Archive for category American Political News

It’s Time To Exercise the Legislative “Veto”

Veto CongressAnd funding a constitutional government worth funding.

The apoplectic and apocalyptic will scoff at the suggestion that this past week’s executive amnesty could help fuel a partial revitalization of our republic. So why is there room for optimism that something can be done–and what?

President Obama’s threatened and now announced executive amnesty has, not for the first time, drawn pundits, politicians, and the American people, Left and Right, back to the Constitution to reflect on what, exactly, the president and Congress are supposed to do. That, in and of itself, is a good thing–an indication that, at some level, we all still recognize the need to square our political behavior with our (collective) political principles.

Judging by the results, those on the Left have not liked what they have found in the Constitution. The leading talking point of the last week has been “Republican presidents (including Ronald Reagan) did the same thing.” A number of people have shown that, in fact, the actions of President Reagan and his successor, George H.W. Bush, are clearly distinguishable from President Obama’s.

But suppose they weren’t. Tu quoque (“you too!”) may be good politics, but it’s bad logic and, if possible, worse legal and constitutional reasoning. (It’s not a solid defense against speeding to suggest that you were only keeping pace with the car in front of you.) Better to conclude that both Republican and Democratic presidents have violated the plain intent of the Constitution than to wrench the Constitution into justifying what they did, simply out of partisan loyalty. Are any of us willing to prostitute our integrity for parties so unworthy of the sacrifice?

The president’s (slightly) more sophisticated defenders have resorted to a “devil made me do it” defense. Who’s the “devil” in this case? First choice is, naturally, House Republicans, who, according to outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, had 510 days to do something about immigration, starting the clock from when the Senate passed an immigration reform bill.

Choosing not to legislate is, of course, a perfectly legitimate legislative act–one that Harry Reid (tu quoque) knows a lot about, with more than 300 House bills awaiting action in the Senate. Surely the House doesn’t have to pass a bill it disapproves to keep the president from implementing part of what it disapproves. Shorter Senator Reid: heads I win; tails you lose.

But if the House’s (in)action is perfectly legitimate and we’re still stuck, then maybe the devil is actually the (founders-designed) system. That, at least, was the suggestion of Garrett Epps, writing for The Atlantic last week. Prof. Epps argues in ominous tones that we could use a “six month moratorium on paeons to the wisdom of the framers,” since they failed to anticipate “divided government”–when one party controls the Congress and another party the presidency–leaving us in a “dangerous” position that will “probably” lead to government “shutdown, perhaps default, and possibly impeachment.”

Much could be said in response to this charge against the founders–starting with the fact that the they didn’t justanticipate divided government, they designed the government to be divided with the separation of legislative, executive, and legislative powers. If they erred, it was in assuming (a) that the government would be divided as much (or more) legislature against executive as Party X against Party Y and (b) that parties would be more numerous and fluid than they have turned out to be.

They hoped, in other words, for something better in congressional leaders than sycophantic ideologues, like Senator Reid, who invite the president to “go big” in usurping legislative authority, but they harbored no illusions that their system would facilitate expansive legislative programs, which were neither needed (see Federalist 53) nor conducive to self-government (see Federalist 62).

Gridlock, most of the time, was a better option that bad or frequent lawmaking–and the occasional times when it frustrated good initiatives were a reasonable price to pay for avoiding the assaults to enterprise and liberty of a voluminous and unstable legal code.

We The peopleThat, in fact, was one of the two reasons Alexander Hamilton gives in Federalist 73 to justify the president’s veto power. The other (and, in Hamilton’s view, even more important) is equally instructive in this case: to protect the president “against the depredations of the [Congress]”–that is, to maintain the separation of powers.

The president needed such protection, both Madison and Hamilton argued, because of the natural strength of the legislative branch in a republican system. As our regime has democratized, we’ve argued elsewhere, the executive branch has become ascendant–indeed all but hegemonic.

As a result, while we still need a presidential veto to protect the executive branch from the (infrequent) assaults of the Congress, we need, much more, an understanding and forthright application of the Congress’s own “veto” power.

