A packrat’s look at political history | AspenTimes.com

A packrat’s look at political history

with John Colson

Colson: A packrat’s look at political history

I have to admit it, I am something of a packrat.

That’s how my spousal unit terms it, though she is guilty of similar traits, if not quite so pronounced as mine.

The latest confirmation of this lamentable (at times, anyway) situation came this week, when a bit of plumbing work in the basement forced me to spend some time moving around various boxes of the detritus of our lives together in order to make room for the plumbers.

A quick examination (I couldn’t help myself) showed that one box contained a collection of magazines — Newsweek, The Nation and The Washington Spectator, to name a few — dating back to the early 1990s.

And there she was, smiling from the cover of the Dec. 28, 1992, Newsweek — Hillary (no Rodham at this point) Clinton, one of several “Women of the Year” highlighted in a story that celebrated the rise of women in politics, business and just about every arena of public life in America.

Keep in mind that this was just weeks after the election that first sent Bill Clinton to the White House, when the new first couple were still hanging out in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Throughout the yearlong campaign leading to the election, Hillary was a prime target for media types looking for skeletons in the Clinton closets, skeletons that included the Gennifer Flowers affair and claims that Bill pulled strings to get himself out of military service during the Vietnam War.

But while Hillary’s toughness as a lawyer, accusations of special treatment of her law firm by the state while Bill was governor of Arkansas and her formidable innate intelligence and feisty nature had been subjected to considerable scrutiny, she was still a relatively unknown if somewhat scary quantity.

For the Newsweek treatment, her stylists had gone all out to transform this at-times plain-looking woman into something more alluring, more inviting to the nation’s youth-obsessed culture.

The accompanying articles zeroed in on Hillary’s high-profile role in the formative work her husband, President Bill, was doing — picking Cabinet members, laying out legislative priorities and other political chores.

One article also maintained, “If another Democrat had won the White House (instead of Bill), Hillary would be on his (or her) short list for the Cabinet.”

Almost seems as if the magazine, early on, placed itself firmly in the future Hillary-4-President camp, deeming her the new president’s “unofficial chief of staff” and “Bill’s Daytimer” (a reference to the once-ubiquitous personal-calendar notebooks) and touting her “independent credentials” for being a star in the constellation of administration luminaries.

But the main profile articles also dealt with voters’ lack of comfort with Hillary’s image as a power-hungry maven intent on climbing the political ladder rung by rung, whether behind or in front of her husband.

In paragraphs noting the vagueness in all the talk about what Hillary would be doing at the White House, mention was made that she might take on national health care as a way of keeping herself out of trouble.

We all know how well that went, of course. She tried, and failed spectacularly, to convince Congress to go along with some kind of national health care system, similar to those in Canada, Great Britain and other First World countries.

Clinton-watchers can easily run through the list of scandals that plagued the eight-year Clinton White House, starting in January 1993, with the withdrawal of Zoe Baird’s nomination for attorney general after she admitted to hiring undocumented foreigners to work as domestic servants in her home, a research lapse by Clinton’s handlers, including Hillary.

It is interesting to contrast her portrait on the cover and in the inside pages of that long-ago Newsweek edition with the woman who today is arguably still the presumed Democratic nominee for election to her husband’s old job.

Back then she was admired as a woman who “never makes the same mistake twice” and the “brain trust” behind her man.

Today, she is remembered as having been irreparably tainted by the Whitewater real estate scandal and by the death of Vince Foster, her onetime fellow attorney at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock who died under mysterious circumstances after being named deputy counsel to the president overseeing Hillary’s legal affairs, including Whitewater.

She also, of course, is recalled as the woman who “stood by her man” during the Monica Lewinsky mess.

But she also is the woman who, in 1995, stepped up to a podium at the United Nation’s Fourth World Conference on Women and declared that “It is no longer acceptable to discuss women’s rights as separate from human rights,” a declaration that gave an incalculable boost to the cause of women’s rights.

Today, some voters question her truthfulness and her trustworthiness, largely thanks to potshots by her critics and presidential opponents and the fact that she has not been adept at diverting these attacks or making her own case before the electorate.

No real point to be made here, just another item of interest in what will undoubtedly be a very interesting presidential election year.


Aspen Times Weekly

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