- Associated Press - Saturday, April 19, 2014

Glimpses into behind-the-scenes workings of President Bill Clinton’s White House, as revealed in newly released documents:

For Clinton’s last State of the Union speech in January 2000, aides considered a long list of guests who might be cited in the address and sit near first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. 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.

Among those who ended up sitting in the first lady’s box were Atlanta Braves home run record-holder Hank Aaron, former Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen and Tom Mauser, father of one of the Columbine shooting victims.

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During the preparations for the 1999 State of the Union, Clinton told aides he wanted them to focus on realistic proposals on education.

“If we don’t have any money, why are we even talking about this?” Clinton asked aides.

“Do something, because otherwise we’re just whistling Dixie. I couldn’t bear to say those sentences unless we can cite something we’re doing,” he said later.

He also expressed shock that his plan to add 35,000 new teachers was gutted to 1,400. According to a transcript that circulated among aides, he said: “How did that get by and nobody even discussed that with me? I would have had a coronary if I had known that.”

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Clinton aides spent substantial energy trying to placate supposedly friendly lawmakers.

A July 1999 memo from deputy assistant Lisa Green warned a colleague about the bruised feelings of Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., who was needed to push a White House “new markets” initiative in Congress.

“Apparently, she is very upset about issues which seem to have very little to do with the actual legislation,” said the memo to aide Melissa G. Green. “She is bothered that Gene did not return her call,” it said, apparently referring to top economic adviser Gene Sperling. Also, it said, Velazquez “is upset that the President did not visit New York and that we went to Watts and did not focus on the Hispanic community enough.”

“I think the real problem is that she is looking for a little attention from the White House,” the memo said. “I recommend we have Gene call Velazquez as soon as possible, for the primary purpose of soothing her ruffled feathers.”

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Clinton’s unscripted remarks sometimes caused headaches for his staff.

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