Published on FoxNews.com on March 9, 2007.
Is Hillary Clinton the Walter Mitty of presidential candidates when she takes credit for the successes of her husband’s presidency?
Lately, she’s been repeatedly linking herself to Bill’s job creation, budget balancing, economic programs and domestic policies initiatives. There’s a lot of “Bill and I” and “we” in her speeches. It’s all part of the “bring back the Clinton years” theme that she rolls out to Democratic Party audiences.
But there’s more to it.
At the core of her highly disciplined campaign message is her claim that her “experience” in the White House and the Senate makes her uniquely qualified to move right into the Oval Office. According to Hillary, her two term co-presidency with Bill specially prepared her for the next Clinton administration and gives her exceptional credentials that no other candidate can match.
And her message is working – the most recent Gallup Poll shows that 45 percent of American voters cite Hillary’s “experience”as the highest positive rating about her.
Out on the campaign trail, she often refers to her “eight years in the White House,” when asked why she should be elected.
So, what exactly was it that Hillary did in the Clinton White House that gave her all of that experience?
Well, obviously there was the health care fiasco, Hillary’s secretive, expensive and utterly failed attempt to socialize the health care industry. Surely, she can’t be referring to that.
So what is it that Hillary is referring to?
One would think that the $20 million combined memoirs of the former first couple could provide some clarification. But a careful reading of their respective stories leads to even more confusion. One wonders whether they ever read each other’s work.
It seems that in her book “Living History,” published in 2003, the former first lady doesn’t really claim to have been an influential co-president working and learning at her husband’s side after all.
No, that’s all new.
And most of what she does take credit for involves traditional first lady issues, such as childcare and cancer research. She barely mentions any role for herself in the signature issues that confronted the Clinton presidency.
If you contrast her current claims of helping to run the country against her own writing about her White House days, there’s a big difference. Now she speaks of the Clinton administration accomplishments, as if she were part of implementing them. But only four years ago, she told another story.
Bill doesn’t seem to recall her help and involvement on too many issues. Even on those relatively few things that she actually does take credit for in her book, the former president doesn’t have the same recollections that she does about her important role in the White House.
In her book, Hillary discusses her advocacy in the White House on social security, welfare reform, the bankruptcy reform bill, violence in the media, budget cuts and improvement in the Family and Medical Leave Act.
But, in his memoirs, Bill rarely mentions Hillary’s role in any of his administration’s policies, except for health care. One would have expected that he would have described some of the details of her unparalleled ‘experience.’
In fact, of 102 mentions of Hillary in Bill Clinton’s “My Life”, the content is as follows:
- 34 entries describe trips taken by the first couple
- 26 entries are about Whitewater or other scandal investigations
- 17 entries are about their personal relationship
- 11 entries are about Hillary’s integrity, character, her writing a book, supporting American crafts, etc.
- Nine entries describe her role in health care
- Only five entries concern a substantive role, including: participating in a White House staff gathering at Camp David; speaking out for women’s rights in China; campaigning for child protection legislation; and campaigning for Democratic candidates, and the Millennium Project
Here’s some examples of how Hillary catalogued some of her work and how Bill described the same issue:
Welfare Reform : “I supported welfare reform and worked hard to round up the votes.”
- Bill makes no mention of her role concerning that important issue.
Media Violence and Children :“Bill and I …convened a White House strategy session on how to curb media violence directed at children.”
- Bill remembers it somewhat differently, crediting Al and Tipper Gore with a drive to get V chips in televisions. No mention of Hillary.
Budget Cuts :“I also spent two years helping … Stave off cuts in legal services, the arts, education, Medicare and Medicaid.”
- Bill makes no mention of Hillary in discussing the budget cuts.
Adoption Reform :“I worked hard … to spearhead adoption reform.”
- Bill writes about how proud he was about his “sweeping reforms of our adoption laws.” No mention of Hillary.
Child Support : “Bill and I wanted tougher child support collection efforts.”
- Bill describes signing another of his priorities into law. No mention of Hillary.
And so on.
So, is Hillary a Walter Mitty character who imagined herself as the effective and hard-working co-president of the United States, while she was actually marginalized and uninvolved in any important policy making?
Or was she really a strong co-president who wasn’t given the proper credit by her husband in his book, and was too modest to write about it in her own book?
We’ll leave the answer up to you.