Skip to comments.Hillary's other man [Vince Foster]
Posted on 06/05/2007 7:51:14 AM PDT by jdm
Some people would later say that Vince Foster tall, with impeccable manners and a formal mien worshipped Hillary Clinton from the start, or that he had been awed by her from the time they met, or that he had never met a woman like her who was so whip-smart and almost sassy.
What is unquestionable is that he and Hillary grew incredibly close. For the next 20 years the relationship would confound Fosters wife (but not Bill Clinton), their colleagues at the Rose law firm in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the White House, and women who had known Bill intimately and didnt like his wife.
Other partners in the law firm were less enthusiastic about hiring Hillary when she joined in 1976. It took her a long time to feel at ease except with Vince and another young lawyer, Webb Hubbell the Three Amigos, as they came to refer to themselves.
Foster and Hubbell poked fun at her intensity, tutored her in the traditions of Little Rock and looked out for her like a little sister. The three often went to lunch at the Lafayette hotel. Sometimes they watched lingerie shows there, a popular lunchtime entertainment of the era, in which models showed off nightgowns and their bodies. Hillary laughed at her two partners and told them what Neanderthals they were.
Vince was soft-spoken to the point of taciturnity. He and Bill Clinton, a friend from childhood, were as different in most aspects of character as Hillary could have imagined. But she and Vince were in many regards a natural fit. Vince was just born middle-aged, an acquaintance had observed. Hillary could identify. As Bill once said, I was born at 16 and Ill always feel I am 16. And Hillary was born at age 40.
Foster had comparatively little interest in politics, exuded integrity, was meticulous in habit and dress, was conversant in every nuance of politesse, and spoke ill of almost no one. In the firm he was regarded as the soul of discretion, and it stood to reason that if ever Hillary would choose a confidant outside her marriage it would be someone of his mien and judgment.
Hillary found it easy to let her guard down with him. I dont think there was anyone closer to Hillary for 20 years, said Hubbell. But I dont think it was sexual. I think it was, here are two people with like brilliance who enjoyed the same things, enjoyed each others company and had extreme confidence in each other. I mean, you love a friend more than you love a lover.
At office retreats, Hillary and Vince often remained together while the others went off to play golf or tennis. They would stroll, talk earnestly over a glass of wine and laugh uproariously.
Those who knew them best doubted that they had had an affair. One friend wasnt sure: He loved Hillary. I hoped they had an affair. I think they both deserved it. They both had complicated spouses, complicated marriages.
SEVERAL days after Bill Clinton was elected president in November 1992, Hillary talked by telephone to Dick Morris, their political adviser during the Arkansas years, about her formal role in the new administration.
Hillary noted that Time magazine had suggested she would make a good White House chief of staff. Morris said it was a terrible idea because a chief of staff, among other things, was the person who had to take the heat for the commander-in-chief.
I said its like a baseball owner being able to fire the manager, he remembered. Something may not be the managers fault, but you have to be able to fire somebody at some point. And Clinton couldnt fire her.
Hillary then raised the possibility that she might make a good attorney-general or a reasonable secretary of education. Morris responded that the better thing would be for her to assume a specific task, become the head of a taskforce that would deal with a discrete issue, which would be her issue, and develop her credibility like that.
In the end Hillary chose Morriss single-issue approach. She would oversee and shepherd through Congress something that had been the unattainable goal of Democrats for decades. The lack of universal healthcare was a defining failing that set the United States apart from other advanced democracies, and both Clintons were certain that an overwhelming majority of Americans favoured universal coverage, even yearned for it.
To their total surprise and consternation, among the jolts the Clintons endured in the flush of their victory was serious resistance to putting Hillary in charge of healthcare from the most experienced members of the incoming domestic and economic policy team: Senator Lloyd Bentsen, the treasury secretarydesignate; Congressman Leon Panetta, to be the new director of the Office of Budget and Management; Alice Rivlin, to be his deputy; and Donna Shalala, who had been handpicked by Hillary to be secretary of health and human services.
Mostly [these] people thought the idea the whole system Hillary was setting up was crazy, said Shalala.
The foremost concern was that Hillarys ideas for solving the healthcare problem were too ambitious. Hillary discounted and, according to Shalala, even resented the advice of the naysayers. To accept their judgment would have meant to controvert her most basic notion about herself: that given the responsibility and the power, she could solve virtually any problem she applied herself to by dint of sheer force of will, intellect, study and hard work.
