Jonathan Allen On HRC
HH: You’re not going to want to miss a minute of this, because I’m talking about Hillary Rodham Clinton. Specifically, I’m talking about a brand new New York Times bestseller about her titled HRC: State Secrets And The Rebirth of Hillary Clinton by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes. And I want to begin by saying it’s an absolute must-read for the center-right, especially for conservatives who are interested in 2016. It is the best portrait of Hillary available that is not comprehensive, because it begins in 2008 through the present day. But it is detailed, it is insightful, and I am pleased to welcome the co-author, Jonathan Allen, who is the Bloomberg White House correspondent. Jon, welcome, it’s great to have you.
JA: Thank you for having me on the show, Hugh. I apologize for the state of my voice. I’ve been talking a lot lately.
HH: Well, that’s okay. Now if you can make it as long as I can go, that’s great. I’ve had to play hurt before, and it sounds a lot worse than it feels, right?
JA: That’s right. It could not possibly feel as bad as it sounds, right?
HH: I want to begin at the end of the book, because you tracked down Jason Chaffetz, who’s the rising star of the House Oversight Governmental Affairs Committee, and I think he got it exactly right. Prior to the attack, he said Libya could have been Hillary’s swan song. It could have been her major achievement. But the whole deck of cards fell out from underneath her. Is that the widely shared view on the right?
JA: I don’t know that it’s the widely shared view on the right. I think one of the reasons that we spent so much time talking to Congressman Chaffetz is he seemed to have a handle on the big overall question which is what was driving all of this, and what was motivating Secretary Clinton. And you know, I don’t know, people can make a judgment about what they think was motivating her based on all the evidence, but you know, Congressman Chaffetz took a shot at that, and had a theory about. And I think it’s actually a more important question than whether or not there was extra security in Tripoli. You know, we talk about rejections of requests for security, but very seldom does anybody point out that those requests were for Tripoli, not for Benghazi, and that it may not have made a difference on the ground that night. But the bigger impact in question, of course, is why did we go in, in the first place? Were we ignoring dangers on the ground? Were we trying to do too much there? And I think Congressman Chaffetz is really focused on those larger questions, and they apply, I think very importantly, to Secretary Clinton’s perspective on the world and the United States role in the world.
HH: We have a lot of ground to cover about Hillary, and I’m starting with Benghazi only because I want to assure my conservative audience that you are thorough, fair and detailed, and that you do not spare the criticism or the insight into it so that they’ll not believe that it’s a Beltway book for Beltway insiders, but in fact, it does dig in to the good, the bad and the ugly of HRC’s four years at State. So I want to start with Benghazi, but we’ll move on from there fairly quickly. Chapter 15, Pages 283-309, is all about Benghazi. Earlier, you quote Hillary as saying we came, we saw, he died, referring to Qaddafi on Page 252. But the attack begins on Page 283, and I’ll summarize so that we can save your voice for your response. Stephen Mull goes into Hillary’s office to inform her of the attack at 4:05pm D.C. You go on to write when she heard Benghazi had come under attack, Hillary gathered several of her staff in her office on the 7th floor to get a full briefing on what was happening in Libya and give orders – Mills, Sullivan, Burns, Boswell and an aide from their Near Eastern Affairs Bureau, were among the group assembled. By the way, Jon, was Philippe Reines there?
JA: You know, I’m not entirely sure. We listed the people we knew were there, and in fact, it’s interesting. We said one of the aides from the Near East Bureau, because were two women who worked in that bureau, and we talked to people who were aware of that meeting, and there were disagreements about which of the two women were in the room.
HH: Interesting, interesting. Very careful. Was Huma Abedin there?
JA: I don’t know for sure.
HH: Do you suspect that she was?
JA: You know what? I couldn’t say.
HH: All right.
JA: We really put all the people that we knew who were there into the book.
HH: You go on to give the narrative. Around the same time, one of Pat Kennedy’s subordinates told Hillary Clinton that Smith had been killed. That’s one of the people at the embassy who was with Ambassador Stevens, and that Stevens was missing. Hillary called Tom Donilon, the NSC advisor. We have an issue here, we need you to be on it. She called David Petraeus, and then you say by 5:30 D.C., an hour and a half into the attack, deputies meetings began, a rolling teleconference run from the Situation Room – Brennan, Biden staffer Blinken, Ben Rhodes, Tommy Vietor. “Mills represented Hillary from the 7th floor of the State Department, but at one point, Hillary walked into the Operations Center to participate in the meeting.” Now here’s where it gets interesting to me, Jon. You write on Page 295, “People got fairly frantic, particularly when they couldn’t find Chris.” And between 4pm and 8pm, we really don’t know what Hillary is doing, do we?
JA: Between 4pm and 8pm? I mean, I don’t have a minute by minute timeline of what she’s doing. What I do have is pieces of that timeline. I know there were conversations with foreign officials. I know that she was on these teleconferences with American officials. I know she called Petraeus. I know she called Donilon. But it’s true, like, it’s not like there’s a transcript of every minute that is available. I do know the State Department put together a timeline for people who had to testify on this, and nobody was willing to make it available to me or my co-author. So there is a timeline that exists. I don’t know how much more detailed it is than what we got into the book. But I presume that there’s probably more detail into her account.
HH: This is the most detailed timeline of the most important night of her secretary of State tenure. And you did the best job of reporting it. That’s why I like HRC, including the fact she called Gregory Hicks at 8pm in D.C., and she never called back. Does that strike you as odd, Jon Allen, that she never called Hicks back that night?
JA: I think there was a lot going on. It doesn’t necessarily strike me as odd, but again, without knowing what she was doing minute by minute, you’re having to figure out what are the priorities. And if somebody else is in contact with him, is able to handle that end of the discussion and she’s needed for something else, then it might make sense. If she’s kicking back and drinking lemonade by the poolside and not calling him back, I think it does sound odd. And without that full timeline, it’s hard to know. I do know that of the public, of the major public officials involved in that incident, we know more about her timeline than anybody else’s.
HH: We certainly know more about hers than the President’s. But I have always asked the question out loud to people both involved with the investigation and not, your number two is in the middle of Tripoli. They’ve got the axes out. It’s like a scene from Argo. They’re smashing up the computers in Tripoli. Benghazi’s under attack, Stevens is missing, you talk to Hicks at 8pm, he gets the okay to retreat to their CIA annex. A few hours later, SEALs are dead, another attack is underway, and you never call back your number two on the ground. It just seems like a massive leadership default.
JA: It’s a good question, Hugh. I mean, you’re right. You’re right that as Chris Stevens is missing, the head person in charge there, and de facto, because Chris Stevens is in Benghazi, but if he wasn’t missing, you know, Greg Hicks is the one that’s in charge. And I think it’s reasonable to ask that question and it’s not one that I have an answer to. If she runs for president, I think it’s one she’ll get.
HH: Again and again. I’ll tell people who are listening right now, and I’ve got HRC linked over at Hughhewitt.com. We’ll move on from Benghazi fairly quickly. But this does not spare Hillary. She goes home at 1am. She checks in with Cheryl Mills, her chief of staff, at 2:30am, and it is not a flattering portrait. You bluntly state the attack at the annex begins, officials were shocked by the second round attack, you quote. Administration officials didn’t anticipate the second strike. People got fairly frantic. You know, at one point, I wrote in my notes, I wonder if they sent Hillary home. Do you think she stressed out, and they just said go home?
JA: I don’t. I think at that point, they, and remember, this is now, by the time she goes home at 1:00 in the morning, we’re talking about, forgive me, after putting together that timeline, it’s escaping me right now. But I think it’s about 7:00 in the morning, 7:30 in the morning in Benghazi. They know that Chris Stevens is dead by that point. I mean, they’re waiting for the official confirmation, but at that point, they know that he’s dead. They know about the second attack at that point. And so my guess is that they were pretty confident, there were no other American outposts to attack. The group that had been at the CIA annex was on its way to the airport or had arrived at the airport by the time she left. So I don’t think it’s a matter of them shooing her out of the building so much as her role in being able to affect anything at that point was probably somewhat minimal. I will say this, though. I think it’s shocking, as you do, that nobody in the American government anticipated that there might be an attack on the CIA annex a mile or so from the diplomatic compound. It never occurred to them that this could be more than a one-off. I mean, I think it’s a startling admission that they were caught flat-footed. And obviously, we know that, obviously.
HH: And you do not spare that. And I want my listeners to realize that’s why HRC is like crack cocaine for political junkies, but this is also very, very good reporting.
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Tape: Ron Johnson: We’ve ascertained that that was not the fact, and the American people could have known that within days, and they didn’t know that.
HRC: And with all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans.
RJ: I understand.
HRC: Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night or decided to go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?
HH: Welcome back, America, it’s Hugh Hewitt. That, of course, Hillary Clinton sparring with Senator Ron Johnson, an exchange which is deeply detailed and backgrounded in the brand new book, HRC: State Secrets And The Rebirth Of Hillary Clinton, co-authored by Jonathan Allen, Bloomberg’s White House correspondent, Amie Parnes of The Hill. It is a New York Times bestseller, and with good reason. It is absolutely riveting on the entire tenure of Hillary at State, not just Benghazi. But I do want to finish up that conversation about Benghazi. Your book opens, and no one noticed this, Jon Allen. I did. With Hillary watching videotape with senior staff, including the very controversial figure of Pat Kennedy, in early April, 2010, this was 30 months before the Benghazi incident, and the video she’s watching is about embassy security in Peshawar, Pakistan, where the compound was almost overrun. And so at the very beginning and the end of the book, you open with her duty as the steward of the professional FSOs, and being aware of the problem, and then not having acted in a way to prevent the murder of four Americans.
JA: Yeah, I was shocked that people didn’t make more of a big deal out of that when the book came out. And maybe it’s because it’s in the introduction, and people sometimes skip the introductions to books. But yes, she’s, in 2010, an attack at the Peshawar compound in Pakistan sort of, like Benghazi, one of these outposts sort of in the middle of nowhere with a lot of terrorist activity around, it comes under attack. The attack was thwarted by some of the defenses of the compound which were better than what we had in Benghazi, and she wants all of her aides to watch this, to see what happened, to know that the diplomats were in these places, are in peril, to know that safety measures can thwart attacks, but to be aware of the general situation, because in Washington, I think it can be easy to forget that a lot of the diplomats, a lot of the people in the Foreign Service are, you know, under threat. They’re in places that don’t like us, and necessarily sometimes in places that don’t like us. And I was a little befuddled that that wasn’t one of the big headlines coming out of the book.
