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Posts Tagged ‘WHITEWATER’

WHY TRUMP WON: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 16, 2016 at 12:13 am

Since November 8, Democrats and liberals (the two are not always the same) have been in shock.

“How could this happen?” they keep asking–themselves and others. “How could the country go from electing a brilliant, sophisticated, humane man like Barack Obama to electing an ignorant, coarse, brutal man like Donald Trump?”

Efforts have been made to blame one person/group or another. But the truth is that many factors were involved, and the fallout will be felt for months–if not years–to come.

#1 Hillary Clinton was an uninspiring candidate. When Barack Obama ran for President in 2008, NBC Anchor Tom Brokaw compared his rallies to Hannah Montana concerts. Audiences were excited by his charisma, eloquence, relative youth (47) and optimism (“Yes We Can!”).

Clinton radiated none of these qualities. She was 67 when she declared her candidacy for President–and looked it. Her speaking voice grated like the proverbial fingernail on a blackboard.

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Hillary Clinton

She seemed to have been around forever–as First Lady (1993-2001), as Senator from New York (2001-2009) and as Secretary of State (2009-2013). Those born after 2000 thought of the Clinton Presidency as ancient history. She was offering a resume–and voters wanted an inspiration.

#2 Clinton brought a lot of baggage with her. In contrast to Obama, whose Presidency had been scandal-free, Clinton–rightly or wrongly–has always been dogged by charges of corruption.

During the Clinton Presidency, a failed land deal–Whitewater–while Bill Clinton was Governor of Arkansas triggered a seven-year investigation by a Republican special prosecutor. No criminality was uncovered, and no charge was brought against either Clinton.

After leaving the White House, she and her husband set up the Clinton Foundation, a public charity to bring government, businesses and social groups together to solve problems “faster, better, at lower cost.”

As Secretary of State, more than half of Clinton’s meetings with people outside government were with donors to the Clinton Foundation. If a “pay-to play” system wasn’t at work, one certainly seemed to be.

She cast further suspicion on herself by her unauthorized use of a private email server. This wasn’t revealed until March, 2015–after she was no longer Secretary of State.

She claimed she had used it to avoid carrying two cell-phones. But, as Secretary of State, she traveled with a huge entourage who carried everything she needed. Her critics believed she used a private email system to hide a “pay-for-pay” relationship with Clinton Foundation donors.

Finally,  as a candidate for President, she “secretly” worked with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, to ensure that she would get the nomination.

As DNC chair, Wasserman-Schultz was expected to be impartial toward all Democratic candidates seeking the prize. This included Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s chief competitor.

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Bernie Sanders

So Sanders and his supporters were outraged when WikiLeaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the DNC.

The emails revealed a clear bias for Clinton and against Sanders. In one email, Brad Marshall, the chief financial officer of the DNC, suggested that Sanders, who is Jewish, could be portrayed as an atheist.

#3 The Obamas’ support proved a plus/minus for Clinton.  Understandably, President Obama wanted to see his legacies continued–and she was the only candidate who could do it.

So he–and his wife, Michelle–stormed the country, giving eloquent, passionate speeches and firing up crowds on Clinton’s behalf.

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President Barack Obama

So long as either Obama stood before a crowd, the magic lasted. But once the event was over, the excitement vanished. Hillary simply didn’t arouse enough passion to keep it going.

And when Obama supporters compared the President and First Lady with Clinton, they found her wanting–in attractiveness, grace, eloquence, trustworthiness and the ability to inspire.

#4 Not enough Democrats entered the Presidential race. Among those few who did:

  • Martin O’Malley, former governor of Maryland;
  • Lincoln Chaffee, former governor of Rhode Island;
  • James Webb, former U.S. Senator from Virginia;
  • Lawrence Lessig, professor at Harvard Law School;
  • Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders;
  • and former First Lady/U.S. Senator/Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Of these candidates, it’s worth noting that O’Malley withdrew during the primaries. Chaffee, Webb and Lessig withdrew before the primaries started.

Many liberals wanted Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren to run. As a specialist in consumer protection, she had become a leading figure in the Democratic party and a favorite among progressives.

But, without giving a reason, she declined to do so.

Thus, at least on the Democratic side, the stage was already set at the outset of the race.

No matter who the Republican nominee would be, the Democratic one would be Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.  

Sanders fans have loudly claimed that if only he had gotten the Democratic Presidential nomination, he would have crushed Trump at the polls. 

But Sanders would have carried big negatives as well–which the Republicans would have gleefully exploited.  

These will be explored in Part Two of this continuing series.

