Politicians, like elephants, cultivate long memories. Like elephants, some politicians don’t get mad, they get even. Nobody channels elephants like Bill and Hillary Clinton. Bubba moderates his reputation for mischief with good ol’ boy bonhomie. Hillary, not so much.
A new book out next month, “HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton,” by Jonathan Allen of Politico and Amie Parnes of The Hill, recounts how she has tracked who’s with her and who’s not over the years and through the peaks and valleys of the endless Clinton campaigns, beginning long ago in exotic Arkansas. She has an elephant’s memory and Richard Nixon’s talent for compiling a long list of those to be repaid in kind.
The book describes a political hit list compiled by two of Mrs. Clinton’s closest campaign aides, soon after she suspended her presidential campaign in June 2008 and surrendered to the inevitable whose name was Barack Obama. In an early draft of the Clinton list, “each Democratic member of Congress was assigned a numerical grade, from 1 to 7,” with those most helpful to her campaign getting a 1, “and the most treacherous drawing 7s.” Among the sevens were John F. Kerry and Teddy Kennedy, then senators from Massachusetts, who had endorsed Barack Obama. The Clintons felt betrayed because Bubba had campaigned hard for Mr. Kerry. Mr. Kennedy was said to be upset by the hardball “tone” of the Clinton attacks on Mr. Obama, whom he viewed as the heir to Camelot, that fantastical and imaginary never-never land where Irish whiskey drowns all sorrows and disappointments.
“There was a special circle of hell reserved for people who had endorsed Obama or stayed on the fence after Bill and Hillary had raised money for them, appointed them to a political post” or otherwise helped them, the authors write.
The latter-day Dante reserves her hottest circle of hell for Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri. “Hate is too weak a word to describe the feelings Hillary’s core loyalists still have for [Mrs.]McCaskill,” they write. She earned her place atop Hillary’s enemies list by saying in a debate that she thought Mr. Clinton had been “a great leader, but I don’t want him near my daughter.” Mrs. McCaskill, the mother of two of them, realized her glib remark at once, but by saying what almost any mother would have said, the damage was done. Mrs. Clinton immediately canceled a fundraiser for her.
“Almost six years later, most Clinton aides can still rattle off the names of traitors and the favors that had been done for them as if it all had happened just a few hours before. The data project ensured that all the acts of sinners and saints would never be forgotten” from an elephantine memory.
No one who has followed the Clintons through the years are shocked by any of this, and besides, compiling favors lists and calling in chits is standard operating procedure in politics. But Mrs. Clinton takes the concept to an entirely new level. In the Nixon era, whence the onetime Goldwater Girl sprang, there were few computers and no Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to help keep track, but with the 2016 presidential race soon to burst upon us, Hillary is making a little list with the remorseless efficiency of the NSA.