HH: Jon Allen, I actually don’t think conservatives have read your book, yet. And I’m trying to urge them to do so, because I think it is so fascinating and detail-filled. And they may not have read it, because the New York Times reviewed it favorably. They said it’s a largely favorable portrait of Hillary. I just think it’s a largely objective portrait of Hillary. And you, like me, have been a partisan in the past, and so maybe conservatives don’t think you’re bringing the dish. But I mean, the dish is here, starting with the story that did get a lot of play, the enemies list. And I love this line. “Special circle of Clinton hell, reserved for people who had endorsed Obama or stayed on the fence after Bill and Hillary had raised money for them, appointed them to a political post, or written a recommendation to ice their kid’s application to an elite school.” It includes Rockefeller, Casey, Pat Leahy, I love seeing him on that list, Chris Van Hollen, Baron Hill, Rob Andrews. There’s even a sub-basement in hell, and that’s for Claire McCaskill.
JA: Yeah, she’s never getting out of there.
JA: She’s like the walking dead to the Clintons. Put her in the basement and don’t ever let her out.
HH: There is a quote. “Hate is too weak a word to describe the feelings that Hillary’s core loyalists still have for McCaskill.” But I must say, the arc of the story of Jason Altmire, which begins on Page 16 and ends on Page 274, that was a creative decision that you and Amie Parnes made. You use him as a sort of a totem of what happens when you cross Team Hillary.
JA: Yeah, we loved the idea of drawing that out and sort of, because one of the big themes of this book is the way in which Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton interact, and how their operations support each other and are integrated with each other. And there are other places where you see that, for instance, some of the things she was doing at the State Department to raise money for things across the world. She would dip into the Bill Clinton fundraising network. But with Jason Altmire in particular, he was somebody who was elected to Congress in part because he campaigned on having been on Secretary Clinton’s Health Care Task Force in the 90s. And then he didn’t endorse her in the 2008 primary, and the Clintons really worked him hard, and so did Obama. And he remained neutral, remained neutral, and then right at the end, she wins his district by like 31 points. And they sit down together, and she’s been told by her aides that he’s going to endorse her. And he refuses to endorse her, and after a few minutes, she gets up and says thanks for coming, and then she lets her aides have it with some language I can’t repeat on this family show. But some adults who are listening might be willing to read that in the book.
HH: She drops the F bomb. And that, by the way, is itself a story. Hillary seems fairly comfortable with the use of that term.
JA: Yeah, I think she uses it a lot.
HH: And see, that’s going to, you know, when Nixon’s tapes came out and all the expletive deleteds were deleted, they should have left them in, because they weren’t the F bombs people thought they were. But this revenge epic on Jason Altmire ends up with Bill Clinton putting a stake through his heart in a special election in 2010, where he lost to Mark Critz by 1,489 votes out of 63,000 cast. And Bill went and campaigned for Critz as payback, and Critz won 91% of the votes cast in the county that Bill Clinton went to. I mean, they killed, they buried Jason Altmire.
JA: Altmire was going to win this primary. He had it in the bad. And then Bill Clinton comes in for his opponent. All of a sudden, the votes shift, and boom, Jason Altmire’s in the private sector in Florida instead of serving in Congress from Western Pennsylvania. He’s not the only one. There are several of those stories we tell in the book. But Altmire was sort of one of our favorites, because it was so fresh in the minds of the Clinton people when we talked to them. They would just, I mean, they still would spit if they saw him.
HH: And let me just pay you a compliment. It’s so well told, because Altmire disappears for 20 or 30 pages at a time. Then he pops up. And he’s like the extra guy on a Star Trek episode. You know he’s not going to make it out alive.
JA: He’s wearing the red shirt.
HH: He’s wearing the red shirt through the whole thing. Don’t go anywhere, America. I am talking with Jonathan Allen for as long as his much-stretched voice will hold out. HRC is his brand new book, authored along with Amie Parnes. HRC is, of course, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The subtitle of the book is State Secrets And The Rebirth Of Hillary Clinton. When we come back, we’ll continue to talk about her legacy and what she did. Let’s go out with a little Nicholas Kristof on what he thought of her accomplishments, cut number 6:
Tape: NK: You know, the…the gains were in many ways fairly modest. You had, you know, the success at Burma, which as you say, sort of pales next to some of the difficulties. On the other hand, we did de-escalate, we did move down from a mess in Iraq. And for now, it’s a somewhat better mess than it was. That may also be true of Afghanistan. And the crisis in the Middle East was, I don’t know that it was handled brilliantly, but it was a mess for anybody who would have been dealing with it. Likewise China, North Korea, I don’t think that those are shining successes.
HH: Look in the dictionary under faint praise and you’ll see Nicholas Kristof on Hillary. More with Jonathan Allen when we come back on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
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HH: Jon, I have made a habit over the last few months of asking a variety of people, and I’ll play some of these clips for you today, what they thought of Hillary’s tenure. I went out the last segment with Nicholas Kristof damning with faint praise. Here’s Jonathan Alter of Bloomberg, one of your colleagues there, a regular guest on this show, and a pretty good historian himself, cut number 7:
Tape: JA: It’s a really good question. You know, I traveled around the world with her when she was secretary of State for an article that I wrote about her for Vanity Fair. And I gave her, you know, decent marks for essentially for being a goodwill ambassador. You know, she was met very enthusiastically every place she went. She did these town meetings that were very effective in building goodwill for the United States in many countries around the world. That’s an important part of the secretary of State’s job. It is not, however, fair to call her an historic secretary of State. Now part of that is not her fault. You know, the stars were not aligned properly for her to make peace. The truth is that you have to go back to Richard Holbrooke, who wasn’t even secretary in the Clinton Administration to find an American diplomat who was actually, really brokered peace in a real way, which he did in the Balkans. So I have a feeling that when we look back on it, if John Kerry catches a break and his persistence pays off in one of these areas, that we will see him as being a more historic secretary of State than Hillary Clinton.
HH: And Jonathan Allen, one more for you to comment on, Mark Leibovich of the New York Times, a shorter one, cut number 8:
Tape: ML: Geez, look, I think, I don’t cover the State Department. Look, you have that look on your face like you expect me to duck this question.
HH: No, I expect you not to be able to say anything, because she didn’t do anything.
ML: I actually didn’t, I don’t, here’s the deal. I have not written any stories on Hillary Clinton since 2008. About, what’s like the graceful way to duck a question?
HH: Not even ducking, just this is, we’re playing Jeopardy!
ML: Yeah, I honestly don’t know.
HH: Nobody can come up with anything, Mark.
ML: Yeah, let’s see, what did she do? Yeah, I mean, she traveled a lot. That’s the thing. They’re always like, well, she logged eight zillion miles. It’s like, since when did that become like, you know, like diplomacy by odometer?
HH: Jonathan Allen, this is where your book is a great assist, they think, because you chronicle what she did. But boy, the conventional wisdom, Kristof, Alter, Leibovich, it’s pretty settled that it was an undistinguished four years.
JA: Yeah, she’s no Thomas Jefferson or James Monroe when you look back historically. So you know, I agree with you. We put together what she did do. I think there are things you do as a diplomat that are important that are not a marquis peace deal creating a harmonious Middle East. Obviously, everybody goes in wanting that. I think averting problems is a big part of the secretary of State’s job. I think advising the President is a big part of the job. I think being a goodwill ambassador for the United States is part of the job. All those things are part of the job. But let’s not forget making big strides on big issues are also an important part of the job. And you know, for that, there is no big deal. There’s no Clinton doctrine, not that secretaries of State really have doctrines. They’re usually the president’s. But there’s no doctrine, there’s no big deal to create peace, to extend peace. A lot of what she did was to, I think, you know, particularly in war-torn areas, was to keep partnerships going, to try to keep the Pakistanis on board so that our intelligence community could work in Pakistan. But again, yeah, it’s fair to criticize her or fair to look at her record and say there’s no big agreement there.
HH: 956,733 miles traveled, 112, countries visited. You’re very careful to include the specifics of that. But you know, cruise directors go farther than that. Is that going to actually become a negative? We’ve got about a minute to the break Jon, for her to bring up the odometer diplomacy? Or is it going to remain a positive?
JA: I think it’s a mistake to bring up the odometer diplomacy. It just invites the contrast of what she accomplished to how many miles she logged, and nobody really thinks that’s the measure of what a good secretary of State is. You know, we make the point in the book that her aides are very quick to point that out. They were very quick to keep a record of it and put it on the front page of the website. But you know, when you examine her record in deeper detail, it definitely invites comparison of what she actually go done to how many miles she went, and that’s not good for her.
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HH: Jonathan, voice-challenged though he is, he sounds like those days when I would come in and put lemons on my desk and take steroid packs. And I sent him a note this morning when he was struggling to get ready for the interview. I said you know, Carville played hurt on a Dallas debate that I moderated with Mary Matalin the day after the Denver debate between Obama and Romney, and I complimented him on it. He said if you can’t play hurt, don’t get in the game in his typical Louisiana drawl. And then I noticed, Jon Allen, that Carville’s not in this book. And I’m kind of amazed by that. The old team is sort of gone from Hillary’s new team.
JA: Yeah, it’s really interesting. Carville and Begala win two elections for President Clinton, and they are not part of the inner circle of Hillary Clinton. That said, their voices are still influential. They still can get Bill Clinton on the phone when they want to. If they had some advice for her, I’m sure they could get it to her. But it’s not like they brought those guys back. And you know, I think both of them are pretty good political strategists. And the people that she had running her 2008 campaign were not particularly good political strategists as it turned out. So there may have been a mistake there.
HH: Here is Dana Milbank of the Washington Post talking with me about what Hillary got done, and I think he is just absolutely pin perfect on his assessment, cut number 11:
Tape: DM: Well, she, I suppose what she accomplished for her reputation was she increased her standing to the point of invincibility.
HH: But what did she actually do, Dana Milbank?
DM: Well, I don’t know. What did Lawrence Eagleburger do? You know, I don’t believe we had any major peace treaties under her. We had some brief military actions, but basically cleaning up the ones that were in play. So I don’t…
HH: You’re a columnist. I’m just asking. Do you think she accomplished anything? Or was she basically a non-entity at State?
DM: I think she was successful in the sense of projecting a strong American image abroad, and of restoring American standing and reputation in the world. But these are nebulous…
HH: Dana, how do you get there? How do you measure that? How do you, I mean, under that talking point, what are the data points?
