It has been more than 16 years since the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The 22-year-old White House intern is now a low-profile 40-year-old. The once-embattled President Bill Clinton has assumed a post-presidential role as global philanthropist, and the scorned first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is now a former senator, a former secretary of state and a potential 2016 presidential candidate.
Now, in response to attacks on the Republican Party as waging a “war on women,” Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has repeatedly recalled Clinton’s White House indiscretions. Paul said on “Meet the Press” late last month that Clinton had taken advantage of a young intern. “That is predatory behavior,” he added.
On Monday, The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website, unloaded a trove of documents from Clinton’s White House years from a close friend of Hillary Clinton, Diane D. Blair, who died in 2000. The Blair papers include diary entries based on conversations with Hillary Clinton, private memos and letters that had been kept at the archives of the University of Arkansas, where Blair had taught political science.
The correspondence reveals new insights into how Hillary Clinton dealt with the setbacks in the White House, such as her struggles to pass a health-care overhaul and difficulties in dealing with journalists who she described as having “big egos and no brains.”
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“I know I should do more to suck up to the press,” Clinton told Blair in 1996, according to the documents. “I know it confuses people when I change my hairdos, I know I should pretend not to have any opinions, but I’m just not going to,” she continued. Then, Clinton said: “I’m used to winning and I intend to win on my own terms.”
The papers also underscore the tensions contained in Clinton’s reaction to her husband’s infidelities. As first lady, she was viewed broadly as a champion of women’s equality, but, according to the Blair papers, she did not see her husband’s behavior toward Lewinsky as exploitation.
Clinton called Lewinsky a “narcissistic loony toon,” according to a 1998 conversation Blair recalled. “HRC insists, no matter what people say, it was gross inappropriate behavior but it was consensual (was not a power relationship) and was not sex within real meaning” of the word, Blair wrote.
Blair’s papers describe a White House that felt constantly under assault from the news media.
“She can’t figure out why these people out there are so anxious to destroy them,” wrote Blair, who first befriended the Clintons in Arkansas in the late 1970s and who worked on the 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns. “I told her I thought she was taking it too personally.”
The mentions of Bill Clinton’s personal life extend beyond Lewinsky. A Feb. 16, 1992, memo highlights “possible investigation leads,” including a strategy to stop stories about Clinton’s alleged affair with Gennifer Flowers.
Mostly, the papers paint a bleak picture of the Clintons’ time in the White House, filled with personal trials. The take away, perhaps, is not so much that the past could hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances if she runs for president in 2016. It is a questions of why, after all that heartache, would she want to?