Skip to comments.Hillary Clinton's Unspoken Vulnerability
Posted on 11/06/2007 1:17:49 PM PST by Graybeard58
An unspoken political vulnerability of Sen. Hillary Clinton is that she is the first presidential candidate to have both her and her spouse subject to regular, long-term surveillance by an Executive Branch under the control of an opposing political party.
Since they left the White House in 2001, Bill and Hillary Clinton as the former President and First Lady have been under the protection of the Secret Service, a branch of the Treasury Department. Records are maintained showing where they go and, to an extent, whom they meet.
Ordinarily, those records are kept as closely held secrets, but theoretically at least, President George W. Bush with his expansive view of his powers as unitary executive could gain access to them, either formally or informally.
His father did much the same when his subordinates scoured the passport files of then-Arkansas Gov. Clinton in 1992, looking for a silver bullet that would kill off the Democratic nominees presidential hopes.
President George H.W. Bush later acknowledged to FBI investigators that he was nagging his aides to push for more information about Bill Clintons student travels to the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia and about right-wing rumors that Clinton had sought to renounce his U.S. citizenship.
Hypothetically speaking, President Bush advised that he would not have directed anyone to investigate the possibility that Clinton had renounced his citizenship because he would have relied on others to make this decision, according to an FBI report on its interview with the elder Bush. He [Bush] would have said something like, Lets get it out or Hope the truth gets out. [For details, see Robert Parrys Secrecy & Privilege.]
With such high-level urging, White House chief of staff James Baker instructed his aide, Janet Mullins, to ask Steven Berry, assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, about progress on right-wing press requests for information about Clintons student travel.
Eventually, the White House interest was communicated to State Department official Elizabeth Tamposi, a Bush political appointee who saw it as a green light to move ahead with the legally questionable search.
On the night of Sept. 30, 1992, Tamposi dispatched three aides to the federal records center in Suitland, Maryland, where they searched Clintons passport file as well as his mothers, presumably because they thought it might contain some references to Clinton.
In a later press interview, Tamposi asserted that she ordered the search after Berry had pressured her to dig up dirt on Clinton for the Bush White House.
Though finding no letter renouncing citizenship, the State Department officials still made use of Clintons passport application, which had staple holes and a slight tear in the corner.
The tear was easily explained by the routine practice of stapling a photo or money order to the application, but Tamposi seized on the ripped page to justify a new suspicion, that a Clinton ally at the State Department had removed the renunciation letter.
Tamposi shaped that speculation into a criminal referral which was forwarded to the Justice Department. Thin as the case was, George H.W. Bushs reelection campaign had its official action so the renunciation rumor could be turned into a public issue.
Within hours of the criminal referral, someone from the Bush camp leaked word about the confidential FBI investigation to reporters at Newsweek magazine.
The Newsweek story about the tampering investigation hit the newsstands on Oct. 4, 1992. The article suggested that a Clinton backer might have removed incriminating material from Clintons passport file, precisely the spin that the Bush people wanted.
Immediately, President George H.W. Bush took the offensive, using the press frenzy over the tampering story to attack Clintons patriotism on a variety of fronts, including his student trip to Moscow in 1970. With his patriotism challenged, Clinton saw his once-formidable lead shrink.
Clintons campaign ultimately was saved by quick-thinking Democrats on Capitol Hill who exposed the passport leak as a political dirty trick. That forced the elder Bush into a quasi-apology for the scandal, which became known as Passport-gate.
After Clintons election victory, however, the criminality of the dirty trick was swept under the rug by Republican special prosecutor Joseph DiGenova, who was appointed to investigate by a federal judicial panel run by right-wing appellate judge David Sentelle.
(Showing what a small world political Washington can be, DiGenova is married to Republican lawyer Victoria Toensing, a key figure in the public attacks on former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, CIA officer Valerie Plame, over Wilsons criticism of the WMD intelligence that George W. Bush used to justify invading Iraq.)
While Passport-gate is now a little-remembered chapter of Campaign 1992, it shows how a sitting President can get subordinates to stretch or even break the law to unearth information that can serve a political purpose.
In George W. Bushs case, the temptation will be strong to use whatever means he has at his disposal to ensure that his successor continues his war on terror policies and doesnt authorize serious investigations into controversies such as torture and wiretapping.
The Republicans also have the advantage of a powerful and ideologically committed news media, from popular talk-radio hosts and Internet bloggers to Rev. Sun Myung Moons Washington Times and Rupert Murdochs Fox News.
If Sen. Clinton wins the Democratic nomination and is seen as a threat to Republican control of the Executive Branch, any information, especially some tidbit that suggests sexual improprieties, could spread like wildfire through the media landscape.
Already, new rumors about the Clintons marriage have begun to circulate on the Internet. But a scandal would prove especially devastating if backed by real information, like what might be available in Secret Service records.
One of the reasons that civil libertarians have been especially alarmed about George W. Bushs assertion of virtually unlimited executive authority over such tactics as wiretapping, data-mining and domestic spy satellites is that it has coincided with a Republican goal for near-permanent political control of the U.S. government.
Those dreams were dealt a blow in Election 2006 and appear even more precarious amid Bushs slumping popularity. However, now Republicans are worried about their political eclipse if the Democrats win the White House and manage to expand their majorities in the House and Senate.
Republicans and presumably Bush see that nightmare scenario as both a threat to their vision of national security and a dreaded opening for liberal domestic policies, from universal health care to appointment of judges who wont outlaw abortion.
So, Republicans may find that exploiting their endangered control of the Executive Branch bureaucracy to find a silver bullet that can take down another Clinton candidacy in 2008 is more than a temptation. They might view it as a moral imperative.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat
Sooner ot later it all comes to the surface. And in the case of the Clintons...two of the most crooked, superficial, and morally bankrupt people in politics...it can’t happen soon enough. Hillary, who stands for nothing this country was predicated on, must never be president.
It is my belief that any Republican we run can beat her. I used to exclude Rudy from that statement but now believe that even he would beat her. More and more rats are coming to that conclusion too and she may not even be the nominee.
I predicted a land slide for GWB in 2000. I was a little off on that one.
Hillary’s sexual improprieties? Just the thought is frightening...
“Bill and Hillary Clinton as the former President and First Lady have been under the protection of the Secret Service, a branch of the Treasury Department. Records are maintained showing where they go and, to an extent, whom they meet.”.....We all know where Bill is;...Where the music stinks, and they water the drinks, the nudie bar.
“It is my belief that any Republican we run can beat her. “
If I ran, I’d beat her with a stick, so your statement is very likely true.
LOL...I too shiver at that thought.
She doesn’t patch her Windows servers. D:
...as opposed to just grabbing the FBI files and doing it onesself...
Somehow, I don’t think that GHWB’s method is any worse than Hillary’s.
I shudder to think of Hillary having the power that the president has.
For that reason I am hoping GWB takes this as a big hint to go into her records of who she has been meeting with for the last years. Should be interesting.
FBI files, over 500 hundred of ‘em.
Senator Clinton, did you ever discover who hired Craig Livingstone? I'd think someone would have found the answer to that one by now????
But FReepers have been crowing for YEARS about how wonderful it is that the Presidency has been made Imperial...and how great it is that the powers have been expanded so broadly...
I hope that when Empress Hillary starts wielding these strong powers, people take a moment from their complaining to thank a Bush-bot!
Over 700... that they know about... at least that’s what they “got caught” with.
That will make a great tagline.