DM: Well, right. What I was saying before you said that is these are, that’s sort of a nebulous notion of American standing. You know, and so whether we are more popular in European and foreign capitals, I’m not sure whether that particularly matters. But you know, I mean, I certainly didn’t come on this call to be a defender of Hillary Clinton.
HH: And he wasn’t, Jon Allen.
HH: But he’s right. She made herself inevitable. And in your book, you write on Page 23 about Team Clinton, “No holes were barred in Democratic primaries. It’s better to be with us than against us. They’re practical as well as punitive. ‘And the Mossad-style get you when you least expect it payback politics’ would have a chilling effect on politicians who thought about crossing her in the future.” She did use these four years to clear the field, didn’t she?
JA: She did use these four years to clear the field. But I mean, I think there are a couple ways to look at it, and one of the things that I think is an important moment, if somewhat undervalued in that, is just accepting the job as secretary of State. Here she got beat by this upstart, took the job she thought was hers rightfully. She gets offered it. She’s wavering on it, and she takes it. I mean, at least within Democratic Party circles, that showed her to be something that I think they didn’t expect necessarily from the Clintons, which was, and not that they shouldn’t have, but her showing loyalty to the party above herself, and her showing loyalty to the country, the way the Democrats look at it, saying Obama’s going to be the president. He needs his best team. He thinks you’re part of the best team. You ought to jump in. I think if you look at those things from her perspective and from the perspective of Democrats, that moment was huge for her in terms of proving herself to the Democratic base.
HH: So was, as you detail, both her concession speech at the National Building Museum when she lost to Obama, and then her convention speech. A couple of quick clips from that, cut number 2, Hillary at the ’08 convention.
HRC: It is time to take back the country we love. And whether you voted for me or you voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose.
HH: Cut number 3:
HRC: I haven’t spent the past 35 years in the trenches advocating for children, campaigning for universal health care, helping parents balance work and family, and fighting for women’s rights here at home and around the world to see another Republican in the White House squander our promise of a country that really fulfills the hopes of our people.
HH: And then one last one, cut number 4:
HRC: No way, no how, no McCain.
HH: Now Jon Allen, you tell the story of this speech, including Bill Clinton’s last minute edits. Lissa Muscatine, Maggie Williams, Cheryl Mills, Melanne Verveer all scrambling, and then Jim Margolis, the ad man for the Obama folks, saying never a dull moment with the Clintons. That speech came together. That really marked both submission in order to triumph later.
JA: That’s exactly right. Her best move was to really make an endorsement of Barack Obama. She had to do it a few times during that summer. The convention was the one that most people would be paying attention to. There was some back and forth in her inner circle, including a fight with Bill Clinton over the edits, a very dramatic moment in the Brown Palace Hotel there in Denver where all of her aides were gathered. She was heading toward being done with the speech. She’d gone out for a little while. She comes back into the room, and she starts working with the teleprompter, and she looks down at this speech, and she says what is this?
HH: It’s amazing.
JA: Really, what happened to my speech? And they gently tell her, well, Mrs. Clinton, the President, he delivered his edits.
HH: And she put it all back.
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HH: We’ll get to more of what she got done at State and didn’t, and the Russian crisis in Hour Two of our conversation. But Jon, I want to talk just briefly about the people who aren’t there. Now did you watch The Sopranos?
JA: I did.
HH: You know, Big Pussy was a big character in the first couple of seasons, then he’s gone, right?
JA: I don’t want to, I don’t want to know where this is going.
HH: Well, I’m just saying, people like Mark Penn, Patti Solis Doyle, Howard Wolfson, they’re like Big Pussy in The Sopranos. They’re gone. They’re put over the side.
JA: Yeah, they didn’t do a very, well, let’s put it this way. They were unsuccessful in a campaign. And that usually means you didn’t do a good job, or at least you get blamed for not doing a good job. Hillary’s, some of her aides came to her after the campaign and tried to outline what had gone wrong. She had a bunch of one-on-one meetings in her Senate office and at home, and they told her what they thought she had done wrong, and what others had done wrong. And some of those big name people were considered to be toxic. Mark Penn was certainly considered that way. Patti Solis Doyle was considered to be less than able, less than up to the job, in over her head, if you will, and also, if you will, a bit arrogant. So some of these folks, you know, they’re not going to, they weren’t around for her time at State. They’re not going to be back around if she runs for president.
HH: And you know what’s fascinating about that…
JA: And by the way, some of it’s by choice. Howard Wolfson, for instance, her communications director, became a deputy mayor of New York under Bloomberg, who I work for, full disclosure, Michael Bloomberg. But you know, so he had a second act in politics, just not with the Clintons.
HH: Yeah, what the interesting comparison is Team Romney in ’08 that failed to win the nomination stayed together. I mean, it was the same team that triumphed in 2012 with the same major players. And she is blowing it up entirely, right? It’ll be a completely different team for 2016 than she assembled in 2008.
JA: I think that’s a real question for her is will it be an entirely different team, or will it just be a few of those people that aren’t invited back. I think there are a lot of people in Democratic circles that want to see her do more demolition of her team. I would think that there are more people that need to go, who think that she ought to start with a fresh batch. And see, the difference between Hillary Clinton and say a Mitt Romney, or really almost anybody else who runs for president is there are so many people who have worked for the Clintons in one job or another. If you think about it, you know, Bill Clinton had the entire federal government as president, two campaigns. She had two Senate campaigns. She was at the State Department for four years with almost entire autonomy over who she hired and fired, and also has run a presidential campaign. There are so many people there that even if you get rid of a few people who are considered to be problematic or difficult, you still have a whole other crop under them that have been with her for a long time. I think a lot of Democrats want to see her clean house entirely.
HH: I’ll be right back with Jon Allen.
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HH: If you’re just walking into the middle of this, you’ve missed a fascinating first hour of conversation with Jon Allen, my guest, co-author along with Amie Parnes of HRC: State Secrets And The Rebirth Of Hillary Clinton, prominently linked at Hughhewitt.com, because I want everybody to read this for the same reason that I urged on everyone Dan Balz’ Collision 2012 and especially Jonathan Alter’s The Center Holds. If you’re a conservative, you have to get inside the other side and understand why they win and how they think and how they do this. And I just don’t think there is a better glimpse inside Team Clinton than you’re going to get from HRC. Jon Allen, I want to go back to a couple of quotes about what she did and did not do before we turn to her substantive record at State. Let’s do E.J. Dionne, of course, Washington Post columnist, friend of the show, cut number 9:
EJD: I think there are, first of all, her accomplishments inevitably are going to be linked to what we see as Obama’s accomplishments. And if you see, as I do, ending the war in Iraq, knowing the place is a mess now in many ways, but getting our troops out of Iraq, that’s part of it. I think that for the period she was secretary of State, opinion of the United States rose in the world. I think that she did a lot of work on human rights and women’s rights around the world. I think that you know, and you and I will just plain disagree on this, I think at the end of her four years, we were in a better position in the world than we were when she took the job. And that is the old Ronald Reagan question.
HH: And here is Lanny Davis on my show answering the same question, cut number 10:
Tape: LD: Well, the biggest thing of all is goodwill around the world, which is what secretaries of State do. I don’t know what any…
HH: Like in Syria and Egypt and Libya?
LD: I don’t know, well, Libya and certainly the intervention in Libya, getting rid of Qaddafi, you would say is a pretty good achievement for the President. But these are presidential achievements with a partnership with the secretary of State. What do secretaries of State do? For example, she was very instrumental in the details of the Iranian sanctions program, which has produced apparently some results. I’m very skeptical about this deal in Iran on the nuclear weaponry, but the credit she deserves on this sanctions program, which literally was her program in the State Department to enforce, but in partnership with Barack Obama.
HH: Let’s go right there, Jon Allen. You spend a lot of time on Iran sanctions in here. And you know, it’s falling apart. I’m not sure she wants to run on this, but you write that she was caught in an administration that did not believe in the blunt force of sanctions, and that she also kind of botched the Green Revolution, because while Jared Cohen got the Twitter thing going, they didn’t really stand with the Green Revolution. How is Iran going to play when HRC gets evaluated for president?
JA: That’s a great question, Hugh. I mean, I think there are a couple of things to look at here as far as the Green Revolution goes. I think it’s hard to step out from where the President is. If the President is saying we’re not going to interfere in their elections, and you’re the secretary of State, if you go out and talk about interfering in elections, if you talk about supporting the Green movement, you’re being disloyal to the president of the United States. And that could be a problem. What we saw in the book, and we go into this story in detail, is that one of her guys, Jared Cohen, who was actually a Condi Rice protégée, and is now at Google Innovation. He’s the head of Google Ideas. He had basically gotten in touch with Twitter, and tried to get them to help with the Iranian Green movement, revolutionaries being able to keep in touch with each other. And you know, we go through this sort of dramatic thing in the book where there’s a big question at the State Department over whether he should be fired for contravening what the President had said in terms of not interfering. He was supporting the Green movement. The President said we’re not going to do that. And ultimately, Hillary Clinton comes into the room the next morning after the New York Times has written a little bit about this, and plops the paper down on a table and says this is exactly what we should be doing.
HH: And that is, by the way, for people who want to know from the foreign policy specialist standpoint, the chapter on the Twitter revolution in foreign policy is worth the price of the book, because very few people understand how this has dramatically altered. You know, I got into this, Jon, working for Richard Nixon in San Clemente in exile writing the book, The Real War. And so I’ve been following foreign affairs for 30 plus years. And Twitter has changed everything, and Jared Cohen got that. And Hillary kind of gets that she needs to get it, and you illustrate that. I’m not sure she managed it very well, but on Page 188, you summon up the final judgment. “She was always for turning up the heat on Iran. She just took a more nuanced view of it when she got to the Department of State.” You quote an unnamed State Department official, or a national security official saying this. It looks like a White House source. You know, whatever her nuance is, Iran’s going to be nuclear when she runs for president, and that’s going to have happened on her watch.
JA: Yeah, I mean, so we don’t know obviously where this latest round of negotiations is going. And frankly when we wrote the book, we didn’t know that there were these back channel communications going on with the Iranians, which was reported I think either at the beginning of this year or very late last year. We’d already gone to print with the book at that point, or were about to go to…somebody did some good reporting on that. But there’s no doubt that the sanctions were aimed at dragging the Iranians to the table. And I think they were successful at that, but the question is, is it good to have them at the table. If they’re not good faith negotiators, if they’re stalling for time, if they are going to nuclearize while negotiating, then of course that’s a problem.
HH: Yeah, huge.
JA: So they accomplished the goal, but the question is whether the goal was the right one.
