In the waning days of her 2008 campaign, staffers for Hillary Clinton put the final touches on a list of people they thought betrayed the candidate, and then ranked their level of betrayal. The problem with losing, however, is that its hard to exact any revenge.
In an excerpt from HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton, Politico's Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes outline the Clintons' tabulation of all of the campaign's many, many betrayals. Hillary's "Hit List," Politico calls it — an Excel spreadsheet delineating those people most and least loyal to Clinton as she unsuccessfully tried to hold off Barack Obama.
It's not uncommon for elected officials to make at least a mental note of those who've betrayed them. (See: Christie, Chris.) The game of soliciting endorsements is based on the idea that support is often reciprocal; politicians make endorsements based both on principle and practicalities. According to the Politico excerpt, the Clinton camp was gleeful about the fate of some of those who'd failed to see the practical wisdom of endorsing her.
Years later, they would joke among themselves in harsh terms about the fates of folks they felt had betrayed them. “Bill Richardson: investigated; John Edwards: disgraced by scandal; Chris Dodd: stepped down,” one said to another. “Ted Kennedy,” the aide continued, lowering his voice to a whisper for the punch line, “dead.”
Those three are the exception. Allen and Parnes describe a ranking of loyalty from 1 to 7, with 1 being those most loyal to Hillary Clinton during the campaign. The 7s, those people who the Clintons felt betrayed her the most, were added to what "a Clintonworld source" "wouldn’t, of course, call … an enemies list." Regardless of what it's called, none of them seems to have suffered much from being given that low designation.
- John Kerry. Kerry backed Obama early in 2008, and all he's gotten for it is his dream job and incomparable prestige. Granted, he held a position of enough prominence in the party prior to 2008 that it was unlikely the Clintons could do much damage, but his ascension to lead the State Department, replacing Clinton, must be galling for the keepers of the list. Not to mention his success in the role; the Clintons have been visibly distressed at Kerry's ability to make progress where Clinton didn't.
- Ted Kennedy. Kennedy, who died in 2009, wanted one thing from whoever replaced George W. Bush: a comprehensive system of health coverage. After backing Obama, that's what he got. Yes, he's dead, but it's unlikely that the Clintons had any involvement in that (their reputation notwithstanding).
- Claire McCaskill. When Missouri Sen. McCaskill made an ill-advised joke about Bill Clinton's extracurricular activities during the 2008 campaign, she probably dropped from a 7 to a 70. ("I really don’t want to be in an elevator alone with [Hillary]," she apparently told a friend.) But, thanks in part to her terrible Republican opponent, Todd Akin, McCaskill won a contentious reelection campaign in a difficult state in 2012 — without Clinton's help. Perhaps in an attempt to be able to ride elevators without fear, McCaskill is already on the Clinton 2016 bandwagon.
- Jay Rockefeller. Sen. Rockefeller's endorsement didn't do Obama any good in winning West Virginia, but that's largely because of how the state's politics have changed in recent years, shifting forcefully to the right. His decision not to run for reelection in 2014 is presumably because of that, not because he's expecting the Clintons to take him out.
- Baron Hill. Besides Edwards and Richardson, former Rep. Hill, who served Indiana's 9th District until 2011, is the only 7 that's no longer in office. But, again, this isn't because of the giant finger of Bill and Hillary pointing him out of Washington; it's because he was ousted in the Tea Party wave of 2010.
Politico lists other members of the Club of Sevens — Sen. Bob Casey, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Rep. John Lewis, among others. All are still in office.
There's still time to exact revenge, of course, especially with the dish being nice and cold by now. But Clinton's team conscious that the early stages of another campaign is not the time to appear vindictive, would like to ensure the world that no revenge is imminent.
“I’m sure [longtime adviser] Doug [Band] does have some sort of fucking memo on his Blackberry like the rest of us,” the adviser said. “But the notion that it is updated, circulated, disseminated and relied upon is absurd.”
See? Nothing to worry about, Sen. McCaskill.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.