Bill seemed troubled by the internal opposition, however. He kept delaying his announcement of his wifes appointment. It would be five days after his inauguration when he finally made it.
I suspect that there was a level at which he knew it was a really dangerous idea, said a presidential deputy. He was president in no small measure because she stood by him in the Gennifer Flowers mess. And he had to pay her back. This is what she wanted, and he couldnt figure out how not to give it to her. And so he hoped for the best, and jumped over the side with her.
The most vocal internal opponent of putting Hillary in charge of healthcare was Shalala, who knew Hillary far better than most new members of the presidents team, and so felt freer about speaking out.
Shalala, 4ft 11in tall, of Lebanese descent, an ardent feminist with both academic experience and sharp political skills, had known Hillary almost 20 years. And though she and the new first lady were friends, Shalala was certain that Hillary was ill-prepared for the job.
There was too much mythology about Hillary that stretched the facts, she felt. Shalala had always been made uncomfortable by hyperbolic statements from friends and acolytes of Hillary, as well as leaders in the womens movement who didnt know her personally, who put forth the notion that had she pursued her own political career and not deferred to Bill Clintons, she would have been a governor or senator in her own right by 1992.
They assume that [just] being smart is enough, Shalala said. And its not enough. Its judgment. Its experience. Its being strategic at the right points. Shalala believed that Hillary often tried to do too many things at once and later, as her personal and legal troubles accumulated, became distracted.
Shes also someone who doesnt do things in depth. Because Hillarys so smart and well educated, I think people missed the fact [that] she has essentially been his supporter, and his support partner . . . She hadnt really fully developed an identity until she came up here [to Washington].
Shalala also noted that, in Little Rock, the Clintons had always been big fish in a little pond. Until they got to Washington in 1993 they had never actually banged up against people as smart as they were. Theyd spent all of their adult lives in which they were the smartest people in the room. These were two extremely able people who had not really been tested before. So they really had to learn their way.
Hillary had stayed in touch with Bernie Nussbaum, her mentor when she worked on the US Congresss impeachment investigation of President Richard Nixon in 1974. Nussbaum had become a leading New York City lawyer specialising in corporate takeovers.
Less than two weeks before the inauguration, Susan Thomases, Hillarys friend and troubleshooter, phoned him in Puerto Rico, where he was vacationing. She asked if, given a choice, would he rather be counsel to the president or deputy attorney-general. Counsel to the president, he said.
Thomases told him to be in Little Rock the next morning. Upon his arrival, Nussbaum was introduced to the man who had already been named deputy counsel to the president, Vince Foster. It was clear that Foster saw his primary job as being Hillarys lawyer, representing her private and public concerns.
Whats the worst thing they can say about you? asked Nussbaum. Some people claim I had an affair with Hillary, replied Foster.
Is it true? No, its not true, said Foster. It is remarkable how many of the contradictions of the Clinton presidency and its two principals were on display at the new administrations difficult birthing: the faultless intentions, the reckless fundraising, the seriousness, the infatuation with Hollywood, the idealism, the physical exhaustion, the sensitivity to matters of race, the boomer sensibility, the surprising naïveté, the intense religiosity of the new president and first lady, their folksy grandiosity, her disregard for the rituals of Washington and disdain for the press, the rivalry between Hillary and Vice-President Al Gore, her sense of enti-tlement and the shading of the truth, her protective instincts toward her husband, her confusing relationship to feminism, her occasional tin ear, her lack of sophistication, her misreading of the voters healthcare mandate, the propensity of their enemies to hammer them for conduct that other presidents and their wives had got away with routinely.
Less visible was the first fraying of the disintegrating and doomed relationship between Vince Foster and Hillary.
The Clintons, from their first days after the inauguration, felt they were living in a bell jar. They inherited a personal staff of dozens maids, butlers, housekeepers, telephone operators, cooks, ushers, stewards and were under the constant supervision of the secret service.
Hillary complained to Foster that some of the agents seemed abrupt and unfriendly. Their constant presence was intrusive. She became especially concerned about the number of functionaries who hung by doorways, and the agents who were always stationed in the long living area that stretched east-west on the second floor, within listening distance of conversations.
Harry Thomason, a close friend and adviser of the Clintons who was living part-time in the White House during early 1993, came back one night from a dinner attended by some reporters. He told the Clintons that particulars about the first familys personal life in the White House were being leaked to the press by some of the agents. He urged replacement of the whole White House secret service detail.
The problem was deemed serious enough for Hillary to tell Foster to solve it, and that she wanted new agents assigned who were more inclined to be sympathetic.