HH: Yeah, it reminds me of the ’94 negotiations with North Korea led by Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright. They got the North Koreans to the table, and they got taken to the cleaners when they got to the table. So they managed to get the poker game going, and then they lost all of America’s chips. I mean, it’s going to be ugly when it’s over. Let me play for you one more cut, i’m trying to save the Allen voice here, Maggie Haberman, your old colleague from Politico, came on the show and talked to me about Hillary’s accomplishments. Here’s that cut, number 12.
Tape: HH: How long you been with Politico? 5 years?
MH: 4 years, 3 ½ years.
HH: Okay, so almost her entire tenure at State, and I’ve been on the air since 2000. And I can’t think of anything, and I’m giving you the floor if you can come up with anything for her on her case, lay it out there, just from the top of mind. It should be front shelf, right?
MH: It certainly is not, there is not a giant list that I think people can point to.
HH: There’s no list.
MH: And I think are a couple, and I think there is a couple of reasons for that, like I said. With the major issue of dealing with Israel, she was not front and center. And she certainly received some criticism early on in terms of how the U.S. dealt with Russia. I think these are all going to be issues that she is going to have to address, and I suspect she is going to get asked about them repeatedly, and by many, many outlets.
HH: Well, we’re done, but go around the bullpen at Politico and ask them what did she do, and it’s going to be a giant whiteboard, and there’s not going to be anything on it, Maggie.
MH: I like the invocation of whiteboard, though.
HH: It is a whiteboard.
HH: Now Jon, I wasn’t very fair, because you can write on here Burma and Chen Guangcheng. So she’s got…
HH: You detail that, right? You give a lot of space to Burma and Chen Guangcheng. But what else is on the whiteboard?
JA: Well, I mean, there are some smaller things. And in fact, it’s interesting in the Middle East…
HH: Smaller than Chen Guangcheng?
JA: No, no, I meant smaller than the big things that you’re looking for. No, Chen Guangcheng is a very small thing compared to most countries. But I think if you look, for instance, the last temporary peace deal between the Palestinians and the Israelis was one that she went to the Middle East. She broke off of a trip with Obama, actually to Southeast Asia, and went and negotiated a temporary ceasefire that has held since the end of 2012. So I mean, there’s an example, but you’re right. If you’re looking for the big things, and I know you’re probably going to play me as a cut for somebody else at some point, if you’re talking about the big things, they’re not there. One other measure, I know you’re asking for metrics, I think it was with Dana Milbank earlier, one of the clips you played, one metric is that when she took over, the United States approval rating in the world was 34%. When she left, it was in the 40s. I think it was 41% at the very end. There was an uptick. The United States regained the place of being the best approved of country in the world in terms of leadership role. And I think that matters. I think the public liking the United States in the country gives us leverage with their leadership. It matters. It doesn’t matter on the scale, it’s not a bumper sticker. It just took me five minutes to come up with an explanation. Certainly not the kind of thing you can campaign on. Even competent leadership at the State Department, not a bumper sticker. The best thing that she did was spend four years at the State Department without, with the exception of Benghazi, without major disasters. And so Benghazi is the one thing…
HH: Well you know, that’s interesting. The other, when we come back from break, we’re going to talk about Egypt and Russia, which I believe are major disasters, and sort of epic failures like Iran for Jimmy Carter that are unfolding in real time. And so I do think we’ve got a couple of epic disasters that are happening, and I’ve got to say about HRC, you chronicle them, Egypt less so than Russia. Russia actually, Philippe Reines, is never going to read HRC, he’s going to be so embarrassed by this book. Have you heard from him since it came out?
JA: I have. I have.
HH: Is he a happy camper?
JA: He’s all right with it, because he knew what was going to be in it. I mean, in terms of, we asked him the hard questions. We gave him the opportunity to present his side of things.
HH: Man, it’s tough.
JA: So he wasn’t surprised by it.
HH: It’s tough. When we come back, I’ll tell you about that, America.
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Tape: Joy-Anne Reid: Thank God she didn’t do what Kissinger and others did. We’ve had some secretaries of State who really messed things up in the world. I don’t think she did that.
HH: But what is anyone going to say about her? She was an abject failure?
JAR: Managed, she did what secretaries of State are charged with doing, which is manage the foreign policy priorities of the president she’s working for, which in the case of Hillary Clinton’s tenure, was the Arab Spring, keeping the United States from…
HH: Did she do a good job in Egypt?
JAR: Really? I think in Egypt, absolutely. We saw a change of regime in Egypt. Egypt is obviously a troubled country when you have a dictatorship for forty-something years. You’re not going to have any smooth transition. But I think the United States actually managed that pretty well. We managed to keep our troops out of there. We didn’t get involved on the ground in Libya or in Egypt. But that transition in terms of management….
HH: But Joy, is Libya better off today than when Hillary took over?
JAR: What could we do? We’re still in…excuse me?
HH: Is Libya better off today than when Hillary took over? And is Egypt better off today? I mean, which Egypt do you like? The one with the Muslim Brotherhood or the one with General al-Sisi?
JAR: Excuse me, if you don’t think Libya is better off without Muammar Qaddafi in power, then maybe you want to revisit your views on Iraq.
HH: Welcome back, America, it’s Hugh Hewitt. That was Joy Reid of MSNBC. Joining me now live is Jon Allen, the co-author along with Amie Parnes of this brilliant new book, HRC: State Secrets And The Rebirth Of Hillary Clinton. It’s a chapter in her life from 2008 through early 2013 which has not been chronicled anywhere else in the detail, or with the depth of investigative reporting that Allen and Parnes have done. And let’s go to Egypt, Jon. I love the fact that you point out the Clintons’ relationship with the Mubaraks dated back to April, 1993. You quote Hillary as saying I consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family. That’s another Soprano quote right there. But you do leave out the kind of clown show that went on. They sent Frank Wisner over to Egypt, and then he made an announcement, and they pulled it back, and we ended up toppling Mubarak, and then we ended up being with the Brotherhood. And we got it so bollixed up that al-Sisi is now dealing with Putin. I mean, Egypt is a colossal failure, isn’t it?
JA: Yeah, you need more than a scorecard to figure out how many teams the United States was on during all of that. I mean, it was embarrassing. It was a disaster in terms of our foreign policy, one of a series of things over the last few years that I think points out that American, the American ability to influence world events is somewhat less than certainly the President gives it credit for, and I think that most of the American people give it credit for. And so we sit there trying to figure out how to look like we’re on the winning side instead of doing something that actually promotes whoever is in our best interest, if we can figure out what that is. And you know, we have a scene in the book, I think this is one of my favorite scenes in the book. Mubarak goes out and speaks to the Egyptian people, and he says something, this is like early February of 2011, and he basically says I’m not going anywhere, and he says some pretty inflammatory things. And in the Situation Room, all of the big leaders – Obama, Clinton, Gates, they’ve all stopped, and they’re watching this on television together in the Situation Room. And Obama’s like this guy’s gotta go, like what he’s just said will inflame the Street. He’s going to be going anyway. Let’s get ahead of it, and let’s put out a statement that pushes him out. And so his speechwriter, Ben Rhodes, writes up a statement that basically says it’s time for Mubarak to go. There needs to be a process immediate to like get that going. And Hillary Clinton and Bob Gates, two of the people who were much more hesitant to want to push Mubarak out, start editing the remarks on the table in the Situation Room. They’re hand-editing it. It’s like, if you saw that in a movie where the Cabinet secretaries are hand-editing a statement before the President gives it, you would think to yourself there is no way that happens like that.
HH: No way, yeah.
JA: And American foreign policy was being made on the fly in the Situation Room, and not with like an unpredictable event. I mean, this was something that they could have prepared for. So they go out and they say it’s time for Mubarak to go. We push Mubarak out. The revolutionaries come in. Turns out we’re not real big fans of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership, and neither are the Egyptian people, and now we’ve got the military leadership there again. There were three possible factions. We picked two of them, and it was the third that ended up winning.
HH: Yeah, it’s shockingly amateuristic, and Hillary’s of course running State through the whole thing. At Page 143, you write in HRC along with Amie Parnes, “Within the State Department, some senior level foreign policy experts strongly believed at the time, and still do years later,” I made a note of that, “that Obama’s White House aides were a bunch of piker neophytes whose desire to keep a tight leash on foreign policy wasn’t nearly as limited as their real world experience. These are not your Kissingers or Brzezinskis, one miffed former State Department official said.” You know, Jonathan, Condi Rice, fluent in Russian, PhD in Russian studies, Colin Powell put his time at the NSC after the Pentagon. The guys who ran Bush’s NSC were extremely deep in their experiences. This really has been a clown show for the last five years when it comes to foreign affairs. And how does Hillary manage to deliver the message, which I think this State Department official is trying to say, it wasn’t our fault, those bozos at the White House don’t know what they’re doing?
JA: I think that’s a real difficult message to deliver certainly herself. I think there will probably be people who try to put that message out on her behalf. I mean, I would ask you, Hugh, and you know, obviously it’s not my job to interview you, but I would ask you, what do you think it would have been like if Hillary Clinton wasn’t in the room from the foreign policy perspective of conservatives?
HH: It’s a great question, and you’re right. It’s not a debate. It’s an interview. But I do think that a powerful voice for strength in the world would have been, a realist would have been good. I actually think Hillary was as much of a neophyte as the White House staff. She isn’t anymore, but I think that that showed up time and time again, and that Gates, Gates’ memoir, and I interviewed the former Secretary of Defense, he was very gentle on Hillary for whom I think he likes, and I told, I called and old Clinton staffer yesterday before I interviewed you, and a pretty senior staffer, a very good friend of mine, I’ll tell you off air who it is, and I said boy, I put this book down, and she is tough, tough, tough. She is tough as leather. She is the toughest person I think in politics that I’ve ever come across other than my first boss, Richard Nixon. But that didn’t make her competent to run State. I mean, that’s what I think it comes down to. She didn’t really have a vision of the world. She had a vision of political rehab, Jon Allen.
JA: Yeah, I mean, as you point out, she’s not somebody with the academic credentials in foreign policy. She’s not somebody who has spent years toiling at the National Security Council or the State Department or the Pentagon for that matter. Her knowledge of foreign policy is, you know, acquired and learned, is studied. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but I think you’re right. I mean, to the extent that she has experience, it’s coming out the door, not going in the door.
