Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Clinton Papers: Arrogative Deleted


ar·ro·gat·ed, ar·ro·gat·ing, ar·ro·gates

  1. To take or claim for oneself without right; appropriate: Presidents who have arrogated the power of Congress to declare war. See Synonyms at appropriate.
  2. To ascribe on behalf of another in an unwarranted manner
From Newsweek:

"The more than 10,000 pages, released by the National Archives in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, purport to be the New York senator's daily schedules for her entire eight-year tenure as First Lady—the first major "document dump" from the Clinton Library in Little Rock. But the documents include only Hillary Clinton's public schedules, not her private calendar. And even those appear to be heavily redacted to exclude almost anything that might be of interest to historians and the inevitable posse of "oppo" researchers...

The schedule is considerably less revealing when it comes to more awkward episodes of the Clinton presidency. Consider the afternoon of March 9, 1995, when Johnny Chung, a businessman and soon-to-be-notorious Democratic Party fund-raiser, made a fateful trip to the White House carrying a campaign check for $50,000. For many critics, Chung later became a symbol of the campaign-finance abuses of the Clinton presidency, a mysterious Chinese businessman who managed to be cleared into the White House on 49 occasions. (He also later pleaded guilty to campaign-finance violations and testified that a sizeable chunk of his illegal campaign cash came from a Chinese military-intelligence operative.) Hillary Clinton made a special trip to the Map Room that day so she could have her picture taken with Chung. "We handshake, and then she [Hillary Clinton] said, 'Welcome to the White House, my good friend'," Chung later testified, describing the encounter with Hillary Clinton. Right after that, Chung hand-delivered his $50,000 to Maggie Williams, who was the First Lady's chief of staff at the time and now manages her presidential campaign...

But Hillary Clinton's newly released calendar for that day shows no reference to Johnny Chung at all. There is listed, just as Chung testified, an "official photo" session in the Map Room. But the name of the person Hillary Clinton was having her picture taken with has been deleted on the grounds that it would be "an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy," according to the Archives' released record. This may seem odd, given that Chung had spoken openly, many times, about his photo op with Hillary. It may seem even odder given that just a few minutes later the First Lady had another photo session—but this time, the documents identify the person whose picture was taken. It was Eileen Collins, the astronaut...

Equally unrevealing are Hillary Clinton's schedules for August 1998—a fateful month, during which Bill Clinton was forced to deal with the audacious attacks by Al Qaeda on two U.S. Embassies in Africa even as the Monica Lewinsky scandal was reaching its climax. (The same month, after Bill Clinton gave testimony in Ken Starr's inquiry and finally confessed his relationship with a former White House intern, the Clintons flew off to a vacation in Martha's Vineyard during which Hillary supposedly chastised him for the Monica Lewinsky affair).

Little of this is evident in the schedules released Wednesday. On the contrary, the newly released documents show no public events at the White House—and no public events at an unspecified private residence on Martha's Vineyard. The HRC schedule for Aug. 17, 1998—the day of Bill's grand-jury testimony at the White House—only shows that the Clintons were scheduled to travel to Martha's Vineyard at an undetermined hour that day.

The sad, lifelong impulse of Clinton to elude and hide--as perceptively characterized in Carl Bernstein's balanced, well-researched and first-rate biography of Clinton, is evident here, as it has been in the past.

The actual facts are sanitized to fit--or at least not to contradict--the later arguments--that Clinton was intimately involved in policy decisions, that she, like Obama, is an agent of reform and change. The ironies of such redactions as compared to her early, enthusiastic work on the Watergate committee are painful in their recognition of what her "experience" has led her to now regard as necessary in a political campaign.

She could embrace what she regards as positive in her past and in her husband's administration openly, and equally openly reject what has been negative--those actions that she disagrees with, and how she would act differently in her own Presidency.

Instead, with the heavy mark of a black pen, she hides the past, asking us to then believe in its fragmentary reconstruction.

Such a pattern will likely be prospective in its framing of future events--drawing a black line through those outcomes and events that her Administration fears will be regarded with disfavor.

We have seen this before, in the prior Administration. She should bring her considerable talents and skills to a stance of greater openness and honesty regarding the actions that she has taken and will take. This will provide a solid foundation for what she actually believes in, rather than the hidden fissures that can cause a frantic and self-defeating fall.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman