolly attentive to all the details of ego, protocol, and deference, as much at ease with old rural or town bosses from the state's decrepit party as with corporate lawyers and student volunteers. When a county chairman became embroiled in a delegate selection battle, she labeled him "radioactive," as he recalled, and kept him largely out of the campaign. With grim determination she set up a phone bank in a former bail bondsman's office across from the jail and hired inmates out on bond because the rent and labor were both cheap. She rallied her staff as Carter stumbled toward the finish line with a series of tactical campaign blunders, portents of an administration she privately regarded with dismay and disgust. Most of all, staff members remembered, she disciplined those who made mistakes in her own ranks. "Hillary took no prisoners," one writer recorded. When the networks came on with their coverage early on election night, they instantly awarded Indiana to Ford. It had been no real contest from the beginning. Still, she stayed on at the dispirited headquarters, looking far beyond Indiana in 1976. Carter finally won the close national race in the predawn of the next day.

She would return to Fayetteville with both local and national contacts for Bill Clinton's eventual presidential run and with her own hard-won reward. At the close of his first year in the White House, Jimmy Carter recognized his Indiana deputy by appointing her to the national board of the Legal Services Corporation, the congressionally funded public corporation charged with providing legal services to the poor. On the corporation's board she was to work with Mickey Kantor, another campaign appointee, a former Democratic Senate aide and lawyer-lobbyist who would be the titular manager of the Clinton campaign in 1992. Back in Arkansas Clinton would join Senator Bumpers and the powerful Jackson Stephens of Stephens, Inc., a Carter intimate and major contributor, to dispense a dozen choice presidential appointments in the state, including appointments to the federal bench. There was one major disappointment. For chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, with its vital role in the nation's savings and loan industry, neither Attorney General Clinton nor his politically talented wife were able to seat their candidate -- their Springdale friend, Tyson lawyer Jim Blair.

***

The attorney general's office in Little Rock was a time-honored rostrum for the state's ersatz reform, a place to denounce special interests while leaving their power intact. "It was a populism as natural and unabashed in Arkansas as hogs in a pen," wrote University of Arkansas political scientist Art English, "and Clinton fit right in." He promptly announced plans to intervene aggressively on behalf of consumers in cases dealing with utility rates, pledged to "clean up and rationalize" property taxes he termed "a raving mess," and filed suit against alleged milk price-fixing, telling one applauding group that "some" big dairy companies "stole from you, just as if they'd broken into your house and taken it." To similar applause he strongly supported the death penalty as "a deterrent to crime," a conclusion for which he had "no statistics," the thirty-year-old Clinton told audiences, but "a gut feeling based on my observations over many years." At one point the new attorney general even ventured into foreign policy and international economics, deploring the "terrible shape" of the entire country as a result of Mideast oil prices and sinister Arab investments in America.

Everywhere he turned, it seemed, the new attorney general was lauded for what he was and would certainly become. Typical of the acclaim was his being named one of the state's "Outstanding Young Men of the Year" by the Arkansas Junior Chamber of Commerce after only two months in office. Yet even such seemingly unqualified honors held unseen irony. The young politician who carried the state's black precincts with overwhelming margins now received his award at the whites-only Little Rock Country Club. The admiring judges who selected him were Bill Bowen, a wealthy local banker and future aide, Clinton's old intimate Thomas J. "Mack" McLarty, and a third political friend whom Clinton would appoint to the bench and who would go on to administer a federal loan program and ultimately testify in a 1995 grand jury against the president of the United States -- an enthusiastic Democratic lawyer named David Hale.

Despite her late-summer and fall absence in Indiana, Hillary Rodham was, from the outset, an unusual presence in her husband's tenure as attorney general. Not only standing beside him at the ritual rallies and receptions, she now appeared alone and spoke out herself on various issues, from the handling of evidence in rape cases to the media's deplorable preoccupation with "investigations" rather than with "presenting the news," as she put it to a sympathetic audience. "One of our problems is trying to control a press that is far out of line because of Watergate," she told a Little Rock Rotary Club in 1977. By then she no longer taught or ran legal clinics for the unrepresented, was no longer simply the attorney general's wife, but belonged to one of Arkansas's oldest, most formidable, most fundamentally conservative institutions, the Rose Law Firm.

The ultimate determining decision in her own career was made almost casually, as an extension of her husband's politics and -- typically -- with discreet inside arrangements. Preparing to move to Little Rock after the 1976 primary, Clinton had called Rose partner Herbert Rule III, a former legislator who had raised money in his 1974 race. "I got the word from Bill Clinton that she was coming and I tracked her down," Rule said later. At the time the firm had few women or even Ivy League law credentials, and Rose rarely recruited from law school faculties or legal aid clinics. "Hillary was just a law professor, that's all," remarked one partner. But the firm saw her obvious value, offering the twenty-nine-year-old attorney a salary just under $25,000 -- far higher than the pay in Arkansas for teaching or public-interest law and well more than Clinton himself would make as attorney general. Friends could not remember her even pausing to consider an alternative. "The decision had been made when she decided to marry, to go with his career as the engine for her own ambitions and power," said someone who knew them since Yale. "By the time Rose came across with the offer, she was going to do whatever was best for Bill, whatever would get them to the top -- and I mean all the way to the top -- as fast as possible." At the same time there was a sense, some believed, in which Hillary Rodham's joining Rose was not so much entering into Arkansas as rejecting it, relishing the caste distinction between Little Rock's most sophisticated and nationally prestigious law firm and the rest of the state and much of the political world her husband frequented. She was finding her own place, a refuge.

Both sides recognized the mutual compact in Rose's employing the wife of an attorney general and politician on the rise. "She had an interest and talents that would indicate that she would make contributions beyond the mustiness of law," Rule added coyly. "Sure, she was bright, but she brought us no special litigation skills or expertise otherwise," recalled a senior partner. "Hillary was this huge political asset, pure and simple."

For the firm she was the most natural hireling. Formed before statehood and named for a founder of the American Bar Association, Rose had numbered among its partners judges and state supreme court justices, mayors, legislators, a US Senator, and, above all, the intimates of those in power, figures who exerted their force more discreetly, without potentially awkward public visibility, without accountability. It was a matter of appearance and reality in an Arkansas when the two were frequently not the same. For a century and a half Rose represented and wielded the influence of the most powerful forces in the state -- in land, timber, retailing, insurance, investment banking, agriculture, financial services -- and, with governments at all levels, virtually the entire enveloping grid of political privilege and consequent private profit from the Ozarks to the Delta. What Arkansas was the Rose Law Firm had been well paid to make it -- and to protect and maintain the result. The discreet firm's own fortunes were inseparable from the economic and social system it served. Beyond any considerations of gender, resume, or name, Hillary Rodham's presence on the letterhead was in a long tradition.

***
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 24362
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Partners in POWER: The Clintons and Their America

Postby admin » Thu Jun 23, 2016 2:57 am

Part 2 of 2

They had been in Little Rock only months when a tectonic shift took place in Arkansas politics with the passing of one of Raymond Clinton's most powerful political friends, eighty-two-year-old Senator John McClellan. The death set off a scramble for the seat by two rivals, Governor Pryor and Congressman Tucker, and so opened the governorship to Bill Clinton, with the added bonus that at least one of his party rivals might be eliminated by the Pryor-Tucker fight. He began the campaign virtually at McClellan's funeral.

With money raised partly and discreetly, as always, through the Rose firm, he published in January 1978 a sleek "Attorney General's Report," celebrating his year's record in what one reader called "rapturous terms." Only later were the discrepancies clear. Clinton claimed to have recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars for buyers in a General Motors recall, though the rebates came out of a class action by other attorneys general. He boasted of aggressive policing of utilities, though his much-publicized appearances and statements at regulatory hearings added no meaningful consumer rights, and an unchallenged coal contract actually threatened higher rates. "I had to press over and over again for him to be aggressive at all," said a deputy who worked on regulatory problems, "but in the end he was mostly just talk."

Clinton had also given general "help for the elderly," said the report, though he had refused to confront a cruelly regressive sales tax on necessities. The attorney general had provided "official oversight" in the transport of hazardous materials, he assured voters, though what he had actually done, as in almost every other promise of his 1976 race, turned out to be far more rhetoric than legislation, executive action, or litigation. With some justification a later opponent would accuse Clinton of mostly "chasing headlines" as attorney general, and one reporter thought the vaunted report a typical "hype." Yet the extravagant claims, expensively packaged, had the effect of obscuring the authentic record. "We did push truth in advertising for optometrists and embalmers," a Clinton aide said later with a smile, "and two handbooks on the Freedom of Information Act."

In March 1978, after only fourteen months as attorney general and less than five years after leaving Yale Law School, Bill Clinton did what many had long assumed but few expected quite so quickly: he declared his candidacy for governor of Arkansas. Flanked by his wife, his beaming mother, and his brother, he told reporters and backers that the statehouse was the job he "really wanted because a governor could do more for more people than any other office." "Any office," he added with what one person saw as a "self-conscious" grin, "except the president."

With fifteen paid workers, a mobile phone, a rented plane, and Jimmy Carter's own advertising firm for television spots, plus more than a dozen offices with hundreds of volunteers, the 1978 Clinton campaign was the most modern and opulent Arkansas had yet seen, "a well-disciplined and well-equipped 'army,''' wrote one reporter, "spread into every city and hamlet." Working from predawn shifts to late-night receptions, eager assistants attended the candidate. "Clinton will snap his fingers and the aide will come running to record the voter's name or perhaps some information about a complaint," journalist Carol Griffee wrote, describing the ritual that made each voter feel duly noted. It was a campaign built "with painstaking care over four years, without question the best organization ever put together in Arkansas without machine support," said columnist John Robert Starr, who compared it to the old Faubus coalition of Little Rock money and rural bosses.

With obvious differences of style and content, Starr might have noted, Clinton's was already a machine of its own. Against four minor opponents -- a rural judge, a lawyer, a legislator, and a turkey farmer -- he raised nearly $600,000, twice what his two closest rivals raised together and three times as much as any primary run had yet garnered. "Clinton's hoard," one account called it. Beginning with the quiet blessing of Stephens, Inc., his backing included, in fact, most of the old powers behind Faubus and others, as well as newer forces in the financial elite, "many of them from big business interests," one reporter noted ironically, "that he had challenged as attorney general."

"Talk to Emile and he'll give you the Seneca right around the first of the year."

"What's significant about the first of the year?"

"The tithing is gonna really go on the increase, come January 1."

"Tithing?"

"Yeah, the dime that the state's workin' on for lettin' the Agency's operation go on here," Seal answered. "You didn't think somethin' this big could be goin' on without havin' to pay for it. Shit, you were in Southeast Asia. Didn't you tell me we had to pay some fuckin' prince in Laos every time the Air Force dropped a bomb there? You see it's all the same, just one fuckin' banana republic after another."

The "dime" Seal referred to was the 10 percent being charged the CIA by high Arkansas state officials for allowing the Agency to operate in Arkansas. The word tithing Terry had learned back in his Sunday school days in the Nazarene Church. The term meant 10 per cent of your money would be given the church and, in return, as the Bible proclaimed, you would get it back 10 fold. And this was undoubtedly true for the CIA.

Arkansas was providing cover for the Agency's illegal airplane modifications, Contra training operations, arms shipments and, from what Seal revealed, ways to invest the black money that was being made from its gun-running to Central America. So that's why the singer Glen Campbell called Arkansas the "land of opportunity."

***

The five waiting men were clearly taken aback when Governor Bill Clinton stepped from the vehicle with his aide, Bob Nash, and led the entourage into the World War II ammunition storage bunker that would serve as the meeting place.

In a low tone, Cathey turned to Terry and said: "Shit! I was afraid he'd show up. That'll certainly upset our agenda. I'm glad Johnson is here. He'll be able to handle him."

The waiting group of five had expected Nash, but not his boss, Arkansas' Commander-in-Chief, Bill Clinton. By his mere appearance, Clinton was risking exposure of his involvement in unauthorized covert operations. But he seemed desperate.

The meeting had been called at Camp Robinson, an Army facility outside Little Rock, to get some problems ironed out. In addition to the governor and his aide, the "guest list" included Max Gomez (Felix Rodriguez), John Cathey (Oliver North), resident CIA agent Akihide Sawahata, Agency subcontractor Terry Reed -- and the man in charge, the one who would call the shots. He called himself Robert Johnson.

Johnson had been sent from Washington to chair this very delicate operational briefing that would hopefully extricate the Agency from its entanglement in what was becoming a messy situation in Arkansas....

Cathey began the briefing.

"Governor Clinton," he said switching to his toastmaster tone, "I'm glad you could attend tonight's meeting with us. We're both surprised and honored. Bobby (Nash) didn't inform us you would be attending ... However, let's get down to it....

Terry viewed this meeting as his initiation into the inner circle. But this impromptu appearance by Governor Clinton, however, would expose Terry to yet more things that he had no "need to know." It would also confirm his suspicions that operations in Arkansas were being run with Clinton's full knowledge....

"Gentlemen," Cathey said, "this meeting is classified Top-Secret. The items discussed here should be relayed to no one who does not have an operational need to know. I repeat Top-Secret. There are to be no notes taken."...

Johnson, Cathey said, was the personal representative of CIA Director William Casey and had been sent to chair the meeting. Casey was too important to show his face, Terry assumed. But he felt honored, and yet surprised, to find he'd been dealing with someone so closely connected to the Director of Central Intelligence, the top of the intelligence pyramid.

"Thank you," Johnson said. "As Mr. Cathey mentioned, I am the emissary of Mr. Casey, who for obvious security reasons could not attend. We are at a major junction of our Central American support program. And I am here to tie up a few loose ends. As you are all aware, the severity of the charges that could be brought against us if this operation becomes public ... well, I don't need to remind you of what Benjamin Franklin said as he and our founding fathers framed the Declaration of Independence ..."

Cathey interrupted. "Yeah, but hanging is a much more humane way of doing things than what Congress will put us through if any of this leaks out." This marked the only time during the briefing that laughter was heard.

"This is true," Johnson replied. "And therefore, Governor Clinton, I'm going to find it necessary to divide this meeting into groups so that we don't unnecessarily expose classified data to those who don't have an absolute need to know. We can first discuss any old business that concerns either "Centaur Rose" or "Jade Bridge", and I think that you will agree that afterwards you and Mr. Nash will have to excuse yourselves ..."

Clinton was visibly indignant, giving the angry appearance of someone not accustomed to being treated in such a condescending manner.

"It seems someone in Washington has made decisions without much consulting with either myself or my aide here, Mr. Nash. And I'd like to express my concern about the possible exposure my state has as you guys skedaddle out of here to Mexico. I feel somewhat naked and compromised. You're right, there are definitely some loose ends!"...

Nash interjected: "Sir, Governor Clinton's concerns are that there may be some loose ends cropping up from the Mena operation in general. As you know, we have had our Arkansas State Police intelligence division riding herd on the project. And that has been no simple task. Even with some of our ASP officers undercover over there, we couldn't have gained any real inside knowledge had it not been for Mr. Reed's ability to report it directly to me. This thing about Barry Seal getting Governor Clinton's brother involved is what's got us all upset. I mean, as we speak, there's an investigation going on that could spill over onto some very influential people here in Arkansas, and people very close to the governor personally ..."

Johnson looked like he was getting irritated. Clinton had not been scheduled to be there and his original agenda now was being discarded.

"Hold on!" Johnson shot back. "Calm down! Mr. Casey is fully in charge here. Don't you old boys get it. Just tell me what has to be taken care of, or who needs to be taken care of, and I'll fix it for you!"

Johnson boasted to the group that Attorney General Edwin Meese, by arranging the appointment of J. Michael Fitzhugh as U.S. Attorney in Western Arkansas, had effectively stonewalled the ongoing money laundering investigations in Mena where the Contra training operations had been centered. It was his impression, Johnson said, that everything was now "kosher" and the "containment" was still in place. Operations "Rose" and "Bridge" had not been exposed because federal law-enforcement agencies had been effectively neutralized. But Johnson said he was now concerned that the "drug" investigation there might expand beyond his control and unmask the residue of black operations.

Now the meeting was starting to turn into a shouting match, Terry quietly observed that Clinton appeared on the verge of losing his well-rehearsed, statesman-like demeanor. Stopping investigations around Mena had helped the CIA and its bosses in Washington, but it had not solved any of the governor's local political problems. And these same problems were threatening to unveil the Mena operations.

It was the spring of 1986, just over a month after Barry Seal's assassination in Louisiana. Clinton was facing a very tough and dirty reelection campaign. His Republican opponent was certain to be ex-Governor Frank White, the only man who had ever defeated Clinton. The newspapers were filled with stories about Clinton's brother, who had been convicted and served time from federal drug trafficking charges, giving White the dirt he needed to launch a serious and damaging political attack.

Roger Clinton had "rolled over" and turned informant, enabling the Feds to begin an investigation of investment banker Dan Lasater, a close personal friend and campaign contributor of Clinton's. This investigation, it was clear, could spill over into Lasater's firm, possibly exposing CIA money-laundering and other possible illegal activities. [1]

The investigation of Clinton's brother had been carried out largely by disloyal state police officials who were backing White, and without Clinton's knowledge, when the inquiry was first initiated. Terry wondered whether a "coup" was building? Clinton was clearly in big political trouble, and his demeanor now was not the cool and composed man people saw on television. Perhaps the CIA and the Reagan administration wanted another "presidente," a Republican one, in its banana republic?

Rumors were also running wild that the bond underwriting business, in which Lasater was a major figure, had been used to launder drug money. In addition, candidate White had another big issue to run with. He would charge later that Clinton was directing choice state legal work as bond counsel to the prestigious Rose Law firm, where his wife, Hillary, was a senior partner. And Clinton had to be fearful that exposure of the Mena operations would be the death blow to his reelection hopes. And, if that weren't enough ammunition, the governor was also facing a possible state budgetary shortfall of more than $200 million.

By his comments, the governor's political problems and his potential exposure were clearly on his mind. Clinton showed his contempt for the young man from Washington as he lost his composure, jumped to his feet and shouted: "Getting my brother arrested and bringing down the Arkansas bond business in the process isn't my idea of kosher! You gents live a long way from here. Your meddling in our affairs here is gonna carry long-term exposure for me! I mean us. And what are we supposed to do, just pretend nothing happened?" He was angry.

"Exactly, pretend nothing's happened," Johnson snapped back. "It's just like the commercial, you're in good hands with Allstate. Only in this case, it's the CIA." Johnson paused, took a deep breath, and continued. "Mr. Clinton, Bill, if you will, some of those loose ends you refer to here were definitely brought on by your own people, don't you agree? I mean your brother didn't have to start shoving Mr. Seal's drugs up his nose and your friend, Lasater, has been flaunting his new wealth as if he's trying to bring you down. We're having to control the SEC and the IRS just to keep him afloat.

"Our deal with you was to help 'reconstruct the South,''' Johnson sniped, using a term Southerners hate, since it reminds them of the post-Civil War Yankee dominance of the South. "We didn't plan on Arkansas becoming more difficult to deal with than most banana republics. This has turned out to be almost comical."

"Bobby! Don't sit here on your black ass and take this Yankee shit!" Clinton yelled at Nash in an appeal for support. "Tell him about Seal bribing those federal agents!" It was getting to resemble a verbal tennis match as volleys were being lobbed, each one with more intensity. From the comment about Seal, Terry concluded that Clinton did in fact have his own intelligence network, too.

"Why, Mr. Clinton, with racial slurs like that, the federal government could terminate educational busing aid here," Johnson wryly shot back. "I thought Arkansas was an equal opportunity employer!"

Nash touched the governor's arm, coaxing him back into his chair.

Johnson continued, "The deal we made was to launder our money through your bond business. What we didn't plan on was you and your token nigger here to start taking yourselves seriously and purposely shrinking our laundry."

"What do you mean by shrinking the laundry?!" Clinton asked still shouting. By now, Clinton's face was flushed with anger.

To the CIA, Arkansas had to be a money-launderers' heaven. To understand why, one must realize that intelligence agencies have the same problem as drug traffickers. To launder cash, a trafficker must either find a bank willing to break the law by not filing the documentation required for cash deposits, or go offshore where reporting requirements are less strict. Like traffickers, once offshore, the CIA must use wire transfers to get their money into the U.S., but at great risk of detection.

The trafficker, having broken the law to make his money, has no legal recourse if his banker double-crossed him. In other words, it's an insecure investment, which pays low interest, if any.

Arkansas offered the CIA something money launderers are rarely able to achieve, a secure business environment containing a banking industry where vast amounts of money move around unnoticed as part of the normal course of business. Through its substantial bond underwriting activities, the state had a huge cash flow that could allow dirty and clean money to co-mingle without detection. All they were lacking was the "dirty banker" to cooperate with them by ignoring the federal banking laws.

And that they found within the Clinton administration. This "banker" was none other than the Arkansas Development and Finance Authority, or ADFA, which was a creation of, and directly under the control of, the governor's office. Its official mandate was to loan money to businesses either already in or coming to Arkansas in order to develop an industrial base for new jobs that Clinton had made the centerpiece of his administration. ADFA, was in effect, a bank making preferred loans.

But, from what Terry had learned from Seal and Sawahata, that was not all ADFA was doing. ADFA, in effect a state investment bank, was being "capitalized" by large cash transfusions that the Agency was taking great pains to hide.

"No paper, no trail," seemed to be the dominate doctrine of the Agency's activities since, by design, cash dropped from an airplane in a duffel bag is not the standard way of transferring money.

ADFA was designed to compete for the profits generated by the bond issues necessary to industrialize Arkansas. The old Arkansas Industrial Development Commission that Clinton had inherited had no money of its own, and was forced to send prospective clients seeking industrial development loans to the established, privately-run investment banking industry in Little Rock. The state could be very selective in its referral business, however, and those who received the state's business stood to profit handsomely.

This insider referral business was alive and well when Terry moved to Arkansas, and he saw Seth Ward's son-in-law, Finis Shellnut, jockey for a position to reap these profits by going to work for Lasater, who was getting the lion's share of the secret sweetheart deals.

Before ADFA's creation, the state sent preferred business directly to investment banking firms like Lasater's. All that was needed for money-laundering was the firm's silence and a source of cash, which, in this case, the CIA provided. The heads of these firms were a coterie of wealthy and well-connected people who got even richer by doing what comes natural in Arkansas, "The Natural State" as it's called ..... dealing incestuously under the table.

Arkansas desperately needed new businesses -- and so did the CIA. It had plenty of black money, but that alone was not enough. "You can't kill an enemy by lobbing dollars at him" was the phrase Cathey had used with Terry to explain the CIA's dilemma of having the monetary resources to fund the Contras, but no legal way to deliver it directly. The Agency was barred by Congress from converting the cash into weapons and training the Contras needed on the battlefield, at least not through traditional Department of Defense suppliers.

Under Director William Casey's plan, the CIA needed other companies that would be a source of secretly-produced weapons that would find their way into the hands of the Contras. These selected businesses needed payment to perform these services for the CIA, and that cash came to them conveniently in a legal and undetectable manner, through ADFA, in the form of industrial development loans backed by tax-free development bonds. The CIA should have been showing a profit through accrued interest on their secured investments. But a problem had arisen. As Johnson had said, the "laundry" was shrinking.

And Johnson was not happy about that as evidenced by the way he was firing back at Clinton. It was apparent that Johnson knew Clinton and his people had not abided by his agreement with the Agency.

"Our deal was for you to have 10 per cent of the profits, not 10 per cent of the gross," Johnson sternly admonished Clinton.

"This has turned into a feeding frenzy by your good ole boy sharks, and you've had a hand in it, too, Mr. Clinton. Just ask your Mr. Nash to produce a business card. I'll bet it reads Arkansas Development and Finance Authority. We know what's been going on. Our people are professionals; they're not stupid. They didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday, as you guys say. This ADFA of yours is double-dipping. Our deal with you was to launder our money. You get 10 per cent after costs and after post-tax profits. No one agreed for you to start loaning our money out to your friends through your ADFA so that they could buy machinery to build our guns. That wasn't the deal. Mr. Sawahata tells me that one of ADFA's first customers was some parking meter company that got several million in ... how shall we say it ... in preferred loans.

"Dammit, we bought a whole gun company, lock, stock and barrel and shipped the whole thing down here for you. And Mr. Reed even helped set it up. You people go and screw us by setting up some subcontractors that weren't even authorized by us. Shit, people who didn't even have security clearances. That's why we're pulling the operation out of Arkansas. It's become a liability for us. We don't need live liabilities."....

Clinton had paused for a moment to ponder Johnson's words. "What do ya' mean, live liabilities?" he demanded.

"There's no such thing as a dead liability. It's an oxymoron, get it? Oh, or didn't you Rhodes Scholars study things like that?" Johnson snapped.

"What! Are you threatenin' us? Because if ya' are ..."

Johnson stared down at the table, again took a deep breath, and paused. It appeared he wanted to elevate the tone of the disintegrating exchange.

"Calm down and listen," Johnson said. "We are all in this together. We all have our personal agendas ... but let's not forget, both the Vice President and Mr. Casey want this operation to be a success. We need to get these assets and resources in place and get them self-sustaining and prospering on their own while we have the chance. This is a golden opportunity. The timing is right. We have communists taking over a country in this hemisphere. We must all pull together and play as a team. This is no time for lone wolves. Mr. Seal is an example of what happens to lone wolves. They just don't survive in the modern world of intelligence.

"I'm not here to threaten you. But there have been mistakes. The Mena operation survived undetected and unexposed only because Mr. Seal carried with him a falsely created, high-level profile of a drugrunner. All the cops in the country were trying to investigate a drug operation. That put the police in a position where we could control them. We fed them what we wanted to feed them, when we wanted to feed them; it was our restaurant and our menu. Seal was himself a diversion. It was perfect until your brother started free-enterprising and now we have to shut it down. It's as simple as that. Mr. Seal was a good agent and it's a shame he's dead. But, hopefully, our new operation will build on Seal's success in sustaining our Contra support effort while goddamn Congress dilly dallies around as the Russians take over Nicaragua."

Clinton just glared back. "That was a good sermon, but what can you specifically do to end this investigation concerning my brother and the bond business?"

"Your brother needed to go to jail," Johnson said staring at the governor. "As governor you should intervene and make things as painless as possible now. As far as the money investigation goes, Mr. Meese is intervening right now. There will be no money investigation. The U.S. attorney's office (in Little Rock) is 'getting religion' as we speak. *

"There may be nothing we can do about your friend Lasater's drug problem. I suggest that he and everyone else caught with their pants down take the bad along with the good and do a little time -- as your brother has. It's a shame. But bartenders shouldn't drink. If some of our people are going to be in the drug business as a cover, they should do as Mrs. Reagan says and 'just say no'."

Johnson had applied the balm and now the massage began. "Bill, you are Mr. Casey's fair-haired boy. But you do have competition for the job you seek. We would never put all our eggs in one basket. You and your state have been our greatest asset. The beauty of this, as you know, is that you're a Democrat, and with our ability to influence both parties, this country can get beyond partisan gridlock. Mr. Casey wanted me to pass on to you that unless you fuck up and do something stupid, you're No. 1 on the short list for a shot at the job you've always wanted.

"That's pretty heady stuff, Bill. So why don't you help us keep a lid on this and we'll all be promoted together. You and guys like us are the fathers of the new government. Hell, we're the new covenant."


Clinton, having been stroked, seemed satisfied that the cover-up was expanding to, at least, protect the bond business. Like Lyndon Johnson, Clinton had learned that politics is the "art of the possible." He had not gotten everything he wanted, but he was at least walking away whole.

It appeared to Terry that Johnson had won the debate. Clinton and his administration had no grounds to complain about the Agency terminating its operation. Too many errors had been made. The young governor seemed to recognize he had lost, for now, and didn't want to continue the argument in front of the others.

"Bobby, I guess you and I should excuse ourselves," Clinton said while turning to his aide. "These gentlemen have other pressing business and besides, we don't have a need to know ... nor do I think we want to know."

When Clinton exited the bunker, Terry took a moment to absorb what had happened. Clinton had been treated badly in front of the others. Terry had certainly underestimated Johnson, the man he had sized up initially as a mere errand boy for Casey. His youthful demeanor had been misleading. He was clearly a skilled hatchet man. But Terry felt somewhat embarrassed for the governor. Johnson had effectively neutralized the governor of Arkansas' argument by simply changing the subject, and what a subject it was!

Was he hearing that the presidency is offered to a few groomed men, men groomed by the CIA?

Who was this guy, "Johnson," who so easily manipulated Bill Clinton? He made Bill Clinton, on his own turf, appear to be under the control of an invisible force. Up until now, Terry had known Johnson only as the lawyer for Southern Air Transport. He was obviously a lot more than that. He was beginning to take on the mannerisms of a Viceroy and Clinton was certainly showing his obedience to authority and paying the price for fealty. Clinton was compromised....

When Clinton and Nash had gone, the mood changed dramatically. A mood of familiarity returned and only the brotherhood remained. Gomez was the first to speak. The man who was to be in charge of the new operation in Mexico was indignant.

"Presidente Clinton," he said with disgust in a thick Hispanic accent. "Why is it I have more respect for the enemy I've slain on the battlefield than I have for that yuppie kid governor. I've seen everything now. Republicans conspiring with Democrats. Isn't that similar to capitalists trusting Marxists?"

Johnson restrained himself as if wanting to chastise Gomez for not showing proper respect for Clinton in front of the others. "You need to realign your thinking about black and white, good and bad, us and them. Under our new plan we all get along for the advancement of the common goal."

Gomez spit contemptuously on the concrete floor. "Sounds like Mao Tsetung or Lenin philosophy to me!"

Cathey stepped in. "Let me apologize for Max and the rest of us cold warriors here. We're a product of our training, and old hatreds die slowly, if ever. But what we must all come to understand is that communism is our common enemy and not our dislike for one another. We are all hand-chosen by the highest office in the land to be entrusted with this mission. We should all feel honored to be here. Our objective is two-fold. One, to rid this earth of the evil communist element we've been trained to seek out and destroy. The other is to set in place a true self-sustaining and modern black operations division worldwide, as Mr. Casey has envisioned ..."

-- Compromised: Clinton, Bush and the CIA: How the Presidency was Co-opted by the CIA, by Terry Reed & John Cummings


His first gubernatorial campaign money came from presidents of most of the major banks in the state; from investors, planters, and corporate farmers, realtors, oilmen, brokers, attorneys, developers, timbermen; and in substantial amounts from the growing political action committees of banks, utilities, and the health industry. The donors included "R. G. Clinton of Hot Springs, retired" -- the ever-present Uncle Raymond giving the maximum individual contribution of a thousand dollars-and other members of the Clinton family and Raymond's old Hot Springs circle. Dotting the list were names later prominent, some notorious-the Tysons of the poultry empire, kindergarten playmate McLarty, who was again Clinton's campaign finance chairman, an expansive Little Rock bond dealer named Dan Lasater, and another old friend, now an ambitious developer and would-be financial magnate, James McDougal.

The politics of money could be crass or muted. Typically doubling as "consultant" for the state's Associated General Contractors, a state senator abruptly switched his patrons' support to Clinton when the candidate they first endorsed was rash enough to suggest more competitive bidding for highways. After a private meeting with the legislator- cum-lobbyist, Clinton himself "took no position" on the bidding issue, as he told the press, signaling to road builders a perpetuation of millions in the old sweetheart contracting. He vigorously opposed a constitutional amendment exempting groceries and prescriptions from sales tax, warning solemnly against "lost revenues." Promising "new ideas" and "constructive reform," he carefully avoided any discussion of how such tax relief for the poor or elderly might be made up by reform of the state's regressive corporate, income, and property taxes, all of which spared his own major contributors.

Part of the campaign money would go for the first in a succession of expensive political advisers from outside Arkansas, notably a thirty-year- old professional campaign consultant from the Upper West Side of Manhattan named Richard Morris, or Dickie as he would be known by grateful clients, grudging admirers, and embittered enemies. He had been organizing elections and managing candidates since his childhood at PS 9 and New York's Stuyvesant High, shocking his own candidates with his constant obsession with the next election, beginning the day after the last one. Bill Clinton had met him in 1977 and the two had immediately struck up what Morris called afterward a "close intimate relationship" as "political tactical soulmates," though the virulent, often fiercely combative adviser was even more a favorite of Hillary's. Eventually there would be serious questions about the integrity of Morris's polling methods as well as his temperament. Within a few years he would become too obviously one of the caricature mercenaries in the nation's emerging politics of money and manipulation, hiring out to huckster the election of well-heeled rightwing Republicans in the Reagan eighties as zealously as he contracted with Democrats, all with his trademark abrasiveness. His "style," said one account, "could irritate even those closest to him ... a tendency to treat every conversation like a negotiation, the way he would weave back and forth between flattery and veiled threat, and the seemingly emotionless way he could launch attacks." The protean Dickie Morris's hold on the Clintons now and later was to be a kind of blood tie, sometimes strained but never broken. "Dickie's dictum," as some called it, was the epitome of the new characterless politics of self: the politician existed to be reelected. There was no "separating means from ends; governing and campaigning were one and the same," as Washington Post reporter David Mariness wrote. "This Eastern sharpie ... one of the smartest little sons of bitches," a Clinton aide would call the New Yorker. "Mean. But God was he good."

In 1978 Morris would evidently demonstrate both characteristics, not so much in the lopsided gubernatorial race as in plotting with Clinton Governor David Pryor's Senate primary victory over Congressman Jim Guy Tucker, whom a reporter called "Clinton's main competition for the title of Democratic golden boy." Though Morris was distrusted and even despised by some around Pryor, including his wife, Barbara, Clinton eventually prevailed on the governor to take Morris's advice and air the savagely negative ads against Tucker that Clinton and Morris had devised together in long hours in the attorney general's office. It seemed to many an unusually naked case of intraparty fratricide. Several who watched the two men working and then the broadsides against Tucker thought Bill Clinton had never been more passionate than he was in the destruction of this young rival in his own party. "They killed Jim Guy with more sheer zest than they ever brought to Republicans," remembered a lawyer who knew them all. "But then Tucker was the only real long-run threat to Billy, and they all knew it."

"Virtually flawless," an aide called Clinton's 1978 run. No special attacks from the Dickie Morris arsenal were necessary, although the race had its premonitory moments. When rivals called him "liberal," Clinton assured crowds there was "no validity" to the unfair "charge" and "name-calling." Besides, he added at one point, Arkansas voters "have almost never responded to a negative campaign." As for those unfair taxes, those cost-of-living raises for state employees, and those needed public works, all required "further study," he told voters. "He is running the classic front-runner's campaign," noted a writer traveling with him, "taking few firm stands on controversial issues."

There was a fleeting shadow out of the past as a retired air force lieutenant colonel and Republican partisan named Billy Geren accused Clinton of being a "draft dodger" by reneging on the 1969 ROTC commitment that conferred its crucial deferment before the lottery placed him beyond call. But the candidate quickly insisted that the ROTC agreement was canceled "shortly after it was made" and that he "never received the deferment" -- the I-D Colonel Holmes had in fact secured for him nine years earlier. He had decided to "take advantage" of the ROTC option, Clinton told the Gazette on October 27, 1978. But after returning to Oxford in the fall of 1969, he went on solemnly, he had written to Colonel Eugene Holmes at the ROTC unit to say he would not accept an ROTC deferment and wanted to "get it over with" by entering the draft. He had told Holmes, he added, that he would enter the ROTC program if the commander wanted him to, but he preferred to take his chances with the draft.

It was, of course, a total and brazen lie, an invention of Eugene Holmes's actions as well as Clinton's. Believing that he had pressured Holmes in 1974 to remove the embarrassing letter from the files, and thus that there could be no documentation for the charges, Clinton now reckoned still further on the elderly colonel's coerced silence or agreement. Aides remembered a frenzy of activity in the hours after Geren leveled his charges, Clinton closeting himself and making a series of agitated phone calls, at one point yelling so excitedly that he could be heard through a closed door. "I don't know what they said to that old man then, but there was a lot of heavyweight leaning from the university people and others," said a campaign assistant watching the crisis. In the event, when he was inevitably called at his Fayetteville home by Little Rock reporters, Holmes said simply that he could not "recall" Clinton's particular case, that there had been "thousands" of students since then -- though his memory of the episode would still be vivid fourteen years later.

To Clinton's seemingly detailed and confident denial, Geren could only respond that he had once seen documentation of his allegation, which indeed he had, and he only knew "what was in the file." If he was now wrong, if Clinton had not received a deferment, he would apologize. "It's obvious to me," Clinton responded dismissively, "that he didn't know the facts and that he didn't want to know them." With the record still buried in a lone surviving copy of the letter outside Clinton's control, with the press stopping at Holmes's demur, with Bill Clinton's exasperated categorical insistence -- not unlike the stand he would strike more than fifteen years later as a president besieged by Arkansas scandals -- the issue died once again. A future governor and president had lied with an impunity in part secured by his own pressuring of a witness, in part by the abdication of the media and others. As a Clinton aide acknowledged years afterward, understatedly, "It was not a pretty sight." For the moment, he had once more put the draft issue aside.

Though somewhat more discreetly in the background than she was in the 1976 primary, Hillary Rodham was his principal strategist and adviser, along with Dickie Morris. Even with Morris's repugnant bellicosity, it would be she who provided the campaign's harder, more cynical, warlike edge. While Clinton moved sunnily down the row, eager to like and be liked, his wife, campaign director Rudy Moore told Connie Bruck, saw the "darker side": "He's not expecting to be jumped, but she always is." One of the primary opponents referred caustically to her use of her maiden name, but when aides brought up the issue, she was adamant as usual and no one thought the race close enough for the name to matter.

Questions of conflict of interest were also raised in 1978 -- and skirted in much the same way as they would be fifteen years later. Barely a year after she joined Rose, Hillary Rodham was suddenly retained by the Little Rock Airport Commission, displacing their former counsel; one of the commissioners was a prominent Little Rock figure named Seth Ward, whose son-in-law was Webster Hubbell, one of Hillary's colleagues at Rose and already a close Clinton friend. She had also already represented in court a Stephens subsidiary and other interests doing major business with the state her husband served as chief law enforcement officer and now aspired to run. Meanwhile, the attorney general himself had failed to intervene as promised in a $45.5 million rate increase by Arkansas-Louisiana Gas Company, whose board members, including Mack McLarty, were among his backers. What might happen, wondered attorney John Harmon, one of his primary opponents, "if Ms. Rodham were the First Lady of Arkansas" while she and her Rose firm advanced and profited from such questionable clients or if Bill Clinton as governor discreetly shielded his patrons. "Don't you feel the propriety of this arrangement deserves your closest examination?" Harmon asked a party caucus about the airport commission.

In 1978 the indignant reply was much the same as when similar questions were posed in the presidential campaign and in the White House itself. They committed no wrongdoing, Clinton insisted without offering details, and Hillary was the victim of vicious personal attacks. "I don't care what any of these fellows say about me," he said, "but they ought to be careful when they talk about my family.... I wouldn't attack theirs." He'd been on a plane over Hot Springs in turbulent weather, he told one group: "I started praying, and 1 even forgave my opponents for all those terrible things they've been saying about me." The audience loved it. Like the denials on the draft, his very resilience, earnestness, and good humor seemed to banish the issue.

Clinton denied advocating gun control, though he had seemed sympathetic to it before audiences known to favor it. To sheriffs and prosecutors he stressed his fervent belief in capital punishment; to critics of the death penalty he insisted he would approve no executions until the Supreme Court ruled on Arkansas's law and even then would be inclined to commute sentences or forestall execution. The attorney general announced his office had "no evidence" of manipulated loans during his tenure, though realtors, bankers, private lawyers, and those in government knew that racist redlining and similar practices were commonplace, discrimination that would later be documented among his contributors' institutions in Little Rock and around the state. Radio ads boasted that he had intervened for consumers in "every" gas rate case; when a reporter pointed out the falsity, Clinton argued in a "clarification" that the ad should have said, "every case that had major impact on residential customers and in which [the] staff had recommended intervention."

Nonetheless, in a field otherwise marked by folksiness and fundamentalism -- " Till the last dog is hung," one of his opponents was given to repeating every few phrases in his speeches and conversation -- Clinton won near-unanimous black support and the endorsements of teachers, community reform groups, and even some of the labor movement he had turned against so abruptly two years before. As in 1974 and 1976, the agile young candidate and his coolly intelligent young wife radiated idealism and commitment as well as a smooth, seemingly effortless political professionalism. "He showed good," primary opponent John Harmon would concede. Attracting loyalty and devotion from supporters of widely varying sophistication, the couple had the ability to make questions and doubts melt away, seem relatively insignificant, especially in the light of what the two of them, with their evident talents, could do for a stricken Arkansas. To many, the end of having them in office would justify their means-though the full means were known to only a handful of the closest backers; few of their warmest supporters knew the details of campaign finances or other crucial relationships. "He was always better than the other guys," said Ernie Dumas, a friend and Gazette editor who watched him from the beginning, "or so it seemed."

In the May election, carrying all but four counties and the black community en masse, he swept the nomination with nearly 60 percent of the vote, "an unheard-of margin in a race for an open office," wrote John Robert Starr. Meanwhile, on the strength of the Clinton-Dickie Morris negative ads, Pryor soundly defeated Tucker in a runoff for the Senate, leaving young Bill Clinton, barely five years after entering politics, Arkansas's preeminent politician at the state level. With a victory in the Democratic gubernatorial primary tantamount to election, he hardly campaigned in the general race, though he continued to receive generous financial support from wealthy interests, including a $10,000 line of credit from a friendly bank. He would win the governorship in November by over 60 percent.

On the night of his triumph the Gazette found the thirty-two-year-old Clinton, about to be the second-youngest governor in state history, "choked with emotion" as he stood before a wildly cheering Little Rock throng with an adoring Virginia and a visibly wide-eyed Hillary. "I am very proud of the campaign we have run," he told the crowd, characteristically biting his lower lip. "We have held the high road."

***

In August of 1978, sure of election, they paused to enter a potentially lucrative private real estate development deal. It began one night at the Black-Eyed Pea restaurant in Little Rock, where Bill's old friend, Jim McDougal, made a familiar Arkansas proposition.

McDougal, then thirty-eight, was already something of a legend in the state's nexus of business and politics. "A classic of the type," one person called him; "a country-boy charmer with a sharp mind," said another. From a town of eight hundred in north-central Arkansas, he had been even more of a prodigy than Bill Clinton. At nineteen he ran John Kennedy's 1960 winning campaign in the state and went on to Washington, where he worked first for John McClellan and then for the powerful secretary of the Senate, dated one of Jacqueline Kennedy's social aides, and sipped bourbon over shaved ice in a hideaway Capitol office with family friend Wilbur Mills and other prominent politicians. "It was a helluva deal," McDougal would say later, but adding, too, "It was the end of the fun in life." When his father died, he had come back to run the family feed store and continued to build his political reputation by taking over the Young Democrats in a 1965 intraparty feud. By then he was also a legendary drinker of extravagant tastes and erratic behavior, and he suddenly disappeared for a time in what a colleague called "a sea of whiskey."

McDougal had soon come back to manage Fulbright's reelection run in 1968, though only after convincing Fulbright's people that he was a committed member of Alcoholics Anonymous. In that campaign he first met Clinton, charming the younger man with his marvelous imitations of Franklin Roosevelt and becoming a kind of mentor; his own alcoholism gave him a sense of kinship with Bill's tales of his stepfather. Clinton had "an inordinate desire for acceptance," McDougal would say. "Let's just call it the teacher's pet syndrome." Six years older, he was "protective about Bill" from the start. "I always felt like he was still just a kid and I was supposed to be looking after him," he remembered. He gave money and advice to both Clinton's 1974 and 1976 races and meantime went to teach at Ouachita Baptist College, where his wife-ti-be, Susan, studied and where he resolved to use his unique background and talents to become what he called a "populist banker." By the time he walked into the Black-Eyed Pea in 1978 he had a hand in various schemes neither his friends nor his associates fully understood. He was "sort of a political businessman," he explained. "Everybody I know is in politics. That's my circle."

