'The Hillary Papers': How will GOP use them against Clinton?

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, has issued notice that his organization will make use of 'The Hillary Papers' – beginning now. The RNC has already found a health-care nugget about Clinton.

Jason DeCrow/AP/File
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks in New York. Clinton hasn't announced whether she will run for president in 2016, but the GOP already plans to use of the 'The Hillary Papers' against her.

How will the Republican Party make use of "The Hillary Papers”? That’s an open question after the conservative Washington Free Beacon published a trove of memos and archive material from Diane Blair, a longtime friend of ex-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton who died in 2000.

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, on Monday issued notice that his organization will make use of that material – beginning now.

“I think we’re going to have a truckload of opposition research on Hillary Clinton, and some things may be old and some things might be new. But I think everything is at stake when you’re talking about the leader of the free world and who we’re going to give the keys to run the United States of America,” Mr. Priebus told Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC.

Much of the initial coverage of this material has focused on Mrs. Clinton’s judgment of Monica Lewinsky as a “narcissistic loony tune” and on a 1992 memo from Clinton pollsters, which asserted that the qualities voters deemed slick in Bill Clinton they judged “ruthless” in his wife.

But the RNC has mined the papers for a health-care nugget, which they’ve already featured in an attack on the unofficial front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

In her notes, Ms. Blair at one point writes that Mrs. Clinton thought a “managed competition” approach to health-care reform was a “crock” and that a “single payer,” government-run system might be superior.

The RNC pairs this with a quote from a 2008 New York Times interview in which Clinton said she had never seriously considered a single-payer system.

“During Her 2008 Presidential Run, Clinton’s Records Were On Lockdown ... Now We Know Why,” blares the RNC’s headline.

That’s standard-issue opposition research. Comb through your opponent’s record looking for things that can be portrayed as inconsistencies. Then present them with the implication that more is hidden behind that discrepancy.

What’s maybe more interesting here is how early the GOP is ramping up the attacks. Perhaps its goal is partly to show Clinton how tough a general election would be, just in case she harbors some doubts about whether she really wants to go through all that again.

“Does she want to relive the nastiness?” Jay Newton-Small, Time magazine Washington correspondent, wondered aloud on MSNBC’s “Hardball” Monday.

And nastiness there was. If a theme comes out in the 40 pages of documents released by the Free Beacon, it’s the overall frustration and anger that Clinton felt in the early 1990s as her husband ascended to the presidency and she had to accustom herself to Washington political culture.

According to Blair, she called the press “hypocrites” and said they had “big egos and no brains.” She was exasperated by the slowness of the decisionmaking process in Bill’s West Wing and powerless to get him to do anything about it.

At one point Blair says Clinton told her she had had a long conversation with Sharon Rockefeller, wife of Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D) of West Virginia, about the “superficiality of the D.C. scene.”

“Bonding with creeps” had been the story of her year, Clinton told Blair in 1994.

Decades of public life have surely hardened Clinton against the media and Washington’s self-importance. Her public service as senator and secretary of State has given her independent political stature. Republicans may regret dredging up memories of the 1990s, given that older voters may remember that the Clintons' approval ratings were strong throughout that period, and younger voters won’t remember them at all.

But it is not impossible that Clinton won’t run. "The Hillary Papers” may jog her memory and raise the question, why should she return to the White House?

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