Bab's Notes - a book review

                     The Clinton Wars
                           by Sidney Blumenthal

                      Chapter 1:  Challenge to the Old Order

                              It took a month and several direct orders to convince the White House staff to prominently display the
                      portraits of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. Conservative cliques within the staff realized that a
                      seemingly small gesture marked a change in the office of the presidency itself, for "[t]he presidency is the chief
                      engine of progress in American History; it's leadership and power are central.  No social movement, however
                      broad or righteous, from abolition to labor rights, has seen its aims made into law without presidential power."  (page 12)

                      Chapter 2:  The Forces Are Arrayed

                              The fight began before it started. "Even before the inauguration," Blumenthal says on page 52, "the
                      patterns of light and darkness had rolled in.  The sharp contrasts were not opposites, but elements of
                      the same dynamic.  Personality and freakish accident came into full play, but the President's effort to
                      create a new national consensus was what set the political drama in  motion."  The vast right wing
                      conspiracy, unknown to the political zeitgeist of the early days of Clinton's first term, fought against his
                      policies indirectly by smearing him with accusations of various wrongdoings.  Then they found Whitewater.

                              "Whitewater induced a delirium.  Within the conservative movement, it created the giddy sensation
                      that accusations about Clinton would restrict him to nothing but denials, which would stall his reform
                      program and fatally damage his presidency."  (page 80)

                      Chapter 3:  First Blood

                              While Clinton fought the Republican right to increase government spending on antiterrorism measures after
                      the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, they defeated him on health care.  "On September 26,
                      1994, [Senate Majority Leader George] Mitchell formally announced that the struggle for health care was over.
                      The greatest promise of Clinton's campaign and administration was smashed."   (page 121)  Hillary was smeared
                      as Imelda Marcos, and Rush Limbaugh makes the interesting claim that "Whitewater is about health care."
                      He was exactly right.  Whitewater was used as a weapon against the Clintons throughout the Democratic presidency
                      in an attempt to prevent any of their progressive reforms from taking root, including but not limited to health care.

                      Chapter 4:   Clinton's Strategic Offensive

                              A midterm election setback in 1994, the rise of Newt Gingrich and the Contract with America were successes
                      of the right wing machinery, which never stopped its attack on the presidency.  The bombing of the Murrah Building
                      in Oklahoma City prompted Clinton to reach out and assert that we were one America, and bound "to stand strong
                      against the moments of terror that would destroy our spirit, to stand for the values that have brought us so many
                      blessings, values that have made us, at this pivotal moment, the indispensable nation."  (page 156)

                              Eccentric genius Dick Morris played a role in Bill Clinton's 1996 defeat of Bob Dole, who, during the campaign,
                      awkwardly hinted that his wife would be no Hillary Clinton by stammering, "And when I'm elected, she will not be in
                      charge of health care.  Don't worry about it.  Or in charge of anything else."  As the crowd noticeably gasped, he
                      continued, "I didn't say that.  It did sort of go through my mind.  But she may have a little blood bank in the White House."
                      (p161)   Bob Dole must have been a little tired that day.

                      Chapter 5:  Hillary Under Siege

                              "Hillary privately divide the scandal-mongering into phases as though it were a disease -- 'acute' and 'chronic.'"
                      (page 166)  Variously a "scheming lawyer, liar and crook, "  Hillary Clinton was her husband's best friend and policy
                       advisor and therefore a co-favorite target of the right wing media.  She was accused of being a lesbian, having an
                      affair with Vince Foster (whose suicide note complained of his inability to tolerate the Washington smear campaign
                      against him), hiding her husband's corrupt deals and making huge amounts of money illegally in the stock market.