The idea of a legislative veto in our system should be something of an absurdity because there are very few places under the Constitution where the executive branch has the initiative–a precondition for a veto power (you veto someone else’s measure, after all).

However, in our day of pseudo-law executive orders and claims of prosecutorial discretion, pseudo-treaty executive agreements, and a dormant Congressional power to declare war, presidents have seized the initiative in almost every area of policy-making. As a result, Congress must consciously and publicly reconceive its appropriation (and correlative defunding) power as not only policy-making, but policy-stopping.

To inactivate or deactivate programs and agencies with the power of the purse is legislative activity fully within its Constitutional authority.

In quiet ways, of course, this is already done. As The Federalist’s Sean Davis writes:

Congress adds riders and prohibitions to appropriations bills all the time. Why? Because it can [“Article 1, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution”]:

‘No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law[.]‘

And from that power of the purse come the most powerful words in federal law:

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no funds shall be appropriated or otherwise made available for ______.”

What has yet to happen, however, is for Congress to make the political case, in any kind of systematic or persuasive way, that defunding parts of the federal bureaucracy is not a precursor to a Congress-initiated government shutdown and default, the two horsemen of the Progressive fiscal apocalypse (see Prof. Epps), but a defensive mechanism needed to protect Congress from the “depredations” of the president.

Congressional Republicans, in other words, would improve their ability to respond to the president’s assaults if they spent more time talking about the need for a Constitutional course correction and less time making idle and often insincere threats. When the crisis point in the game of chicken comes, it is too late for a previously chest-thumping Congress, with all the rhetorical disadvantages of diffuse leadership and political division (not to mention a hostile press), to win the sympathy of the general public.

Unfortunately, the lesson Republicans have learned from their previous encounters with President Obama is that a “shutdown” must be avoided at all costs. But if not satisfying the president’s fiscal demands is tantamount to causing a shutdown, we’re back where we started on the immigration question: heads the president win; tails Republicans lose.

Madison wrote in Federalist 48: “It will not be denied, that power is of an encroaching nature, and that it ought to be effectually restrained from passing the limits assigned to it.” This is the state of affairs that President Obama has furthered and taken advantage of in his personal appropriation of legislative power on a host of issues. The One Hundred Fourteenth United States Congress would go down as the one of the finest and most dutifully active and vigilant if it were to employ its power of the purse to ensure that constitutional government of, by, and for the American people did not perish on its watch.

David Corbin is a Professor of Politics and Matthew Parks an Assistant Professor of Politics at The King’s College, New York City. They are co-authors of “Keeping Our Republic: Principles for a Political Reformation” (2011). You can follow their work on Twitter or Facebook.





, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Choosing an Energetic President To – “Take Care That The Laws Be Faithfully Executed”

Alexander HamiltonAs we enter the last week of the midterm campaign, we find ourselves ringside in a battle between President Obama’s vanity and Democratic Senate candidate’s cynicism.

It seems the president’s sense of self-importance won’t allow him to stop saying things unhelpful to Democrats trying to free themselves from the heavy weight of his unpopularity by wearing camouflage jackets, rediscovering their drawl, and ostentatiously standing up for local industries on the wrong side of environmental history.

First President Obama claimed that “every single one” of his policies is “on the ballot” this fall. Then he reminded voters that the endangered red state Democrats are “all folks who vote with me” and who “have supported my agenda in Congress.” Most recently, his spokesman contradicted Alaska Senator Mark Begich’s claim that Mr. Obama, with just two years left on the job, was “irrelevant,” despite the support Mr. Begich received, with several layers of irony, from once and future (?) co-president Bill Clinton (who had to defend his own relevance after the Republican electoral tsunami of 1994). Wonder who Mr. Clinton thinks should be leading the party?

Three rounds in, vanity appears to be ahead of cynicism on points, as President Obama simply won’t let others be the changed candidates they want to be. Fearing a November 3rd knockout, most Democratic operatives, it seems, would like nothing more than for Mr. Obama to find a new hobby.

