It’s like taking a trip back in time:
The early days of 1996 were tense times inside the Clinton White House. On Jan. 4, the First Couple’s top personal aide reported that she had stumbled upon Hillary Clinton’s long-lost Rose Law Firm billing records—documents that had been requested by Whitewater prosecutors two years earlier. Ken Starr quickly subpoenaed the First Lady to testify before a federal grand jury, leading to her historic four-hour appearance at the U.S. District Courthouse in Washington on Jan. 26 of that year.
But anybody looking through Hillary Clinton’s newly released White House records for clues as to how she handled this personal crisis will find â€¦ absolutely nothing. 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 January 1996 records show Hillary Clinton appearing on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and numerous other TV and radio shows to promote her just-published book, “It Takes a Village.” But they show no meetings whatsoever about the Rose Law firm billing records, no sessions with her lawyers to prepare for her grilling by Starr. The calendar for Jan. 26, 1996—the day crowds of reporters and TV cameramen gathered at the courthouse to watch Hillary Clinton enter and exit the grand jury—is totally blank. “NO public schedule,” it states simply, wiping out any reference to one of the more embarrassing public episodes of the First Lady’s days in the White House.
The heavy deletions are perhaps not surprising, given that the National Archives staffers who approved the release operated under guidance given by former president Clinton in a November 2002 letter recommending strict restrictions on the types of material that can be divulged. (Among the documents that should be “considered for withholding,” were anything related to investigations of the White House and all but “non-routine” communications between the president and the First Lady.) The material the National Archives did decide to release still had to be reviewed and approved by Bruce Lindsey, the president’s longtime loyal aide who serves as chief custodian of the Clinton archives. “This stuff has been sanitized,” said Chris Farrell, the chief of investigations for Judicial Watch, the conservative watchdog group that sued the Archives for release of the records. “Our expectations were very low, and they didn’t disappoint.” (Clinton campaign spokesman Jay Carson said the Archives released the records under “very strict legal requirements and guidelines that they follow in their redactions as they do for every president’s documents. The National Archives made the redactions.” He added that Lindsey, former president Clinton’s official representative, asked the Archives to “put extensive material back in” and “the vast majority” of the remaining redactions were made to protect the privacy of third parties.)
The WSJ looked over the schedules, and noted Mrs. Clinton’s activities around the time of Vince Foster’s death:
Among the many things Hillary Clinton’s schedule sheds light on are her activities before, during and after major events in her husband’s presidential tenure — such as the death of Vince Foster.
Foster, a lawyer from Arkansas, was in the same kindergarten class as Bill Clinton and worked at the same law firm as Sen. Clinton. After President Clinton was elected in 1992, Foster joined the White House as deputy White House counsel and handled many of the Whitewater-related tax returns. In July 1993, he was found dead in a park in Virginia with a gunshot wound. After a three-year investigation by Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, Foster’s death was ruled a suicide, but many conspiracy theories persist suggesting he was murdered.
The former first lady’s schedules reveal that the last time she met formally with Foster was more than a month before his death, on June 8, 1993. The schedule reads “Briefing for ATLA”—formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, now the American Association for Justice—”w/ Vince Foster.” They met in Clinton’s office from 11 a.m. until noon, after which she had a private meeting. The details of that meeting were redacted from the schedule.
Clinton kept a busy schedule that summer, traveling to Japan, Hawaii and California for the first half of July.
The day before Foster’s death, Clinton was in Southern California. She spent the morning at Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles, touring the facility and meeting with students, then attended a luncheon in honor of Iris Cantor, the head of a foundation that supports, among other things, women’s health care. She spent the night at a hotel in Santa Barbara.
On July 20, 1993 — the day of Foster’s death — Clinton spent several hours conducting media interviews. She had a live appearance on the “Michael Jackson Show” (with the following rule: “Note: NO Call-in questions”), talked with the WAVE newspaper and later flew from Los Angeles to Little Rock, Ark.
That day, a Tuesday, Foster was reportedly found dead at a park in around 6 p.m. local time. According to her schedule, Clinton would have been in the air at that time (she wasn’t schedule to land in Arkansas for another two and a half hours).
The Guardian reports that Hillary Clinton was “a long way from the White House at key foreign policy moments”:
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.
Clinton, who was an accomplished attorney and first lady of Arkansas before moving to the White House, frequently claims more than 30 years experience in public life, contrasting herself with Barack Obama’s slimmer resume – he served several years in the Illinois legislature and was elected to the US Senate in 2004.
The Clinton campaign claimed on Wednesday that the release of the papers would show Clinton to have been an influential advocate at home and around the world on behalf of the US. But the documents from her office in the White House threaten to undermine her claim to have played a major role in Clinton’s foreign policy decisions.
For instance, Clinton has said she helped negotiate the April 1998 Good Friday agreement between warring factions in Northern Ireland. But while Catholic and Protestant figures hashed out last-minute details of a power-sharing agreement in Belfast, Clinton was at the National Press Club in Washington at a party honouring Bella Abzug, a congresswoman from New York City who had died recently. While President Clinton phoned major participants in the peace talks, she met with Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and joined a farewell party for Democratic operative Karen Finney. On the day the agreement was actually signed, she met with Philippine first lady Amelita Ramos.
When Nato launched air strikes against Serbia in an attempt to punish Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic for the country’s onslaught against ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo, Clinton toured ancient Egyptian ruins, including King Tut’s tomb and the temple of Hatshepsut. She dined at the Temple of Luxor, and stayed overnight at the Sofitel Winter Palace Hotel there.
The Politico says it best, I think, with this headline: HRC schedules give foes, allies ammunition.
Here’s a direct link to the schedules, for your perusal.
Chicago Sun-Times writer Lynn Sweet welcomes the release of Clinton’s schedule and calls for Barack Obama to do the same with respect to his 8 years in the Illinois State Senate:
Sen. Obama and his campaign like to talk about transparency. We call on him to back up his words with action and release his schedules and other records from his time as an Illinois State Senator.
Stay tuned …