- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 16, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Substantial credit is due to the National Archives, which announced last week the readying of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s first lady files for review by representatives of Presidents Bush and Clinton en route to public release, hopefully beginning in December. The law does not require the agency to change course like this. A first lady’s papers are normally not at the front of the queue for public scrutiny. Much of Nancy Reagan’s and Barbara Bush’s papers are still not released, for instance. But the Archives has responded.

Ordinarily, the nonrelease of Mrs. Clinton’s papers wouldn’t be an issue. An unprecedented presidential bid by a first lady warrants unprecedented disclosure. Mrs. Clinton is running as a candidate of “experience,” and that experience includes her eight years in the White House. Voters — and taxpayers in general — deserve as much independent information as possible to judge her on those grounds — especially when the source is something they’ve already paid for. Insofar as the federal government can open the record, it should.

Nearly 2 million documents pertaining to Mrs. Clinton’s years as first lady — phone logs, schedules, memoranda — are locked up in Little Rock, Ark., and it is anyone’s guess what may emerge from them. Of substantial interest will be the former first lady’s records pertaining to her health care proposal — the 1,342-page proposal defines a large part of Mrs. Clinton’s early “experience” in the White House. An unvarnished look at Mrs. Clinton’s approach back then would be helpful. It is by no means certain that we will have one by November 2008. Nor is it certain that these papers will deliver insight. Mrs. Clinton’s health-care critics already know the original plan’s major flaws. But disclosure can’t hurt.

One most intriguing fact at present is the public’s apparent trust in Mrs. Clinton when it comes to health care. Asked whether the junior New York senator inspires confidence on this question, 65 percent of respondents to a July Gallup poll replied “a great deal”’ or “a fair amount” on the subject. This gives Mrs. Clinton the edge among presidential contenders.

No wonder Mrs. Clinton has remained mum on this subject. She is riding surprisingly high on the health-care issue right now. A document release is a wild card she doesn’t need.

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