HH: Yeah, and in fact, you provide a nice catalogue of the failures of the “smart power doctrine.” She sent Ross and Cohen off to the Congo. They tried smart power. They came back empty. She sent them to Syria to threaten Assad. They came back empty. Egypt, empty, Libya, a fiasco. I mean, smart power sounds good, and I had Joe Nye in college, by the way, so I’ve been hearing this for like 40 years.
HH: But it doesn’t work. I mean, when we come back from break, my guest, Jon Allen and I will continue. Now we’re going to turn to Russia, which is the worst part of the Clinton legacy. And believe it or not, HRC: State Secrets And The Rebirth Of Hillary Clinton, is toughest on Russia, and on Hillary and her team’s absolute, complete bollixing up of Russia, which is why HRC is a book you ought to read. You ought to memorize it. It’s like oppo research for us going into 2016, even though conservatives, they refuse to believe that anything good can come out of Nazareth or Washington, D.C. Well, this is good, and it came out of the Beltway.
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HH: But now I come to, actually, it is painful to read, to me, the reset button. It’s the red button’s episode. It is so painful to go back over how Lavrov played her, and how Putin and Medvedev and Lavrov have played her and Obama. And you don’t spare the ink on this, Jon Allen. You’ve got the details here. This was ugly from the beginning.
JA: It’s almost comic how they botched that from the beginning. And you know, we’re seeing, the reset button itself is a funny story. It’s a little bit of an alarming story, but it is also one of the things that I think sets the table for what we’re seeing right now with the United States’ inability to influence events in Russia, with the United States’ inability to really assert itself.
HH: Philippe Reines is Hillary’s senior aide who comes up with the red button, the reset button that has the wrong translation. He tried to get it back. That’s the stuff I didn’t know about that’s in HRC. And the Russians won’t give it back. I think it’s on Putin’s desk. I think he looks at it every day and laughs as he invades Ukraine. Honest to God, I do, Jon.
JA: (laughing) Yeah, I have no idea what actually became of that reset button, but you could certainly picture that. Maybe there’d be a good comic strip with that as the end, Putin laughing and looking at this reset button that says overcharged instead of reset. They put it through a couple of Russian speakers who were at the State Department, but not exactly the experts on that stuff. And it was just a last minute gambit that was intended to be warm and gracious, and instead was just a, kind of made the State Department look like a clown car.
HH: Now so tell me at the end of all this, before we turn to sort of the politics and the staffing in Hillaryland, which is the other fascinating part of this, the geography of Hillaryland is charted here. It’s like Captain Cook for the first time for me laying out the various players in Hillaryland. But we’ve been through Benghazi, Libya, Egypt, Russia, the failures in Congo, the failures at…you know, there’s just nothing there except Burma. So I want to give you like one minute to, you know, here, hey, let’s talk about Burma, because you know, we’ve got to give her her due, Burma.
JA: Yeah, I mean, this is an issue that she brought to the President. The Burmese junta has been extremely repressive for many years, a lot of political prisoners. It’s an issue that people on the right and the left care about, the kind of thing that brings together Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi, actually, and for years, we’ve been sanctioning the regime in Burma. And Hillary Clinton’s idea was if you give them an off-ramp, if you say to the Burmese military officials that we will release sanctions or will relax sanctions if you start moving toward democracy, we will bring businesses into Burma that wouldn’t otherwise be there, if you start relaxing your stranglehold on your people. And the Burmese actually listened to that. And by the way, Burma is within China’s sphere of influence. So even though it’s a country we don’t think about a whole lot in terms of geopolitics, it holds some significance to, at least symbolically, in tearing a country away from China’s circle a little bit.
HH: Yeah, that’s interesting, although the downside is I just finished interviewing Robert Kaplan in reading Asia’s Cauldron, and China is pushing the Philippines islands around, they’re claiming the Japanese islands, they’re surging a blue water navy and an anti-navy navy out, and vis-à-vis China, we’ve got peeling off Burma a little bit, and she ran a successful Shanghai Expo. I mean, that’s it. China played her, too.
JA: Well, and to me, the real story in the Shanghai Expo isn’t that it was a success, although that is a story. We were not going to have a pavilion at the World’s Fair. Congress had decided to cut off money for that some years back. The Chinese told her that they would take it as a great insult if we didn’t have something there. She raised a lot of money to get that to happen. But the real story to me is how she raised that money, which is she tapped a couple of long time Clinton fundraisers, and they went to the corporate friends of Bill Clinton who were big donors to the Clinton Foundation, and asked them for money. And so when you talk about potential conflicts of interest, when you talk about the ties that bind the Clinton operation to a whole lot of people in the world, you know, that was the way they went about it. It was this whole big deal about how Bill at CGI was going to step away from what she was doing at the State Department. Instead, the very first thing she does out of the box is get her fundraisers to start calling the people that he raises money from to get money for this World’s Fair.
HH: Yeah, I’m glad that they got Boeing and Pepsi to step up. We didn’t want to be embarrassed. But I mean, the Shanghai Expo is not a calling card for improved relations with China. They have played us, boy, are they aggressive, and we are in retreat.
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HH: Jon, I almost blew right past, and I’ve got to go back on Russia. You detail Hillary’s deep involvement in the new START treaty, including how she worked Corker and Johnny Isaakson, Senators from Tennessee and Georgia respectively, and it makes it sound like Corker could just be bought for the nuke industry in Tennessee. But here’s the problem. New START’s a disaster. It turns out that the Russians have been lying to us on the development of their intermediate nuclear weapons. Jon Kyl was right. I mean, New START’s not something she’s going to be able to walk around tattooed on her forehead, is it?
JA: I think she’ll try to do that. I think they’ll talk about it. We’re already seeing her minions, the superPAC group, Correct The Record, has put out stuff on the New START Treaty. But you know, as is the case with all foreign policy, it’s very fluid. And the thing that looks good for you today could very much look bad for you tomorrow. I think the START Treaty is certainly one of those things. It’s something that I think while she probably cared about it, it was really something that Barack Obama wanted desperately. He had campaigned on doing nuclear non-proliferation in a bipartisan way in the Senate, with Dick Lugar, the former Senator from Indiana, and I think he wanted to put his money where his mouth was. And so I think it only works if the Russians are allowing us to verify, not just trust.
HH: Yeah, Ukraine and New START together, plus the red button’s reset button, that’s, it’s a bad…here’s a few more quotes about Hillary, saving Jon’s voice, cut number 13, Governor Scott Walker on my show talking about Hillary.
Tape: SW: I have a hard time pointing to many successes. I mean, you look at, you mention the problems around the world, I mean, she was good at flying around and traveling, but I have a hard time seeing any major victories for this country.
HH: Here’s Bill Kristol talking to John Heilemann on Morning Joe about Hillary, cut number 14:
Tape: BK: What achievement of Hillary, I’m serious, what achievement, one sentence, what has Hillary Clinton done? What’s her achievement in politics that qualifies her to be president of the United States?
JH: I’m not going to do a Hillary Clinton ad…I think they will say that she did a big, she repaired, had a big role in repairing America’s battered image around the world through all of her travels around the world.
HH: And here’s Chuck Todd, no apologist for anyone, on again, Hillary’s accomplishments on NBC, cut number 15:
Tape: CT: I think that they wouldn’t try to do it as one issue. I think they would say that she was pushing her passions of expanding women’s rights, she’d talk about what happened in Burma. She’d talk about the de-escalation that they had in Gaza preventing at the time when they thought that there was going to be an escalation in Gaza between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and getting Egypt to back off. So, but look, there isn’t, is there a one, big, crowning achievement where you see her right there and then in a crisis moment as secretary of State, especially compared to, for instance, John Kerry? I mean, in many ways, the problems she’s got about her four years as secretary of State is the comparison to John Kerry, who’s been, he throws himself into every controversy. And Secretary Clinton, she’d get involved, but she played a much more quiet role. She never liked to play as public of a role as John Kerry. So I think that that comparison is going to be something she has to deal with on the campaign trail.
HH: You know, Jon Allen, I think she was crippled by Holbrooke’s death. Now not many, you write about this quite a lot, and it was emotional. And Holbrooke, I never had a chance to interview the man, but everyone who knows him says he was kind of brilliant, and you detail how he drove Obama crazy. Other people noted that as well. But he was kind of the guy who got things done for the Clintons, and so that there’s not anything that got done that you want to look back at, how much of that has to do with an aorta that burst in the elevator?
JA: I think he was always going to be limited in what he could do by the fact that the Obama people despised him. You know, he’s somebody who had a lot of creative ideas, who understood, I think, how much goes into a peace deal. He may not have understood Karzai in Afghanistan as well as he understood the folks he was dealing with in the Dayton Accords back in the 90s, but I do think this was somebody who had the kind of vision to get done peace deals, and even to keep together coalitions for military action, which increasingly is what our foreign policy has been about over the last ten, fifteen, twenty years. So yeah, I think he was a loss to her, but I also think that it’s hard to see him having had a success in what he wanted to do in terms of trying to bring about a peace in the Af-Pak region, because he was never going to be allowed to be out front, or to be the person for the United States negotiating that.
HH: Well, you note on Page 230 that Hillary was, “The face of America’s effort to build a better long term relationship with Pakistan.” So when she lost him, she lost that. By the way, I think you broke news. I don’t know if anyone else picked up on this, but on Page 231, you’ve got Leon Panetta threatening Pakistani President Zardari, saying, “We’re going to do something if we have another Pakistani émigré in the United States attempt to blow us up.” I mean, it’s a direct threat. I’ve never seen that reported anywhere.
JA: Yeah, I’m trying to remember, there are two quotes in that conversation. One is Zardari, and one is Panetta. And I can’t remember offhand, I think you’re right. I think the Panetta one is ours and not reported elsewhere, and news. And then the other one had been, we attributed it, but we borrowed it from somebody else’s reporting, maybe Peter Bergen. But we have the other side of the conversation than what had already been reported. And I think you’re right. I think that was fresh and new to our book. And I’m sorry, I’m so glad to be having a conversation about the foreign policy aspects of the book, because so few people have asked about it. And so my memory’s a little foggy on that.
HH: Then let me read it. It’s Page 231. “’If this happens again, and it works, if somebody else bombs something in the United States and it is linked back to Pakistan, we’re going to do something,’ Panetta said, according to a source that was present. Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari countered by saying, Shahzad was an American, and the United States should be doing more to monitor its own citizens’ ties to terrorism.” Gosh, that’s bald. That’s really bald, but I mean, I hadn’t seen that anywhere else, Jon. And so Panetta is basically doing what Richard Armitage did to Musharraf in 2001, ten years later.