Among the things Hillary valued most about Fosters judgment were his caution and calm, his ability to look beyond the immediate, to see the big picture. He was now worried that precipitous replacement of the White House secret service contingent, or even a few agents, would inevitably leak to the press and would produce a public backlash.
He met David Watkins, another Arkansan who was assistant to the president for management and administration. It was agreed that they should watch the situation but do nothing for the moment.
Days later, vivid evidence of the problem showed up in the Chicago Sun-Times, which reported, without attribution, that Hillary had smashed a lamp during a fierce argument with Bill in the family quarters.
Other mainstream media outlets picked up the story, some embellishing it. Hillary was livid. When the secret service failed to issue a formal denial, she became even angrier.
She was also harsh in her response to Foster. If she had ever previously had a really cross word with him, no one had ever heard about it. Their relationship had always reflected a solicitous mutual caring and a deep understanding of the vulnerabilities beneath the surface of each.
In this instance, she seemed to draw no distinction between Watkins and Foster, reprimanding them at the same time. Both were subordinates who had failed to take action when she had expressed her urgent concerns. The two of them were too naive and too nice, being from Arkansas, Hillary said, making a strange connection.
Watkins seemed to take her rebuke in stride, but Vince was clearly devastated. Thereafter he referred to Hillary as the client.
Vince had come to Washington with high hopes. He was not a political animal. His allegiance was personal to the president, but even more so to Hillary. His wife, Lisa, had told him, when he was asked to join the administration, Im afraid if you dont do it youll always be sorry. Now he was beginning to have doubts, according to fellow Arkansans who also made the trip.
He had a family back home to support. The price of living in Washington was generally shocking to him. Real estate, food, going to the movies he could see that he would not be able to live nearly as well as he had in Little Rock, no matter how exalted his position.
Foster appeared to internalise the blame for the item in the Sun-Times, as if he had failed to protect Hillary and the president. She was right, he told Nussbaum. He had not been forceful enough. TO develop the specifics of her healthcare proposal, Hillary established a presidential taskforce comprising 500 consultant-experts who were expected to debate the issues, present a set of recommendations and then defend their conclusions.
Their duties seemed overly complex not to mention impossible to complete within the 100-day deadline set by the president. Many were working six and seven-day weeks, often for 18 hours a day. The scene inside the Executive Office Building, where they met, always seemed on the brink of chaos.
The White House, meanwhile, refused inquiries from the press and interested organisations to identify her 500 consultants, or provide any details of what they were working on. This made practical sense. There was no precedent for presidential administrations drafting legislation in public; and, even in secret, the process was disorderly. Advance release of partially developed ideas might encourage premature debate, divert energy from formulating final recommendations and hamper the work generally.
But healthcare reform was one of the most charged public policy issues of the day. Republicans, ideological opponents of government controls, and important segments of the healthcare industry that stood to lose money in a revamped system complained immediately that they had been cut out of the process.
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and new organisations formed specifically to fight Hillarys healthcare plan now filed a lawsuit demanding that the secret deliberations of the taskforce be outlawed; that its meetings be ordered open to press and public; and that the names of the 500 experts be released.
Hillary charged that her opponents had used an obscure law to undermine the orderly process of developing her plan. She told Vince Foster to fix it.
In effect, Hillary burdened Foster with much of the weight of her hopes for healthcare. If they lost in court, she was not sure her healthcare initiative could ever be put back together again.
I think the beginning of Vinces downturn was when the healthcare taskforce was sued, said Hubbell, whom Foster enlisted to help him.
Hubbell had always known Foster to be cool, methodical, imperturb-able. Not now. Fix it, Vince! he said she had hissed. It hurt him deeply. The stress was getting to us all . . . She was the boss. And when she says, Win the litigation, youre feeling pressure from the boss. Not only the boss, but a very good friend, whos under a lot of stress, and taking a lot of heat for this . . . He was feeling the pressure, and it was a different relationship.
The efforts of Foster, Nussbaum, Hubbell and an army of Justice Department lawyers came to virtually naught. A judge ruled that the healthcare taskforce would have to meet in public when gathering facts.
Technically the decision was not a total loss: the judge ruled that the taskforce could meet privately when creating policy proposals for the president. But perception was the most important consideration of all, and it was clear that the judge had delivered a stinging rebuke to the first lady and the president.
Hillary had put enormous pressure on Foster and he had failed.
