Roger Ailes asked HCQ to contribute to Fox.

The death today of Roger Ailes, former CEO and founder of Fox News, brought back some personal memories to the editor of the Hillary Clinton Quarterly.

It was in the early 90s before Fox News actually went on the air. Ailes called me, Frank Marafiote, because he had read in the papers that we were doing a newsletter about then-First Lady Hillary Clinton. There was an assumption among many in the media that our mission was to slander Hillary and promote some of the more outrageous stories coming out of Little Rock. (See our story, Sleaze for Sale).

Ailes, like others, assumed we were anti-Hillary and could offer his new news organization negative, “inside information” about her. Our phone conversation was very brief. I didn’t know Roger Ailes and Fox News back then was a non-entity. I had other things to do and politely (I assume I was polite) and declined the request to be contributor.

Given the antipathy I feel these days about the network of Sean Hannity and (formerly) Bill O’Reilly, it’s a relief to know HCQ was never a part of that journalistic cesspool.

Was Hillary confrontational or just trying to get a job done?

Many people wonder if Hillary Clinton was excessively confrontational as First Lady, or just a woman trying to get a job done in a man’s world, i.e. D.C. politics?

An article from Bloomberg.com asks the same question and uses transcripts from the Miller Center at the University of Virginia to come up with the answer it wanted: yes, Hillary was confrontational.

As an example, the article includes a long excerpt from Leon Panetta, Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff, who recounted the experience of legislative affairs director, Pat Griffin, with First Lady Hillary Clinton:

I’ll never forget, Pat Griffin came out of that meeting and his eyes were that wide and he said, ‘You will not believe what I’ve just been through.’ I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ I had been at another staff meeting. He said, ‘I can’t believe it, I can’t believe what I’ve just been through.’ I said, ‘What’s the matter?’ He said, ‘The first lady just tore everybody a new a–hole.’ I said, ‘Really?’ It was that first experience.

I’d say “how awful,” but I think this quote and other excerpts from the transcripts must be put into context. First, remember that Hillary went to the White House from the governor’s mansion in Arkansas. From my own first-hand experience with the anti-Clinton crowd in Arkansas, they were brutal in their attacks on both Hillary and Bill Clinton. Whatever they wanted to say, they said, whether or not there were facts behind the attacks. So I think it is fair to say that Hillary was wary of having the same experience in Washington (which she did).

Second, she was given the task of health care reform, and we all know how difficult that was, both for her and later for President Obama. Certainly there was pressure on her to get the job done successfully. It took a strong, focused leader to do it, and she knew it. To others it might have seemed “confrontational,” but she was relentless in getting others to do their jobs so that she could do hers.

Third, let’s also remember that she was really the first woman to take an active political role as First Lady. She was a woman trying to do what traditionally was a “man’s job.” She broke new ground as a woman in Washington politics. In order for the insiders to take her seriously, she had to be tougher, more focused, and — yes — more confrontational than a man in the same position.

In retrospect, there’s no doubt that she learned from her early experiences as First Lady. She became more adroit and polished as a political force. The Bloomberg article ends with a comment from Alan Blinder, an economist, who served on Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers:

I think she’s much more politically astute now than she was in early 1993. I think she learned. She’s really smart. She learns, and she knows she made mistakes. She’s said it herself. I know she was not as politically astute then as she is now because there were a lot of these—I mentioned a couple of these—these alleged political ideas. How we were going to get the small-business lobby? How we were going to get the old-line industries? They were complete flops.

That’s a fair assessment, I think, of what happened during the Clinton Administration and Hillary’s role. Given the extenuating circumstances that she faced, she did remarkably well as First Lady. And, as we know, moved on to accomplish greater things after the left the White House.

Did Hillary throw lamp at Bill Clinton?

We first heard about it from a reporter at the Dallas Morning News.

There was a fight in the middle of the night at the White House between Bill and Hillary Clinton. It got nasty, he said, and Hillary threw a lamp at the president. The Dallas reporter thought the story originated with Chicago radio station WLS. We called the station. “No, no,” they told us, “we didn’t break the story. It was Bill Zwecker at the Chicago Sun-Times.” So we called Bill Zwecker, who writes a column for the Windy City newspaper.

Yes, Mr. Zwecker told us, he had written about the incident, not in any malicious way, but just as a matter of fact. His story was “totally confirmed by two high-level White House aides.” He assured us he was “very confident in his sources.” He also said that subsequent stories about the incident exaggerated the facts. It wasn’t clear, he said, whether the lamp in fact had been tossed, or merely knocked over during the heat of the argument.

Following our first conversation with Mr. Zwecker, HCQ received a phone call from the White House.

Lisa Caputo, Hillary Clinton’s press secretary, told us the story was “a flat out lie.” She said “anyone who knows the Clintons and Hillary Clinton knows this is completely untrue.”

Back we went to Mr. Zwecker. “I stand by my story,” he said. “The White House and the president are control freaks. Ms. Caputo is just doing damage control.” He said that the White House called him to deny the incident about five weeks after his original story appeared in the Sun-Times. Did he then re-check the facts with his sources? “I absolutely called them back. They assured me, ‘we’re telling you the truth.'”

The saga of the lamp raises at least three relevant issues:

Issue #1 — Who to believe? It comes down to this: believe who you want to believe. Mr. Zwecker stands by his story; he works for a reputable newspaper; our conversations with him revealed no hidden agendas or personal axes to grind against the Clintons. Lisa Caputo denies the story. Is this story so important to the image of the first lady that Ms. Caputo would personally get on the phone and lie about it? Why would she deny the story if it were true?

Issue #2 — Is the story fair game? If Hillary Rodham Clinton were a traditional first lady and not chairwoman of the national health care task force, not directly involved in selecting Administration staff members, not directly involved in advising the president on nearly every aspect of social policy, maybe the story should be off-limits. Hillary Clinton is not just a first lady. She’s our co-president, remember? If a White House source claimed that Warren Christopher threw a lamp at the president, would that be news?

Issue #3 — So what? If this incident really took place, why should anyone be surprised? Why should it damage our perceptions of the First Couple? HCQ’s random survey of married couples indicates that 96% at one time or another either threw — or wish they had thrown — a heavy, solid object at his or her spouse. We sense that Bill and Hillary live in the real world, as a real couple. A heated argument between two driven, intelligent baby-boomers with high-stress jobs is no novelty.
Whether the lamp was real or imaginary, America should be able to handle it.