The Clinton presidential library on Friday released almost 10,000 pages of never-before-seen documents that shed new light on the inner workings of the Clinton White House, from the salacious (Monica Lewinsky) to the political (Mike Huckabee hates Bill Clinton) to the comical (a future Supreme Court justice’s profane apology to her boss).
Here are the eleven most interesting revelations from the document dump, in no particular order:
Before she was a Supreme Court justice, Elena Kagan “really f—ked up:” While working as a lawyer in the Clinton White House in 1996, Kagan apologized to him for not keeping him informed about a television segment on the Paula Jones lawsuit. “I realize now that I may·have really f–ked up in not mentioning to you,” Kagan wrote to then-White House Counsel Jack Quinn. “God, do I feel like an idiot.” Fortunately, her career seems to have survived.
- Mike Huckabee “hates” Bill Clinton: After the Columbine school shooting, Bill Clinton’s successor as governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, urged the president to issue a national proclamation to promote “positive television programing.” Clinton aide appended a handwritten note to the Republican’s letter urging a “quick/warm response,” because Huckabee “hates BC [Bill Clinton]” and “is planning a Senate race against [Sen. Blanche] Lincoln.”
- Pressure from Hollywood: As the White House was preparing an event that would highlight the problem with violence in the media for young people, a key Democratic money man warned of a backlash in Hollywood. Andy Spahn, an advisor to some of Hollywood’s biggest political donors, warned White House political aide Minyon Moore that the “attack [on] the entertainment industry … would greatly effect the [fundraising] event that this community will be hosting with the POTUS on May 15th in LA,” as Moore summarized it to Gore advisor Bruce Reed. “I would appreciate being kept up to date on these activities to I avoid a backlash.”
- Tensions with Jimmy Carter: After Clinton launched missile strikes against a factory in Sudan thought to be used by al-Qaida in retaliation for the U.S. Embassies bombing, his Democratic predecessor called for an investigation into whether the factory actually had been producing chemical weapons. “Oh yeah, Carter’s on the case,” a national security aide commented sarcastically. ”Carter is not persuadable. His comments are over the top, no?”
- An apology on Monica Lewinsky: In 1998, then-MSNBC host Keith Olbermann wrote to Clinton apologizing for “whatever part I may have played in perpetuating this ceaseless coverage” of the Lewinsky affair story. In a reply, Clinton thanked Olbermann for his “kind message,” adding “I’m grateful you got in touch with me, and I send you my very best wishes.” Another document shows Lewinsky performing normal White House intern duties, requesting that a portrait of Clinton be hung.
- Internal concern over Marc Rich pardon: Clinton’s eleventh hour pardon of billionaire would leave a black mark on his legacy, something longtime Clinton aide Bruce Lindsey foresaw before the pardon, the new documents show. Lindsey was alarmed that Rich and his wife were fugitives, but White House counsel Jack Quinn dismissed the concern. “They (understandably in my mind) chose not to return to the U.S. for a trial in light of all that had happened to them; particularly the enormous and overwhelming adverse and prejudicial publicity generated, I am sure, by the U.S. Attorney [Rudy] Guiliani.” He also criticizes Giuliani for refusing to hear “highly respected independent legal scholars” on the matter.
- “A terrific backlash:” A coming back Top Health and Human Services official Peter Edelman, who would later resign in protest from the administration, expressed concern over the confirmation process for Lani Guinier, Clinton’s nominee for assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. Clinton eventually – and controversially – pulled the nomination following negative press from the right attacking Guinier’s views on voting and democracy. “I am hearing that there will be terrific backlash in the black community if Lani’s nomination is pulled now … She has to have the chance to make her case,” Edelman warned the White House’s top lawyer on June 2, 1993.
“Riding a roller coaster in a hurricane:” As Hillary Clinton’s health care reform task force was getting under way, its leader Ira Magaziner warned the Clintons it would not be easy. “The health care effort is going to be like riding a roller coaster in a hurricane,” he wrote in a memo to the first couple. “If we are well organized, persistent and ‘fight like hell’ every day for the next nine months, we will succeed.”
A health care autopsy: The effort failed and Magaziner conducted an autopsy of sort in 1995, while providing extensive help to journalist David Broder on a book about the process. “I see the inside when I think of how disloyal some administration officials have been to you,” he wrote to Hillary Clinton, “and how hurtful they have been to me in their private discussions with the press.” In addition to disloyal officials and the press, Magaziner also said the delayed process was “fatal.” He added that the delay was not the task force’s fault, but the result of external events.
Keeping the committee secret: The documents show the great lengths the administration went to keep the members of the health care task force and its proceedings secret. Top officials in various parts of the government strategized from the outset how to keep records private, and individual Freedom of Information Act Requests were elevated for discussion about senior White House lawyers. The administration was eventually sued to make the documents public, but a court sided with the White house.
Two president-elects at once? In 2000, weeks after Election Day, with no clear winner, the White House asked the Department of Justice if it could start helping both Al Gore and George W. Bush in their transition efforts. Nope, the department ruled, “since there cannot be more than one ‘President-elect’ and one ‘’Vice-President-elect’ under the Act.”
This post will be updated as more documents are reviewed.