Bill Clinton, no matter how fiercely embattled or frustrated in those first six months of his presidency, woke up every day thrilled and enthusiastic about the task ahead. I love this stuff, he often said. An optimist by nature, he had confidence in his vision and his ability to move past the obstacles.
The difference between their temperaments is very simple as far as Im concerned, said Bob Boorstin, Hillarys deputy for press and communications on the healthcare taskforce. He gets angry, and he gets over it. She gets angry, and she remembers it for ever.
A White House aide who saw Hillary almost daily observed, Some mornings she would wake up pissed off, and some mornings it would be okay. Sometimes it would be a glorious day. She has the capacity for epiphanous, spiritual awakenings.
Unfortunately, those days on which the spiritual equation was wrong-sided could be brutal for others. One of the most senior White House officials, who was often at her (and her husbands) side during the many critical events of the 1992 presidential campaign and the White House years, raised in a conversation towards the end of the Clinton presidency the question of whether Hillary had ever been by nature a genuinely happy or even contented person.
This deputy maintained that perhaps the most essential thing to understand about Hillary was that (from what he had learnt and observed) she must have been an unhappy person for most of her adult life. And a very angry one at that, in his view, often in a state of agitated discontent in the years he worked with her, sometimes icy cold and embittered, though obviously capable of fun and laughter and warm friendship (though rarely of irony).
After five months in the White House she was under constant strain. More than Bill, she was physically exhausted; she lacked his stamina and was losing weight.
There is a photograph taken by one of the White House photographers in mid-May 1993 and never publicly released that speaks volumes. Hillary, Foster and Bill Clinton could look no glummer.
The Travel Office is spinning out of control. Theyre already acting like the presidency is over, said one of their assistants in the room with them, aware of his own hyperbole. But thats how she was taking it in 93. Why cant you people bring this under control? Why are we being treated like this? Why are these stories continuing? Why are these stories dominating the news? Why cant we stop them?
The most distressed-looking person in the picture is Hillary. Foster is gaunt, sad, empty. Bill looks like he just doesnt want to be there.
The question of what exactly transpired in regard to the firings of seven employees of the White House Travel Office preoccupied the special prosecutor for more than seven years, despite its relative insignificance. The Travel Office problem came to acquire huge symbolic importance, not least because of what George Stephanopoulos, the White House communications director, came to describe to some of his colleagues as Hillarys Jesuitical lying.
The Travel Office difficulties for the Clintons could be traced to Bills authorisation of their friend Harry Thomason to be given a White House pass, an office in the East Wing and a vague charter to continue shaping the public images of the president and first lady.
Thomason and other Arkansans in the White House claimed that the Travel Office, which handled the multi-million-dollar business of arranging flights and hotels for members of the White House press corps, was haphazardly managed and more than likely a semi-legiti-mate operation in which fraud or embezzlement might be occurring.
Because the Travel Office served the press corps directly, Hillary inspired by Thomasons assurance, according to her aides became convinced that a spate of favourable stories would result from the disclosure that it was operated dishonestly, its employees fired, and new procedures and people put in place.
In urging these changes, Hillary had failed to take into account the close relationship between Travel Office employees and members of the press who travelled with the president. The Travel Office performed numerous favours for reporters, including making it easy for them to clear customs and ship gifts back home.
Without any opportunity for Travel Office employees to defend themselves, all seven were fired. There had been moments when some officials including, perhaps, Foster had wondered whether Hillary wasnt moving too fast. But they had felt her ire before and were disinclined to be reprimanded by her again.
Neither Hillary nor Bill was prepared for the firestorm of press fury that struck the White House. Many reporters concluded that the firings were a cover-up for the Clintons cronyism, especially after the White House confirmed that the beneficiaries of the firings might include Thomason.
For the last month of Vince Fosters life, Hillary spoke to him at most once and then for hardly a second. No one has ever presented convincing evidence that Vince and Hillary were lovers. But they had been, in some ways, closer than lovers, absent the rancour and messy business that usually attends a love affair. By all accounts, Hillary was totally unguarded in his presence, and, until they got to Washington, he in hers, at least as far as his restrained self would permit.
Perhaps even more than Bill Clinton, Vince understood Hillarys good intentions in everything he had ever seen her do. And because he knew her so well, he understood her grey areas, the shadings, complexions and context that would never be nearly so apparent to someone else.
In four months in Washington, Foster had come to understand the harshness of the place. The political combat that had come to define the capital and demean the practice of governance was something far removed from anything hed observed in Arkansas. He had been completely unprepared for the sheer brutality of the place, and he was out of his league.