JA: Right. Well, you’re absolutely right, and you were right, thank you for pointing it out, that has not appeared anywhere else. The part that we, it was the response from Zardari that had been published before. And yeah, I mean, the whole point if the chapter is that the United States was pushing to be able to do a unilateral strike in Pakistan on bin Laden if it could find him, to continue to do drone strikes on bad guys in Pakistan where we saw them, and that Panetta was trying to do that. Clinton was trying to lay the groundwork for that. And it’s not the kind of thing that you know as a reader or as the American public in general, because it’s all covert.
HH: But it’s all ferreted out in HRC, linked at Hughhewitt.com.
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HH: I’m going to be sued by Jonathan Allen’s employer, because I’m going to ruin his voice by keeping him one more hour to talk politics and Hillary Clinton. But I want to finish the foreign policy conversation with Jon Allen, the co-author of HRC, New York Times bestseller linked at Hughhewitt.com, bookstores everywhere, by playing Hillary on stage with Thomas Friedman, cut number 16 from a couple of weeks ago:
Tape: HRC: Look, I really see my role as secretary, and in fact, leadership in general in a democracy, as a relay race. I mean, you run the best race you can run, you hand off the baton. Some of what hasn’t been finished may go on to be finished. So when President Obama asked me to be secretary of State, and I agreed, we had the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We had two wars. We had continuing threats from all kinds of corners around the world that we had to deal with. So it was a perilous time, frankly. And what he said to me was, look, I have to be dealing with the economic crisis. I want you to go out and represent us around the world. And it was a good division of labor, because we needed to make it clear to the rest of the world that we were going to get our house in order, we were going to stimulate and grow and get back to positive growth and work with our friends and partners. So I think we did that. I’m very proud of the stabilization and the, you know, really solid leadership that the administration provided that I think now leads us to be able to deal with problems like Ukraine, because we’re not so worried about a massive collapse in Europe, and China trying to figure out what to do with their bond holdings, and all the problems we were obsessed with. I think we really restored American leadership in the best sense that once again, people began to rely on us, to look at us as setting the values, setting the standards. I just don’t want to lose that because we have a dysfunctional political situation in Washington. And then, of course, a lot of particulars, but I am finishing my book, so you’ll be able to read all about it.
HH: Now Jonathan Allen, put aside the Alice In Wonderland-allow us to deal with things in Ukraine. When she writes about, when she says she had a good division of labor with the President, that is at odds with HRC’s account of her first year, year and a half when the White House just didn’t trust her as far as they could throw her. He didn’t turn the world over to her. They basically tried to keep placing people in her inner circle.
JA: Yeah, I mean, one of the very first staff decisions that was made was to make Jim Steinberg her deputy secretary of State. And her people accepted that. He’d worked in the Clinton administration, but that was not who she would have chosen. I think she would have chosen Holbrooke, perhaps, for that job, certainly wouldn’t have gone with Steinberg. I think you know, the foreign policy, generally speaking, was run by the National Security Council. Now I don’t think that’s all that unusual. I think in most presidencies, that really is the case, that the NSC gives the Secretary of State as much latitude as it wants to, as much of a leash as it wants to, but is really the master of that. With Hillary Clinton in particular, they kept a pretty tight rein on her early on. I think it’s one of the reasons that she really cozied up to Gates and Petraeus and some of the other military leaders, because that allowed her to get their support for things that she cared about. And we sort of go through that in the book, too.
HH: Oh, in great detail. I’m just saying that her line to Tom Friedman, and he didn’t follow up, and maybe he hadn’t read HRC, yet, it’s just not factual.
JA: Right. It does not hold up.
HH: It does not hold up at all.
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HH: Today, I want to talk about politics. And Jon Allen, I want to begin with a funny place. I want to begin with purse. Now you and I, not that there’s anything wrong with that, do not carry purses. But women do. And you have a little anecdote in HRC about Hillary and the purse gambit which I think people just, you’ve got a bad voice, you’ve been out promoting the book, but tell people this story, because it’s why she’s so good, and why Republicans especially had better be prepared for a masterly retail politician.
JA: Well, there was a woman who was interviewing for a job in Hillary Cinton’s Senate office, and was very, very nervous about it. She was meeting Hillary Clinton for the first time, and whatever you think of her, just like anybody else you’ve seen on television a lot, but don’t know, you get a little nervous the first time you meet them. So this woman’s in and she’s interviewing for a job, so even more so. So Hillary Clinton walks in, shakes her hand, and immediately picks up her purse and says this is such a wonderful purse, look at this beautiful purse, turns to him and says look at this great purse, and where do I get one like this, can you fine me one, makes a big deal about this woman’s purse. Well, the effect of that is to make the woman feel at ease. The effect of it is that the person who is interviewing for the job suddenly feels like oh, okay, she’s a normal person, like I can have a normal conversation about something like purses rather than deep policy intrigue and things like that. And then the woman who ultimately takes the job watches Hillary Clinton do this time and again with people….
JA: …that this was, and you know, it wasn’t a one-off thing where she loved the woman’s purse. She’d pick out a purse, a necklace, a tie, make a big deal about how much she liked it. And so it’s calculated, but also something that makes people feel good. And I think Hillary Clinton’s kind of the master of calculating those things that are intended to make people feel a certain way, positively inclined to her, generally speaking.
HH: There is nothing like saving someone who you could crucify to make them grateful towards you, and there’s nothing like sympathizing with people. And there are a couple of anecdotes in HRC that I want to call out. One, Jon Favreau is the President’s chief speechwriter, and he gets in his cups, and he gets photographed, dumb kid move, cupping the breast of Hillary on a cut-out. And she calls him up and says I haven’t seen the picture, yet, but I hear my hair looks great. Great story, Page 61 of HRC. Another story, young Tommy, is it Vietor?
HH: Vietor, breaks his arm, or dislocates his shoulder when she breaks her arm. She, you know, he’s young and he’s intimidated. He sees her in the West Wing, and she’s got a sling with a State Department seal on it. And he’s nervous and makes small talk. Your sling is so much cooler than mine. Two days later arrives a State Department sling for Tommy. These are the sort of things, the forgiveness of Favreau, the sling for Tommy, these are very artful details of a masterful politician. Bill gets all the credit, but she’s awfully good.
JA: Yeah, he’s got that mass charisma, and even the one on one charisma. He doesn’t have to do that kind of stuff. He doesn’t have to say thank you to people. They watch him, and they’re like excited to see him. She’s the exact opposite. She has to work people that way. I think she likes to do it as well. I mean, I think she sees it as being polite, good company, good manners. But she needs to show people that little extra bit of attention, that little extra bit of affection for them to really grown on them. And I think some of it’s genuine, all of it’s strategic, but people, even when they’re being worked over that way, tend to appreciate it. I mean, it’s just like you get a thank you note from somebody. It may be political, and it may be them trying to get something from you, but at the same time, you appreciate they made the effort to write the thank you note. A lot of people would try to get something from you and not do that.
HH: Yeah, there’s a very great difficulty in HRC of keeping score between Hillaryland, the Planet Bill and Clintonworld, and the overlapping territory between them. Doug Band, for example, lives in Billworld. Huma Abedin lives in Hillaryland. How do those worlds get along right now?
JA: I think better than they have in a while, in part because Doug Band is gone. He was the longtime gatekeeper to Bill Clinton, and I think he caused a lot of irritation within Hillaryland about the way that Bill dealt with the Hillary staff. And I think him being pushed out of the picture, and in part, that occurred simultaneously with Chelsea Clinton coming into the Clinton Foundation. I think that’s had an improvement on some of the relations, but they’re still pretty scrambled. I mean, it is three different entities. It is Hillaryland. It is the Billworld, and it is the Clinton universe, which is the conjunction of those two things. There are people who have worked for both, and there are people who are loyal to one or the other and not the other, and it is a very hard thing to unscramble, not just for us as viewers, as observers, as voters, but also for the people who are involved in it.
HH: Now at the middle of the web, and I called my friend to compliment this person, is Cheryl Mills. Now Cheryl Mills is Hillary’s Haldeman. She is really the center of her political, she’s the consigliore. She ran Benghazi night. She keeps her informed. She’s brilliant, and I don’t know that anyone’s really reported on her much other than HRC.
JA: Yeah, the other time that she was in the news was defending Bill Clinton in the Senate during the impeachment. And she gave, she was very young at the time, early 30s, and gave an impassioned defense of him. And she was in the news then in the late 90s. And the most people that pay much attention to her, she was brought into the 2008 campaign when it was sort of going overboard to help rein it back in. She was brought into the State Department not just in one top job, but two. She combined the jobs of chief of staff and counselor, which were the two top jobs on the Secretary’s personal staff. She did both of them. There’s nobody who is more important to Hillary Clinton than Cheryl Mills in terms of her political future, and in terms of her ability to manage when she’s in government.
HH: Am I right about the Haldeman gatekeeping function?
JA: Yeah, I think there’s a part of that, although a lot of the gatekeeping actually falls to Huma Abedin. You know, I think it’s both of them, to some extent. But you know, in terms of being completely trusted aide, somebody that gets the unvarnished Hillary Clinton, and is there to try to guide her away from pitfalls, Cheryl Mills is that person.
HH: Yeah, you know, when you talk about Mills and Abedin, I’m thinking Haldeman-Ehrlichman, that there is, I was going to bring up Huma in just a minute, but you know, I worked for Richard Nixon. I knew Richard Nixon. Richard Nixon is no Hillary Clinton when it comes to revenge politics spread over 30 years. I mean, he usually gave up and let it go after a while, because he was always running again. They’ve got a memory in Hillarlyland, which is deeper than any when it comes to keeping score, don’t they?
JA: They do. In fact, you know, one of the fun things, I think, in the book that was the first time it was ever revealed is they kept this, after the 2008 campaign, kept this enemies list. We call it in the book a hit list. You can call it what you want. But there were, every Democratic member of Congress was assigned a score from 1 to 7, and the 1’s were people that they felt were most loyal to them, followed by 2’s who were little less loyal, 3’s who were a little less loyal, 4’s who were somewhere in the neutral, sort of Dante’s hell of neutrality, 5’s who were disloyal, 6’s who were very disloyal, and 7’s were the most disloyal, the people who should be never given anything, the people who should be gone after if ever the opportunity presented itself, particularly on the political battlefield. So yeah, they have long memories, and not only that, they have Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.
HH: But you know what’s interesting, and I point this out to people, they are not obsessed with my side. You know, I looked in, I looked for Limbaugh, for Hannity, for Levin, for any of the critics, for George Will, for Krauthammer. They’re not here. They don’t worry about the other team. They beat the other team when the time comes to beat them. They worry about Democrats. That’s where they run their operation.
