Naomie Emery in this week’s cover story for the Weekly Standard provides a detailed and fascinating discussion of the unstable, tense balance of power in the eight years of the Clinton Administration, with both the Vice-President and First Lady setting their sights on the highest office from well before Day 1. The article helpfully explains why Gore lost in 2000 while Hillary Clinton won. It also sheds light on why Hillary is now struggling (as I write, she is 10 points behind Obama in NH). The Intro:
Between January 20, 1993, and January 20, 2001, the Clinton White House was home to three boomers of boundless ambition, high expectations, and vast self-regard, all three of whom thought that they ought to be president. Of these, only one–Bill Clinton–really was president. But the other two–his wife Hillary and his vice president, Albert Gore Jr.–firmly believed that they should be and viewed Bill’s terms in office as the jumping-off place to their own.
Unfortunately, only one–Bill, again–was a born, or even a good, politician, making the two others dependent upon him, first to lift them to within striking distance of power, and then to help them campaign. But Bill, too, had his problems, and so needed them: to keep him focused and disciplined, to impose some sense of order, to reassure voters disturbed by his fast-and-loose manners, and at least in the case of Hillary Clinton, to help him suppress and/or cope with his bimbo eruptions, if and when worst came to worst.
With their conspicuous lack of political talents, neither Gore nor Hillary would ever have reached the top tier of candidates if they had not been elevated by being chosen by Clinton. But if they had been more graceful, and less pedantic and heavy-handed, they would not have been chosen, as they would not have supplied what Bill lacked.
It was a bargain that worked well for Bill, but ended in heartbreak for Gore, and may do the same thing for Hillary Clinton. This story is not over yet.
Emery’s article seems to be (in some ways) a primer for a new 600 page book by Sally Bedell Smith called For Love of Politics: Bill and Hillary Clinton: The White House Years.