TWO ELECTION CASUALTIES AMERICANS CAN CELEBRATE

In History, Politics, Social commentary on November 9, 2016 at 11:38 am

If there is one thing Republicans, Democrats and Independents can agree on, it’s this: 2016 gave America perhaps its most divisive Presidential election in modern history.

Many pundits have correctly noted that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump–especially Trump–brought a coarseness to the election never before seen.

Saturday Night Live brutally captured this in a series of skits featuring Alec Baldwin as Trump and Kate McKinnon as Clinton.

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But if basic civility proved a casualty of this campaign, there were two other casualties that the overwhelming majority of Americans will be glad to see finally buried: The Bush and Clinton family political dynasties.

Since 1980–36 years ago–there has been only one American Presidential election that did not feature a Bush or Clinton as a candidate.  Consider:

  • 1980: George H.W. Bush–first as a Presidential candidate; then, losing the Republican nomination to Ronald Reagan, as Reagan’s pick for Vice President.
  • 1984: Bush--as Reagan’s continued choice as Vice President.
  • 1988: Bush–as Reagan’s anointed choice for President, and then serving as President for four years.
  • 1992: Bush--as President running for a second term, only to be defeated by Bill Clinton, whose star now rises.
  • 1996: Clinton–as President, running for and winning a second term until 2001.
  • 2000: George W. Bush, son of the former President and Governor of Texas, runs for and wins the Presidency.
  • 2004: Bush, running for a second term and winning it.
  • 2008: Hillary Clinton–former First Lady and now New York Senator runs for the Democratic nomination and loses it to Barack Obama. Even so, he picks her to be his Secretary of State for the next four years.
  • 2012: The only Presidential election year since 1980 when neither a Bush nor a Clinton is a Presidential or Vice Presidential candidate.
  • 2016: Jeb Bush–son of George H.W. and brother to George W., he seeks the Republican nomination but is easily humiliated and defeated by Trump.
  • 2016: Hillary Clinton–having resigned as Secretary of State, she wins the Democratic nomination and loses the race to Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Among the “legacies” of both the Clintons and the Bushes:

  • George H.W. Bush: Sends a half-million American troops to Saudi Arabia to “liberate” Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. The real reason: To secure continued American access to Kuwaiti oil.

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George H.W. Bush

  • Presides over one of the worst recessions in American history–causing him to lose the 1992 Presidential election.
  • Bill Clinton: “Romances” White House intern Monica Lewinsky–and gets impeached (but not convicted) for it.

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Bill Clinton

  • Repeals FDR’s Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial and investment banking. This allows big banks to merge, becoming “too big to fail”–and sets the stage for the 2008 financial meltdown.
  • After Right-wing terrorist Timothy McVeigh blows up the Oklahoma City Federal Building, Clinton refuses to condemn Republicans’ 50-years’ demonizing of government that is largely responsible for it.
  • George W. Bush: Repeatedly ignores intelligence warnings of a coming attack by Al Qaeda, which results in the slaughter of 3,000 Americans on 9/11.

George W. Bush

  • Lies the United States into a needless war in Iraq, which costs the lives of 4,486 Americans and costs the treasury at least $2 trillion.
  • Assures his fellow Americans that he has “looked into the soul” of Vladimir Putin and found him a man “very straightforward and trustworthy.”
  • After Hurricane Katrina devastates New Orleans, his Federal Emergency Management Agency–staffed with political hacks–bungles getting desperately-needed aid to America’s stricken citizens. Bush famously congratulates FEMA Director Michael Brown: “Heck of a job, Brownie.”
  • Hillary Clinton: As First Lady, refuses to release documents about Whitewater, a failed Arkansas land deal. This brings on a needless, seven-year investigation by a Republican special prosecutor which turns up–nothing.

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Hillary Clinton

  • After leaving the White House, she and her husband set up the Clinton Foundation, a public charity to bring government, businesses and social groups together to solve problems “faster, better, at lower cost.”
  • As Secretary of State, more than half of Clinton’s meetings with people outside government are with donors to the Clinton Foundation. If there isn’t a “pay-to play” system at work, there certainly is the appearance of one.
  • Clinton casts further suspicion on herself by her unauthorized use of a private email server. She claims it’s so she doesn’t have to carry two cell-phones. But, as Secretary of State, she travels with a huge entourage who carry everything she needs.
  • As a candidate for President, she “secretly” works with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, to ensure that she will get the nomination.
  • She wins the nomination–but is so unpopular she loses to Donald Trump by an overwhelming margin in the Electoral College.

Millions of liberals and Democrats are no doubt dismayed at the outcome of the 2016 election.