He might even try being president.

We’ve written about the dangers of a hegemonic presidency, inspired by President Obama’s unprecedented use of executive orders, among other violations of the separation of powers. But what is equally striking–and equally dangerous in its own way–is his tendency to neglect the core duties of his executive office as he acts aggressively in areas properly assigned to others.

  • The president instructs the Justice Department not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act before the Supreme Court, but tells the Court to its face that it misread the First Amendment in striking down campaign finance restrictions and then opines that his own evolving views on gay marriage now require the Court to nationalize it as soon as politically expedient.
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement saves money by releasing 2,200 detainees, including 629 with what it (and the Administration)  falsely claimed were only low level criminal records, while the president prepares an executive order that will essentially rewrite American immigration policy–not just without Congressional consent, but in terms that could probably not win the votes of 10% of the members of Congress (whatever their private views might be).

More could be said about his Administration’s failure to enforce laws like Obamacare or passivity in the face of growing health and military threats (from) abroad. But what a former aide to Harry Reid said about the president’s approach to the fall campaign might be said about his approach to the presidency in general: “President Obama doesn’t like to get his hands dirty. He seemingly floats above it all.”

Unfortunately, the presidency, as designed, requires a very different sort of person: one who will take up his constitutional responsibilities (but only those responsibilities) with vigor. As Alexander Hamilton argued in Federalist 70, far from being inconsistent with republican and constitutional government, “[e]nergy in the Executive is a leading character in the definition of good government.”

After showing that the Electoral College would likely produce the election of a republican president (Federalist 68) and suggesting that American presidents would be constrained to remain republicans in office, if not by their own design, then by the Constitution, the people, and the other branches of government (Federalist 69), Hamilton posits that only the energetic execution of the office will serve its republican purpose.

Why? Because an “energetic” president would be best able to secure:

  1. the protection of the community against foreign attacks;
  2. the steady administration of the laws;
  3. the protection of property, and
  4. the people’s liberty “against the enterprises of ambition, of faction, and of anarchy.”

Obviously, there are many ways that energy, oriented in the wrong direction, could be harmful to the American republic. But, as Hamilton argues:

A feeble Executive implies a feeble execution of the government. A feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution; and a government ill executed, whatever it may be in theory, must be, in practice, a bad government. 

Thus Hamilton’s argument in Federalist 70 follows the earlier argument he had made in Federalist 23 regarding the energy requisite to carry out the essential tasks of the federal government:

This is one of those truths which, to a correct and unprejudiced mind, carries its own evidence along with it; and may be obscured, but cannot be made plainer by argument or reasoning. It rests upon axioms as simple as they are universal; the means ought to be proportioned to the end; the persons, from whose agency the attainment of any end is expected, ought to possess the means by which it is to be attained. 

Debate all you wish whether the federal government in general or the president in particular ought to be responsible for accomplishing x, y, or z. But once you’ve said ‘yes,’ it will be no boon to the people’s liberty or security if you withhold the power necessary to actually accomplish the given task.

For the president to be the servant-leader he was expected to be, Hamilton argued, he must be able to employ with confidence the powers that he had been granted. There ought to be no doubt that his energetic employment of his constitutional means for the sake of constitutional ends would be beyond reproof.

Hamilton never doubted that trouble would always be around the corner for Americans as it had been for the Romans and for other once-republican regimes. Any hope that an executive’s republican character and obedience to his parchment powers alone could secure the United States against enemies both foreign and domestic was the stuff of stargazing. He must be of the right stuff to execute his office when danger approached. Here, once again, we can with little doubt think of Hamilton writing Federalist 70 with George Washington in mind.

Choosing an energetic president means choosing someone willing to embrace the often unglamorous tasks enumerated above–and leaving the Court to be the court and the Congress to be the Congress, and pundits, celebrities, and other self-centered egoists to do their business as well. There will, in the end, be plenty of room for admiration from a grateful people more secure in their person, their property, and their liberty because the president knew what his business was, and energetically pursued his business well.

David Corbin is a Professor of Politics and Matthew Parks an Assistant Professor of Politics at The King’s College, New York City. They are co-authors of “Keeping Our Republic: Principles for a Political Reformation” (2011). You can follow their work on Twitter or Facebook.



, , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

President Obama Finds a Democrat to Stump For One Week Out From Midterms

US-POLITICS-OBAMAWith exactly one week until Election Day, Air Force One touched down in Milwaukee on Tuesday, and President Barack Obama took part in a private fundraiser downtown, before campaigning for Democratic challenger for governor, Mary Burke. This, as Governor Scott Walker and his supporters continued to campaign, with Governor Walker again saying with the exception of Chris Christie, he doesn’t need help from outside the state.

“One week, Milwaukee.  One week until we elect a new governor,” President Obama told the crowd at North Division High School.

President Obama made a stop at Umami Moto in Milwaukee for a private fundraiser with 30 guests,  each paying $16,000 for a plate. Then he made his way to North Division High School, where he rallied with and for Mary Burke.

The point of President Obama’s visit was to boost voter turnout in the city of Milwaukee, something Democrats view as critical to a successful strategy. He also pushed early voting.

“You can vote all week,” President Obama said.

Though President Obama, with slipping job approval ratings, has been viewed as a liability by some Democrats across the country, it was thought his enormous popularity among African-Americans in Wisconsin could help drive up turnout. He spoke Tuesday in a Milwaukee ward where 99 percent voted for him in 2012.

President Obama told the crowd of more than 3,500 at North Division High School that Wisconsin is coming up short in the national economic recovery.

“Wisconsin lags the rest of the country in job creation,” President Obama said.

“Governor Walker?  He just doesn’t get it,” Mary Burke said.

The rally went off script for a moment Tuesday when a Burke supporter confronted President Obama over immigration.

Mike Lowe: “You obviously got the President’s attention. What did you think of his response?”

“Garbage,” the woman said.

After the exchange, the President continued his argument that Wisconsin would be better off with Mary Burke as governor.

“I think it will help me, or else I wouldn’t have done it.  I welcome the President coming here.  He is still popular, particularly in certain areas. What this is going to come down to is the people of Wisconsin, and how they’re going to vote and whether they think I’m better able to lead this state than Governor Walker,” Burke said.

Gov. Scott Walker continued his statewide bus tour Tuesday and said with the exception of a visit from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, he’ll only campaign with people from Wisconsin.

“I don’t need people from outside of the state.  This is about me and the people of the state of Wisconsin.  It’s not about bringing in surrogates like my opponent is doing.  The reason she’s doing it is because that’s where her power base is,” Governor Walker said,

In a close race, both candidates say turnout will make the difference.

“They want someone who’s going to fight every single day for the hard-working taxpayers of the state,” Governor Walker said.

, , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

First Lady Michelle Obama Stumps for Democrats in Iowa and Minnesota

AP MIDTERM ELECTIONS MICHELLE OBAMA A ELN USA IAFirst lady Michelle Obama stumped for Democrats in Iowa and Minnesota Tuesday, calling on the young and minority voters who powered her husband’s rise to the presidency to help the party avoid a potentially bruising midterm election.

Mrs. Obama first urged college students and supporters at the University of Iowa to vote early and volunteer for Bruce Braley, who is in a tight Senate race against Republican Joni Ernst. She delivered a similar rallying cry to a mostly black crowd later Tuesday at a high school in Minneapolis, where Sen. Al Franken and fellow Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton are counting on turnout from those groups.

Tuesday’s stop in Iowa City was Mrs. Obama’s second trip to this month to shore up support for Braley, whose win may be crucial to Democrats’ maintaining control of the Senate.

Braley, a four-term congressman, had once been a favorite to win the seat held for 30 years by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, one of his mentors. Now he’s running even with Ernst, a first-term state senator and commander in the Iowa National Guard.

Mrs. Obama said it would be up to younger voters to “step up” and help deliver the state for Braley, as they did for her husband, Barack Obama, during his presidential campaigns of 2008 and 2012.