JA: Absolutely. I mean, you know, are there people on the right that the Clintons don’t like? Of course, but that’s not where they spend their energy. They expect that their opponents are going to hit them. What they worry about, and what they were so angry about in 2008, is they felt like longtime friends had done it, too.
JA: You know, they could name, you know, a million different things that they had done for each of these people. Not everybody had been, you know, had gotten some gift or whatever from the Clintons over time. But they had employed some people. They had given them jobs within the administration. They had written letters to schools to get them in, you know, to get their kids into school. They’d done all these things for people, and then they watched these folks endorse Barack Obama. And they think to themselves, you know, what is wrong here, and we have a point at which Bill Clinton says if you don’t have a loyalty in politics, what do you have? And that is their motivating force.
HH: And loyalty, by the way, defined Nixon as well.
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HH: I never want Cheryl Mills to get into a big, black limousine and pick up the phone and say we have to talk about Hewitt. I don’t ever want that to happen, America. Welcome back on Good Friday. John Allen is my guest. HRC is his brand new book, along with Amie Parnes, State Secrets And The Rebirth Of Hillary Clinton. It is absolutely addictive, and I think you can tell how much fun I had reading this, because it is, in many respects, it’s like Mark Leibovich’s book, only it’s the substantive side of the interpersonal drama that is the Beltway that I try and stay so far away from physically. But it nevertheless is just absolutely riveting. When you, did you get access to Hillary, Jon? Did she give you time?
JA: So I have to answer this carefully. We got access to every level of the Clinton operation from the very bottom to the very top.
HH: Well said. Now I also have to ask you, I don’t know Amie and I’ve never interviewed her. I think the book is nuanced, because you have a woman co-author. Do you think that adds to the strength that you might not have been able to pull off as a male only trying…because the Hillaryland is populated with very strong women. The very first picture in the book, the women of Hillaryland in 2008, really communicates that. Do you think that was essential to getting this right?
JA: I think it was essential to have Amie as a co-author for a lot of reasons. Most of all, she’s excellent with the various, the detail that has greater meaning. She’s very good at interviews, at pushing people to give more and more details. So I think that’s really, really helpful, in addition to her abilities as a writer and a reporter generally. And generally speaking, it’s interesting, I think in some cases, I was able to get more out of men, and she was able to get more out of women. But in other cases, I was able to get more out of women, and she was able to get more out of men.
HH: Oh, interesting.
JA: I am glad that you know, one of the things that we have not been attacked for is the treating Hillary Clinton fairly on gender terms. And certainly having a woman’s perspective in that, I think, was helpful for the book.
HH: I can’t imagine you being attacked for that. It’s thorough, you treat her like any other person in Washington, D.C. who’s powerful. Page 68, “Informal power gained through Hillary’s favor is far more important than the formal power of a particular title.” Now this is hardly new. Harry Hopkins defined this, right, for FDR? He’s only, he had no title, and no job. He just lived on the Second Floor of the White House. And so there’s this informal power network. Jake Sullivan is the name that I had never seen before. And you know, I kind of know who Huma is and Cheryl Mills, I’ve been following since impeachment. But tell people about Jake Sullivan, because that’s a new player.
JA: Yeah, Jake Sullivan kind of came out of nowhere. He’s a very young guy. He worked on Hillary’s 2008 campaign. He had previously been on the Hill working for Senator Amy Klobuchar, so he did a lot of the foreign policy stuff on, the national security stuff on the Clinton campaign. He was headed back after the campaign to go back to Minnesota, and he wanted to run for a House seat, and he was asked if he wanted to take over a new job that was being created essentially for him, a deputy chief of staff for policy. Once he got in there, he proved himself. Hillary Clinton loved him. She thought he was extremely sharp. I think he shared some of her nerdiness on policy, really wanted to get into the weeds. And he was a turf eater within the State Department. And by that, I mean he started out as the deputy chief of staff. By the end, he had subsumed the policy planning office at the State Department, which is basically the office that does all the future planning for State. He was heavily involved in speechwriting. He was the person that the White House went to. So he became the liaison between the State Department and the White House. And I think he could channel Hillary Clinton’s thinking on policy as well as anybody else. When he left the State Department, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama called him and asked him to take a job as Vice President Biden’s national security advisor. And he is there to this day. So somebody who is extremely well thought of in Democratic circles, and who is pretty young, he’s still in his 30’s, I think mid-30’s right now.
HH: Yeah, I think if people look back to the early days of Reagan when the Troika – Baker-Deever-Meese was there, if they look at Mills, Abedin and Sullivan, you’re going to have the same sort of situation develop in a Clinton White House 2.0 if that happens. And do you quarrel with that assessment, Jon?
JA: Well, you know, I wish that I was better at making that comparison. I think you know, having obviously watched that time period a lot more closely than I did as a youngster…
HH: Yeah, I lived it. I was there. It works, I’ll tell you. But now let me ask you about Obamacare. You have a great section, and I’m not sure that they like the title “Obama Girl” of the chapter. And I don’t know if you’ve heard anything about that, because you’re referring to her all-in on Obamacare.
JA: That’s where it comes in handy to have a female co-author. If you’re going to title a chapter Obama Girl, you’ve got to…
HH: Yeah, and you quote the Secretary of State saying, “I believe strongly that the President needs to forge ahead,” when there were rumblings about dumping Obamacare and pushed it through in 2010. On Page 177, the first time she saw Obama after Congress passed the health care law months later, it was in the Situation Room. She told him she was proud of him, and she was uniquely positioned to affirm him. Now you know, that’s a two-edged sword, Jonathan Allen. She owns Obamacare. I always call her, she’s the grandmother of Obamacare. But here in your book is the record that she was all-in. She wanted it.
JA: Yeah, absolutely, and that’s not something that had been reported before. I mean, if you go back to the time period, she was doing everything she could to demonstrate that she wasn’t going to be involved in domestic politics. And frankly, Barack Obama was doing everything he could to demonstrate that she was not going to be involved in domestic politics. One of the reasons to make her secretary of State is to get her out across the world and not make her toxic to the things you’re trying to do domestically, which I think he thought she would have been. But behind closed doors, she was advising Jim Messina and Rahm Emanuel about how to approach health care. She even lobbied a few members of Congress on behalf of the health care law. The way that she viewed it was when someone came to her, she’d give them her view as opposed to dialing 100 names. I mean, I have no idea what the truth of that is, but you know, she’s acknowledged that she, in the book, that she did lobby some members. And of course this Cabinet meeting right after the Tea Party summer, if you will, in 2009, a lot of the Cabinet secretaries were very angry about how much of the Democratic agenda was being subsumed into this maelstrom of health care. They wanted to get their things done, and they thought we’re never going to get anything done, because everybody’s stuck on this health care thing. The Republicans are against us. And there was a lot of grumbling going on, and she got up at this Cabinet meeting and basically said look, I’ve been through this before, and you know, I know what it takes, or I certainly know what it looks like to lose. I know what it looks like when the President’s people abandon him. This is our time. It can get done. The Democrats have majorities in the House and Senate. Let’s get behind the President, and let’s move forward. And you know, people in the Obama White House thought that was a big moment if you think about it from the perspective of a Democratic Cabinet member, Democratic member of Congress. If Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are both telling you you’ve got to do this, there’s nowhere else to go in the Democratic Party. So it’s a big, it’s symbolic. It’s not an actual vote on the floor, you know, but I think it mattered to the Obama people that she did that. I think for whoever she lobbied on it, I think it probably mattered to them. And now she owns health care that much more than she did before.
HH: Yeah, I mean, that’s what the reporting of HRC comes clear to me, is that if Obamacare is soaring in 2016, as they’re saying right now it’s going to be, she’s going to be in a great position. But if it tanks like I think it is, she owns it as much as Obama does. And when we come back, we’re going to talk more about the fascinating Obama-Clinton relationship, not just Hillary and Barack, but also Bill and Barack when we return.
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HH: He’s the author along with Amie Parnes of HRC, the brand new book that I have been spending time with him on over the course of three hours, talking about Hillary Rodham Clinton. I’m doing so, because of course she’s a central figure in American politics. She is likely to be the Democratic nominee for president. This is the first comprehensive look at her tenure at State. It covers 2008 to the present when it went to press. And I believe you signed a contract to do another book, haven’t you, Jon?
JA: Yeah, it was actually just announced this week that Amie and I are going to be doing a sequel for our publisher, Crown Publishing. We don’t yet have a date or a title, but we’ve been throwing around a few ideas, maybe Judgment Day, like Terminator 2, or Die Harder like Die Hard 2.
HH: Do you want my list of all the quotes I have of people asking, of my asking people on air what she did and having them fumble around?
JA: Sure, that’d be great. We could put it, we could make that the back cover.
HH: Okay, now look, there’s a great story within a story here of how Hillary merged with Obama. And it’s in the person of Capricia Marshall. There’s also a warning for young women everywhere about wearing Manolo Heels to a formal state dinner. But in this person, you get how she operated the bridging of the rift. Tell people about it.
JA: So Capricia Marshall is as diehard a Hillarylander as it gets. She’s as close to Hillary as any of the women around her. And when Hillary came into the State Department, she wanted the President to appoint Capricia Marshall to this job of chief protocol officer. And if folks don’t know too much about that, it’s the job at the State Department where you do all the protocol, and it’s actually something appointed by the President. It’s an ambassador rank. And the person travels on all the foreign travel that the President does, not necessarily the secretary of State, but actually travels on Air Force One with the President. And the Obama people were completely against Capricia Marshall coming into their fold. They hated the idea of one of Hillary’s best friends being sort of in the inner circle on these foreign policy trips, of actually being on Air Force One with her. And they had a vote. His vetting team had a vote about it. And they all voted no. And then Jim Messina tells the group, breaks the bad news, and says look, guys, this is a Hillary Clinton pick, and we’re going to have to take it to the President. Hillary Clinton goes to the President, goes to his aides, and says look, you guys, you have her all wrong. Once she’s working with you, you’ll understand she’s great. Obama decides to back down. He promised to let Hillary Clinton appoint her people. Capricia Marshall gets the job. She turns out to be somebody that the Obama people really like. They appreciate her on Air Force One. They watch dirty movies with her on Air Force One, as we tell the story in the book. And there’s even a point, as you note, at a state dinner where she falls down. She’s at this formal thing. She’s in a nice dress. She’s got these Manolo Heels on. She’s leading the President and the First Lady out, and she catches her heel. And she goes down, and you know, it’s being photographed, and it’s being videotaped. And the President says to the press, don’t take that picture. And then Michelle Obama says don’t print that picture. And they’re trying to save Capricia Marshall the embarrassment of this fall. And then later on, the next time they have a state dinner, they’re lining up to go out again, and Capricia Marshall can hear behind her the President lowering his voice like a golf announcer and says, “Here she is on the approach. Will she fall down?” And Michelle Obama says, “Shut up, Barack. Leave her alone.”