And Republicans who sided with Trump will now find themselves at odds with those who refused to do so.

But Democrats and Republicans alike can rejoice that these two embarrassing–and disastrous–family political dynasties have finally been swept into the ashcan of history.

TOO CLEVER FOR THEIR–AND OUR–OWN GOOD

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 3, 2016 at 12:02 am

The signs were there long before Wikileaks confirmed them.

Even the most casual observer of politics could see the aren’t-we-cute? relationship between Hillary Clinton and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

Clinton, of course, was the former First Lady, U.S. Senator from New York and Secretary of State under President Barack Obama. She was also, by popular consensus, the candidate to beat for the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination.

And Wasserman-Schultz was the chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Nobody expected Clinton to act impartially. But that was the expectation demanded of Wasserman-Schultz.

There were, after all, other Democrats besides Clinton seeking their party’s nomination–the most prominent of these being Bernie Sanders, the U.S. Senator from Vermont.

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Bernie Sanders

Yet Wasserman-Schultz made no effort to hide her clear bias on behalf of Clinton.

On December 18, 2015, writing in The Huffington Post, political blogger Miles Mogulescu sounded a warning:

“It’s increasingly clear that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, isn’t acting as a neutral party Chair, trying to insure a fair and democratic primary and building the Democratic Party in the states.

“Rather, she’s acting as a shill for Hillary Clinton, doing everything in her power to ensure that no one will effectively challenge Hillary’s coronation as the nominee.”

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Hillary Clinton

Two days later, on December 20, 2015, the website, U.S. Uncut published an article: 

5 TIMES DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ VIOLATED DNC RULES AND STACKED THE DECK IN FAVOR OF CLINTON.

The article bluntly stated that Wasserman-Schultz “has made a name for herself among many Democratic voters as a shill for the Clinton machine.” And then it offered five specific examples to back up this assertion:

  1. Scheduling primary debates to garner as few viewers as possible–and thus “circle the wagons” around the front-running Clinton.
  2. Locating grassroots Clinton field offices at DNC offices.
  3. Shutting off Bernie Sanders’ access to the DNC’s voter database, thus crippling his ground strategy.
  4. Raising money for the Clinton campaign via a top DNC official.
  5. Lining up Superdelegates for Clinton before the first primary debate.

So no one should have been surprised when the full dimensions of the truth were finally revealed on July 22, 2016.

That was when Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the DNC.

The emails had been exchanged from January 2015 through May 2016. And they clearly revealed a bias for Hillary Clinton and against Sanders.

One email revealed that Brad Marshall, the chief financial officer of the DNC, suggested that Sanders, who is Jewish, could be portrayed as an atheist.

Sanders’ supporters had long charged that the DNC and Wasserman-Schultz had undercut his campaign. Now they had the evidence in black-and-white.

The leak badly embarrassed Clinton. About to receive the Democratic nomination for President, she found herself charged with undermining the electoral process.

Wasserman-Schultz proved the first casualty of the leak, resigning as chair of the DNC and saying she would not open the Democratic convention as previously scheduled.

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Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

Clinton’s campaign manager, Bobby Mook, put his best spin on the scandal: He blamed the Russians for the leak. Their alleged motive–to help Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Cyber-security experts believed the hackers originated from Russia–and that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have authorized it.

Perhaps the worst mistake of the DNC was not putting so many embarrassing emails into computers.

Its worst was favoring Hillary Clinton above all other Presidential candidates.

On August 31, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the two most unpopular presidential candidates in more than 30 years.

A July 6 Fortune story sheds light on “Why Trump and Clinton Are America’s Most Disliked Presidential Candidates.”

Trump: “After making comments insulting Muslims, Latinos and women, Trump has been unable to fend off charges of racisms and sexism.”

Clinton: “Clinton is dogged by voter mistrust stoked by her handling of classified State Department information on a private email server, the Benghazi hearings, and the long-ago Whitewater scandal.”

And applying to both candidates: “People who exhibit a few instances of socially unacceptable behavior are quickly labeled as deviant and have to commit disproportionately many more acceptable behaviors to restore their reputation.”

Since October, Trump has been dogged by his admission of sexually predatory behavior toward women: “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful–I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.  Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

At least a dozen women have since charged him with making unwanted sexual advances.

Such revelations would normally prove the kiss of death for any Presidential candidate.

Had the Democrats chosen a genuinely popular candidate–or at least one who was not so widely hated as Clinton–the electoral map would now look very different.

But as matters now stand, Trump and Clinton seem locked dead-even in the polls.

In 2008, NBC anchor Tom Brokaw compared the Presidential campaign rallies of then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama to popular Hannah Montana concerts.

In 2016, not even the most partisan Democrats would make such a remark about Clinton.

SECRECY PAST IS SECRECY PROLOGUE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics on August 9, 2016 at 12:20 am

The Washington Post was angry.

Its reporters and editors believed they had been stonewalled by the 1992 Bill Clinton Presidential campaign.  

And now that he had been elected President, they wanted access to a treasury of documents relating to potential irregularities in Whitewater and a gubernatorial campaign.  

David Gergen, a conservative adviser to Republican Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, had been hired by Clinton in 1993 to provide a counterbalancing perspective to his liberal team members.  

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Gergen had served in the Nixon White House during Watergate.  He knew firsthand the political dangers of stonewalling–or merely appearing to stonewall.  

So he advised Clinton: Give the Post the documents. Yes, it will be temporarily embarrassing. But in a little while the bad stories will blow over and you can get on with the job.  

If you don’t hand over the documents, you’ll look like you’re hiding something. The press will raise a stink. The Republicans will demand a Special Prosecutor.  And there will be no end to it.

Clinton agreed with Gergen.  But there was a catch: He didn’t feel he could make the decision alone. Hillary had been a partner in the Whitewater land transactions.  

“You’ll have to speak to Hillary and get her agreement,” he told Gergen. “If she agrees, we’ll do it.” 

Gergen promised to see her. 

Two days later, Gergen called Hillary Clinton’s office and asked for an appointment.

“We’ll get back to you,” her secretary promised.

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Hillary Clinton

Hillary never did.  Finally, two weeks after the canceled December 10 meeting with the Clintons, Gergen got the news he had been dreading: Bruce Lindsay, Clinton’s trusted adviser, would deliver a one-paragraph letter to the Post, essentially saying; “Screw you.”

Events quickly unfolded exactly as Gergen had predicted:

  • The Post’s executive editor, Leonard Downie, called the White House: “Nothing personal, but we’re going to pursue this story relentlessly.”  
  • The New York Times and Newsweek–among other news outlets–joined the journalistic investigation.  
  • Coverage of Whitewater intensified.  
  • Republicans began demanding that Attorney General Janet Reno appoint an independent counsel.  
  • On January 20, 1994–exactly a year after Clinton took the oath as President–Edward Fiske, a former federal prosecutor, was named independent counsel.
  • In August, Fiske was dismissed by a Federal judge who considered him too liberal and replaced with Kenneth Starr, a former solicitor general and federal appeals court judge.
  • Starr unearthed Clinton’s salacious affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, which culminated in an unsuccessful Republican impeachment attempt in 1998.
  • Starr resigned in 1999, and was replaced by Robert W. Ray.
  • The investigation continued until 2002, but no criminal charges were ever filed against either Clinton.

In his 2001 book, Eyewitness to Power, Gergen summarizes the meaning of this episode: 

If the Clintons had turned over the Whitewater documents to the Washington Post in December 1993, their history–and that of the United States–would have been entirely different.  

Disclosure would have brought embarrassing revelations–such as Hillary’s investment in commodity futures.

“But we know today that nothing in those documents constituted a case for criminal prosecution of either one of the Clintons in their Whitewater land dealings…

“Edward Fiske and Kenneth Starr would never have arrived on the scene, we might never have heard of Monica Lewinsky (who had nothing to do with the original Whitewater matter) and there would have been no impeachment.

“The country would have been spared that travail, and the President himself could have had a highly productive second term.”  

Gergen blames President Clinton rather than Hillary for refusing to disclose the documents. Voters elected him–not her–to run the government. He–not she–ultimately bears the responsibility.  

Still, his comments about Hillary are telling, considering:

  • That she is likely to win election to the White House this November; and
  • That she continues to reflexively stonewall instead of opt for transparency when facing questions.  

As Gergen puts it: “She should have said yes [to disclosure] from the beginning, accepting short-term embarrassment in exchange for long-term protection of both herself and her husband.  

“She listened too easily to the lawyers and to her own instincts as a litigator, instincts that told her never to give an inch to the other side. Whitewater was always more a political than a legal problem.”  

The same might be said of her lingering credibility problem with the use of a private email server as Secretary of State.

Both of her predecessors, Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, used private servers, and neither has been subjected to Republican inquisition.  

She could have easily avoided the turmoil that has dogged her for years by simply admitting at the outset: “Yes, I used a private server–just like my two Republican predecessors did. Everyone knows government servers are compromised.”  

Instead, she fell back on Nixonian stonewalling tactics–which proved fatal to Richard Nixon and almost fatal to her husband.  

This is, in short, a woman who has learned nothing from the past–her own nor that of her husband.

It’s a safe bet that as President Hillary Clinton will continue to stonewall over matters whose disclosure is embarrassing only in the short-term–thus jeopardizing her tenure as Chief Executive.

SECRECY PAST IS SECRECY PROLOGUE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics on August 8, 2016 at 10:30 am

“History can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”

So wrote the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard.  And with history–in the form of a second Clinton Presidency–about to repeat itself, useful lessons may be found by studying the first one.

Since her debut as a potential First Lady in 1992, Hillary Clinton has aroused strong passions–for and against.

David Gergen is one former staffer who has viewed her up close and yet offers a balanced perspective of her strengths and weaknesses.

He did so in his 2001 book, Eyewitness to Power, in which he chronicled his experiences as an adviser to Republican Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan–and a Democratic one: Bill Clinton.

In 1993, then a conservative political commentator, Gergen returned to the White House. 

The liberal Clinton, sensitive to criticism on the Right, wanted Gergen’s advice on how to defuse it.

David Gergen World Economic Forum 2013.jpg

David Gergen

In December, 1993, Gergen got a call from Bob Kaiser, the managing editor of the Washington Post: “We’re getting the runaround over there on Whitewater and I want you to know about it.”

“Whitewater” encompassed the Arkansas real estate investments of Bill and Hillary Clinton and their associates, Jim and Susan McDougal in the Whitewater Development Corporation, a failed business venture in the 1970s and 1980s. 

A Post reporter had sent a letter to Bruce Lindsay, a trusted Clinton adviser, raising questions about the finances of the Clintons in the years before they came to Washington.

Two weeks had passed, and there had been no reply.  

Gergen assured Kaiser that this was the first time he had heard about the letter: “I’ll look into it and get back to you.”

Gergen and Kaiser shared a Watergate past–Gergen had worked in the Nixon White House, Kaiser at the Washington Post, whose reporting had ultimately brought Nixon down.

Both men, Gergen later wrote, “remembered how destructive the stonewalling of those days had been.” And Gergen respected Kaiser, believing him “fair but tough–and, if misled, very tough.”   

Gergen immediately consulted with Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty, Clinton’s White House Chief of Staff. He advised McLarty that a trio of White House officials should visit the Post and find out what the reporters wanted.

McLarty agreed.  

When the White House officials arrived at the Post, they were met by a chorus of hostile reporters.  

They felt they had been stonewalled throughout the 1992 Presidential race. And now they wanted access to a treasury of documents relating to potential irregularities in Whitewater and a gubernatorial campaign.

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The Washington Post

Gergen and Mark Gearan, the White House director of communications, agreed that the best course was to give the Post all the documents it was requesting.  

The next day, Gergen laid out his case to Chief of Staff McLarty:

The Post should be allowed to view the documents and report on them. Then the papers should be made available to the entire White House press corps.  

Yes, said Gergen, a lot of negative stories would probably result. But if Watergate had taught any lesson, it was that it was better to admit mistakes and not try to hide them. Stonewalling only brought on criminal investigations–and potential criminal charges.  

McLarty agreed to set up a meeting with President Clinton where Gergen and Gearan could make their case.

On December 10, Gergen and Gearan were scheduled to meet with President Clinton, his wife, and possibly their lawyers.  

But when the appointed hour arrived, they found that the meeting had been scrubbed.

The Clintons had had their lawyers come in early for a private discussion of the documents, had heard their arguments, and had decided not to discuss anything. They didn’t even want to hear a case for disclosure.

Gergen was furious. He had been hired months earlier with the promise of full access to the President. And now he insisted on it.  

McLarty arranged for him to see Clinton the next morning. 

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Bill Clinton

Gergen laid out three reasons why the Post should be given the documents it wanted.  

First, he believed the paper had tried to be fair in its coverage of the Clintons.  

Second, Watergate proved that it was politically lethal to be accused of a cover-up.

And, third, having won international renown with Watergate, the Post would never back down on Whitewater.

Gergen warned that the Post “would sic a big team of investigative reporters on the White House” and that would lead other news organizations to follow.  

“I agree with you,” said Clinton. “I think we should turn over all of the documents.”  

But there was a catch: He didn’t feel he could make the decision alone. Hillary had been a partner in the Whitewater land transactions.  

“You’ll have to speak to Hillary and get her agreement,” he told Gergen. “If she agrees, we’ll do it.”  

Gergen promised to see her.  

Two days later, Gergen called Hillary Clinton’s office and asked for an appointment.

“We’ll get back to you,” her secretary promised.

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