What he now proposed to the future governor was one of those deals for which the "circle" was well known. A group of "good ole boy businessmen," as one observer called them -- including Kearnie Carleton, Clinton's campaign coordinator in the area -- had recently purchased in a bankruptcy sale some thirty-six hundred acres on the popular White River, not far north of Little Rock. They were now looking to sell 230 riverfront acres, choice land where Crooked Creek joined the White. A part of Bill Blythe's old Ozarks sales territory near the Missouri border, it was alluring country for retirement or vacation homes, and the land could be subdivided, the lots sold at a substantial profit amid the growing migration to the South and a predicted boom in real estate. The McDougals and Clintons, Jim explained, would form a development partnership and "make a lot of money together," as a friend remembered.

The financing of the deal was even better than the setting itself. Although the land cost more than $200,000, they could buy it in effect with no down payment. Part of the price would come from a friendly bank supporting Clinton's election, and some $183,000 would be financed by yet another helpful local institution, Citizens Bank and Trust of Flippin, conveniently run by James N. Patterson, one of the men from whom they were buying the tract to begin with. Moreover, Susan and Jim McDougal would manage the business and bear most of the risk and liability, personally guaranteeing nearly $200,000 of the total loans, while Bill and Hillary, at the statehouse and at Rose, would still enjoy a full 50 percent ownership. The Clintons could even deduct interest paid on the loans -- $10,000 for 1978 and $12,000 for 1979 -- an immediate, profitable tax break on the ripening prospect.

Altogether it was a remarkable enterprise for a young couple who less than two years before were modestly paid law school instructors. In 1977 their combined taxable income in Little Rock had been only $41,000. Ordinarily they would never have qualified for such lavish financing or investment opportunities without conventional collateral or capital. At the same time, the deal was typical of Arkansas, much like arrangements that Uncle Raymond had made and that the Clintons' new, well-connected friends in Little Rock now had, a scheme of the kind the Rose firm itself crafted and burnished at vastly higher sums but with the same discreet advantages and accommodations. Late that August the purchase was concluded. Bill and Hillary now talked themselves of building an impressive house on a beautifully wooded bluff over a bend in the river. "They had big plans for that whole thing," said a Rose lawyer. "Nobody said a word about what it might cost, in any terms," another remembered. The venture was named Whitewater.

But real estate development was not their only good fortune. Less than two months after launching Whitewater, Hillary Rodham began extremely profitable trading in the volatile cattle futures market on the . Chicago Mercantile Exchange. She would act on the advice of another intimate and well-connected friend, Jim Blair, the Springdale attorney for Arkansas's Tyson Foods and other agribusiness giants. Blair was even closer to Clinton than Jim McDougal, their failed candidate for chairman of Carter's Federal Home Loan Bank Board, who was himself heavily and profitably invested in the commodities market, "winning millions," he would say himself.

As in Whitewater, there were to be discreet special arrangements for this as well. The future First Lady of Arkansas was allowed to open her account with Blair's Fayetteville broker that October with only a $1,000 deposit, rather than the $12,000 that Mercantile Exchange rules required for ordinary investors. In the first few days she realized a $5,300 profit on her initial trading, and she would make some $27,000 before the end of the year, on the way to what would amount to nearly $100,000 in cattle futures profits over the ensuing months.

The Clintons might have lost thousands if the trades had gone otherwise, far more than their earnings or estate. It seemed they were uncharacteristically gambling everything they had worked for. Yet Hillary Rodham had never appeared worried. "She was attentive," said a colleague who saw her deal with the broker from time to time. "But she just seemed to know that it would go her way."

On the eve of Bill Clinton's inauguration as governor of Arkansas, the couple had quietly become land speculators despite a lack of capital, and beneficiaries of risky market windfalls without advancing the requisite cash -- all with the help of well-placed friends. "That's my circle," as Jim McDougal would say.

***

"A little bit like running for class president" is how Clinton later described his first race for governor. Still, he was taken seriously. As he won the governorship the New York Times called him "the 31-year-old whiz kid of Arkansas politics," quoting him as saying that his victory went beyond "traditional ideological terms" and was of historic importance in symbolizing what he called the "new compromise progressive candidates" in the Democratic Party. Personal attacks against him and his wife had failed, Bill Clinton told the Times in his first national interview, because the voters "no longer fear change."
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 24362
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Partners in POWER: The Clintons and Their America

Postby admin » Thu Jun 23, 2016 2:58 am

Part 1 of 2

12. Little Rock I: "A Guy Who Supposedly Has an IQ of a Zillion"

There seemed no doubt about the advent of youthful new style and glamour at the statehouse. The theme for the inaugural celebration was "Diamonds and Denim," emblems of Arkansas and of the Clintons' own cosmopolitan unpretentiousness. The young governor, announced the Arkansas Gazette, was assuming office with "brilliant auguries for success." Even an editor of the more conservative Arkansas Democrat thought it the beginning of Little Rock's own "Camelot at the Capitol."

In his inaugural address Clinton spoke dramatically of the need to ease the burdens of the less fortunate: "We live in a world in which limited resources, limited knowledge, limited wisdom must grapple with problems of staggering complexity and confront strong sources of power, wealth, conflict and even destruction, over which we have no control and little influence." Even so, he would lead as no one had ever before, moving the people and the state into "a new era of achievement and excellence." He promised long-suffering Arkansas "a life that will be the envy of the nation." Huddled together on the capitol steps, shoulders hunched, shivering in an unusually bitter and raw January cold, the crowd cheered, and some wept at his words.

Earlier an old legislator had pulled Clinton aside to deliver a private, less rhetorical promise. "Son, I've been in politics since you were born and I'll probably be here when you die. I'll sure enough be here when you're governor," he drawled, "and then you'll wish you were dead!" The governor-elect laughingly told the story at a party before the inauguration, and his backers and appointees thought it a nice joke about the notorious and crusty political order they were encountering. "Nobody took it as a prediction, for God's sake" said one, "which is about what it turned out to be."

***

Clinton appeared uniquely serious and well-prepared for the task of governing. From an unprecedented $100,000 surplus of campaign money he spent a sizable portion to hire Price Waterhouse to consult on the management of the state's budget. Prior to his election he had asked for advice from the National Governors' Association and Washington think tanks; before taking office he made highly publicized trips to the White House, meeting with President Carter, and to the Democrats' 1978 special midterm convention in neighboring Memphis, where he chaired a hearing on the urgent matter of national health-insurance reform, and coyly appeared with Senator Edward Kennedy amid speculation that, despite being a year younger than the constitutional requirement, he might even be Kennedy's 1980 running mate in a brewing challenge to Carter.

Meanwhile his prospects looked equally promising back home, where fresh command and initiative, it was now said, might still overcome the stagnant, interest-dominated regime, whatever the warnings of old pols. "While the legislature was potentially a strong stumbling block if aroused, it had no internal forces to start and drive itself and was very receptive to leadership," one political analyst said. "The intimacy of politics in Arkansas lent itself to the personal energy of a legislative leader like Clinton."

Then, with almost baffling suddenness, it all began to come apart. Preparations had not been as careful as they seemed; the devoted and showy young governor was not as skillful as he appeared. "He was so brilliant, or thought he was so brilliant," said a close aide, "that he assumed he could really coast, and that was fatal." Within weeks, observers remembered, Bill Clinton was squandering the momentum of the inauguration.

Though he had watched his predecessor, David Pryor, avidly, there was now little of Pryor's deliberateness or maturity. "Bill was like a kid with a new toy that first term," a friend would say. A legislature and a public that seemed receptive in December were by spring bristling at the governor's affable, boyish hypocrisies as much as at his policy initiatives. One version described him as "so prone to conciliation that he chooses congenial duplicity over honest confrontation." "He'd pat you on the back while pissing down your leg," a labor leader said. Under scattered leadership, his senior staff of three was soon rife with its own politics, the proposed reforms lost in political scapegoating. "Supermen, deputy governors, and whiz kids," one lawmaker called Clinton's staff members contemptuously. "The three stooges," another said simply.

For the next two years there were many promised changes and little true change, new budgets that ended with old priorities, heralded policy innovations never quite sustained, seemingly ambitious legislation yet no authentic challenge of the established regime, record numbers of women and minorities appointed to offices, boards, and commissions but much the same resulting governance. There were alliances abandoned or betrayed, enemies accommodated. There were seemingly constant Clinton appearances and consultations with national organizations yet scant impact on the life of ordinary people in the state. There were repeated and articulate explanations by the governor at town meetings and county picnics while the realities of power in Little Rock remained largely unspoken and unchallenged.

Afterward the actual record of the first term was shrouded not only in the usual political claims and attacks but in a widely accepted mythology of Bill Clinton's ideological evolution from callow young liberal and progressive to a more centrist, pragmatic leader. "He was a punk kid with long hair, he had all those longhaired people working for him, and he was a liberal," a reactionary legislator would repeat to the press years later. In fact, the underlying reality was more prosaic, far less a matter of haircuts or labels than characteristics of both the man and the political culture of the state.

In Little Rock as in Washington, government's influence began and ended with money -- how the state raised and spent its revenues, the priorities and arrangements it sanctioned for both public policy and private interest. It was that system which held hostage genuine initiative or change, starved new programs and fattened old interests; and in 1979, by both statute and custom, the principal budget and fiscal priorities of Arkansas were long fixed by the traditional legislative powers and lobbies, "carving up the carcass," as one of them would describe it. While he moved to centralize and modernize the bureaucratic budgeting process itself, Clinton from the outset did nothing to challenge either the means or the larger ends of the old system. "It relieved him of the real tough decisions," said an attorney and friend, "but it also reduced him, like everybody else before, essentially to dealing on the edges of power."

At those margins the new governor struggled gamely, and often in vain, with his own visibly conflicting impulses -- to improve his state's often shameful conditions yet not to confront the cause or entrenched powers too openly or disturb his support among those powers. His initial education budget thus carried the largest increase for elementary and secondary schools in the state's history. Facing serious opposition in the legislature, however, he quickly withdrew a school district consolidation and reorganization bill that might have made the added money meaningful, and he stood by in relative silence while the interest- dominated Public Service Commission slashed the big utilities' already underassessed property taxes by several million, dooming his second-year education budget increase. Similarly, in the wake of the 1970s energy crisis he introduced a new state department of energy, to be endowed with broad powers of conservation, development, inspection, and even intervention in the old commission, with its corrupt oversight and rate setting. But there, too, he watched almost timorously as the authority of the new office was crippled by the utility lobby and as the giant Arkansas Power & Light, some of whose major shareholders and partners were among his wealthiest backers, publicly postured, then reneged on financing consumer conservation measures.

When his own aides later uncovered a scheme by AP&L to evade even the pliant Public Service Commission and gouge Arkansas ratepayers for the dubious Grand Gulf nuclear power plant in Mississippi, Clinton was incensed, putting his name to a staff-written expose to be published in the Gazette in the summer of 1980. Then, at the last minute, the governor backed out -- "took his name off the byline after he felt the AP&L heat," said one witness -- though the article had already been edited and set at the Gazette and it was too embarrassing in that quarter to stop publication altogether. In classic Arkansas fashion the Grand Gulf controversy and its attendant publicity slowly petered out. The Clinton administration eventually entered a series of empty agreements with the utility, and local ratepayers ended up a decade later paying the largest share of the original toll. Clinton's image as a utility watchdog would still endure. "I understand he's always taken on the utilities," a writer would say years afterward to a onetime energy department aide. "Are you kidding? Not 'taken on,' stroked," the former official replied, explaining the obscured record. "Bill Clinton did like being seen fighting the utilities," said a journalist familiar with the Grand Gulf episode. "He just liked the good ole boys of AP&L and their contributions a lot better."

Some episodes were stark premonitions of issues in his presidency. Facing a crisis in medical services -- Arkansas had the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the nation and other problems -- Clinton promptly commissioned new officials and studies with some fanfare, even appointing Hillary Rodham to chair a task force on reform of rural health care. But then the ensuing proposals for rural clinics run with practitioners and other non physicians quickly aroused the fear and fury of the state's formidable medical establishment, "a very tight, exclusive union," as one writer called them, echoing Virginia Clinton. The opposition to the country clinics even included close relatives of such Clinton friends as Congressman Beryl Anthony and the Rose firm's Vince Foster. As the reform was soon demolished by medical money and lobbies, however, the governor appeared puzzled, then numbed, then simply intent on salvaging anything for political appearances. A supporter had told Hillary Rodham what was happening to health initiatives in the legislature and elsewhere, and she had urged him to tell Clinton as well. When he did, the governor only turned away. "She saw it, but he didn't want to know," the man remembered. "He just wanted one of those clinics open in time for reelection, and that was it. I told him people were being screwed and he just glazed over and walked off."

The killing of health reform was hardly his only reminder of vested power. Though rapacious c1ear-cutting of Arkansas forests had ravaged much of the state by the 1970s and though Dale Bumpers had confronted the problem years before, hearings by a Clinton timber management task force drew predictable anger from powerful timber companies, represented by Rose lawyers, among others. At first the governor had seemed gleeful. "He loved the idea of sticking it to 'em, though it was just rhetoric and both sides got into the hearings," said one observer. A task force aide, Steve Smith, recalled that he used the term corporate criminals but later had to apologize under orders from Clinton, though subsequent studies on environmental abuses found the description all too accurate. Under mounting attack, however, Clinton eventually repudiated Smith, and the forest issue, like others, faded away. It was much the same story for aides on economic development, who found Clinton's initial emphasis on new small businesses opposed by large interest-dominated chambers of commerce and thus soon dropped in favor of the old low-tax, low-wage industrial concessions and bond promotion for brokerage houses and developers.

Having campaigned on promises to repair the state's crumbling roads, Clinton planned the necessary $45 million in higher fuel taxes and other levies and proportional increases in registration fees for heavy trucks and luxury cars. His original proposal actually reduced license costs for the older, lower-priced cars owned by most Arkansans. But then the state's huge trucking industry and its allies like Tyson forced Clinton and the legislature to reverse the formula, shifting "a disproportionate share of the tax," according to one study, to "those least able to afford it." When the lobbies were through in 1979 there would not be enough money to make a difference in most country roads and instead there would be what a Clinton aide called the "political catastrophe" of "outraged" citizens standing in line at state motor vehicle offices, the handsome young governor's photograph smiling down on them as they waited to pay higher fees for their tags and transfers.

It was never quite clear to most witnesses whether Bill Clinton had "caved in," as one assistant put it, or merely fashioned a "pragmatic compromise" in the face of insurmountable forces. "He was weak more than venal, always," said one first-term aide. "But there was one thing he never did," added still another. "He could have said to the folks, 'Look here, the big truckers and rich boys are costing you your bad roads and want you to pay the freight.' He could have said that, but you'll never catch Bill Clinton tellin' this much truth." There was no statehouse mobilizing of conservationists to rival the timber companies, no front of the medically needy to balance the medical lobby; no overcharged ratepayers were summoned to match AP&L. To genuine grassroots efforts by others Clinton responded only hesitantly, expediently. After a 100,000-signaturepetition drive and volunteer citizen lobbying he reluctantly agreed in 1979 to lift the regressive sales tax on prescription medicines, though not on groceries.

"Generally it took a huge effort to get Governor Clinton to commit himself on an issue," said Little Rock poverty activist Zach Polett, summing up more than a decade of experience. Like many others, Polett thought in that first term that "he didn't reach out to the constituency groups ... nor did he bring representatives from their ranks into his administration. In short, he pissed off a lot of people."

Through the 1980s Bill Clinton worked tirelessly to marshall large business interests. He persuaded them to support school reform or economic development measures that were not always a matter of their immediate profit or advantage. He personally borrowed, then paid back with wealthy backers' contributions, hundreds of thousands of dollars for initiatives that bolstered his record and career but that were not necessarily on their agenda. He spent lavishly on television, radio, and newspaper ads, direct mail, consultants, travel, polling. But that was something else. Beyond boardrooms and law offices and discreet calls, this remarkably empathetic, people-touching young politician rarely if ever sought seriously to raise the people themselves in any cause save his next election. It was almost as if he, like many of his powerful patrons, were uncertain -- or afraid -- of the force itself.

Aides typically saw him, in the words of Rudy Moore, Jr., as a "vibrant ... exasperating" executive, what local historian Phyllis Johnston called "a combination of the moralist, manager and popular persona." He was given to open-ended discussions or ruminations with staff or other politicians and often to long, aimless conversations with visitors or even passersby, usually regardless of schedule, though he constantly fumed about having no free time, was "out-and-out cranky," said Moore, and "threw his regular fits," as a former secretary recalled. Allies and enemies alike came to view the governor's office as a site of vigorous activity and few conclusive results, decisions emerging, especially on politically troublesome issues, only wrenchingly, ever subject to amendment or reversal.

He installed his own loyalists throughout state offices as few governors had before him, "extended the reach," wrote Johnston in her study of the administration, "deep into the bureaucracy." Yet he did nothing to disturb the old lines of legislative and lobbyist influence, nor did he keep oversight of his regime.

After little more than a year the senior staff triumvirate around Clinton was in disarray. Moore, the former state senator and campaign manager, was promoted to chief of staff, only to face worse trials. John Danner, an outsider, a lawyer and management analyst from San Francisco who was originally a friend of Hillary's, left early in 1980 in obvious frustration. Smith, the other former legislator and a longtime supporter from Fayetteville whose son was the Clintons' godchild, was exiled with his timber report and other initiatives to a windowless basement office. Men in their early thirties (Moore and Smith quintessential "local boys"), they were scarcely the radicals demonized by primitive legislators playing on fears of youth, long hair, and proposals that were merely standard for the rest of the country, even if they were threatening in Arkansas.

Like many of their successors, these three men were drawn by Bill Clinton's compelling intelligence and, though dismayed by his retreats, betrayals, and fey practices, remained doggedly loyal, despite their humiliation and abandonment, to what he perennially seemed to promise. "It was pure cannibalism," said one witness in the governor's office in the capitol, "but you could never tell who was eating whom." None survived to later, less controversial terms or to the White House -- though they constituted ominous history. Clinton's original failure as a young governor to discipline himself or manage his most important subordinates, to defend them effectively against petty ideological smears, to confront his own faults rather than offer up underlings made for the larger failure of his first term and haunted those that followed. At stake was far more than office rivalries or administrative efficiency. In Little Rock, as in Washington, people and method determined policy and result. It was the oldest lesson in politics: the somber difference between running for office and running a government.

No bureaucratic bloodletting saved the administration from its legislative and lobbyist predators or from an unremitting series of exposes and attacks by a resurgent Arkansas Democrat. In 1979-80 the paper was challenging the dominant Gazette and was newly edited by a vain, crusty, political reactionary, John Robert Starr, a former local AP reporter. Not long after the auspicious inauguration stories began to appear that were virtual parodies of what Starr happily called "misfeasance, malfeasance, and nonfeasance" under the new young governor. There were reports of a building services director's doing public business with his own hardware company, of vastly inflated land appraisals on purchases for a state park, of discrepancies in the granting and policing of liquor licenses, of a cabinet member's spending $450 a month for potted plants in his office, of Clinton's driving to a rally at more than eighty miles an hour after ordering a crackdown on violators of the new fifty-five-mile-an-hour speed limit, of the usual state police infighting and excesses, of Rudy Moore's being caught in a violent incident with a girlfriend, of an expensive departmental retreat at a local lake, of souvenir wine and corkscrews at another official conference where dining and entertainment cost thousands, of dubious grants to an Ozark institute for rural development, of more wasted money in an energy-conservation woodcutting program and by a Clinton appointee in the state purchasing office.

As the governor railed against the Democrat in angry phone calls to the publisher and even personal tongue-lashings in his office, then tried ingratiatingly to "explain" the incidents, Starr amplified the stories in his own caustic column and instituted a "Sweet William" award for readers who selected the worst government waste of the month and a "Slick Willie" award for "profligate" officials. It was showy but legitimate, sometimes even penetrating journalism, and it struck a deep chord in the state.

Paradoxically, Starr and his newsroom devoted no comparable probing or indignation to the vast knot of private and political power before them, the brokered, lobbied, lawyered arrangements of bipartisan plunder around Clinton and every other Arkansas politician, arrangements that were and would be the far greater abuse. The Democrat's stinging little awards never named the major thieves. Justifiable as such journalism always was in the cause of good government, in Arkansas the depth of the problem gave it all grim irony. The exposures only fed the public's reflexive misapprehension that its pain came mainly from venal, heedless bureaucrats in ways and sums they could readily grasp, rather than from a more subtle world of statute, finance, contracts, and collusion seldom seen or understood. "It was like nailing people with unpaid parking tickets while the Mafia ran the treasury," said one local journalist.

Starr's self-satisfying coverage of the administration's peccadilloes even missed much of the target in the governor himself -- the already sizable, often seedy reality of the Clintons' financial dealings and other indiscretions. In that the Democrat was hardly alone. Ironically, part of what annoyed and drove Starr was the governor's discreet, cozy, sometimes co-opting relationship with the other major newspaper in the capital and state.

Long a lone voice of progressive values, taking a brave stand, for example, during the desegregation crises of the 1950s, the rival Arkansas Gazette was gleeful at the coming of the educated and compatible governor, who socialized with friendly editors and reporters and struck up warm friendships with senior journalists and managers living, like many of his backers, in the shaded white heights of Little Rock. Many believed the relations went beyond congeniality. "Some of those boys became a kind of kitchen cabinet for Bill," one official remembered. While its articles and editorials were commonly more thorough and measured than the Democrat's, more meticulous about the public record, and more conventionally liberal, the widely respected Gazette also mostly kept its own distance from Arkansas's deeper realities of power during the Clinton years, at the end of which the paper finally collapsed and was absorbed by the Democrat. "The truth is, for all their good work, they went in and out of the tank on the big stuff," a former reporter there in the 1980s said sadly, "and the result was pretty much the same as with those other clowns."