HH: It is a great story, but it’s also, they, Hillary put inside the Obama circle one of her best people who served well, and as a result, built a bridge that helped smooth this relationship out. But what’s going to happen with people like, look, Samantha Power called Hillary a monster. You quote that on Page 95. One Clinton aide referred to Dan Pfeiffer as a zero who had ended up in the White House by happenstance. You quote that on Page 100. You say on Page 116, Tom Donilon is scared blankless of her. That’s the Obama national security advisor. There’s a lot of still left over percolating, and then Biden wants to be President. When do all the knives start to get thrown at each other?
JA: Well, I think the Clinton people are very much hoping that they don’t have to throw knives in a Democratic primary. I mean, their view is, I believe, they’d like to stomp everybody down so much that there isn’t a contest. They may not have that luxury. You know, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton get along well. Joe Biden and Bill Clinton get along well. That’ll be tested if they run against each other. But I don’t know necessarily that it would be nasty. They’ve run for president against each other before. Their friendship has survived it. You know, some of the other, you know, I really would not expect to see Sam Power in a Clinton administration unless it was in some ridiculously cold outpost like ambassador Greenland or something.
HH: Moldova, yeah.
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HH: I want to cover just a couple more things with him. On Page 180 of the book, you quoted Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post interview where he asked Hillary about 2016, and she says please, I will be so old. You detail her broken elbow, which you said was a metaphor for her first year. You detail her concussion. You detail her explosion before the Senate Benghazi Committee. Is age a factor here? I mean, she seems relentless. She seems a force of nature. At the end of HRC, as I told you, I called an old Clinton hand and said wow, she’s just as tough as leather. But I mean, 69 is 69, Jonathan Allen.
JA: It is. You know, you’ll recall President Reagan was running for president at 69 years old, I believe. It’s, I think it’s more of a factor for the American voter than it is for Hillary Clinton herself. I don’t think she’s going to make that decision based on age. I think she might make a decision based on health if there’s some health issue that makes it difficult for her to run. But I don’t think age is going to stop her. I do think that it might in voters’ minds. If she gets up on stage, and she looks old, or she looks infirmed, or she looks like she’s not all together there, then yes, age will be a factor for voters. If she seems vibrant and capable, then you know, I think that’ll recede in most voters’ minds. But that’s the important place, and it’s one of those things that’s I think almost impossible to poll. How many people want to tell a pollster they feel like they’re not going to vote for the person because they’re too old? I mean, you know, there are worse things to say to a pollster, but I don’t know that you would get real read on that in polling.
HH: Yeah, when she said that, I will be so old to Kessler, I thought maybe at that moment she was thinking that. But in the background here, there are two very strong women – Huma Abedin and Chelsea Clinton. And Chelsea, of course, you treat her very gently, and I think appropriately so. She’s not an official person. She’s a child of. Huma is a public figure, and you deal with her less gently, though not, you know, sledgehammer or anything like that. And you leave the worse charges against her out. What do those two women want her to do?
JA: That’s a great question. You know, we did not talk to Huma for this book, or to Chelsea Clinton for this book, so I can’t speak, and can’t claim to know their mind. But you know, I think generally speaking, the people around Hillary Clinton want her to do what she wants to do. I mean, and I don’t think many of them think that they’re going to be able to talk her out of doing whatever she wants to do. I think most of them think she’s already two feet into a race. You know, the way we put it in the book, and I think we lay out the case for this in the book over the course of the chapters, is she’s been running ever since the 2008 campaign. And it’s just a matter of whether she says stop at some point, and I don’t see that happening right now.
HH: Let’s go back to what will be the most famous clip used in the 2016 campaign if she get in, cut number 1:
Tape: Ron Johnson: We’ve ascertained that that was not the fact, and the American people could have known that within days, and they didn’t know that.
HRC: And with all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans.
RJ: I understand.
HRC: Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night or decided to go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?
HH: Now Jonathan Allen, you reveal on Page 349 that Philippe Reines plants this seed at a briefing. “Everyone is briefed or testified as wanted to stand up and scream what the hell difference does it make,” he said during a prep session. Well, it made a lot of difference to her political future. That is a damning quote.
JA: It is. It’s, you know, I think people watched that and they thought, look at this reaction. Somebody got under her skin, and she got angry, and it’s raw emotion. And to some extent, that’s good for Hillary Clinton, because there’s so many people who see her as robotic. So even if it’s not the reaction that they would like to see, generally speaking, the show of emotion can be a good thing for her. But in this case, what Philippe is telling, is saying behind closed doors to her is an acknowledgement that this was preplanned, or at least it was something she was thinking about ahead of time. And it gives it a manufactured feel once you know that.
HH: And it also, but it makes it more damning, because it was such a bad strategic choice. Let me ask you about…
JA: That’s it. Right, that, too.
HH: Yeah, I mean, just, yeah, okay, preplanned. Preplanned like the red button’s button was preplanned, and that was another Philippe question. Bill Clinton – Page 249. Bill offered his opinions for Obama. It was too much for Obama, who said he could only take Bill in doses. Can they contain him? I mean, the whole Clinton rewrite speech, we talked about it yesterday, he took her concession speech, rewrote it without telling her. He goes places, he does things. He is a force majeure in American history. People, as you write, she got great advice about her numbers will plummet the moment she starts running. His whole eight years come back. He left with that endless press conference with the pardons of Marc Rich. I mean, there’s so much. Can they contain Bill Clinton?
JA: You know, it’s one of those great questions, and I think it’ll be, if she runs, I think we’ll get the answer to that. I think it’s hard to contain him, and I think it’s particularly hard to contain him if you’re Hillary Clinton. She’s shown no aptitude for that in the past, although I do think during her years at the State Department, he did recede a little bit. I think he’s starting to learn how to be if not secondary, at least not sort of tromp all over the scenery behind her and take all the attention of the public. Al Gore in 2000 distanced himself from President Clinton, and that was a terrible mistake. President Clinton’s approval ratings were pretty high. He should have found a good way to use him.
HH: Now you write in here that when Osama bin Laden was killed, the President called Bill Clinton. I think it was the President. Maybe it was Panetta, to tell him, and he said I don’t know what you’re talking about, implying that Hillary had not told him that the raid was going down. Do you believe that?
JA: I do believe it. Maybe that’s naïve of me, but yeah, I can believe. Look, the two of them have kept a lot from each other and from the public over the years, so the ability or the desire to keep a secret doesn’t necessarily surprise me. And the other thing is one of the things that Hillary Clinton was very worried about behind closed doors was how many people had been informed that we were seeking out a potential bin Laden raid, and that we were doing all the preparations for it. She was very concerned that if it didn’t happen soon, it was going to leak out. So there’s something to be, there’s something to be said for there being a little bit of evidence at least that that was her feeling, that it should be shared with fewer people, not more. But who really knows what goes on in the conversations?
HH: It’s a fascinating bit of reporting, one of the many. One last segment with Jonathan Allen. Don’t go anywhere, America.
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HH: I want to thank my guest, Jonathan Allen, who along with Amie Parnes, have produced really a terrific book, HRC: State Secrets And The Rebirth Of Hillary Clinton. It’s linked over at Hughhewitt.com. And of course, I hope you’ve gotten all three hours of the interview. If not, I’ll probably replay it someday. I want to close, Jonathan, by going to an obscure part of the book, Page 151. When Hillary got to State, she knew about the QDR, which Defensenicks know about, the Quadrennial Defense Review. And she wanted to produce, and got organized, the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, which has turned out to be, and I’m quoting now, “In the end, they had a 242 page blueprint for elevating diplomacy and development as equal partners with military force in the conduct of American foreign policy. The first QDDR’s goals included making ambassadors CEOs for American agencies in foreign countries, bolstering soft power tools like economic assistance, improving the lives of women and girls around the world, reorganizing the Department’s bureaus to better reflect modern challenges, insuring that diplomats had up to date computes and handheld devices, reforming the Foreign Service Exam to bring in sharp, new diplomats, increasing diplomat direct engagement with the people of their host countries, not just their government’s, and using technology such as social media platforms for diplomacy. The exercise was aimed at strengthening the institution, even if the medicine tasted bad going down.” And my margin note is that’s it? They did a strategic review, and they came up with handheld devices? And it goes to my biggest critique. I don’t think she has a strategic vision.
JA: Yeah, I think of her biggest problem in 2008, I would agree with you. I think her biggest problem in the 2008 campaign is she didn’t make an argument for why she should be president. And Barack Obama went around the country and he gave speeches, and he would give out his policy prescriptions. And then at the end, he would say and that’s why I’m running for president. And the people believed that he had a vision, and I think not only Democrats, I think there were independents and even Republicans who didn’t agree with him or agree with his vision, would say look, this guy…and a lot of people would say he didn’t live up to it in the presidency. But I think you know, in 2008, people looked at him and said here’s a guy with a vision. Here’s a guy with a way that he wants to do things that is different than what we are doing. And he can make some sort of explanation of how you get from where we are to his vision. And she failed at that in 2008.
HH: Well, my last comparison, I wrote a column in the Washington Examiner that made this argument. She’s George Herbert Walker Bush. She’s the one who was bested, who comes back eight years later, gets hit on the vision thing, but wins 40 states and 424 Electoral Votes, because after a revolutionary figure, Reagan, the Republican case, and Obama in the Democrats’ case, you want a consolidator. You want a pro’s pro, and they’re not exhausted. They still have the team.
JA: Hugh, I’ll tell your listeners. I sent you a note when I read it. It’s a brilliant column. I think it made eminent sense. There’s a really great parallel there. It is a, George H.W. Bush was somebody who had been entrusted with a lot of jobs in the past, was a pretty competent manager of them, did not have a big vision for where he wanted to take the country, and in a lot of cases, disagreed with his own party where he wanted to take the country. And so it was a great column. I think everybody should read it.
HH: Well, I think everybody should read HRC. I will point out that George Herbert Walker Bush was married to Barbara, not a Bill Clinton-like figure. HRC by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes in bookstores everywhere, it’s linked at Hughhewitt.com
End of interview.