                              After the swearing ceremony, Chief Justice Rehnquist welcomed Bill Clinton into his second presidency by
                      wishing him luck, adding, "You'll need it."  Hillary, holding the Bible, comments, "They're going to screw you on the
                      Paula Jones case," as Bill turns and waves to the crowd. (page 192)

                      Chapter 6:  A Political Education

                              Born in Chicago and educated at Brandeis, Blumenthal stayed in Boston after graduation to work on several
                      "alternative" newspapers, although the term hadn't been invented yet.  His experiences reporting on regional politics
                       led to his first book, _The Permanent Campaign_,  published in 1980.  " not a static enterprise in which
                       faces change but institutions remain the same.  A deep transformation of American society has only just begun.
                      And the coming of...the information age--where white-collar workers outnumber blue-collar, computers are the
                      archetypal machines, the more dynamic Third World countries, and America becomes the home office of the
                      world--must alter politics.  The permanent campaign, which rests on new technology, is the political form of the
                      information age."  (page 207)

                              In 1996, Blumenthal joins the Clinton administration as a senior advisor after having avoided reporting on
                      them for years.  Blumenthal was more Hillary's friend than Bill's.

                      Chapter 7:  Mine Canary

                              Reminiscent of the right wing's jump start attack on the Clintons, the morning of Blumenthal's first day on
                      the job advising the President, child misfit and loner and former CBS gift shop employee Matt Drudge accused
                      him of spousal abuse in his AOL sponsored internet gossip column, The Drudge Report.  The right wing conspiracy
                      machine hadn't given him even one day of relative anonymity before libeling Sidney and his wife.  He was forced to
                      sue Matt Drudge and America OnLine to stop this kind of shoddy "journalistic" abuse, but he eventually dropped
                      AOL from the case.

                      Chapter 8:  Inside the West Wing

                              Clinton and his staff developed  _Pillars_, a large collection of reports from sixteen policy areas. This
                      book documents the Clinton agenda at the time, and describes the far reaching policy objectives which
                      could be attained by Clinton, as well as the things the administration was unlikely to achieve in a timely
                      manner.  The main challenge of this time period was to show that great changes in society could be made
                      during a time of national prosperity, as opposed to the prevailing dogma that only national emergency and
                      war could spur progressive impulses.  Clinton placed gays within the tradition of American rights in his
                      speech of November 8, 1997 when he exhorted us all to look for "higher definitions--and more meaningful
                      definitions--of equality and dignity." (page 275)

                      Chapter 9:  Clinton's Third Way

                              In 1995 Clinton teamed up with (then opposition leader) Tony Blair and began work on the problems that
                      plagued "left of centre" parties:  definition, differentiation and dissemination of the liberal message, and the so called
                     "Third Way" designed to neutralize the conservative forces rallying against them.   Through the years, Clinton tried
                       to present his presidency as a time of progressive change characterized not by war on the government, but a
                       shaping of the government into a "lean and efficient instrument of justice."

                              The emerging surplus enraged the right wing because it meant the continuation of entitlement programs they
                      hate. It was a high point for the Clinton Administration, though, and the major message of the State of the Union
                      Address of 1998 was that the surplus would fund Social Security through the baby boom retirement years and
                      into the future.

                      Chapter 10:  Seven Days in January

                              The Monica tapes surfaced, and the entire world started talking about blow jobs.  President Clinton
                      debated the definition of the word "is" and claimed truthfully never to have had "sexual relations" with
                      the young intern.  He and Vernon Jordan were claimed widely to have suborned perjury by asking Monica
                      Lewinsky to lie about the affair to a grand jury in the Paula Jones case.  Rumors resonated in a newly
                      understood pattern:  right wing financed tabloid media spin half-truths into the public awareness, forcing
                      mainstream media into covering them in an attempt to maintain market share.

                              Hillary was under the mistaken impression that the Monica story was as untrue as the others when she
                      said, "I do believe that it is a battle.  I mean, look at the very people who are involved in this, they have
                      popped up in other settings.  This is the great story here, for anybody who is willing to find it and write
                      about it and explain it, this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband
                      since the day he announced for president.  A few journalists have kind of caught on to it and explained
                      it, but it has not yet been fully revealed to the American public.  And, actually, you now, in a bizarre
                      sort of way, this may do it." (page 374)

                              Despite the brouhaha, Clinton decides to avoid mentioning the investigation in the State of the Union
                      Address of January 28, 1998.  Instead, he delivered a rousing speech which promised the surplus to Social
                      Security and an increase in the minimum wage.  After thunderous applause, White House aids rush back to the
                      State Dining room to celebrate news from the polls that the President's speech earned the approval of 80%
                      of Americans.