“For just three hours of your time, you will get six years of an outstanding senator who will carry on Tom Harkin’s legacy,” Mrs. Obama said. “If we all keep stepping up and bringing others along with us, I know we can elect Bruce Braley as the next senator from Iowa.”

She said students should take anyone they know to the polls with them, joking, “Bring the folks you met at the party last weekend!”

In Minnesota, Franken and Dayton have leads in public polling over their GOP challengers. The first lady’s visit was just the most recent in a parade of Democratic stars, including former President Bill Clinton and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who have stumped for the two candidates, all stressing the importance of voting in the midterm election.

Republicans in both states used Mrs. Obama’s visits to tie Democratic candidates to the president and his waning approval ratings. The campaign of Mike McFadden, Franken’s Republican challenger, called Tuesday “a reminder that President Obama’s policies are on Minnesota ballots this fall in the form of Al Franken.”

On both stops, the first lady defended her husband’s record. In Minneapolis, she reminded voters of “the mess he’d been handed” when he took office in 2009. In Iowa City, she said he helped turn around a struggling economy, expanded financial aid for students and signed health care reform that allows people to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26.

Speaking to the cheering crowd of more than 2,000 in Minneapolis, the first lady said voters need to re-elect Democrats such as Dayton and Franken to continue on that path. She said Republicans are counting on diminished turnout of young and minority voters, like in the 2010 midterms that were disastrous for Democrats, to take back the Senate and governor’s offices.

“People were shocked when Barack won because they were counting on folks like us to stay home,” Mrs. Obama said. “It’s up to us to get out and vote. Only we can prove them wrong.”

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Obama Finally Cancels Fundraising Events in Response to Growing Public Anxiety Over Ebola

ObamaIncreasing public anxiety about the Ebola virus has forced the White House to shift into crisis mode and cancel two days of planned political events as President Barack Obama strives to show he has control over stopping the spread of the deadly disease.

Just three weeks ahead of critical midterm elections, Obama is facing increased pressure from Republican critics and the public at large. They say he has been too slow to protect Americans, drawing parallels to what they have described as foot-dragging on dealing with the threat from Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

Democrats who are at risk of losing control of the Senate in the November elections are worried that public concerns over Obama’s management of Ebola could hurt them, too.

Obama’s job approval ratings are at 39 percent, according to Reuters-Ipsos polls in the first week of October.

“At a time in which his job approval rating is quite low and his party is suffering because of it, I think that this is just one more cut in what’s turned out to be the death by a thousand cuts for President Obama,” one political strategist said.

Republican lawmakers, including U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, turned up the pressure on Wednesday with calls for travel bans for the three African nations afflicted by the Ebola outbreak.

Polls show that move would be popular with Americans. The White House has ruled out a ban, saying it would hamper the movement of supplies and aid workers needed to help stop the epidemic in the region.

Other lawmakers, including some Democrats, have urged the White House to name a point person to coordinate the response, lead briefings, and command public confidence. “It’s getting away from them, and this is becoming a real concern for us,” said a Democratic Senate aide.

Proponents of the approach are seeking a figure like former Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen who took charge of the response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Until now, Tom Frieden, the head of the Centers for Disease Control, has been the face of the administration on Ebola. But the new domestic cases have forced him to backtrack from some early overconfident statements about the ability of the U.S. medical system to contain the threat.

The White House has resisted calls for a “czar” to pull together the international and domestic response to the disease, arguing that Lisa Monaco, Obama’s homeland security aide, has been adeptly filling that role. A White House spokesman declined to comment late on Wednesday on whether that thinking has changed.

But lawmakers worry Monaco, who also plays a lead role coordinating U.S. efforts to combat Islamic State militants, has too much on her plate.

Over the past few weeks, the White House has sought to reassure the public by trying to strike a balance between demonstrating the administration is on top of the situation while not trying to feed a sense of public panic.

On Wednesday, that balance shifted. A second Texas nurse contracted Ebola from a patient who died from the disease.

