Yesterday's release of some 7,500 pages of documents from President Bill Clinton's White House offered a mix of revelations about the first battle for healthcare, Hillary Clinton's public image, and the Lewinsky Affair.
This week's national gaze may have been affixed to Chelsea Clinton's impending motherhood but, as the document release showed, relations between the Clintons and the Mezvinskys had a little bit of a pregnant pause over healthcare in the 1990s:
In 1993, the Clintons were analyzing the priority Democratic votes they needed to secure on health-care reform, who were either on key committees, had a difficulty supporting the president on tough votes, or who were in tough districts. Included on that list was Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky (D-Pa.), with who they would – more than 20 years later – share some happy news about an expected grandchild.
They also counted then-Rep. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) as a possible get on health care because he is "occasionally independent but don't hold your breath." In a later document, Clinton identified Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) as a "possible but difficult" get, which is humorous because Specter counted himself as the 60th vote on the Affordable Care Act after he switched parties in 2009.
One now-infamous phrase of the Obama administration's healthcare kerfuffling actually had a surprise appearance in the Clinton administration as well.
As Clinton prepared for an August 1994 news conference in which he hoped to build public support for his struggling — and ultimately unsuccessful — health care overhaul, he told his advisers: "A lot of them want to know they can keep their own plan if they like it."
More information about Hillary Clinton's role in the healthcare battle as well as her general presentation to the American people were also topics in some of the newly released memos.
Clinton policy advisor Ira Magaziner, while being interviewed for a book about healthcare by Haynes Johnson and David Broder, referenced the nuances of selecting the First Lady for the task:
Magaziner was asked how the first lady was put in charge of such a large domestic policy job. Magaziner said he didn't know when the final decision was made, but that, "Everyone wanted to use the tremendous talent she has. And yet, to have the public accept her policy role was very complex. And so there was a lot of debate about that."
The softening of Hillary Clinton's image also became a project after the 1994 midterm elections.
Among a long list of interview ideas, [Hillary Clinton press aide Lisa] Caputo suggested Clinton do a "television magazine" show and offered Maria Shriver as interviewer. She said the segment should show Clinton "doing it all" - working on health care, picking out flowers for state dinner and include b-roll of "you attending one of Chelsea's soccer games or making a run to the local supermarket."
There was also some intriguing insight into the politics of the State of the Union address, from the event's message to its seating arrangements.
White House aide Sidney Blumenthal urged Clinton to remark on the Lewinsky affair in the State of the Union in 1999, a time in which the scandal was ubiquitous.
Blumenthal suggested Clinton make only one reference to the Lewinsky scandal – and not by talking about “the politics of personal destruction.” Rather, in the address to a joint session of Congress, Blumenthal advised Clinton to raise the question of “social division.”
“It is here that he can evoke history, explaining how the nation has been torn apart in the past and its costs,” Blumenthal wrote. “Without ever pointing at them, his opponents will be put on a continuum with those firebrands who have pushed the country toward civil war, racial terror and class warfare.”
Note the clumsy language about seating for Clinton's last State of the Union speech in 2000:
Among those discussed: The parents of slain gay victim Matthew Shepard because, an aide wrote, "It gets a hate crime hit." Nelson Mandela, "since he is retiring." Irish-American author Frank McCourt, because "with peace in Ireland pending, he might be a good message." And "possibly someone" from the Columbine High School massacre.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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