                      Chapter 11:  In Starr's Chamber

                              "From the beginning, Starr hurtled toward the President's impeachment by using the grand jury to
                      prosecute symbolic offenses.  He was his own runaway train.  He claimed to be throwing up caution signs
                      while he was stoking the engine with coal." (page 391)  Starr, who signs hymns while jogging, sent out scores
                      of subpoenas in an attempt to bog down the administration's attempt to defend itself as well as hindering
                      progressive action on issues important to America, including one to Sidney Blumenthal, Clinton's Senior
                      Advisor on media issues.  Blumenthal was accused of spreading lies about the Office of the Independent
                      Council and Starr himself, and was required to give up all his notes and media contacts for inspection,
                      in a search for "obstruction of justice."  Media everywhere regarded this as highly unconstitutional and
                      dangerous to free speech.

                      Chapter 12:  The Reign of Witches

                              In a hothouse environment where any lurid charge, whatever its provenance and veracity, received full
                      airing, Bill Clinton continued to function as President of the United States.  From Africa to China to Latin America
                      to Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the President advanced the progressive agenda, and searched for
                      ways to build peaceful and prosperous bridges between people.  He would use the military in times of absolute
                      necessity, too.

                              "On August 14, the President met the caskets of ten Americans killed in the embassy bombings as they were
                      brought to Andrews Air Force Base, and one after another, he met their grief-stricken families.  He was
                      photographed with tears streaking down his face.  'No matter what it takes, ' he said at the public ceremony,
                      'we must find those responsible for these evil acts and see that justice is done.'  Then he drove back to the
                      White House, where he had to prepare for his deposition.  Ken Starr was demanding his attention while he was
                      planning the American retaliation to Osama bin Laden." (page 460)

                              We missed bin Laden by one hour that time.

                      Chapter 13:  Show Trial

                              Elliot Richardson, Alan Dershowitz and A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. defended the President in the House,
                      stating forcefully that his personal transgression did not amount to a crime.  Republican Congressman Bob Barr
                      made the claim that "real Americans know that perjury amounts to impeachment,"  and Dershowitz later exposed
                      who Barr meant by "real Americans" with evidence of his support of an overtly racist political group.  Pornographer
                      Larry Flynt also played a role in discrediting Representative Barr when a copy of a signed check paying for his
                      second wife's abortion was printed in "Hustler" magazine, for the reward of a cool million dollars.

                              David Kendall, Clinton's personal attorney, attempted a Herculean task, which he described was, "to respond
                      to the two hours of uninterrupted testimony from the Independent Counsel, as well as to his four-year, $45 million
                      investigation, which has included at least 28 attorneys, 78 FBI agents, and an undisclosed number of private
                      investigators, an investigation which has generated, by a computer count, 114,532 news stories in print, and 2,513
                      minutes of network television time, not to mention 24-hour scandal coverage on cable, a 445-page referral, 50,000
                      pages of documents from secret grand-jury testimony, 4 hours of videotaped testimony, 22 hours of audiotape,
                      some of which was gathered in violation of state law, and the testimony of scores of witnesses, not one of whom
                      has been cross-examined.  And I have 30 minutes to do this." (page 513)

                      Impeachment Results:
                      Article I  - perjury in the grand jury -  228-206  Impeach
                      Article II  -  perjury in the Jones case -  205-229 Failed
                      Article III  - obstruction of justice -  221-212 Impeach
                      Article IV - abuse of power - 148-285 Failed
                      The President was impeached.

                      Chapter 14:  The Twenty First Century

                              Simultaneous attacks were planned for Washington, D.C., Los Angeles International Airport, the Amman
                      Radisson Hotel in Jordan and the USS The Sullivans on December 31, 1999.  All were foiled by an administration
                      paying close attention to the rising terrorist danger and in conjunction with countries around the world, but with
                      practically no help from the FBI.  Director Louis Freeh had a "visceral antagonism" toward Clinton, and the result
                      was that almost no information about terrorism collected by the FBI was shared with other intelligence organizations.