***

"MS. RODHAM?" the Democrat headlined in February 1979, in one of its more benign features on the new governorship. "JUST AN OLD-FASHIONED GIRL." She was conspicuous from the first weeks of his administration. "We realized that being a governor's wife could be a full-time job," she told a women's page reporter while conducting a tour of the mansion's kitchen and living quarters, a ritual she would repeat often over her ensuing dozen years in the house. "But I need to maintain my interests and my commitments. I need my own identity, too."
Beyond her work at Rose, Hillary Rodham was also available for numerous speaking engagements. She invariably spoke on generational values, deploring the "unsettlement" of the 1960s, the "excessive narcissism" of the 1970s, and "selfish politics" in general. She kept her maiden name, she made a point of telling young women, because not only was it "a smart professional move" but it also made her feel more like "a real person."

As her husband took office she remained involved with the Children's Defense Fund in Washington and drew national attention as the first woman chair of the Legal Services Corporation. But she was plainly restless for more. "These organizations ... satisfied only pieces of her ambition," wrote Nina Martin in a study of her earlier career, "perhaps because they were essentially bureaucracies whose paths had largely been determined by other people." She readily found her part as a major force behind the scenes in her husband's governorship, advising him on "everything political," said one aide, as well as shaping major policies. The role was neither one of equal partner nor one of ordinary political wife, neither public figure in her own right nor mere consort; she didn't "have to go to ladies' lunches or travel with him," a close friend observed, but she had to "be next to him and not speak."

When she did speak in private and political sessions, it was with an authority, impatience, and bite few had heard before. "Let's just say his staff didn't like her much," said one of the journalists in the putative kitchen cabinet. "She was hard, always pressing," said another. Tommy Robinson, a former small-town police chief who became Clinton's controversial director of public safety in the first term and later a congressman and acrid political rival, "had to put up with her tirades," he later told the Gazette in 1990, calling her "the real Governor for 10 years." "She is one very professional tough bitch," Robinson added still later for The New Yorker. "I have a great deal of respect for her. ... She did not want screw-ups of any kind. She was all business."

By some accounts, she now matched that sort of sexism and resentment with her own slashing temper and profanity, countering what aides saw as Bill Clinton's habitual pandering or slovenliness with antidotes of cynicism and ruthlessness. "I'd never heard anybody, male or female, talk like that," one staff man recalled.

The language made what Robinson called her "tirades," and her sometimes puzzling, self-exempting politics, all the more memorable. "There at the end of the 1970s and into 1980 she'd be ranting about how bad Reagan and the Republicans would be for the country, how much everything would be run by the rich and corporations if they won," remembered a departmental aide, "and I wondered, here she was a lawyer for some of the same kind of people and corporations at the Rose firm." Her ultimate interest and loyalty always sounded clear enough. During the intramural crisis in the summer of 1980 over whether Clinton himself would sign the expose of AP&L's Grand Gulf fraud, Hillary had telephoned from the Democratic Convention to discipline aides working anxiously at the mansion to get the information out. "Here's Bill up here working his ass off to save the party and you little bastards are only makin' trouble for him," one aide remembered her saying. "No one appreciates what we do."

If white-collar aides felt the Rodham disdain, the First Family's state police escorts were treated still more contemptuously. Officers Larry Gentry and Roger Perry would remember the temper tantrums both Clintons threw, sometimes in the back seat of the official limousine, throwing any object at hand at each other or their bodyguards. A "bitchy" Hillary was openly hostile, given to calling them "pigs." She "loathed" them, the officers recalled, and it was part of "their condescending attitude toward employees in general and Arkansans in general." "Deep down," said another officer, "that woman really hated this state, the people in it, and almost everything else except being top dog."

Friends saw them both in these early years as relatively tentative and insecure. Bill himself didn't have a bit of background. "He didn't really care much about money per se, but he was always yearning to be a part of society," said a member of one of Little Rock's most renowned families, who knew them well. "Bill just didn't have it [background], and the truth was that Hillary didn't either."

Others thought it was the class acceptance Clinton so coveted that his transplanted wife now found she missed most in their larger prestige and plans. It was not enough for Hillary Rodham, after all, to be the wife of a prodigiously successful young politician, however integral she was to his career, whatever the reflected status and derived power. "They both had a very strong sense of needing to belong, to arrive," said one. At any rate, it was Hillary who now began to tend avidly to one of the marks of the status they both sought -- their personal wealth.

***

Less than a year into the Clinton governorship, Hillary Rodham had made $100,000 in the commodities market under circumstances that were part of a growing pall over their Arkansas associations and involvements -- and over their own integrity.

As in the case of Jim McDougal and Whitewater, it was their friend Jim Blair who had come to them with the prospect of making some ready money after Clinton won the 1978 primary and was certain to be governor. Blair was then a forty-three-year-old attorney, a divorced father of three children, with a thick black watch cap of hair framing a pleasant face, heavy dark-rimmed glasses, and the modish wide ties and collars of the era. Born in tiny 400-soul Elkins, southeast of Fayetteville, he was a 1957 honors graduate of the University of Arkansas Law School, a rising figure among the younger nonofficeholders in the state Democratic Party, who had succeeded McDougal in helping manage Fulbright's losing race against Bumpers in 1974. After two decades in practice, a senior partner in a nine-man firm in Springdale, he worked only a few miles from his birthplace.

Jim Blair was a principal outside counsel for Springdale's mammoth multibillion-dollar Tyson Foods, "whose operations," one person observed, speaking both literally and figuratively, "gave the small Ozark town a pungent, penetrating odor." His firm's other clients numbered comparable giants of the state, region, and nation, including Ralston Purina, Welch Foods, Safeway Stores, Wilson and Company, Arkansas- Louisiana Gas, and International Paper, along with several large food industries and Arkansas trucking lines, all of them linked in the intricate web of agribusiness marketing, packing, and shipping.

By 1978 Blair was also making "several million dollars trading commodities," as he later boasted to the New York Times. "I was on a streak, on a streak that I thought was very successful," the small-town lawyer would say, "and I wanted to share this with my close friends, as I did." His clients, as it happened, were not only large, market-linked corporations, but also a freewheeling, poker-playing pal, a commodity broker in Springdale named Robert L. Bone, known to his clients as Red.

Bone had worked for Tyson for more than a dozen years before founding the Springdale office of Refco, Inc., a rapidly growing Chicago trading firm with a reputation for aggressive, highly profitable trading in a notoriously risky market. No ordinary brokerage, the Ozarks branch of Refco was there principally to cater to giant Tyson's own enormous stake in the market, as well as to the investments of a handful of wealthy Arkansas speculators. Red Bone was certainly no ordinary trader. In the early 1970s, while still at Tyson Foods, he had been handed an eleven-month suspension by the government's Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and had "settled charges," as the New York Times, the Village Voice, and others reported, in what regulators found to be an intricate and vastly lucrative scheme by magnate Don Tyson, him, and others "to manipulate the eggshell futures market," as one account described it. Bone ultimately settled with the commission without admitting or denying guilt. Only a month before Hillary Rodham opened her account with him, he had completed a one-year partial suspension for serious exchange rules infractions and would subsequently receive another, more stringent suspension for still other professional violations.

Market authorities also disciplined Bone for "serious and repeated violations of record-keeping functions, order-entry procedures, margin requirements, and hedge procedures," according to a Mercantile Exchange complaint. In the commodities trade, these were major offenses that might allow unscrupulous brokers and their collusive customers to evade the initial required margin deposits or even ongoing "calls" for further margin money to be put into the customer's account in the course of the high-risk speculation. Far more serious, such violations might also enable the broker to "allocate" trades, to assign winning contracts to some selected clients and losing contracts to the rest, in effect changing the bet after the game to reward favored investors with either unearned gains or, equally common, false losses to be used as tax write-offs. The stakes were gigantic. Winners, whether legitimate or fraudulently "allocated" by their broker, stood to make or save fortunes large and small.

There were far more losers than winners, especially among novices in the cutthroat commodities market, and entire nest eggs could be wiped out in a few trades. This form of arcane speculation had enormous impact on food prices and even on international trade and humanitarian aid to starving millions around the world.

Commodities futures were a dangerous gamble as well for those who knew the game. Jim Blair had obviously come to think of himself one of those few. He had been Bone's lawyer in the controversial broker's disciplinary proceedings and other legal disputes and was now, in 1978-79, one of Red's extraordinarily successful customers in the Springdale brokerage. "There were days of exaltation and days of terror," Diane Divers Kincaid, Blair's girlfriend at the time and later his wife, recalled. "Jim was tense. It was always apparent whether it was a good day or a bad day."

In the midst of all this, Blair had also advised the Clintons on their Whitewater venture; despite the colossal risk and liability in the commodities market, he had set Hillary to trading her limited funds with his friend Red Bone. On October 11, 1978, her first transaction -- netting within days a $5,300 gain on a $1,000 investment, a return many later thought "mathematically impossible if exchange rules were strictly followed" -- took place even before her check was cashed by the brokerage. "Like the Whitewater thing," said an associate who knew of both schemes, "it was going to take care of Bill and Hillary, fix 'em up for the future." Within hardly a week, the wife of the next governor of Arkansas had won another $7,800, and $7,200 more only days after that.

Following Blair's advice, she got out of the cattle futures market in July 1979, having parlayed an initial investment of $1,000 into nearly $100,000, never having to add to her original cash despite at least one market "margin call" for a larger deposit to cover her speculative purchases. Her spectacular 10,000 percent return on her investment was more than five times the rate of profit made even by such investors as had bought when she did and sold at the peak of the market during the same period. Commodity windfalls added more than $26,000 to their income in 1978, over $72,000 in 1979. At the end of Clinton's first term they were showing nearly $160,000 annual income in an Arkansas governorship that paid $35,000 a year.

Years later, when the remarkable trades were eventually revealed by New York Times investigative journalist Jeff Gerth, the episode was shrouded in questions. At a moment when the Clinton rise was being launched so auspiciously, had the usually careful, personally conservative Hillary Rodham been singularly daring, foolhardy, or somehow just lucky? Had the little girl Hugh Rodham drilled over the Chicago Tribune's stock pages become a trader of exceptional skill, "buying ice skates one day," as Mark Powers, editor of the respected Journal of Futures Markets, put it, "and entering the Olympics a day later"? Had the Clintons, who ran for and won the presidency righteously damning the speculative greed and grasping of the 1980s, been profiteers, inside traders, and thus hypocrites themselves? Was it true, as one critic wrote, that "the way a president has been willing to make money speaks volumes"? The answers lay in details and fragments of the story not always seen together.

First, there was the overwhelming evidence that the Rodham trades took place amid pervasive fraud in her brokerage and within a wider market manipulation to which it was linked. During the entire nine-month period she had been their client, Red Bone and Refco were under investigation by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange for systematic violations of market rules. Official investigators believed that in October 1978 -- the very month Jim Blair had taken the future First Lady of Arkansas into the supposedly unpredictable market -- Bone and others at Refco had virtually cornered that market in what brokers called a classic squeeze. They found, too, that the brokerage had routinely allowed favored clients to trade heavily and profitably without ever putting up enough money to cover the speculation. A broker at the Refco office in Springdale would admit under oath that they had been trading in "blocks" of contracts and "allocating them to customers after the market closed." In a technique that later was rendered virtually impossible on Wall Street, there had been blatant falsification and manipulation of records, often involving brokers' setting back the time-stamp clock to cover the fraud.

Moreover, the trade press reported that in April 1979 Bone and other brokers improperly controlled nearly 70 percent of one side of the cattle futures contracts on the Chicago exchange, holding almost fifteen thousand more contracts than regulations allowed. In December 1979, climaxing its investigation and settlement of what it called "serious and repeated record-keeping and procedural violations of Chicago Mercantile Exchange rules," the market fined Refco $250,000, then the largest penalty in the exchange's history, and suspended Red Bone in Springdale for three years, one of its most severe sanctions short of criminal prosecution.

At the same juncture there were added charges from market sources and even Congress, where Democratic representative Benjamin Rosenthal of New York contended that a conspiracy of food-processing executives and brokers, including Refco, had managed an insider-trading scheme to manipulate prices and make millions in "turnaround profits" in the summer of 1979. Alerted by other traders and market officials appalled at the piracy, the House Small Business Committee staff, including a former trader on the market, determined that "the entire commodities exchange was awash in scandal," as one account put it, from January 1978 to April 1979. House staff investigators became convinced that more than thirty insiders had colluded in some fifteen "secret signals" that allowed them to manipulate futures contracts for themselves and others, "an interlocking group," as one account described them, making over $110 million in illicit gains -- some 70 percent of the total profit on the entire exchange over that period.

Under Blair's tutelage, the Arkansas governor's wife had been in the market when nine such secret signals were given, according to congressional records, five of them sent by the market manipulators during the weeks and months when she was receiving the bulk of her own $100,000 profit, though only one of her trades coincided with the precise dates identified in the House staff investigation. Still, her last weeks of trading exhibited an inexplicable recklessness and abandon. Suddenly losing more than $26,000 in June 1979, she came back in July to do her boldest betting, "going both short and long," as one account described it, "on separate block of fifty cattle contracts, her largest position yet." In one humid week that July the governor's wife grossed more than $54,000, her largest winnings to date, and she then abruptly quit the commodities market after only nine months, never to return. Looking at the record fifteen years later, exchange professionals and other traders would be baffled. "They almost never see behavior," one reporter recorded, "like Hillary's last-minute killing and sudden exit."

As the proof of larger market manipulation became more compelling, it would be the surviving evidence of Hillary Rodham's personal account that established beyond any plausible doubt what happened. To begin with, as Dow Jones analyst Caroline Baum and commodities trader Victor Niederhof documented in a later study, she had again and again defied the trend in the biggest bull market in the history of cattle in North America, a phenomenon simply too unlikely to be either dumb luck or skill. In her first two trades, her final two, and her most profitable in the interim, she had invested from the short side, banking on a decline in cattle prices that flew in the face of all market logic as well as the herd-reduction theory Blair himself was supposed to be following. The confirmations for her two most lucrative trades would later be found missing, while the known details of her transactions defied belief. Her purchases and sales were consistently made at virtually the most favorable prices of the day; if legitimate, the odds against such prescience and mastery would have been "about the same as those of finding the Dead Sea Scrolls on the steps of the State House in Little Rock," as Baum and Niederhof put it.

More telling still was the lethal, unbelievably reckless risk she and Blair ran with such apparent abandon, and with only the vaguest and most general memory afterward. According to market records, in November and December 1978 and again in the flurry of July 1979, literally the beginning of Bill Clinton's gubernatorial career, Hillary Rodham's liability stood at more than $1 million for days on end, and on two occasions for as much as three weeks. Between November 1978 and July 1979, as the Baum-Niederhof study shows clearly enough, a minuscule fluctuation in the market in anyone day would have resulted in a loss equal to at least five times the Clintons' annual income and five times their net worth. On July 17,1979, alone, the liability on her newly opened positions plus her deficit from the day before would have obliterated the family's salaries and assets without any adverse move in the market. She had to win -- and evidently knew she would -- to avoid financial catastrophe only six months into the governorship.

The vastly privileged treatment of the new First Lady by her brokerage also told a story of fix and favor. In the autumn of 1978 and again the following summer, her account was undermargined by $50,000 to $130,000 for periods of days. While customers on the exchange were usually required to maintain an equity of five times the margin requirement, the governor's wife was allowed to average an equity of less than one-fifth the required margin, and far less at crucial moments. Again it seemed obvious that Blair, still wheeling and dealing with Bone in the millions, was covering for his trading protege and his old friend the governor, though no discretionary forms were ever filed as legally required for the thirty out of thirty-two Rodham trades he had placed for her. Numerous other records of her transactions were missing or contained unaccountable discrepancies, and her first two monthly statements would show identical typing misalignments and faulty strokes.

"After each big win, she withdrew the spoils," recorded the Baum study. She would go on to the end trading with the bravado of a person with limitless resources, on three different occasions dealing with contracts that would have required a million dollars in equity, once controlling 62 contracts with a market value of nearly $2 million, in her last winning gambit trading 115 contracts with a value of $3.2 million, though the equity in her account was a negative $18,000. At one point she doubled up, in effect bet everything, when her required margin was $115,000 and she properly owed $135,000 to her broker. "Mrs. Clinton was allowed to trade like a millionaire, in the process violating numerous rules and procedures that industry professionals have developed to prevent financial catastrophe to customer and brokerage house alike," Baum and Niederhof concluded. "Only if she had held a confirmed round-trip ticket would someone in Mrs. Clinton's position have been willing to risk the farm in such a high-stakes game."

The windfall had "all the trappings of prearranged trades," said a former career attorney with the chief counsel of the IRS. In 1995 economists at Auburn and North Florida Universities ran a sophisticated computer statistical model of the First Lady's trades for publication in the Journal of Economics and Statistics, using all the available records as well as market data from the Wall Street Journal. The probability of Hillary Rodham's having made her trades legitimately, they calculated, was less than one in 250,000,000.

Over the same period in 1979 Congressman Rosenthal and others would charge that the manipulations accounted for an "unexpected and unexplainable" sudden 12 percent rise in the price of meat in mid-August 1979, worsening the nation's already rampant inflation and further jeopardizing jimmy Carter's prospects for reelection in the following year's race against Ronald Reagan.

After soaring nearly 60 percent over the previous two years, cattle futures took a dive in the late summer and autumn of 1979, wiping out those who had lingered too long. Blair himself reportedly suffered a $15 million trading loss, and on October 15, 1979, he filed a lawsuit charging his old poker friend Red Bone and Refco with repeatedly bilking customers. Charges included joint manipulation of the cattle futures market in which Refco was accused of secretly giving false assurances to customers like Blair and then "squeezing," or trading against, them. Such maneuvers cost Blair and his "trading group," his complaint alleged, even more than the $15 million he had recorded in his bankruptcy filing. The suit seemed to implicate Blair, if not a relatively small-fry Hillary Rodham, in the company's purported schemes to manipulate the markets. "If this was such a rogue outfit," the Wall Street Journal mused after the trades were exposed fourteen years later, "how could a Yale-Watergate staff lawyer believe that by doing business there she was playing by the rules?"

Refco went on to be sued successfully for questionable practices by several other customers and associates, including former brokers in the Springdale office. Cocounsel on one of the lawsuits against Refco after the cattle crash would be Rose's own Hillary Rodham. Soon to become a major power in global financial markets, however, Refco was later implicated with the notoriously corrupt and scandalous Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), "the central bank," wrote one authority on its history over the 1970s and 1980s, "for terrorists, spies, arms dealers and drug lords."

Yet when presented with congressional evidence of rigged trading, including some names of the insiders who allegedly sent the "secret signals," the Chicago Mercantile Exchange prevaricated, then simply interred the larger scandal in inquiries never completed, findings never announced. "There were too many big interests, too many big names involved," said one trader familiar with the cover-up, which he saw as business as usual for the troubled market. In the light of such abuses, Thomas Eagleton, the former US senator from Missouri and Democratic vice presidential nominee, himself a governor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, called in vain for more public oversight of commodities speculation, deploring the supposed regulation of futures trading as a "Chicago mirage . . . something of a myth" and the exchange's enforcement mechanism as a "sleeping pygmy." But such pleas were no match for the political power exerted by the market. The exchange would command some of the most extensive lobbies of insiders in Washington and some of the richest political action committees and most lavish contributions in American politics-all ensuring that futures trading would continue largely under its own dubious self-regulation.

By October 1979 Hillary Rodham was free and clear and opened a $5,000 account with a Stephens broker in Little Rock with whom she had dealt in small transactions since 1976. Stephens, the past and future major Clinton supporter, would have crucial business ties with both Refco and the criminal BCCI, including an instrumental role in introducing BCCI into the American banking system. With the Stephens brokerage she now invested again in more conventional stocks, including the DeBeers and Engelhard corporations of South Africa, both notorious for their role in the apartheid regime there. At one juncture her account showed a $26,894 profit, and she even made three trades, bringing in $10,000, the week of her daughter's birth. But without Red Bone or Jim Blair her more magical market prowess deserted her, and she closed out the relatively modest, cautious trading in the spring of 1980 with a net profit of only $6,500 (wrongly reported as a $1,009 loss on the couple's tax return) .

The Clintons made a down payment on another house and purchased further property beyond Whitewater, in addition to making added securities purchases, including tax-exempt municipal bonds to begin what they called a "nest egg" for the child they had conceived during their windfall. As for her most lucrative and high-risk venture in 1978-79, Hillary Rodham would always claim to have known nothing of Red Bone's wrongdoing and exceptional penalties or of the pandemic corruption on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, well publicized at the time in the trade press and among avid market watchers and investors. For his part, questioned fifteen years later about the 1978-79 trades, Red Bone could not even remember her as a client. "In Arkansas you remember everyone," a local politician would say, "by remembering no one."

Soon after the elaborately manipulated commodities boom, which enriched large corporate investors as well as individuals, both Jim Blair and Red Bone went to work for Tyson Foods full time, the lawyer as well-paid corporate counsel, the infraction-prone trader as official company broker. Tyson, like Stephens, would continue during the Clinton years in Little Rock to be one of the most powerful forces in Arkansas, and together the two companies would be the beneficiaries of tens of millions in state-promoted business and literally billions in ongoing income derived under a regime of regulatory, tax, and other political advantages.

