The Hill List: Clintons Ranked Democratic Friends and Foes



As one of the most influential Democrats, how do you keep track of friends and foes? If you’re the Clintons, you arrange them in a Dante’s Inferno-worthy spreadsheet, with ratings from one to seven. Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes describe how the system worked in their upcoming book, HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton. After Hillary Clinton’s presidential hopes were extinguished in 2008, an Excel spreadsheet was crafted, detailing the actions of every Democratic member of Congress, and where their allegiances laid during the primary.

People with a “one” next to their name were in the good graces of the Clinton team, while those with a seven had acted in a manner that drew ire and distrust. According to the book, ”a 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.”

The Hill published an excerpt of the book, which explains the impetus for the list. “We wanted to have a record of who endorsed us and who didn’t,” said a member of Hillary’s campaign team, “and of those who endorsed us, who went the extra mile and who was just kind of there. And of those who didn’t endorse us, those who understandably didn’t endorse us because they are [Congressional Black Caucus] members or Illinois members. And then, of course, those who endorsed him but really should have been with her — that burned her.”’

The list was the work of Clinton aides Kris Balderston and Adrienne Elrod. Allen and Parnes describe the duo as “walking favor files,” who “remembered nearly every bit of assistance the Clintons had given and every slight made against them.” Slights that are apparently deeply ingrained in the minds of the closest Clinton allies who “can still rattle off the names of traitors and the favors that had been done for them, then provide details of just how each of the guilty had gone on to betray the Clintons — as if it all had happened just a few hours before.”

So who vexed the Clintons in 2008 to the point where they earned seats in the seventh circle of a meticulously detailed Clinton inferno? Former Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) was one. “He had slashed Hillary worst of all, delivering a pivotal endorsement speech for Obama just before the Super Tuesday primaries that cast her as yesterday’s news and Obama as the rightful heir to Camelot. He did it in conjunction with a New York Times op-ed by Caroline Kennedy that said much the same thing in less thundering tones. Bill Clinton had pleaded with Kennedy to hold off, but to no avail.”

Then, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) found his seat in the seventh circle as well, along with Senators: Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Representatives: Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Baron Hill (D-Ind.), and Rob Andrews (D-N.J.). But it was Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) who had the largest lapse of judgement, earning the worst accolade from the Clintons. The book states that both Clintons vociferously campaigned for McCaskill in 2006, who in the same year made a misstep on “Meet the Press” when she was asked about President Bill Clinton’s legacy. “He’s been a great leader,” McCaskill said of Bill, “but I don’t want my daughter near him.”’

McCaskill reportedly tearfully apologized to Bill Clinton, who accepted the penitence. Then, in 2007, Hillary Clinton began lobbying for an endorsement from McCaskill, who was also under pressure from women’s interest groups to throw her support behind the Clinton campaign. Instead, the Missourian decided to back then-candidate Obama. “Hate is too weak a word to describe the feelings that Hillary’s core loyalists still have for McCaskill, who seemed to deliver a fresh endorsement of Obama — and a caustic jab at Hillary — every day during the primary.”

The book continues on, delivering juicy tidbits about people who wronged the Clintons, but Allen and Parnes are careful to state this isn’t a Nixonian enemy list. “It would be political malpractice for the Clintons not to keep track of their friends and enemies. Politicians do that everywhere,” they write. “The difference is the Clintons, because of their popularity and the positions they’ve held, retain more power to reward and punish than anyone else in modern politics.”

“I don’t want to make her sound like Nixon in a pantsuit,” one source told the authors. A list became a necessity for the Clintons to track all of the politicians they interact with. A former Clinton advisor also contacted The Hill to say the list is not as salacious as it sounds in the forthcoming book. Calling it a memo, without really specifying what it does, or does not entail, the sources says “the notion that it is updated, circulated, disseminated, and relied upon is absurd.”

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