The nurse had recently traveled by plane and officials began tracing a large network of people who may have had contact with her. The nurse had told the CDC she had a fever before she boarded the plane, but was not stopped from boarding, a federal source said late on Wednesday. Frieden earlier in the day told reporters she should not have been aboard.

The new infection contributed to a slide in the stock market.

Obama, who seldom changes his schedule, no matter what crisis is before him, canceled fundraisers in Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York. He met with his cabinet for about two hours, and then told Americans that the risk of a widespread outbreak was very low.


, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Romney Stumps in Iowa for Senatorial Candidate Joni Ernst Ahead of Midterms

Romney ErnstFormer 2012 Republican candidate Mitt Romney lumped President Obama and Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley together Sunday in taking shots at Democratic policies while touting Republican senatorial candidate Joni Ernst as the tonic needed to fix the nation’s ills in Washington.

“She’s going to be an extraordinary breath of fresh air in Washington,” Romney told 200 Republicans who turned out for a rally at the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation headquarters. “I can’t wait until she goes there and makes them squeal.”

Ernst, a state senator from Red Oak, is locked in a neck-and-neck battle with Braley, a four-term Waterloo Democrat, in the Nov. 4 contest to see who will succeed Democrat Tom Harkin as Iowa’s next U.S. senator.

Romney said Obama, who defeated him in the 2012 presidential election, has noted that he is not on the ballot in this year’s midterm election but his policies are.

“Now I know that Iowa voted for president Obama, but Iowa is not going to vote for Bill Braley and vote for him a third time, that’s for sure,” said Romney, a reference that put him the company of former President Bill Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama who also came to Iowa and got Braley’s name wrong.

Romney said health care costs have gone up under Obamacare, poverty has gotten worse for Americans, the federal budget deficit has nearly doubled, bad things have happened internationally as Obama has pulled back and shrunk the military and traveled the world apologizing for America.

“This is not a philosophy of the presidency that is working,” noted Romney.

“It’s time for the president to apologize to America,” he said.

The former Massachusetts governor said Ernst brings Midwest values and leadership experience as an officer in the Iowa National Guard who saw combat duty in Iraq.

“Iowa has a choice. Iowa can make a decision to change the course in Washington,” he said.

Ernst joined Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds in touting successes during their time at the Statehouse before she took aim at Braley for missing veterans’ affairs hearings at a critical time when he could have had an impact in addressing their health care needs.

“He left 120,000 American veterans hanging out to dry without the health care not only that they deserved but they had earned with their honorable service to this great nation,” she said.

Ernst also accused Braley of twice voting to “defund our troops as they were serving in combat” during Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, leaving them vulnerable.

“He will try to deny it, but what he was doing was putting politics ahead of our men and women in uniform and that is absolutely unacceptable,” Ernst told the crowd.

Braley’s campaign issued a statement later Sunday saying the congressmen made it clear during the vote Ernst referenced that he supported funding for the American troops and raising their pay, but he could not support bills that left them fighting ground wars indefinitely.

“This is a shameful and false attack,” said Braley campaign spokesman Sam Lau. “Joni Ernst knows she is misleading Iowans about Bruce’s record in order to hide her out-of-step agenda that puts millionaires and special interests ahead of Iowa’s families.

“As the son of a Marine veteran, Bruce has always supported our men and women in uniform, and like most Iowans, does not believe we should commit them to a prolonged ground war with no end date,” he added.

At one point during his speech, Romney noted that “I’m not running for anything.”

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Clinton Presidency Documents Released Covering Scandals Period

Clinton papers releasedThe White House plotted strategies to defend President Bill Clinton against the political fallout of his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky and other scandals, according to documents released Friday by the National Archives that delve into painful chapters in Hillary Rodham Clinton’s life as she ponders another bid for the presidency.

The papers include lists of talking points, questions prepared for media interviews and efforts to defend the president against impeachment, part of 10,000 pages of records being released from the Clinton administration. The documents did not appear to reveal any new information that might affect a potential Hillary Clinton campaign.