***
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 24362
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Partners in POWER: The Clintons and Their America

Postby admin » Thu Jun 23, 2016 2:58 am

Part 2 of 2

Jim and Diane Blair were married by the governor in September 1979 in the same room where he and Hillary had their own reception. Clinton donned white tie and top hat, his wife acted as the Blairs' "best person" with her glasses off and a flower in her hair. Over the coming years the two couples continued to be the closest of friends, regularly vacationing at the Blairs' Ozarks lake retreat. Jim Blair came to be widely known as the governor's most intimate adviser on matters both governmental and personal. "He'd never make an important move without him," one associate said. Later the Clintons would encourage Diane Divers Blair to write a history of the 1992 presidential campaign, in which she participated as an aide. She had previously written a text on Arkansas government and a book based on Hattie Caraway's journals. Of all the old Arkansas friends, the Blairs were among those most frequently in the White House in 1993-94.

For those who watched such relationships and then later learned of the commodity windfall there was little doubt about the essential financial and political commerce at Red Bone's brokerage from the autumn of 1978 through the torrid trading of 1979. Jim Blair had obviously had the money to cover for his friends. The commodity trades were only the beginning of the money and favors the Clintons would enjoy -- money and favors that would leave them consorting not only with unsavory characters and practices but with a covert, manipulative world outside the law. "The cattle deal was just a form of money laundering, that's all," said a prominent lawyer who had been a US attorney during the era. "It was a way to fix up Bill and Hillary a little without being too direct about it."

Hillary Rodham had taken what one peer called the "sweet deal" without apparent hesitation, had taken advantage, had taken the profits and left under egregiously suspicious circumstances. Not long afterward, she would evince the same ethical and legal myopia when the couple's Whitewater debt was suddenly being paid from suspect sources, by a partner whose piratical banking practices she knew intimately. "You have to understand," said an old friend from Yale, "she took what she thought they were entitled to in making such a sacrifice in this steamy, raw, backward place." She had perforce given up her own Washington potential and, with it, much of the idealism of her past, the lessons from the Reverend Don Jones, her outrage at the migrant labor camps, and more. Tallied on buy and sell slips from Refco, the crucial missing statements, and the revealing shards that survived was not merely another market scam but a gifted young woman's bargain with destiny as well.

Historians and political analysts came to believe that the Carter presidency never quite recovered from the inflationary forces and widespread sense of economic uncertainty fed in part by the sudden summer jump in meat prices in 1979. With such "relentlessly bad news," Jack Germond and Jules Witcover concluded their study of the 1980 election, "political diversion was impossible." That summer, sorely perplexed amid Washington's frustrations and his own failures and isolation, Jimmy Carter had purged his cabinet and made his famous "malaise" speech, warning that "special interests" were running amok while the nation suffered "paralysis, stagnation, and drift." Carter's decline only deepened as Ronald Reagan, once feared for his own right-wing devotion to the same special interests, gained acceptance by default. "It's a bitter pill," a Carter White House aide said, looking back. "Things like that cattle market deal really got the president and helped elect Reagan, and people like the Clintons were in it themselves, and nobody thought twice."

***

The corrupt commodity trades were but one watershed event in their paradoxical relationship of uneasily merged careers and tangled feelings. With a husband already well known for his financial insouciance Hillary Rodham was now clearly the rainmaker and money manager of the marriage. Observers watched as she evolved from the unmercenary young woman into the sharp-eyed overseer of their political and material fortunes.

She announced her pregnancy at the end of September 1979, saying that the governor was "ecstatic" and that she did not know how soon she would return to Rose after the delivery. "Oh, it'll be Clinton," she said when asked by local reporters about the child's destined surname. At Chelsea Clinton's birth in February 1980 both parents were "overcome" with joy, as a friend remembered.

By then Hillary Rodham had been promoted to full partner at Rose, and her professional attachments were growing. At the firm she was close to partners Webster Hubbell and Bill's childhood friend, the courtly young Vince Foster, who "worshiped" her, according to a mutual friend. By 1980 she was also thoroughly enmeshed in Rose's own considerable intramural politics and their nexus of power in the statehouse and throughout Arkansas. Despite the expected restraints of motherhood, she seemed to many to be more than ever "her own woman" and a strong figure of tangible independence beside her husband.

Amid the quiet investments and market windfalls, the public pregnancy and celebrated birth, a fitful ebb and flow of tension and quarreling was ongoing in the personal quarters of the mansion. From Clinton's first years as attorney general, Little Rock had been awash in gossip about his blatant womanizing, often unhidden from staff aides and escorts and seeming to accelerate after 1980 with the birth of his first child.

What Rudy Moore and others called the first couple's "marital troubles" became well known to an ever-widening circle in the city's incestuous society. The excesses or problems of those in power, including members of the legislature and other political figures, were a staple in the living rooms or country clubs of Little Rock. Among others, Winthrop Rockefeller had indulged his legendary drinking, Faubus his country boy's pleasures; even the relentlessly serious Dale Bumpers was rumored to have an eye for the ladies, and most recently the relatively more modern and urbane Pryors had gone through a painful marital split. But with the Clintons, many believed, there was from the beginning a quantitative and qualitative difference: there were too many women and too many stories to be a matter of a temporary lapse or of smears by opponents, too many bitter and violent fights at the mansion to be dismissed.

Still, the code of social and political silence held fast, as it long would, for the usual reasons -- discretion, fear, indecision, shame, indifference, pride, ambition. "Hillary was said to be devastated and humiliated by his behavior during this period," Connie Bruck wrote later, "but to have determined that she would not leave the marriage, in which she had invested so deeply." Even the state troopers whom Hillary treated with scorn were struck by her stoicism. A young woman lawyer in Little Rock claimed that she was accosted by Clinton while he was attorney general and that when she recoiled he forced himself on her, biting and bruising her. Deeply affected by the assault, the woman decided to keep it all quiet for the sake of her own hard-won career and that of her husband. When the husband later saw Clinton at the 1980 Democratic Convention, he delivered a warning. "If you ever approach her," he told the governor, "I'll kill you." Not even seeing fit to deny the incident, Bill Clinton sheepishly apologized and duly promised never to bother her again.

The indolence of the Arkansas press toward their prowling governor might be difficult for those outside the culture to fathom. There seemed to be a tacit acceptance of the governor's escapades, even though much of the womanizing occurred on state time with the troopers standing guard. It was as though the inherent abuse of his wife and of at least some of the women were not a matter of character in the state's highest-ranking elected official. Reporters were unwilling or unable to document the ubiquitous allegations, much less ponder the individual or social pathology of what they might find.

For Hillary Rodham, despite her carefully cultivated roles and prominence, the agenda remained his, and it was to his culture and system, his career, his indulgence, fickle discipline, political survival, and self-defined success to which her choice had bound her. For all the trappings of independence, some thought, she was already, at thirty-two or thirty-three, in many ways as subordinated to her own "modern" young husband in Little Rock as her mother had been to Hugh Rodham in Park Ridge. "She'd rather be run over by a car than admit it, but Hillary really was a fifties wife with nice eighties accessories," said a friend. "I think the truth is that by this time in that first term she was the last thing she or Mrs. Rodham planned for her to be-another woman victim" and one frustrated by faithlessness as well.

Bill's womanizing seemed to repay sacrifice with emotional savagery and to drive humiliation still deeper. "You always have to remember," said someone who watched them through the years, "this is a woman who could have been a big-time lawyer and made a hundred thousand whenever she wanted without playing anybody's market, somebody who could've gone into politics herself, been a damned good governor or senator, ended up running herself in 1992 and, I'd bet you, beating Bill Clinton -- among other things, on the character issue. Funny, isn't it? "

***

At the Democrats' 1978 midterm convention Clinton had already sided with the party's emerging ultraconservative wing against the McGovern remnants, what his Arkansas supporters contemptuously called "the wildies of former days." Forerunners of his own ostensible New Democrats of the 1990s, these were a shifting coalition of elected officials from the South and West, politicians funded and programmed by the same powers that lay behind their increasingly indistinguishable GOP peers, along with the ever more powerful Washington faction of lawyers and lobbyists, who were ultimately paid by the same elements. Clinton's avid maneuvering to know, and be known in, these circles continued during most of the first term despite periodic local warnings about the perils of unsightly overreaching. "He insisted on flirting with national office," thought editor Starr, "when his state office was in danger."

But Carter's waning strength soon became an issue that overshadowed the Democratic Party's inner shift of power. Clinton was one of many who chafed at the administration's disarray, a product of Carter's own stale establishment appointees and aborted promises. In the summer of 1979 Clinton was summoned, along with his fellow governors, to Camp David, where he warned that President Carter was now even weaker in Arkansas than he had been in 1976, before he ran as a relative unknown.

Clinton's self-promotion and his jabs at Carter were undisguised at the 1980 Democratic Convention in New York's Madison Square Garden. Behind the scenes he was involved for a time in the ultimately abortive efforts to reconcile Carter and Senator Edward Kennedy, at least for the sake of appearances. In the mediation with other prominent Democrats, Clinton carefully threaded his way between the two factions, "always thinking about his own future," said one witness. His convention speech, carried only briefly by one network but proudly reprinted in Arkansas, had been carefully edited by Hillary and gave evidence of what was to come in 1992 -- both his empathy for the nation's problems and the intrinsic limits of his vision of politics and governance.

Pointedly acknowledging "the faults of our party ... and this president," he seemed to recognize the longer-term "breaking down" of the postwar economy, the rising force of "special-interest politics," and the demagogic attraction of Ronald Reagan, whose reactionary voice was "clear, consistent, and committed." The Democrats should now "speak to the millions of Americans who are not here -- who do not even watch us ... or listen to us. Who do not care. Who will not bother to vote or, if they do, will probably not vote for us." Yet there was no need to dwell on what he brushed aside as "the past" of Franklin Roosevelt and the Democrats' attempted healing of old wrongs: "We have proved that our party is more sensitive than the Republicans to equality and justice, to the poor and the dispossessed." Now, instead, the tasks were not political in the classic sense of the distribution of wealth and power but instrumental, technical. The Democrats needed to offer "creative and realistic solutions to our economic and energy and environment problems."

Between the lines was much of the ideological paradox he would perpetuate as a presidential candidate and eventually as a president. There was the leery turning away from issues of equity at a moment when the GOP right was exploiting a vast blue-collar and middle-class unrest rooted in the failure to resolve those very issues. Growing economic precariousness, social tensions and decay, crime, misshapen fiscal and tax policies -- in that and more were the legacy of the 1970s and a prologue to the illusionary, painful decade to come. But his speech took for granted the post-McGovern myth that Democrats must be more mercantile than their far more practiced Republican rivals, more "fungible," said one observer, "like oil or gas, able to flow across normal political boundaries and assume new shapes."

Clinton's call to transcend special interests, coming as it did from a governor whose home state was, and would remain, a singular haven for vested power and political money, was most ironic. "Defending the status quo and calling it new," one writer saw as the current among ambitious young Democratic politicians like Clinton, belonging to "a party that can no longer state coherently what it believes (and whom it represents)." But "the ideological bankruptcy of the Democrats as a governing party" was not a topic the politicians, least of all Clinton, wished to debate that humid week in Manhattan. His scolding speech to the convention almost a respite, he flew back to Little Rock to face his own troubled race for reelection.

At home he seemed besieged by a series of crises, all set against the backdrop of a sagging economy. In the spring of 1979 and again a year later, tornadoes had plunged down to wreak havoc across the state; a murderous heat wave followed in July and August 1980. The Ku Klux Klan held a tense, embarrassing national rally in Little Rock. "Good evening, white people," crowed David Duke as he began the proceedings. Soldier of Fortune magazine was billing Arkansas as a haven for mercenaries, Klansmen, and other paramilitary movements. In May 1980 AP&L's Nuclear One power plant sprang a radioactive leak. That September a Titan II missile was accidentally launched from a silo barely forty miles north of Little Rock, crashing into woods nearby and nearly detonating a nuclear warhead seven hundred times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb. In each crisis Clinton had been an attentive governor, rushing to the site of the accident or natural disaster, relaying reassuring information from local or federal officials. But the events, like the general state of the Arkansas economy, were anything but political assets.

The most damaging episode came in May 1980, when the White House decided to resettle Cuban refugees at Fort Chaffee, near Fort Smith. Within weeks they numbered nearly twenty thousand, making the camp one of the largest population centers in the state. When disturbances broke out in the teeming, squalid compound, nearby residents were "arming themselves to the teeth," a sheriff told a reporter. While Clinton squabbled with the White House and Pentagon about controls and conditions, a thousand refugees broke free on the night of June 1 and stormed down the highway. They were stopped only by a thin line of Arkansas state troopers, National Guardsmen, and deputies at the entrance to a small town bristling with guns.

It was a scorching encounter with the notorious incompetence of Carter's staff, as well as with the military's inertia and recalcitrance, and it dragged on for weeks as the governor was first praised for patient statesmanship "in the grandest of American traditions," as the Gazette exulted, then accused of "Mississippi madness" or "Faubus tactics" by the Pine Bluff Commercial and others who thought his interference with federal authorities political grandstanding. In the welter of meetings and lengthy, often antagonistic phone calls, Clinton's demeanor alternated between cool deliberation and audible panic.

While Senator Bumpers and other ranking politicians scurried to distance themselves from the debacle, Clinton seemed trapped. By autumn Bumpers, tutored by Reagan campaign operatives, began his campaign as Republican candidate for governor of Arkansas with grim television ads featuring the worst of the rioting, showing only black refugees, and intoning that it happened here because Bill Clinton "did not stand up to Jimmy Carter." A righteous Clinton lashed back at his opponent for trying to "redneck" on the issue, a fact everyone understood all too clearly. But the ads played on to considerable effect.

In a Little Rock television station, as Clinton walked in for an interview, an old Democrat muttered to a reporter, "What kind of man lets a woman keep her own name?" In small towns elsewhere in the state there were snide remarks about the "unmanliness" of the fleshy young Clinton, who could "not even control his wife," as one person remembered the talk. Months before the election there were signs that Hillary's manifest independence was openly resented in what one native aptly called "the exquisite pecking order" of Arkansas. She had only added to the ire with her shapelessly "unfeminine" clothes and what many saw as a manner of downright insolence. The governor's wife even had the effrontery to read a book while seated next to her husband at an Arkansas Razorbacks football game.

In the face of gathering discontent the Clinton reelection campaign was now strangely heedless and impotent. Everywhere he went, it seemed, the governor found the same complaints and questions: about the Cubans at Fort Chaffee, about his wife's name, about government scandals and out-of-state aides, about his presidential ambitions -- and always, about the higher cost of car tags. "Rudy, they're killing me out there," he told Moore after a swing through the dirt-poor rural southern counties, where they were paying as much to license a ten-year-old Chevrolet as the Little Rock bankers paid on a new Cadillac. "They tell me I kicked them in the teeth." He talked about calling a special session of the legislature to change the tax law, but he talked about it only briefly, according to Moore. The trucking lobby, Tyson, and the rest were far too powerful, and it would only mean a major fight with some of Clinton's own backers. "Nothing was done," Moore recorded.

They had been complacent to begin with, putting the campaign in the hands of too many Clinton camp followers with no experience in a statewide race. The May primary was a warning. Monroe Schwarzlose, a seventy-seven-year-old retired turkey farmer who finished last in the 1978 primary with less than 6,000 votes, now picked up nearly 140,000, or 31 percent. Still, the Clinton camp remained mired in bickering and inertia. "He wouldn't make the decisions that would bring the campaign out of its lassitude," Moore wrote later. At an early point Steve Smith brought him a stinging populist ad attacking the telephone company for higher charges on toll calls. "The man in this building wants to raise the amount you pay," it said against the backdrop of Southwestern Bell's corporate headquarters in Little Rock, then shifted to Clinton's office at the capitol, "and the man in this building is going to keep him from doing it." But Clinton perfunctorily rejected the ad as "demagogical and unnecessary," one staff member of them remembered.

As usual, Hillary Rodham supplied her blunt corrective. "Bill, don't be such a Pollyanna," she would say in staff meetings. "Some of these people you think are your friends aren't." Yet he appeared oblivious, and even she "did not seem to be fully engaged," as Moore saw it. As the campaign foundered, the governor's office was further shaken by its chronic rivalries and his own evasions. An angry group of staffers had gone to Moore about finally pushing out the already marginalized John Danner, along with his wife, Nancy Pietrafasa, both of whom were personal friends of the Clintons. Presented with a virtual ultimatum from his underlings, Clinton quickly agreed but insisted Moore fire their friends, "a terrible way to handle" the problem, the chief of staff remembered, "but ... he simply couldn't do it."

Bill Clinton would go on, as one aide put it, "in search of a magic consensus," telling everyone what they wanted to hear, then simply failing to fulfill his commitments. It was not out of "any duplicity ... from cunning, or in the pursuit of power or money or even in the pursuit of his own self-interest," Rudy Moore and others maintained, but rather simply "from his nature, which was to trust everyone and to want everyone to like him and to see the worth of what he was trying to do." At the same time there was now another dimension beyond the old habits. "Bill Clinton was not the same person psychologically in 1980," Moore would say, alluding to "something personal, perhaps in his relationship with Hillary." Others thought the disarray in the candidate and campaign only a continuation of his personal style and administration. "He never thought he was going to lose, but the distraction was nothing new," one supporter told a local reporter. But there was no question about the toll of the bitter quarrels in the mansion and Clinton's own agonized response, which would evolve over time. The personal turmoil and indiscretion might be their own business, "a private matter," as they both would say defensively. From the beginning, however, there was no real separating the private from the public, personality and character from performance and governance. In their tangled relationship -- who they were together, the impressive strengths and the poignant weaknesses -- shaped much of what he was and would become, as president of the United States.

***

His opponent was Frank White, whom a New York Times reporter called "an affable, unimaginative Republican with a blustering style and an aversion to syntax." A forty-seven-year-old former Democrat from Texarkana who had served in the Pryor administration but broken with it over a patronage squabble, White was an Annapolis graduate, a cheerful, open-faced broker and banker whose main distinction was a booming voice that required no public address system and that "he rarely lower[ed]," according to one listener, "even in conversation." He formally defected to the GOP only at the beginning of 1980 and was encouraged to run by state party leaders. At first his campaign had been "hesitant," as the Gazette recorded. He had even asked the advice of old Democrat Orval Faubus, who told him in inimitable Arkansas style, "Organize and raise money. Issues mean nothing."

Then the primary exposed Clinton's vulnerability, and White appealed for help from the Republican National Committee and Governors' Association, which finally "allowed" him, as he remembered, to attend a school for Republican congressional candidates in Arlington, Virginia. "I was the only gubernatorial candidate there," he told a reporter. "I knew nobody in the Republican Party. I was just the man who came from Arkansas. It was kind of a joke."

What followed struck no one as funny. White returned from his school with much of his campaign staff and substantial resources now provided by the national party. His platform style grew polished and his advertising far more professional, slick, and negative, epitomized by the implicitly racist footage of black Cubans breaking out of Fort Chaffee. Widely shown, too, was a photograph of Frank White with a smiling Ronald Reagan, then leading presidential polls in Arkansas. Most of all, there was a felt change in the tenor of what Republicans and the Clinton opponents they enlisted were now saying, a new assault not only or even mainly on the governor's record but on his wife, her maiden name, who and what she was as a woman. A decision had been made in Arlington to go after Hillary Rodham. "They were saying that there was this smart-ass bitch out there in Arkansas, and she could be used just like the Cubans or anything else," said someone familiar with what happened. "That kind of thing. Tough politics."

Sequels proved ironic. The concerted personal attacks would be more than a matter of "tough" campaigning. The election of 1980 was to be a crucial event in the Clintons' lives, affecting both their future governance, their personal relationship, and ultimately their presidency. The issue of her status as a woman and wife and her eventual change of both name and personal style became in themselves substantive. In any case, the affably venomous Frank White's misogynist campaign drew continuing and ardent support from the national GOP, with Republican handlers from Washington to Little Rock shaping and inciting the wider anti-Clinton, "bitch" strategy. Among those watching the spectacle from high in the Republican camp was David Gergen, the former Nixon loyalist from the Watergate White House who became a tactician for Ronald Reagan. It was Gergen who scripted Reagan's famous jab at Carter in the 1980 presidential debates, cueing the former B-movie actor to ask a television audience, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" Little more than a dozen years after that bitter campaign, with hopes he might perform similar services for the new employers his old ones had once attacked so malevolently, David Gergen would be named a ranking official in the Clinton White House.

***

Once again Mack McLarty was Clinton's campaign treasurer, and once again Clinton drew contributions from many of the state's corporate giants, major banks, and other forces, including the ever-present Stephens, Inc. -- all of them familiar with the transaction implicit in donation and influence. "The road construction companies poured money into Clinton's campaign," Associated Press analyst Bill Simmons wrote two days after the election, pointing to the irony of the higher license fees' losing votes while gaining money. "His revenue laws meant business for them through the state Highway Department." Clinton would spend over $477,000, with a deficit of more than $63,000, only a little less than he paid to win handily in 1978. But now it was Frank White who set records. In the richest GOP campaign in Arkansas since Winthrop Rockefeller's largely self-financed runs in the 1960s, the challenger listed more than $442,000, including $50,000 of his own money, and heavy support from vested power the Clinton administration seemed to threaten if not actually affect-utilities such as AP&L, timber combines like Georgia Pacific, physicians and others still angry about his rural clinics. The interests, though by no means all of them, had put money behind an Arkansas Republican as never before, and some hedged their bets by contributing to both candidates.

Desperate as the race wore down, Hillary Rodham placed what one account called "an emergency phone call" to their old adviser Dickie Morris. Only months after the 1978 victory, Clinton had deliberately cast aside the controversial consultant, and eventually he dropped their contract. "Whether he didn't think he needed him ever again, or just thought Dickie was too nasty for Arkansas, or what, I don't know," said a friend. "I suspect it was as much good old arrogance as anything." Morris himself had seen their rift as Clinton's fatal distinction between governing and running, as if leadership should be somehow above politics. "There was a feeling that I got that I was something dirty, that they didn't want to touch me with gloves," Morris remembered. "Sort of like, 'This was my sordid past when I was running for office, but now I'm governor.' " Now, in October 1980, Hillary finally located Morris in Florida, where, with characteristic flexibility, he was managing a reactionary Republican who was running for the Senate, his third GOP client of the season. There were differing versions of how Morris responded to her plea for help. "I got the impression he told them to go screw themselves," one aide recalled. "He took one look," remembered another, "and knew it was gone." In any case, Hillary Rodham's frantic summons to what other advisers called "the hit man" did nothing to change the character or the outcome of the campaign.