                              "After September 11, the FBI acknowledged to senior administration officials that despite hundreds of
                      millions of dollars of budget increases over several ears, it had no more agents working on counterterrorism cases
                      than it had in 1996."  Freeh blocked a briefing for then Secretary of State Madeline Albright, saying, "Why should
                      we brief him?  He's a crook.  He's no better than a bank robber.Would we tell a bank robber about our investigation?"
                      (page 663)

                              John O'Neill, killed on September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center, quit the FBI in frustration at its
                      lack of proper attention to what Clinton called "the biggest problem to our society in the twenty-first century."

                      Chapter 15:  A New York State of Mind

                              Despite the ongoing impeachment of her husband, Hillary stumps for Charles Schumer in his New York
                      Senate race, and most accounts give her very high marks for effective campaigning and grace under pressure.
                      Patrician Senator Patrick Moynihan's retirement in 2000 gave her a rare gift:  an open Senate seat in New York.
                      Bill and Hillary buy a home in Westchester county, and Hillary decides to run for the Senate after her extensive
                      "listening tour".

                              Various media outlets publish news stories entitled, "Shame on Hillary", "The Hillary Trap", "The Case
                      Against Hillary Clinton", "She's Nothing But an Empty Carpetbag" from The New York Post and a good one from
                      the National Enquirer, "Hillary's Gay Affairs."  Her first opponent, Rudolph Giuliani drops out of the race due to
                      health and personal problems, and Rick Lazio was annointed as the Republican challenger.

                              "His gambits backfired.  He looked utterly tactical, inventing controversies rather than discussing issues.
                       Lazio was a perfect Republican candidate of his kind: clean-cut, youthful, conservative without passionate
                       belief, glib, willing to be a transmission belt for his handlers' talking points.  but the shallowness that had allowed
                       his ambition to skim the surface this far and this fast was betraying him.  He could not stop attacking Hillary."  (page 695)
                       Lazio stormed Hillary's podium during a debate, alienating enough undecided women voters that she went to
                       sleep happy on election night with a victory in her own race, the presidency undecided.

                      Chapter 16:  The Stolen Succession

                              The Bush team stole the election by flying men in blue buttoned down shirts and brown pants into
                      Florida, where they rioted through the state.  These individuals were part of a huge Republican political
                      operation, but apparently they weren't briefed that showing up in identical clothes would label them
                      instantly as to who they were.  From the beginning of the campaign, this operation "targeted Gore's greatest
                      strengths and virtues and systematically turned them upside down.  He was called a liar, an exaggerator.
                      The media, in large part, accepted this portrait of an untrustworthy, sleazy, and phony man and transmitted
                      the false stories originating in the Republican camp."  (page 706)

                              The coup de grace of the Republican campaign was violence on the streets of Florida, which terrorized
                      Democratic protesters and stopped the vote count.  Bush was IN, mangled syl-lables, fuzzy math and all,
                      and the majority of the country who voted for Gore was supposed to "get over it."

                      Chapter 17:  The Sands of Time

                              Working until the very end, Clinton went to England on the day the Supreme Court handed down its ruling on
                      December 12.  He spoke about the positive developments in the "global social contract" and warned about the
                      dangers of an increasingly open society.  Sadly, Clinton's efforts to strengthen the peace process in the middle east
                      fell apart in violence at the end of his term.  Clinton rebuked Arafat, who called to thank him for all he had done and
                      who called him a great man.  "The hell I am," said Clinton. "I'm a colossal failure, and you made me one."  (page 780)

                      Chapter 18:  The American Conflict

                              "The Clinton wars over the progressive presidency and its uses of government had a partisan cast, but they
                      were not about one side versus another as in some sporting match.  They focused on Clinton the man because he
                      personified his office, but at issue was how the executive branch would use the instruments of government.  Would
                      they be wielded on behalf of the interests of the great majority of citizens, allowing the Constitution to be a living
                      document for advancing the people's rights and social equality and the nation's needs' 'the organic law,' as Lincoln
                      called it - and the United States to be a vital nation advancing public purposes?  Or would the executive branch
                      define the nation as a shell, a confederation of states, clearing the way for private special interests, and asserting
                      the armed forces as the only expression of national power?"  (pages 789-790)

  back to

Privacy Policy
. .