A first-rate litigator, a wise counsellor, a gentle soul, his rapid immersion into the Washington cauldron, feet first, was far different than that experienced by, say, a congressman, who gradually got used to the place without the whole country watching his every move.
Though he had first known Bill when they were children, he had become a presence in his life again only after Hillary came to work at the Rose law firm. He knew more about Bill from Hillary than from Bill.
Vince had become a shoulder for her to lean on. Though insouciance was not the first word that many acquaintances would use to describe Hillary, Vince saw that in her and loved it. He shared a side of himself with her as she shared a piece of her life that she could not with Bill. There was nothing threatening to Bill about their closeness, nothing illicit, and he, too, had great appreciation for Vinces qualities of discretion, wisdom, legal skill and something Bill often lacked decorum.
Foster believed that he had personally failed Hillary and the president on the Travel Office matter. He told Hubbell he feared his office phone was being bugged by the secret service or Republican loyalists at the White House.
Fosters wife suggested he put his frustrations on paper as a kind of therapy. I made mistakes from ignorance, inexperience and overwork, he wrote. I was not meant for the job or the spotlight of public life in Washington. Here ruining people is considered sport.
He told Susan Thomases he feared Hillary would be blamed and dragged through the mud. At the same time it was increasingly hard for Foster to keep fighting tooth and nail for Hillarys interests when their own relationship had degenerated, said Hubbell.
Vince had her heart, he did, said a close friend of Foster. In the end I think they both were broken hearted. He couldnt serve her, he couldnt do enough for her, once she became the first lady. And, she couldnt allow him to be her real friend, like hed been, because she wasnt herself.
When he had left Arkansas for Washington, he had expected the relationship with Hillary to remain as deep as ever. The last thing he had expected is that it would turn upside down. Some days he was a flunky, some days he was a legal counsellor, other days a fixer, but no longer was he her intimate.
He was completely out of his game, and the work kept piling up, Fosters friend recalled. And Hillary does not like things not happening when she wants them to happen. And trails were leading back toward her.
Each day Foster came back to his drab office. He had no pictures on the walls, just a few in a bookcase. There were still boxes everywhere. He couldnt really confide in his friends about much more than the workload.
On Tuesday, July 20, 1993, Foster left the office around 1pm. Five hours later police found him shot dead at Fort Marcy Park in northern Virginia, outside Washington. A bullet had been fired into his mouth. A revolver was in his hand.
Hillary stayed up all night after getting the news, calling friends and crying. Of a thousand people, of those who might commit suicide, I would never pick Vince, she said.
Fosters suicide, the president later told friends, had destroyed Hillary. I think she just bled deep inside, a close friend of Foster observed. I dont think she ever really quite recovered from that.
If so, that reveals a tragic character flaw in Foster.....
The things ole Vince took to the grave...
Some like me beleave Chelsea might not be Bill's?
The things ole Vince took to the grave...
Some like me believe Chelsea might not be Bill's?
Thank you for posting the picture for my post.
The flaw in Foster's character (or,perhaps,judgment) was that he was a guy how found the prospect of going to jail shameful yet he still chose to sign on with two brazen crooks.
BTW—the conclusion of the article is a total sham.
Carl B. is trying to rewrite history.
Longtime Freepers know what he has left out.
Vin Gupta, an immigrant from India, has been sued by shareholders in his company, InfoUSA, for wasting millions of dollars on the Clintons in order to ingratiate himself with them. He is even building "The Hillary Rodham Clinton Mass Communication Center" in his native India.
I didn’t read the entire thing, but there was a story about Vince Foster and Hillary leaving a restaurant and he was playing grabass with her on the way out.
But you did pick him Hillary. Of the thousands of people to die in plane crashes I wouldn't have picked Ron Brown either.
I thought for sure that Chelsea was Hubbell’s child until I saw a childhood pic of Hill. Looks just like Chelsea. So while I’m not discounting Hubbell’s fatherhood of Chels, I don’t think that it’s a necessary conclusion based on this picture.
just hearing the name Vince Foster brings back so many fond memories: car keys, Craig Livingstone, Hugh Sprunt, Favish,
playing quake ctf using Vince’s name, (VinceFoster 187)
little or no blood; no bullet, the oven mitt, ahhh good times.
Must have been a long game.
His hands and arms were overflowing with mass.
Excellent point—I know exactly what you mean.
Let us pray she never gets back in the White House.
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