"I have never felt more comfortable and at ease before an election in my life," Clinton told the press in mid-October, denouncing in particular "that Republican campaign school." With audience after audience he spoke of his governorship as "the most humbling two years of my life" and confidently outlined the next term. Local polls showed him in the lead by as much as twenty points with a week to go. Yet callers to radio shows and questioners at meetings continued to ask about his "high-paid" staff from out of state, the petty scandals, his national ambitions, Cubans, car tags, his wife's name.

On election night first returns came from Miller County, in the far southwestern corner of the state, where Bill Blythe had once courted Virginia, and Clinton knew that his margin there was not enough, that the race was lost. The Republican of less than a year's standing was only the second of his party to win the statehouse in the twentieth century, Bill Clinton the first incumbent to lose reelection since Faubus won in an upset in 1954. At 77 percent the turnout would be the highest in Arkansas in decades. White won by 32,000 votes out of more than 800,000.

Beneath the surface, as the numbers were understood at the mansion and in Little Rock's suites, it was a rout. The Gazette thought the outcome "could almost be termed a landslide." Clinton carried only twenty-five of the state's seventy-five counties, compared to at least fifty in each of his previous statewide elections. White won the Third Congressional District with 60 percent of the vote, carrying some old Clinton counties two to one. In the presidential election Ronald Reagan won Arkansas, the state with the greatest single shift of voters from the Carter victory four years earlier. Yet there was no GOP sweep. Though the Cuban refugees affected everyone's margin, Dale Bumpers was reelected to the Senate with 59 percent of the vote, and other Democrats won handily. In Arkansas's fiercely local politics White was the only GOP exception, outpolling even Reagan. However they voted in other races, the voters had repudiated Bill Clinton.

Though he comprehended the returns at one level, as the night wore on there was deepening shock in the war room Rudy Moore had set up at campaign headquarters in Little Rock. Clinton stayed in seclusion at the mansion for hours, refusing to meet reporters or even a rally of supporters at the capitol. He emerged at midnight to make a choked five-minute statement of concession to the stilled, weeping Clinton camp at the Camelot Inn, then hurried out a back door, flanked by his state police bodyguards.

***

The next morning, his wife at his side holding eight-month-old Chelsea, Virginia and Roger behind them, he met a crowd of supporters his staff had hastily gathered in the backyard of the mansion. "Hillary and I have shed a few tears for our loss," he began, in what would be an emotional little speech about his boyhood "in an ordinary working family in this state," his caring for the people even "when the right course may not be popular," his leadership in "crisis after crisis when ... people could have been harmed and our reputation irrevocably damaged." "I want you to be generous with me in defeat," he told them, his voice cracking. "I want you to be determined with me to go on fighting for our future." Roger Clinton, in "full rock-and-roll regalia," as a reporter described his dress, walked about the grounds punching the air with his fist and chanting, "We'll be back! We'll be back!"

Afterward they went to lunch with the Blairs, the governor "half-laughing, half-crying," Diane Blair remembered, "their sorrow and shock and self-reproach almost impenetrable. . . . It was all going to be over, and defeat was burned into his political soul."

For more than two weeks he continued to avoid the press he had so avidly courted. Starr was scathing about the backyard farewell that had barred reporters' questions. "And there he was on the patio of the mansion, blaming everybody except himself for his defeat, telling the people of Arkansas, in effect, I knew what you wanted, but I also knew what was best for you, and that is what I tried to give you." If mute in public, Clinton had been privately calling legislators and politicians all over the state, talking about "a need to enhance his public image and to stabilize his political future," as one of them told a reporter.

Finally, in late November, Clinton consented to a handful of screened interviews. "A guy who supposedly has an IQ of a zillion did something stupid," he told the Associated Press, talking about the unexpected "voter hostility" to the license fees but saying nothing about how it had all happened, his original road tax proposals, the fatal surrender to the truckers, Tyson, and the rest. His defeat was the result of the fees, the Cubans, the "mood of the times," and his own image as "too young, ambitious, arrogant, and insensitive," he told a friendly John Brummett of the Gazette. He had been perceived, wrongly, "as being a liberal rather than as an activist governor." Now he was simply going to lead a private life and look into a law practice.

Both publicly and privately he blamed a large cast of villains and enemies, including several within his own ranks. Many of his "publicized problems as governor were inherited," he told reporters in unveiled criticism of David Pryor. As for his own Democratic Party, Clinton thought it "spoiled," "asleep at the switch," and in "pretty bad shape," as he put it during an early December radio interview. He would not blame his wife or her maiden name for his defeat, he told the Democrat at the end of the year, but his opponents were "loose with the truth" and the "biggest hypocrites." The "press and ... campaign workers had not taken White seriously enough." People misperceived his ambition when his "only desire had been to be governor for six or eight years."

When one loyal aide came to his office that December to report on a governmental issue, Clinton brushed the topic aside and was grimly furious. "He looked me right in the eye, and said, 'You were the major cause of my defeat,' " the official remembered. "I was astounded because my issues never even came up in the campaign .... But he railed at me. It was all my fault." State trooper and bodyguard Gentry overheard the couple in the mansion rancorously deploring their benighted electorate. "They always held themselves to be quite a bit above the average Arkansan," Gentry told Meredith Oakley in 1993. "They went on and on, talking about how stupid the people of Arkansas were for electing Frank White. God, they were mad."

The final weeks in office were filled with such postmortems. Voters judged him too big for his britches, thought he'd come too far too fast, he would say; they had decided to "send a message," though they "didn't really expect or want" him to lose. Meanwhile, there were offers of consolation and of the ritual sinecures, some tendered out of mixed motives. Governor John Y. Brown of Kentucky, a social and political friend whose own unsavory associations would intersect with Clinton's more than once in the years to come, telephoned "several times," as McLarty remembered, trying to persuade Clinton to take the presidency of the University of Louisville, a position that, whatever its other virtues, would almost certainly have removed the young Arkansas politician from a then-implicit national rivalry with Brown. "Bill saw that one for what it was," said a statehouse aide. For days in December he toyed with running for the open chairmanship of the national Democratic Party he had just denounced as "spoiled." Now a national committeeman, Jim Blair lobbied for him feverishly in Washington. But at the last moment Governor Jerry Brown of California held back a crucial endorsement and the national post was gone. Enmity toward him would be long and deep, extending into both the public forums and the back alleys of the 1992 campaign.

Democrat columnist and Clinton nemesis Meredith Oakley saw the episode over the chairmanship as another example of his childlike "coy" ambitions and predicted that one more rejection "might wound even his massive ego beyond recovery." However partisan, her observation was more accurate than most knew. Clinton was plunged into what one account called "bitter depression," issuing in a burst of womanizing, a seemingly desperate search for conquest that shocked even his most indulgent and cynical intimates. "What am I supposed to do," he asked one of them, "when all these women are there and want me?"

But above all he plotted his return. "I felt sort of sick," he later confided. "But the next day [after the election] I resolved that I was going to run for governor again. I knew at some deep-down emotional level that I would have to run again in 1982 in order to live with myself the rest of my life." As he left office he had begun to attack White in the wings. It was as if he were again the fresh young challenger and outsider, with no burden of a record. Arkansas would be "back to dead last in everything," he told an audience in Hot Springs, if White's regime could not "renew faith in government." At a Razorbacks game that fall he felt an odd mixture of elation and immobilizing depression. "I'll be governor again," he announced to a surprised Woody Bassett, who had just heard from all their friends how "shattered" Clinton was.

Imagery was now everything, perception the key to both his history and his future. He fixed on his opponent's "misconception" of his liberalism, that he was too active, too bold, too assertive, when the reality was tragically different. At a quiet dinner of backers that Christmas one pulled him aside gently with the unwanted but historically accurate verdict. He had failed not because he had confronted the old system too hard, said the friend, but because he had done so too little. He had compromised and given way again and again. "If I believed that," Clinton replied dismissively, "I'd stick my head in a goddamned oven. "
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 24362
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Partners in POWER: The Clintons and Their America

Postby admin » Fri Jun 24, 2016 9:49 pm

13. Washington I: "A Slow-Motion Coup d'Etat"

As the defeated Clintons left the governor's mansion at the end of 1980, the Washington they would meet a decade later as president and First Lady was already taking shape. In the growing convergence of the Republican and Democratic Parties there was a slow-motion coup d'etat in American politics and governance. Its origins went back to the early postwar days, the time when Bill Blythe was killed outside Sikeston and the Rodhams moved to Park Ridge.

Both parties had become far less than the sum of their electoral parts. The Republicans were in thrall to a newly minted ultraconservative ideology. An unmourned extinction of moderates compressed the Grand Old Party into an ever-narrower constituency of reaction and prejudice in the service of privilege. Democrats meanwhile became all the more expedient and deliberately undefined. Shunning old principles as a political or bureaucratic liability, they were intent on congressional feudalism and establishment jockeying, their own wanton politics of self further and further from the wider electorate they once claimed.

Despite alternating victories and ideological facades, the two old parties were becoming less representative. As Lord Bryce observed of the factions of another era in The American Commonwealth, they were like bottles, each with its own label, both empty. Despite seeming differences they were closer than ever in their common, unprecedented captivity to the base elements of money and power. "Indispensable enemies," political writer Walter Karp called them even before the Carter or Reagan presidencies. Just how revealing and poignant his description was would not be evident for years.

Behind all the later rhetoric about "gridlock" and "breakdown" was in fact an elaborate, refined system that hummed with its own energy and equilibrium. It was this Washington that Bill and Hillary Clinton would meet in the 1990s.

***

The presidency of Ronald Wilson Reagan officially began on January 20, 1981, with its own symbols. Even jaded Washington was taken aback. In limousines, private planes, furs, and jewels, the claimants of the new regime enveloped the city, flaunting wealth such as had not been seen since the notorious Gilded Age a century before. As if to mark the restoration, one group of GOP contributors rolled into the capital in the plush Pullman once ridden by legendary spoilsman J. P. Morgan, the Wall Street banker who had owned, it was said, not only the train but the tracks to Washington and the government at the end of the line.

Reagan's 1981 inauguration -- the most expensive yet (and much of the spending illegal) -- cost five times more than Carter's in 1977. In events both official and private there was a ready heedlessness about money and privilege. Georgetown parties were grander, more exclusive. Once-public ceremonies could be attended by invitation only. Even at $10,000 each, boxes for white-tie balls were in brisk demand. Outside the old Union Station on Capitol Hill, the neighborhood's homeless people caught the aroma of gourmet food at a reception inside and managed to crash the gate by squeezing among the stream of official guests. Politicians and lobbyists in formal dress recoiled from the smell and filth of the derelict intruders.

While Reagan took the oath of office, household staff rearranged the White House for new masters. To a place of honor in the Cabinet Room they brought from storage the portrait of Calvin Coolidge, the expressionless Vermont Republican whose administration supposedly epitomized the economic and social values Reagan was to employ. His White House would evoke nostalgia for some imagined schoolbook past. "He wrests from us something warmer than mere popularity, a kind of complicity," Garry Wills wrote of Reagan's soothing appeal. In 1984 the president's reelection theme was to be a soft, tinted commercial with the comforting announcement, "It's morning again in America."

Reagan and his regime were also the less comforting agents of "the most reactionary administration of the century," as a chronicler would epitomize them later. They had come seeking vengeance for the many reforms enacted since Calvin Coolidge -- and they had come on the strength of a popular dismay at changes in postwar America. "The most original thing about Reagan," said a journalist, "was his uncompromising unoriginality." What followed the inauguration was without precedent in American politics. In weeks the administration had its plans moving through Congress and the bureaucracy. An assault on both the Democratic and Republican past, on a wide range of policy in effect over the past half century, the proposals called for a radical new tax structure favoring wealth. There was to be wholesale deregulation of business and finance. New budgets made a vast reallocation from domestic social programs to weaponry. While mocking government, the new conservative administration would actively use the enormous force of Washington as no government had before, bending it from public purpose to private gain.

For a moment it seemed the new legislation might atrophy in the usual congressional inaction. Then came the attempted assassination of the president outside the Washington Hilton on March 30. Reagan's recovery was far feebler than carefully staged public appearances suggested. But his very survival boosted his popularity and conferred fresh power. No filibusters now blocked his actions. No formidable Washington lobbies or inspired public mobilization stopped the promised change. Within the first 160 days Congress passed the new taxes and weapons buildup. By August the White House broke the air traffic controllers' strike with utter impunity. The Roaring Eighties had begun.

Then and later, many thought Reagan a mere figurehead. But at least part of the force of the administration traced to the character of the seemingly simple yet enigmatic man himself. "Reagan enunciated a set of ideological convictions quite at odds with the status quo he inherited. And he never, ever drew back from them, never apologized for them, never even acknowledged their defeat even when he was badly beaten," recalled an unsympathetic journalist, William Greider. "We remember him as a strong leader, though Reagan lost on many major issues. . . . Yet he still seemed like a winner."

When the Republicans left office a dozen years later there were the usual political arguments about achievement. They claimed credit for the fall of the USSR and the end of the cold war. Yet the collapse of the corrupt Soviet regime was purely internal as few in history were -- and might have happened sooner but for the diversion posed by a new US bellicosity in the 1980s. The Republicans claimed to have cleansed and simplified government. Yet their Washington was befouled by scandal, a capital where some bureaucracies burgeoned while others decayed in place. Most of all, they claimed to have altered the course of the nation. "We are the change," Reagan boasted in a farewell address. "What a change it's been." And about that, at least, there was no question.

Over the 1980s and early 1990s there would take place what one study called "the largest transfer of wealth in the nation's history." The money neither appeared nor disappeared by magic. It was wrested by political means from the vast majority of Americans and given to the already affluent and powerful. "The nation traveled from the New Patriotism to the New Greed all within a mere decade," journalist Haynes Johnson would write. Inseparable from that passage, there was also a manifest change in America's consciousness of itself -- a deepening sense of insecurity and uncertainty for the first time in half a century, since people like Bill Blythe and Virginia Cassidy, Dorothy Howell and Hugh Rodham went through the depression and World War II. "I don't really know what happened," said a typical worker in 1992, "but things now only get worse and not better, like they were supposed to."

In the bleak morning after, as the toll was counted, there were many who blamed Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Yet it was never that simple. What had happened to the nation was not -- could not have been -- at the hand of Republicans alone. Whatever its pretenses or the charges of its rivals, the rightist regime that took power amid such extravagance in January 1981 marked not a revolution so much as an evolution of forces long at work. The Reagan-Bush era would emanate from the converging histories of both parties, and in the Washington of the 1990s the larger political ethos was nothing if not bipartisan.

***

Within the GOP Reagan's victory settled old scores. His election marked the triumph at last of the party's ultraconservative wing, which had long been denied power, not merely by Democrats but by a train of moderate Republican leaders. From the nominations of Wendell Willkie and Tom Dewey in the 1940s through the postwar presidencies of Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford, the reactionary right remained largely on the fringe -- brooding and planning.

Republicans of both factions prospered in the great red-baiting of Democrats in the late 1940s, the kind of hysteria that enveloped Hillary Rodham's Park Ridge hometown, with its John Birch Society and its fearful suspicion or hatred of outsiders. But the repression by government and culture at large -- the acceptance of domestic dirty tricks and covert actions, a more than forty-year cold war against dissent at home -- worked to poison the grassroots citizen base of moderates themselves, stifling creative political thought and initiative among Republicans no less than among Democrats. J. Edgar Hoover's ranting against "pinks, punks, and pansies" would be a prelude to the bigotry of the fundamentalist Christian right of the 1990s, preparing the way for a zealots' seizure of the Grand Old Party once thought unimaginable. The Republican moderates' own irresistible chauvinism, concluded a historian, ultimately contained "the seeds of destruction."

The politics of the cold war could not resolve the philosophical rivalry within the Republican Party. The two wings remained divided about the role of government, about economic and social policy, and ultimately about class, wealth, and power. In the moderates' acceptance of government regulation and efforts at social welfare, conservatives saw craven betrayal of principle. And behind the right's orthodoxy of unrestrained markets and limited government, moderates sensed a greed and inequity the nation could no longer endure.

It was a schism marked by rancorous personal rivalries. Urged to unite behind a young Richard Nixon for the vice presidency in 1952 after a brutal internecine fight, Nixon's fellow California senator, conservative William Knowland, asked bitterly, "I have to nominate that dirty son of a bitch?" The same gritty hatred stoked the thunderous boos cascading down from the galleries on moderate Nelson Rockefeller at the 1964 Republican Convention, which nominated conservative Barry Goldwater -- the convention that Hillary Rodham, a Goldwater Girl, imitated with such colorful detail and enthusiasm in her presentation at Maine South the following autumn, albeit without the venom of the original. There was the old animus, too, in the defeat of Reagan himself in bids for the nomination in 1968 and again in 1976. The extreme right deplored "Democrat" liberals, as everyone knew, but GOP moderates they truly despised. For more than three decades following World War II, including sixteen years of Republican presidents in the White House, the factions fought savagely behind the scenes, maintaining in public an uneasy, if enduring, balance. Their stalemate sustained a bipartisan consensus on federal policies evolved since the 1930s.

Reagan's triumph was now part of the end of that consensus. To the inveterate Old Guard he married his California base and the throbbing new corporate and personal fortunes of the South and the Sun Belt West. Not least, he ensconced in Washington a fresh generation of right-wing ideologues seized with the linear passions, and career opportunities, of Coolidge economics. J. P. Morgan would have recognized in their newfangled supply-side economics the old fetish of laissez-faire. Lower taxes on wealth, reduced regulation of corporate and financial practices, enormous new military spending and reactionary concessions to large interests, a draconian attack on "waste" in welfare and social programs, the legions of displaced and undereducated -- it all meant more money and power in the hands of the monied and powerful. The reactionary ideologues moved -- suspiciously like their Democratic peers-into well-paid government offices or corporate-funded Washington think tanks, lobbying suites, and other sinecures. Settled within the legendary Beltway, they would soon become one more self-styled elite of hangers-on in the capital, still more political floorwalkers touting their wares. In everyone's best interest, the theory and practice of the new administration was to be what its inauguration proclaimed -- a government of, by, and for unrestrained wealth, propelled by unbridled corporate greed.

The significance of Reagan's victory was hardly a matter of ideology. It also gave powerful precedent and impetus to a politics of manipulation that blurred principle and took its practitioners -- in both parties -- farther from the nation they governed. The trend was plain for decades as the mass advertising culture of the postwar engulfed the older, more personal politics of the first half of the century. Republicans in particular cultivated the new methods to win the White House even while remaining a minority. There would be careful insulation and "handling" of the candidate, highly skilled "management" of media images, obsessive organization and targeting of constituencies around parochial privilege or prejudice. Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator, became the champion of a leisure class in an "age of illusions."

There were many symbols of the shifting power in the Republican Party, but none more graphic than the moment at the Detroit convention in 1980 when Reagan reached out to select, and politically absorb, his running mate. After a quixotic attempt by aides to accommodate a supposed "dream ticket" with former president Gerald Ford, the nominee called one of the men he defeated for the nomination, George Herbert Walker Bush.

He was the son of the legendary Prescott Bush, a handsome, patrician, lion-maned Connecticut Yankee who went from Wall Street to the Senate in the old GOP eastern establishment and soon became a pillar of the moderate wing. Golfing partner of Eisenhower and champion of Ike's consciously middle way in defiance of profiteers and bureaucrats in both parties, the senator earned distinction as one of the few politicians in the nation who stood up against Joseph McCarthy's red-baiting in the 1952 presidential campaign. The elder Bush went on to an equally historic role behind the scenes in the Republicans' orchestrated purge of their Wisconsin demagogue. The legacy left his son and successor the natural heir to GOP moderation -- and made his cupidity and complaisance all the starker.

The younger Bush compiled a restless resume, shuttling from place to place without sustained accomplishment anywhere -- popular at Andover, Skull and Bones at Yale, eager navy pilot, West Texas oil wildcatter seeking his own fortune, Houston congressman, defeated Senate candidate, UN envoy, Republican Party chairman during Watergate, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, ambassador to China, failed presidential contender. Some came to believe that he was never so moderate or liberal as some of his supporters liked to think. With George Bush, his prospecting in Texas but his patrician family home in Maine, it was always perhaps more style than substance. But along the way he offered up one surrender after another to the growing reaction in his party -- small, self-defining retreats on civil rights, abortion, gun control, foreign policy, and finally on right-wing fiscal and tax policies he had once called "voodoo economics." No single career charted the eclipse of the moderates, but Bush epitomized their decline. In the end the man who had once bravely stood up to racism in the Houston suburbs would run blatantly racist campaign ads to win the presidency. The politician who deplored supply-side voodoo would as president yield to the incessant pleas to lower the taxes on his friends' capital gains.

When the call from the victor came that summer of 1980 Bush was sitting in his Detroit hotel suite in moody, disconsolate silence. Facing the wall as he took the phone, thinking he was to be told of the Reagan-Ford ticket, he listened for a moment in disbelief, then suddenly broke into his crooked grin and turned back to give an exultant thumbs-up to his wife and his aide James Baker across the room. He agreed to be Reagan's running mate, to the nominee's right-wing positions, without hesitation. "Why yes, sir. I think you can say I support the platform -- wholeheartedly!" he blurted out, ending in seconds, in the glee of ambition, a historic struggle for the Republican soul.