Many records involving Lewinsky are redacted, but one document sheds light on her job: Lewinsky sent an official request to hang a picture of Clinton, signing a telecommunications bill, in a White House legislative affairs office.

Behind the scenes, Clinton officials were adamant that they were not trying to discredit Lewinsky.

“There is no evidence whatsoever that the White House was directing or involved in any campaign against her,” Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal wrote in a January 1999 memo.

In another email, Blumenthal derides Linda Tripp, a former White House aide who secretly recorded Lewinsky discussing the president.

But the case caused political tensions. An aide notes in one document that then Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, a Democrat, explained “why he felt he needed to distance himself” from Clinton.

The papers touch on the 1993 death of Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster, the Whitewater investigation into Bill and Hillary Clinton’s land dealings in Arkansas, and pardons Bill Clinton granted in the final hours as president.

With these documents the National Archives will have released about 30,000 pages of papers since February. Both the Obama White House and the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas, have signed off on their release.

The papers show that the Republican-led investigation into Foster’s suicide infuriated the White House, which tried to recruit bestselling author William Styron to write a piece critical of the probe. It is unclear if the piece was ever published.

Elena Kagan, now a Supreme Court justice, makes a cameo appearance.

As a White House counsel, Kagan defended Bill Clinton in the lawsuit brought by ex-Arkansas state employee Paula Jones. Clinton’s testimony for the Jones lawsuit, in which he denied a sexual relationship with Lewinsky, led to his impeachment in 1998. The House approved two articles of impeachment against Clinton, but he was acquitted by the Senate.

In a 1996 memo to then-White House counsel Jack Quinn, Kagan says, “I realize now that I may have really (messed) up” in not passing on word of a conversation in connection with an upcoming appearance related to the Jones case on the CNN show, “Crossfire.” Kagan used another verb in the memo, one that’s more profane. “God, do I feel like an idiot,” she added.

Hillary Clinton’s influence in the White House is also explored, from her role in Clinton’s unsuccessful health care overhaul plan to her 2000 Senate campaign in New York. Bill Clinton left office in January 2001.

The memos offer only a narrow look at her Senate race,  discussion among lawyers and staff over paying for political travel.

But some are devoted to one of the Clintons’ longest-running political roller coasters: the Whitewater real estate saga. As the case threatened to mushroom into a scandal, the president, first lady and their circle of advisers hatched a strategy to convince the public the Clintons had done nothing wrong, and had nothing to hide.

Some advocates, suggesting the Clintons step before the cameras to make their case, provided a point-by-point primer.

“In this situation, the Clintons’ attitude is their message. They must be relaxed, open and forthcoming. Any sense of bitterness, anger or righteous indignation will not work,” said a March 11, 1994, memo written by Clinton adviser Paul Begala. “No matter how justified some of our feelings on this may be, this will be the first time most Americans will hear directly from the president and first lady.”

“Discussion of plots, pain and personal injustice could strike some viewers as self-serving or just plain weird,” he continued. “The most important point to stress is that we have nothing to hide, we are fully complying with an independent investigation.”

The Clintons were never implicated in the Whitewater case, but their real estate partners, Jim and Susan McDougal, were convicted in a trial that also resulted in the conviction of then-Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker.

The documents touch on financier Marc Rich, who was indicted on fraud and other charges in 1983. He fled to Switzerland and was later pardoned on Clinton’s last day in office. Quinn, who had left the White House by then, suggests in a handwritten note that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak discussed a pardon directly with Clinton.

Past installments of the documents have offered an unvarnished look at Clinton’s two terms, detailing his unsuccessful attempt to change the health care system, Republicans’ sweeping victories in the 1994 midterm elections and the shaping of his wife’s public image.

Hillary Clinton, who went on to serve as a senator from New York and as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state, now is a powerful advocate for Democrats in the midterm elections and the leading Democratic prospect for president in 2016.

The possibility of a presidential campaign has heightened interest in the documents by media organizations, political opposition researchers and historians.

, , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: