The news media have begun digging into the newly-released schedules for Hillary Clinton during her husband’s administration, and they have already found some interesting holes and juxtapositions in her timelines. For instance, the Guardian in Britain notices that Hillary was outside of the country when a few crises arose, calling into question how much impact she had on their management:
On the day that dozens of US cruise missiles rained down on Serbia in an attempt to punish Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic for the country’s onslaught against ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo, first lady Hillary Clinton was far from the White House war room: instead she was touring ancient Egyptian ruins, including King Tut’s tomb and the temple of Hatshepsut. And on the day before the signing of the Good Friday agreement in Belfast she was at an event called “Hats on for Bella” in Washington.
In her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton has touted her experience in the Clinton White House as preparation to lead the nation in a time of crisis. “Ready on day one” has been her slogan.
But an initial reading of some of the more than 11,000 pages of Clinton’s schedules from her days as first lady, released today by the National Archives and the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library, shows that she was often far from the site of decision-making during some of the most pivotal events of Bill Clinton’s presidency.
This won’t really surprise anyone, will it? After all, the duties of a First Lady are significantly different than that of President, but the schedule is just as busy. Hillary has argued that she handled the role differently, and at first she did — with the Health Care Task Force, which turned into a statist disaster. Afterwards, little evidence has arisen that she had any real, tangible impact on foreign policy, national security, or any other role in the White House.
First, the Guardian notes the Bella Abzug event, but that’s not the end of the issue with Northern Ireland’s peace process, which she specifically cites as personal experience. While Bill made calls to the participants in order to keep the process on track, she spent her day meeting with Elie Weisel and attending a farewell party for a Democratic Party official, Karen Finney. While the accord got signed, she met with Amelita Ramos, her counterpart from the Philippines.
During the al-Qaeda crisis of 1998, after the bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Bill Clinton had suspected AQ sites hit with missiles on August 20th, from their vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. Bill cut short his vacation to manage the crisis from the White House. Hillary stayed in Martha’s Vineyard until August 30th, hardly demonstrating a hands-on approach to national security.
So what again did Hillary actually do to claim that she could take over on Day One? She relaxed at Martha’s Vineyard and toured the Egyptian pyramids. It sounds more like Agatha Christie movies than preparation for the Presidency.
Update: ABC looks at the same data, and says the trips abroad are nothing more than standard First Lady fare:
The release of 17,000 pages of then-first lady Hillary Clinton’s daily schedule in the White House has raised questions about her ability to answer the 3 a.m. phone call she talks about in her commercials.
“Maybe because I have had the great honor and privilege of seeing that really hard job up close that I know that there is a big difference between speeches and solutions and talk and action,” Sen. Clinton said in her commercials before the Texas and Ohio primaries.
But the daily schedules released today show many of her overseas trips to be the standard first lady tourist fare, hospital visits and blinis with caviar.
ABC also notes that some of the critical days of the Clinton administration have data missing. For instance, on December 7, 2000, her brothers came to the White House to wangle pardons for Marc Rich and some drug dealers, efforts which proved successful the next month. However, her schedule doesn’t note the names of the people with whom she met.
The Clinton experience lives, even if Hillary can’t claim it as presidential preparation.
Update II: ABC has done some excellent work already on these documents. They have uncovered an event that exposes Hillary as a liar on NAFTA. She has told people she opposed it and tried to talk Bill out of pursuing it, but in November 1993 she had hit the trail to generate support for the trade pact:
One interesting event in Sen. Hillary Clinton’s just-released schedules from the 1990s comes on Nov. 10 1993, when the former first lady was to serve as the closing act during a briefing on NAFTA, the trade agreement she now assails. …
Two attendees of that closed-door briefing, neither of whom are affiliated with any campaign, describe that event for ABC News. It was a room full of women involved in international trade. David Gergen served as a sort of master of ceremonies as various women members of the Cabinet talked up NAFTA, which had yet to pass Congress.
“It wasn’t a drop-by it was organized around her participation,” said one attendee. “Her remarks were totally pro-NAFTA and what a good thing it would be for the economy. There was no equivocation for her support for NAFTA at the time. Folks were pleased that she came by. If this is a still a question about what Hillary’s position when she was First Lady, she was totally supportive if [sic] NAFTA.
Small wonder the Clintons wanted to keep the records buried.