In a sense George Bush would be the first and last of the twentieth-century GOP moderates so momentously co-opted by the right. Even in his dearly purchased one-term presidency, his own embarrassingly vacuous vice president, Dan Quayle, was a sop to reactionaries. His own administration was crowded with Reagan loyalists who privately distrusted, if not despised, him. His reelection effort would be sapped by an angry revolt on the right led by former Nixon ghostwriter Pat Buchanan and, not least, by a national convention that frightened the nation with its unadorned fanaticism in prime time.

Still, there would always be some doubt whether George Bush ever fully understood the significance of the thumbs-up he gave to that call from Ronald Reagan. Back when Hillary Rodham heard her father's family talk about the controversial Kennedy-Nixon race of 1960, their GOP was still overwhelmingly a party of middle-class, moderate mainline Protestants. By 1994 the party grass roots were increasingly in the grip of a self-possessed evangelical minority driven to impose its religious and reactionary tenets on an increasingly diverse and changing nation. It would be these extremists who provided most of the decisive troops and organization for the GOP primaries, and who held hostage at last the GOP's presidential candidacy.

The sun-faded "AuH20" bumper stickers of the mid-1960s had now been replaced by a social and political mania that repelled Goldwater himself. The right attacked abortion, homosexuals, art, literature, public programs for the poor, and with thinly veiled racism, the new ethnic diversity of American life -- all these social vexations and more, it seemed, but not the predatory economic ethic and power that so largely shaped the America they found abhorrent. "Conservatism means letting people live their lives as they see fit," an aging Goldwater would try to remind them. In return they would agitate to erase his name from public buildings in his native Arizona. "We've gone from Bob Taft to Reverend Jerry Falwell," said one longtime Republican, "without passing through civilization."

Meanwhile the Democrats were taking another, equally telling path to the Reagan inauguration and to the Washington of the 1990s beyond.

In the late 1940s the ruling Democrats -- including their feisty little machine-politician president, Harry Truman -- had been ready and unquestioning recruits to the new rivalry with the Soviet Union. The Democrats' own Washington lawyers, lobbyists, and bureaucrats were the original architects of vast national security budgets and bureaucracies, from which many of them would incidentally benefit. Yet not even their authentic or expedient chauvinism could save them from losing office, from being driven out of the White House and the executive departments they had held for twenty years, as the red scare raged in the 1940s and 1950s. In the face of Republican jingoism and cold war demagoguery, most of the party would be simply craven. Clinging to the fixed, safe center of political dialogue, they promptly became part of the crust of conformity that closed over the nation.

By the late 1950s they had begun to run at Dwight Eisenhower and even Richard Nixon from the right on international issues. They charged the White House with a missile gap that they knew never existed. They beat the drums for an invasion of Castro's Cuba though they knew the ill-fated venture was already being planned. They joined disgruntled officers in crying for larger Pentagon budgets. They proposed more aggressive counterinsurgency in places like Vietnam. "God help us," Eisenhower the old general would say to an aide in the Oval Office in the late 1950s, "when there's someone here who doesn't know the military like I do."

For most of the postwar, the Democrats were still a party of colorful, sometimes grim diversity, liberal and conservative, North and South, urban and rural, city machine and county boss, Bible Belt and cathedral, the old patchwork democracy of racist Uncle Raymond Clinton and protean Bill Fulbright in Arkansas, the Kennedys in Boston, Adlai Stevenson in Illinois, and the prairie druggist's son and civil rights champion, Hubert Humphrey, in Minnesota. But across all their apparent differences, from southern reaction to northern liberalism, Democrats of the era had one conviction in common -- the anathema of a democratic left. It was what made the Republican smears and red-baiting so ironic, often so grotesque, throughout the country. Orval Faubus's father, a pioneer socialist in the Ozarks, had seen workers' meetings savagely broken up by Democratic sheriffs, and farm organizers, like troublesome blacks, burned out by hooded men who were minions of the governing party. But for once, benighted Arkansas was hardly unique. There was also prosperous Minnesota's merged Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, of which liberal Hubert Humphrey and his protege Walter Mondale were leaders. In 1947 their faction had taken over by wantonly smearing opponents as "Reds" and bloodily clubbing Farmer-Labor dissidents in what one witness called "an unmerciful beating" in the corridors of St. Paul hotels. "The caucuses were frauds, and they were won more by baseball bats and labor goon squads than by votes," former Minnesota governor Elmer Benson observed years later.

In Minnesota as elsewhere, the postwar brought a renewed and bitter clash between Democrats and their few but vocal critics on the left. The battle was defined not only by debates over cold war foreign policy but by very different visions of the future at home. "Farmer-Laborism attacked concentrated wealth, monopoly ... the power of the few over the many," concluded a scholar of the Minnesota struggle; the Democrats of Humphrey and Mondale, like those of Raymond Clinton and Fulbright, were meanwhile drawing money from large business interests.

While Republicans like McCarthy or Nixon railed about "pinks" and "Communists" among the Democrats, there was never any question about the suppression -- and fateful silencing -- of the party's grassroots and intellectual left. Unlike in the GOP, with its reaction old and new, there would be no larger, systematic critique among Democrats of the special-interest "liberal" system both parties fashioned together in the decades after World War II. Alone among the free nations it led, postwar America would have no major party with a democratic left to match the enduring right -- no balance, as one historian wrote, to "the powerful emotions and interests that always work for conservative policies."

When Bill Clinton excitedly shook hands with John Kennedy in the Rose Garden that summer of 1963, much of the reckoning had already taken place. Like Republicans in the White House later, the Democrats were suffering the gap between the glamour of a media-age president -- this first one of the television era a virtual icon and idol -- and his ability to govern. Kennedy's aides writhed under his disorganization and indecisiveness, later cataloged chillingly in the documentary record opened by Richard Reeves and other scholars. In the Bay of Pigs disaster, in the beginning of the entanglement in Vietnam, in halting enforcement of civil rights in a violent South, the stylish young president was again and again stymied by the sheer narrowness of his conventional party politics, his party view of the nation and the world. Nothing so testified to the gathering failure as the poignant claims of his staff and admirers after his murder -- that everything would have been so different in his second term.

There was a brief interlude -- a momentary revival of the old coalition of urban and rural, northern working people and southern poor- -- ith Kennedy's martyrdom and the succession of Lyndon Johnson's manipulative genius and home-preserved populism. It was the now towering, now shrunken Johnson, the endlessly paradoxical politician of what biographer Robert Caro called "threads bright and dark," who dominated the Democrats during the mid-1960s as Hillary Rodham and Bill Clinton came of age. It was his administration of fitful promise and exhausting, disillusioning disappointment that shaped politics as they first encountered them. He had been, after all, not a winning new media president of the emerging era but a successor, an inheritor by political murder, and a relic, still essentially a creature of the old politics. But he was also a product of the same constricting Democratic mentality, and he would only hasten the larger party evolution and decay.

Symbolized by the stillborn poverty programs Hillary Rodham assessed so ambivalently and incompletely at Wellesley, Johnson's interval of equity and reform quickly ended in the opposition of Democratic barons and bosses and in the blood and folly of the Vietnam War, a result of the Democrats' self-conscious chauvinism and agitated sense of historical analogy. But Vietnam was also very much the work -- as history often ignored -- of the perennially bloody-shirted Republicans, who in Congress and as candidates for president cheered the war on, blocking every attempt by a small minority of Democrats like Fulbright and a few GOP moderates to stem the disaster or even to expose endemic official lying and criminal acts on the pretext of national security, abuses that were becoming the governing habit of both parties.

The red scare had not only frightened and silenced Democrats but stolen their judgment. The most prominent casualty, Johnson himself, described the gnawing, indiscriminate dread of retribution by the reactionaries for any seeming weakness in foreign policy. He had watched, he once confided to a friend, as postwar Communist advances in China and elsewhere fed McCarthyism and destroyed even the most powerful Democrats. "And I knew that all these problems taken together were chickenshit compared to what might happen if we lost Vietnam." His monument -- and that of the majority of Republicans and Democrats who joined him in the calamity -- would be a polished black granite wall, five hundred feet long, fifty-eight thousand American names chiseled into it.

While Republicans thrashed in factional strife the Democrats tore apart under the pounding tides of the 1960s. The wave of reaction was not only opposition to the war, a phenomenon largely outside the party and power, after all. A youth rebellion against the hypocrisies and conformity of the 1950s -- against the worlds of Hot Springs and Park Ridge -- was already stirring an angry generational reaction among the older Americans whose era it was. The civil rights movement was already hastening defection of whites to the GOP in the South and elsewhere. And those intertwining tensions of war, values, and race widened still further the sullen rifts of class and culture already opening between the party's old blue-collar constituency and younger, more affluent professionals.

It all climaxed in the convulsive year of 1968 that Hillary and Bill watched so closely as ambitious young would-be politicians. Like a series of sharp explosions in the night, there would be Gene McCarthy's insurgency, Johnson's abdication, the murder of Martin Luther King, the belated run and then assassination of Robert Kennedy, a riot-shattered convention and party, the narrow defeat of Humphrey by Nixon in a three-way race with Uncle Raymond's idol, George Wallace.

As any bloodied young demonstrator from Chicago could have testified, the Democratic Party in 1968 remained more than ever in the possession of its established powers and their backing money. They were epitomized in 1968 by grinning Hubert Humphrey, financed by his longtime friend Dwayne Andreas, a multimillionaire agribusiness magnate and commodity market player later to be involved in price-fixing on a global scale. Andreas's habit was to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to both presidential candidates -- including, eventually, Bill Clinton. But right-wing Democrats like Lloyd Bentsen in Texas and others, to say nothing of the Republicans, set out to vilify their intraparty rivals with the frightening images of "radical" students, and the ostensible smear, like the red-baiting before it, stuck in many cases. By the end of the decade the Democrats would be politically branded, partly by Democrats, with unsettling causes and changes they enlivened or tolerated only in part -- causes and changes that their own misrule had in some measure provoked and that they had bitterly, violently resisted, had tried to extinguish no less than their Republican counterparts had.

In the grip of its own reaction, squirming under its ironic labels, this was the party in which Hillary Rodham and Bill Clinton formed their own politics and sense of forces in Wellesley, New Haven, Texas, and Arkansas. During eight years of opposition and divided government under Nixon and Ford, as the war raged on and a Republican White House crumbled in corruption, the Democrats struggled only hesitantly to recover the old presidential coalition that elected Kennedy and supported the early, reforming Johnson. From surviving centers of power on Capitol Hill -- and especially among the ever-growing Washington and New York establishment of officials from past administrations -- they drifted ever rightward in domestic policy. In those precincts it was hardly surprising that they were coming to represent vested interests. The Democratic Congress was ever more dependent on big money contributions from those quarters for its incumbency. The establishment were mostly hirelings of the same interests.

As their books and speeches graphically show, they were also increasingly in thrall to the money-raising and media success of their opponents and eagerly mistook the GOP's manipulation of popular fear and prejudice for the expression of popular interests. It was a strange echo of the "me-tooism" the old GOP conservatives of the 1940sand 1950sused to accuse Republican supporters of the New Deal of exhibiting. In the harsh light of Nixon's 1968 victory, went a common argument by the Democrats' right wing, the party should tailor its appeal to the "real majority," a mass of middle America whose conservative values and flag-waving nationalism were supposedly betrayed by the party's affinity for antiwar protesters and unsettling minorities. Once more ironies were sharp. The party was never to be one of minorities or protesters. And the same middle America -- always more blue-collar and marginal than inflated official definitions of "middle class" admitted -- would indeed turn away from the party, would not even bother to vote, because its interests, jobs, welfare were increasingly ignored or betrayed by Democrats aspiring to look, and to be handsomely financed, just like Republicans.

Born out of the strife of 1968, rule changes in 1972 were supposed to open party processes. But then the Washington-anointed frontrunner, Senator Edmund Muskie, lost the nomination to George Mc- Govern, heading a renewed wave of activists. While reluctant party leaders appeared to accept McGovern in an uncoerced convention, maintaining the facade of reform, they quietly and methodically moved to control the insurgents, absorbing them, forcing them either to join or to leave the unreformed system. Withholding contributions, endorsements, and votes, the Democratic leadership in 1972 went on to abandon McGovern to crushing defeat by a Nixon already shrouded in corruption. "I threw open the doors of the Democratic Party," McGovern himself would say later, "and they all walked out." The unwanted Democratic candidate was "gonna lose," one party leader told a television interviewer with rare candor late in the race, "because we're gonna make sure he's gonna lose."

Several veterans of the McGovern run left Washington and politics, never to return. Comanager Gary Hart went on to the Senate and a seemingly inexorable presidential candidacy himself, only to be destroyed in a sex scandal that private investigators and others believed was facilitated by both right-wing Republicans and a CIA nervous about Hart's potential reforms in national security. Others from 1972 stayed in or around Washington, growing adept at the game, and twenty years later joined a Clinton administration that had become what they saw as their last chance at government. The so-called McGovernites -- of whom Hillary Rodham and Bill Clinton would be the most famous and, in many ways, the most typical -- left no visible resistance to the increasingly distorted distribution of governmental and thus economic power in the 1980s. In most cases they were merely part of it, takers of the spoils.

When the Watergate scandal made a Democratic victory likely in the 1976 presidential campaign, the party establishment and its special-interest money turned to the corporate-sanctioned right, to a relatively unknown but mercantile-minded Georgia governor named Jimmy Carter. Soon familiar for his smile and easy drawl (his temper, willfulness, and brooding vacillation yet to be discovered), he was a politician of the more presentable New South, a prototype of the later Clinton New Democrat, who would appreciate the local natural dominance and political dispensations of banks, insurance companies, and low-wage industries and the other freebooting that marked the southern arrival at modern economics.

What was happening to the old democracy could be counted in one small way that year in the party's ostensibly more open system for nominating its presidential candidates. In the still machine-dominated party of 1960John Kennedy entered seven primaries. In 1976 Carter ran in thirty. But then the propagation of primaries, and later the "front-loading" of voting dates early in the year, several on the same day, only fixed the race even more for the heavily financed, front-running establishment candidate. There would be no more "McGovern accidents," as one Washington lobbyist put it. Like other Democratic reforms, the primaries ultimately shifted power to the regulars and insiders, to the money. "The result," said one veteran Democrat, "was to create the appearance of more choice while actually allowing less."

Even against a Gerald Ford weighed down by his pardon of unindicted coconspirator Richard Nixon, Carter won the White House in 1976 with the narrowest electoral college victory since 1916 and the poorest voter turnout in three decades. Having campaigned on a popular pledge to "turn the government of this country inside out," he promptly installed a regime vividly reflecting the decaying leadership of his party. Wealthier by far than its Republican predecessors under Eisenhower, Nixon, or Ford, the Carter cabinet would number several Democratic establishment millionaires and retainers.

Fleeing to a secluded Minnesota lake to ponder his plight, Vice President Walter Mondale, the party careerist from the bloody 1940s, nearly resigned in despair at the Carter administration's disarray. "These sons of bitches don't know how to govern anything," he told an aide. Through 1979 and 1980, as Bill Clinton and others tried to warn Carter of the impending disaster, he only drifted while Senator Edward Kennedy jockeyed to seize the nomination despite Chappaquiddick, numerous indiscretions, and a lethal shallowness in early national appearances. It was a nasty, bitter fight -- much like the bloodletting between the GOP's right and its moderates -- with Carter refusing to speak to Kennedy for years to come. As it was, the battered president managed to muster what was left of the old party machinery, the new corporate money already enveloping the Democrats, and his institutional White House patronage to stave off the challenge. But then in the race against Reagan there were the ever-flickering television images of American hostages in Iran, blindfolded silhouettes of impotence abroad as at home -- and in the background, a tremulous, inflation-weakened economy that exacted its worst toll from the majority of workers and owners of small businesses already abandoned by both parties.

Weeks after his 1976 election Carter had spurned a congressional reauthorization of wage-price controls even Richard Nixon had used a few years before, and by 1979, with wages stagnant and the consumer price index climbing at as much as 14 percent annually, he had no means to stop the spiral. The surrender to the orthodoxy of vested interests would be called with fine irony "neoliberalism." In the political economy of the Democrats and their wealthy sponsors, the well-heeled Carter administration had done little, if anything, to stem a slow decline for millions of Americans. In fact, the Georgian who had once drawlingly called the US tax system "a disgrace to the human race" had begun another process altogether, practicing his own Coolidge laissez-faire. In 1978 he and his men had joined to bring about a major reduction in the capital gains tax and a lowering of corporate tax rates that one writer called "the most regressive measure since the 1920s."

In the fall of 1980, as Bill Clinton complacently faced his own reelection, the frustrated national electorate voted its seething discontent. Like the black Cubans charging down the Fort Chaffee highway in Frank White's ad, menace and uncertainty seemed to loom before the voters -- with neither party able or willing to tell them what was happening to them. Reagan won in what was typically described as a landslide, by more than eight million votes, sweeping forty-three states besides Arkansas. Victory brought GOP control of the Senate, the first since 1952 and only the third in a half century. Thirty-three new GOP seats in the House reduced the Democrats to an uncertain fifty-one-vote majority. "It's sort of an expression of joy," one Republican lawyer said afterward, "like a flower coming up in the spring." Others were not so sure of a clear result for party or doctrine. Many voters now called themselves conservative, yet millions more were added to the ranks of deliberate nonvoters. Only a little more than one in three eligible Americans had bothered to go to the polls in any election since 1974, and thus there was a vast new party of the politically dispossessed, outnumbering Democrats and Republicans together. "This is not the conservatism of people genuinely wed to the status quo and to the protection of their privileges," one writer predicted well before the 1980 results were in. "It is the pseudo-conservatism of people with blighted hopes."

What followed was indeed part of the longer, larger slow-motion coup, a culmination of the betrayal and lingering death of democracy in both parties, a series of decisive, bipartisan political acts led by Democratic Congresses as well as the Republican White House.

It had begun in 1978 under Carter with the cuts in capital gains and corporate taxes and the deliberate disavowal of government as the balancing force of public interest against private power.

In 1981 came the initial Reagan tax legislation, drastically reducing rates for the rich and devising still more subsidies and windfalls for corporations and wealthy individuals. The spectacle appalled Reagan's own budget director, David Stockman, one of the administration's staunchest ideologues. "The hogs were really feeding," he confessed to a journalist afterward.

By 1982 sweeping financial deregulation set loose a speculative frenzy in the financial markets resulting in a plague of business seizures at a cost of hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in productivity, public revenues, and rifled pension funds.

In 1983 a new $200 billion social security tax fell overwhelmingly on the working poor and middle class, amounting to what one Senate witness would call "embezzlement," another "robbery."

By 1985 the regressive redistribution of wealth in federal budget mandates was enshrined in the Gramm-Rudman balanced budget act. In 1986 heralded tax reform did little for the majority of Americans but quietly gave another $20 billion in windfalls and subsidies to upper incomes, making "spectacular beneficiaries," as one account put it, of those making $200,000 or more.

In 1990 a deficit-reduction bill scheduled $140 billion in future tax increases, but with scarcely 11 percent to come from corporations. Most of the rest was taken from those with incomes beneath $50,000.

All the while, the states themselves followed Washington's example. Their own local taxes became increasingly regressive. The ten wealthiest states grew 36 percent richer during the 1980s, surpassing the other, poorer forty in an inequity "getting dangerously worse," as the Economist warned by 1992.

When it was over, Americans of average means were paying proportionately far more in taxes, and the wealthy were getting off easy. Most people were comparatively poorer and less in command of their own lives than at any moment since the Great Depression and World War II. The few at the top were richer and more influential than ever. The most powerful US corporations escaped an estimated $92 billion a year in taxes (compared to their early postwar contribution), their share of federal revenues cut by four-fifths since the 1970s, down to 8 percent. Foreign corporations were taxed at a fraction of what most American families paid. Even government largesse in the name of national security -- a $250-300 billion military budget and over $36 billion in yearly arms sales -- profited only the few. To close the circle, the redistribution of wealth and taxes, along with gigantic weapons spending, fed a fulminating national debt, and interest on it, too, flowed to the wealthy at home and abroad who held its notes.

***

As the toll and the governance that exacted it became more stark, it would be clear that the Reagan reaction beginning in 1981 had not truly transformed Washington. It had merely merged with it. There was less a Reagan-Bush revolution than a continuing corrupt evolution of both parties, particularly of those institutions that made up the real government of America -- the money-dominated Congress and executive, the lobbies and the media, the interests, methods, loyalties, rewards, consequences they all shared. It was a culture that had grown naturally, organically out of the past yet had now taken on historic proportions. If it seemed different in kind, it was because its abuses had become so enormous, so common, so accepted.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 24362
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Partners in POWER: The Clintons and Their America

Postby admin » Fri Jun 24, 2016 9:50 pm

Part 1 of 2

14. Little Rock II: "You'll See They Love You Again"

Not long after losing the 1980 election, Bill Clinton met with three Pentecostal preachers who ministered to his defeat as if it were some ghastly disgrace or disfigurement, "holding hands with him and praying together," Donnie Radcliffe recounted, "as they reassured him that even if he had lost they loved him." Revivalist themes of guilt and absolution -- of being "loved" and elected again -- were typical of much that followed, though the scenes were not always so sanctified.

As it had before, the thwarting of his ambition amounted to an emotional crisis for the man and the politician. It produced in the thirty-five-year-old Clinton distinctive reactions -- in public a desperate, obsessive contrition, in private a despondent, often bitter recklessness. Defeat -- and then the feverish comeback -- also exacted a toll on Hillary Rodham. The period 1981-82 became a crucial juncture in their marriage and in their rise to the presidency.

Over a first bleak winter after the election, well-placed patrons eased their exit from power. Still disconsolate after a brooding vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Clinton retreated from the statehouse to a sinecure with Wright, Lindsey and Jennings, a growing Little Rock law firm serving some of the nation's largest corporations, including Ford, AT&T, General Electric, and Westinghouse; an array of national insurance giants, among them Hartford, Kemper, Nationwide, Northwestern National, Allstate, and Travelers; and several of Arkansas's big timber, food, utility, financial, and trucking concerns. Formally of counsel rather than a partner, Clinton was to be paid $55,000 a year, a respectable Little Rock retainer at the time and more than the $49,290 his wife was receiving as a junior partner at Rose.

Some in the firm hoped the former governor's name recognition might attract clients, though no one aware of the arrangement expected him to practice law. His brief was his own political resurrection and the rewards it promised on all sides. "The son of a bitch cost this firm a lot of money just to park him here between terms," one senior partner complained. But the bargain was implicit. "We gave him a salary and an office for a reelection campaign for governor, pure and simple," said another of the firm's attorneys, "and everybody around here understood more or less what was going on." Under Clinton statehouse administrations to come over the next decade, Wright, Lindsey would enjoy influence and fees far beyond what many in the local business community thought it could have expected otherwise, surpassing in lucrative state-bond work even Rose and other, more venerable firms. "A helluva return on the investment," one of its partners remarked afterward. "You might conclude," said a rival, "that they were wired."

Clinton owed his comeback haven to senior partner Bruce Lindsey, a thirty-three-year-old Arkansan educated at Southwestern in Memphis and at Georgetown Law School. The slight, taciturn, diffident Lindsey was a lawyer of ordinary abilities who worked doggedly to cultivate his already lucrative practice. He was always in the shadow, many thought, of his more impressive father, who worried that the son would never be more than a political hanger-on. "The boy was not his old man," said a close friend of the father's, "and I can tell you that Bruce's daddy wondered if he wasn't just a gofer at heart." The younger Lindsey had moved from minor job to minor job for Fulbright, Bumpers, and Pryor before returning to Little Rock to join the firm. There he found his niche, personally as politically, with Bill Clinton, soon becoming a slavishly loyal acolyte to the quicker, more outwardly imposing politician. A "preternatural, supernatural loyalty," one observer called it.

Lindsey would be an intimate in the rise of a future president of the United States. Adviser during the 1980s in the Clintons' thickening web of financial and political connections, he became an impervious man Friday, traveling at the candidate's side in 1992, serving as sounding board, orderly, and warder. It would be Lindsey who saw to it that the campaign plane's pretty flight attendants were nowhere near Clinton when cameras were readied and that they and other young women politely declined the governor's insistent invitations to "work out" with him at a local gym. "Bruce was like the guy who comes along behind," another aide would say, "shoveling up after the parade." Later, among the small Arkansas inner circle in the White House, he would be one of the very few at the core of the Clinton presidency who knew its deeper provenance in Little Rock.

Barely a month after joining Lindsey's firm Clinton also became one of three directors of a seven-month-old Arkansas corporation called Intermark, described in a press release as "an international trade-and-management company," said to be engaged in "promotion of foreign markets" for Arkansas products as well as in "importing and in forming joint ventures involving Arkansas and foreign interests." In what the Gazette called "Clinton's first job with a private company," his fellow directors were Intermark president John W. Priest and J. Stephen Stoltz, former and current chief executives, respectively, of Polyvend International, a Conway, Arkansas, sheet-metal corporation that was becoming one of the country's leading manufacturers of vending machines and would hold, under the second Clinton administration, the lucrative state contract to make Arkansas's "Land of Opportunity" license plates. A subsidiary of Polyvend, Intermark was "expected to have sales in the millions during its first year," Clinton himself boasted to the Gazette in February 1981. The former governor, Priest added, would be "a strong asset," playing "an active role in company affairs." With that, however, Intermark and Clinton's involvement with it promptly disappeared from public view.

What sort of company was Polyvend, and what was its relationship to state government? Exactly what did the new Intermark do for its predicted large profits, and how much did it actually earn? What "active role" did Bill Clinton playas the only outsider on its three-man board, and was he paid or otherwise compensated as a director of a reputedly multimillion-dollar concern? Even in 1981 there were intriguing elements of the association for a young Democratic politician. Polyvend had a major branch in South Africa. The home company in Arkansas was noted for its reactionary antilabor posture. Holder of the Polyvend founding fortune through a controversial inheritance, Steve Stoltz was a decided conservative and a staunch supporter of Republican candidates yet now was also a free-spending social friend of Democrat Bill Clinton; they were "partying buddies," one person remembered. "I guess they were an odd couple," said a member of Stoltz's family, "un less you really knew Arkansas."

But like the relationship with Jim McDougal in Whitewater after 1978 or with Jim Blair in the commodities market in 1979-80 and as an intimate adviser ever after, like the bargain struck with Bruce Lindsey's firm in 1981, like the various links with wealthy backers and enormously powerful local figures like chicken king Don Tyson, like Hillary Rodham's connection with her Rose partners and their practice, like, for that matter, the Clintons' notoriously tortured marriage, the Intermark arrangement went largely unremarked. In Little Rock's tacit code of ruling-class discretion it was merely one more piece of business amid a banal intermingling of public office, private profit, and personal excess.

On the strength of both the new retainer at Wright, Lindsey and Hillary's brokerage windfalls the year before, the Clintons now moved to a gracious home on Midland Avenue in the capital's fashionable Pulaski Heights. Purchased for $112,000, with a down payment of $60,000 from the commodities profits, it was an airy old Victorian residence of tasteful soft yellow trimmed in white, with a sweeping porch, four large bedrooms, and an impressive library to display Bill's much-noted accumulation of books. "I always remember all those books," said a former aide. "It showed how smart he was." Their home was literally around the corner from many of Little Rock's most imposing houses and estates, the friendly precincts of the business and professional caste where Clinton won majorities of over 60 percent, even against Frank White. "That was the kind of place that made them part of the 'right neighborhood' and 'right people' in Little Rock, or at least as 'right' as you could be in Arkansas," said a neighbor at the time, "and that was really important to both of them, especially Hillary."

Yet neither the law firm sanctuary nor the respectable address seemed to assuage his anguish over his defeat. Restlessly he prowled offices and restaurants, even grocery stores and shops in and around his prestigious new neighborhood, seeking out familiar faces or, as often as not, strangers to accost with what journalist and friend Max Brantley called "this Hamlet soliloquy -- 'All is lost, what can I do?' " Many observers thought it a kind of emotional panhandling. "It was pathetic," one told Connie Bruck. "It seemed as if you might find him, almost any hour of the day or night, at this supermarket out on Markham -- he'd catch you at the end of the aisle, or he'd be waiting at the register, and he'd say, 'You know, I used to be governor, and ...'''

Later, advisers would urge him to make a campaign theme of apology and humility, to "admit" what older Arkansas political figures and wealthy backers saw as the "radical" liberalism and rash reforms of his first governorship. Yet in the weeks after he left office the personal abjectness and mortification were far more impulsive and disturbing -- not yet crafted political tactic but a stark sign of his deeper inner frailty, of how completely political acclaim and advance already defined his life. "It was supine, really a craven kind of crawl from one place to another, begging to be taken back," said one who watched. "It was an extraordinarily appropriate reaction," Edith Efron observed, "for a man whose sense of reality is dependent on the perception of others." At the time, his sternest critics were as dismayed and embarrassed as his staunch friends were. "He apologized so often and with such remorse," John Robert Starr recorded, "that even I begged him to stop."

In 1992 campaign interviews the Clintons both recalled how much the 1980 election and its aftershock had evoked memories of Bill Blythe's premature death and thus the son's own sense of precarious mortality. "I would seize everything," Clinton told Gail Sheehy in an interview for Vanity Fair. "Not just in his political career," Hillary explained to Sheehy. "It was reading everything he could read, talking to everybody he could talk to, staying up all night, because life was passing him by."

In the same months friends and former aides heard him speak contemptuously about the "rednecks and peckerwoods" who deserted him, "stupid people who didn't deserve what he had to offer," as one recalled. There were also stories of the former governor's carousing as never before at parties where cocaine was as common as liquor. Clinton would be seen with a young woman or even two women at a time, a red-eyed, puffy figure delivering himself of a profane running commentary about the treachery of voters.

There had been persistent rumors of cocaine use in the wider Clinton social circle during his first term and more open charges of pot smoking. "I can remember going into the governor's conference room once," state representative Jack McCoy said years later, "and it reeked of marijuana." A convicted drug dealer and onetime bartender at Le Bistro nightclub, reportedly where Roger Clinton's band played and Bill went often in 1979, later told stories of selling cocaine to Roger, who "immediately gave some to his elder brother," according to one account. The frequent nights out in 1981 only added to such increasingly common lore. Some of Little Rock whispered about wild "toga parties" at the Coachman's Inn outside the city, half sophomoric fraternity bacchanalia, half more serious spectacle. It was the beginning, some believed, of a still sharper divide between the politician's public face and private reality. Bill Clinton came to seem all the more calculating on the outside, all the more wanton behind the screen, his personal excesses taken in compensation or even revenge for his buttoned-up public persona. "He was deeply hurt and deeply angry," said an aide, "and along with the oh-so-sorry Bill there was also a screw-'em-all Bill."

***

Only ten days after the election he reached out to Hillary and his Texas friend and organizer from the McGovern campaign, Betsey Wright, persuading her to hurry to Little Rock to begin managing his comeback before he even left office. "She came when he begged her," said a mutual friend, "and when no one else would work for him." Since the 1960s Wright had been what a colleague called a "loaded gun for hire," serving Democratic candidates of various stripes, including Humphrey, Carter, and Clinton, in his 1974 congressional run. In 1980 she was working for a women's political action group in Washington. Like Lindsey and others, she now cast her lot with the unseated Arkansas governor, seeing him, despite his loss, as one of the young comers in the shaken party at a moment when Republicans had won both the White House and the Senate. "Only a couple of years," a friend remembered her saying in 1980 about her stay with Clinton. She ended up spending more than a decade. The essence of her career would be in the shadow of what she found -- and joined -- in Little Rock.

Smoking five packs of cigarettes a day, given to baggy sweatshirts, slacks, and a manner that instantly set her apart from conventional Arkansas political women, Wright was ensconced with suitable funds in an office conveniently near the Lindsey firm. There she immediately began to plot Clinton's reelection. "I found his entire political life on index cards in shoe boxes," she said of the records that dated back to high school in Hot Springs and that by now contained scribbled notations of each Clinton contact or encounter, a meeting here, news of a family death or success there, literally hundreds of tireless entries in a politician's exhaustive scripting of spontaneity, memory, intimacy. With the help of a Clinton supporter Wright now cross-referenced names, addresses, and telephone numbers by county, zip code, and level of support, creating sophisticated computerized files of past and future backers, current and potential enemies. Over the next twelve years she was to be what one associate called "the keeper of the keys and of the skeletons behind the locked door." Like most handlers and votaries of her kind in modern American politics, she also buried her own convictions, whatever substantive views she may have once held, as an ardent feminist serving a politician with a superficially enlightened, deeply paradoxical, often crudely depreciative attitude toward women.

From the beginning Wright pushed and disciplined Clinton as no other aide had. "Betsey was the only one who could and would challenge him, who'd scream and yell," said a man who watched the relationship for years. She was also characteristically, singularly candid -- often tart -- about what she discovered the moment she became his manager. "He got crazy in the incessant quest for understanding what he did wrong," Wright would say of the period following the 1980 loss. "Bill was always very careless," she once related, hurrying to explain, "out of an unbelievable naivete. He has a defective shit detector about personal relationships sometimes. He just thinks everyone is wonderful. He is also careless about appearances."

To Gail Sheehy in 1992 Wright confided her own "frustrations ... watching the groupie girls hanging around and the fawning all over [him]. But I always laughed at them on the inside because I knew no dumb bimbo was ever going to be able to provide to him all of the dimensions that Hillary does."

With that other equally strong and acerbic woman on the scene, Wright soon formed an implicit bond of perseverance and discretion. "Hillary got on with her because she wanted someone to say no besides her," said a longtime friend of both, "as well as somebody else to keep the secrets, to keep quiet where they had to." Still, Wright's frankness and fierce pride broke the silence. Around the campaign office and later the statehouse, she was defiant of the primitive sexism of the Arkansas political world, confronting any sign of discrimination or exploitation, while watching Clinton's personal antics and his marriage with sometimes irrepressible dismay. "Her tolerance for some of his behavior just amazes me," she would say of the governor's wife, the woman confronted with so many of what they both chose to call "dumb bimbos."

In the winter of 1980-81 friends saw Hillary Rodham successively hurt and enraged by her husband's woeful reaction to defeat, then eventually resigned and grimly determined to salvage her choice. "In some ways, I guess, this was the first time she'd actually seen that side of the real Bill," said one witness. More than one friend urged her simply to give up and leave. "She was only thirty-three, with great earning power and plenty of reason to be her own person, for God's sake -- a lot more going for her than many mistreated women have," said a Yale classmate who remained her confidante.

But Hillary Rodham resolved to stay and recover their original quest. She would force a certain necessary compliance in the relationship for electoral purposes, even if she couldn't meaningfully curb the private appetites and habits of her ever-promising, ever-charming, politically gifted husband. "It absolutely was not an alternative that she gave him," Betsey Wright remembered. Clinton's friends described him as "terrified" of losing his wife, with "a deep sense," as one put it, "of having failed Hillary by losing the election." The recurrent fear and guilt, they agreed, always brought only expedient adjustment and a grudging, fitful accommodation, never self-searching, authentic change or meaningful sacrifice.

With earnestness and effect Clinton began appearing every Sunday at Little Rock's massive Immanuel Baptist Church, which he had never attended so regularly before. He was now seen prominently in the choir, just beyond the pulpit, as carefully arranged television cameras carried the service -- and with it the former governor's grinning, nodding, hymn-singing presence -- to thousands of viewers throughout the state. He would also attend a publicized church camp in the Redfield community, where he was broadcast harmonizing with a quartet of pastors.

Inside Immanuel Baptist, monumental and prosperous in an otherwise struggling quarter of the city, the setting was a classic of its kind. Light blue carpet and Wedgwood decor framed the great forty-two-pipe organ and red-velvet baptismal chamber recessed into the wall above the altar. Beneath the domed ceiling, bathed in television lights, sat the well-coiffed minister and choir, a front-pew phalanx of deacons, and an overwhelmingly white, middle-class congregation of a thousand or more, all stiffened by seemingly uniform hair spray and by a robust theology intoning the "attitude of gratitude" and the "subtlety of the serpent." "Perfect place for a soft reentry in ole Arkansas," a fellow politician said later of the Sunday-morning televised scenes.

Away from the choir Clinton struck what the couple's friend Diane Blair called "a new note of religiosity" in his still frequent public declarations, pointedly reminding listeners of the power of redemption for wayward governors who had tried to do too much, as for other lost souls. "We have always sort of specialized in forgiveness of sinners," he said of his "home" church. "If in his first dazzling rise to the governorship Clinton had most nearly resembled a child prodigy," Blair said, "in his reincarnation he had become the prodigal son."

The invariable apology was for radical rule, for not "listening." It was in many ways a Clinton version of the wider Democratic reaction to the Republican victories around the country, a new postmortem orthodoxy that the party should accept the characterization of its reactionary opponents and turn to the right after 1980, much as after the Nixon victory in 1972. Others saw it in simpler Arkansas terms. "He'd just learned that the big boys run the state," said one adviser. "That's all."

But even more impressive and lasting than the contrite message was the distinct manner of the slightly pudgy, still boyish young politician of unique earnestness. He would respond to the charge of heedlessness by listening as never before. More intense, more purposeful than even the highly personalized style of the early Clinton, his new approach would first appear now, in the almost desperate recovery of early 1981, and evolve over the years as what Alexis Moore described as "The Look": "The Look makes the moment his. As the citizen says his or her name, Clinton's eyes widen in an intense, focused gaze that says, 'Yes, yes, you, you are the one I've been waiting for; yours, yes, yours is the single voice to which I listen; you, yes, you are the One Who Matters.' When The Look appears, he leans forward or down to see eye to eye. This stream of light permits no escape. When The Look hits, the citizen, whether hostile, disbelieving, or supportive, can't help but respond. Hunched shoulders relax, anxious faces smooth, fast talkers slow, shy folks emerge garrulous."

Not long after his defeat, Clinton went unexpectedly as well to visit one of Diane Blair's political science classes at the University in Fayetteville, as eager to talk to students as to any other group that would listen. Leaders were a combination "of darkness ... and of light," Blair remembered his saying in his discussion of various figures from Lincoln to Hitler to Lyndon Johnson. "Great politicians don't give a rip about public opinion," he told the students. Clinton said nothing about his own predicament. Asked why he pursued politics, he paused, shrugged, and answered almost offhandedly with his reflexive grin, "It's the only track I ever wanted to run on."

Many came to believe that it was in the early months of 1981 that Bill Clinton made fundamental choices about himself and about power. "It didn't matter what he had been or hadn't really been in his first term, how progressive or idealistic or not. This was the moment when Bill lost his guts," said a colleague from earlier campaigns. "From there on, he'd do whatever necessary to get elected and stay elected. He made his deal with the devil."

***

He was not alone in facing a choice. Some thought Hillary Rodham had taken the loss as hard as her husband had, though her manner of dealing with defeat was as different from his as her taut Methodism was from the display at Immanuel Baptist.

Nominated by the outgoing Carter for another term on the Legal Services Board, she went unconfirmed by the new Republican-controlled Senate in 1981. Personal rejection seemed to propel her back toward her own role in Clinton's fate and thus toward confronting both the meaning of the 1980 defeat and the essence of their relationship. "The experience of watching Bill screw up made Hillary realize she should jump into the breach," an adviser told Connie Bruck. "She had to-he was so shaken, and was not a particularly good strategist anyway. There was no way he was going to win again unless she came in." What followed, however, was always far more than taking charge of a reelection campaign.

No single act came to symbolize so vividly her role and sacrifice as the surrender of her maiden name. Friends and advisers were alternately grave and flippant in urging her to give up the most visible vestige of independence. "Early one morning she was cooking me and Bill grits, and I told her she had to start using her husband's name," Washington lobbyist Vernon Jordan remembered of a visit to the mansion just after the 1980 debacle, adding fatuously, "She understood." For his part, Jim Blair was mocking about the local mores they were appeasing. "Have a ceremony on the steps of the capitol where Bill puts his booted foot firmly on her throat, yanks her up by the hair and says, 'Woman, you're going to go by my last name and that's that,' " he told them. "Then wave the flag, sing a few hymns, and be done with it." They all laughed, as Diane Blair related the scene.

Blair's caustic acknowledgment of the political liability was also, of course, another expression of the profound inner contempt of the homegrown elite for their "beloved" Arkansas, the "hillbillies and white trash," as one of Hillary's fellow lawyers put it-the same society the devout ex-governor smiled out on from Immanuel Baptist, people whom many of Blair's clients and Clinton's contributors were profitably exploiting through low wages, regressive taxes, and the larger special-interest tyranny of state government.

The name change was only part of a larger transformation, calculation, capitulation for the former First Lady. Treating her overall appearance as a political expedient, she shed her glasses for contact lenses though she found them difficult to wear, styled and lightened her hair, began using cosmetics, and hired a fashion consultant to help her buy a wardrobe. "She conformed, eyes batting. She hated it, for a while resented it no end, but she became what Arkansas wanted her to be," one of the Clintons' closest aides would say. "I saw them a little while after they left office and looked at this woman and thought, 'Jesus, he's dumped his wife after all,' " said a legislator and lobbyist, "and then I realized ... it was Hillary."

Equally important, her makeover included a more demure and ingratiating public manner. The coolly intelligent and crisply decided, often abrasive young woman was less aggressive and outspoken, careful, if not wholly concealed. Her exterior change was never so abrupt as some thought afterward; it was more nearly an evolution and unfolding, each alteration tried on and absorbed in turn.

Clinton himself would be given a shorter haircut, and his wide-lapelled 1970s wardrobe would be replaced with more subdued, conservative clothes. Swiftly Hillary purged from campaign circles "the squirrels," those young "long-haired radicals" of a supposedly brazen, bumptious administration. In this and more, Clinton himself was diffident, quietly acquiescent in watching old backers swept aside, some from the first days of his congressional run.

As part of a wider new expedience and opportunism in both their social and their political contacts, she established her own subtle and not-so-subtle distinctions as to who could be useful -- who, in effect, would be their society -- not only on the way back to the governorship but on their path to the ultimate prize of the White House. "Why are you hanging out with these losers? They're not successful, not rich," a Clinton friend said, describing to Connie Bruck Hillary's attitude toward many of their associations. "I think she has assigned a usefulness quotient to everyone in her life: Whom do I need to accomplish this? Everyone is part of a team to get from this point to the finished product. . . . Are you wealthy? Are you powerful? Have you written a book I like? Are you a star?"

Longtime Clinton friends who were her rivals for influence and intimacy were eliminated, as were aides like Steve Smith, Rudy Moore, and others who recognized the irony in the cliche that the first term had been fatally radical. "These folks cut out were sure as hell not her buddies from Rose or the corporations," said someone who watched the retribution, "and it was easy to blame a lot of good folks for losing that election."

The resulting Arkansas claque was deemed more useful-corporate executives, wealthy figureheads and lawyers, or simply politicos with stakes in the status quo, men like former highway commissioner W. Maurice Smith, a small-town banker and fund-raiser; former auditor and adjutant general Jimmie "Red" Jones; Bill Clark, former head of the notorious Highway Commission; onetime Detroit Tigers star and highway commissioner George Kell; and Mack McLarty. "When you understand that the highway slots are the nearest thing to royalty in Arkansas," one legislator said of the good ole boy commissioners, "they were the princes of the system." Maurice Smith, campaign finance chair in 1982 and for each subsequent gubernatorial run, would be especially important, with what one source called "all his rich friends, and all their rich folks' point of view." Elevated by what some saw as Hillary's "great purge," the new circle around Clinton only furthered his "repentance" and disavowal of a mythical first-term progressivism.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 24362
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

PreviousNext

Return to Wackenhut / Inslaw Promis Software / Arkansas-Contra

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest