By Benjamin Weingarten
Daniel Halper’s new book, “Clinton Inc.,” is already making waves for its many bombshell revelations about the Clintons. But the overarching focus of Halper’s book is not on the salacious or sensational but rather how the Clintons rebuilt their political machine after President Clinton left office largely disgraced.
One aspect of the Clintons’ revival involves the Bush family, in a coup that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich believes is particularly devastating.
“The most single damaging thing the Bush family has done to politics was to resuscitate Bill and Hillary Clinton and give them a bipartisan veneer,” says Newt Gingrich in our interview. Given the fact that Bush was as radioactive to the left as the Clintons were to the right, the very public demonstration of bipartisanship between the country’s two most famous political families would only help them. “For their own reasons, the Bush people thought having Clinton with his father [George H.W. Bush] would be clever,” the former Speaker noted. “They’re right. The consequence may be a Hillary Clinton presidency.”
Halper argues in “Clinton, Inc.” that one key to the Clintons’ rise back to power has been their ability to create new allies among, or at least neutralize enemies within the Republican ranks, as reflected in Bill Clintons’ efforts to ingratiate himself by cozying up to the more statesmanlike George H.W. Bush.
Some members of the Bush clan themselves were skeptical of Clinton’s efforts, though not enough to prevent Clinton from becoming chummy with George H.W. Bush through their humanitarian efforts and George W. Bush as a sympathetic ear when it came to his complaints about the media for example. Halper writes:
Barbara Bush’s skepticism extends to her brainy son, Jeb, the one she hoped would have been elected to the presidency.
…Suggesting a self-interested motivation to [Bill] Clinton’s outreach, the former Florida governor said, “President Clinton’s advisors have figured out that, in terms of character and integrity, a rising tide lifts all boats. So I could see President Clinton’s motivation.”
In an email to family members that was leaked to the public in 2013, Jeb wrote that his father “helped restore [Clinton's] sordid reputation” and “probably helped Bill Clinton [more] than anything [Clinton] himself has done.” It’s not clear whether Jeb thought that was a good thing.
While Bill Clinton worked on the Bush family, and made friends with earlier foes such as former Texas Senator Phil Gramm and former Mississippi Senator and Senate Majority leader Trent Lott, Halper chronicles a major charm offensive by Senator Hillary Clinton to co-opt Republicans during her time in the U.S. Senate. Many of the recipients of Hillary’s magnanimity were the most ardent opponents of her husband — including those who led the push to impeach him.
Halper speaks with many of the major players in the impeachment proceedings, from former Texas senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, to current Kanas governor and former senator Sam Brownback, to former Arkansas congressman Asa Hutchinson, to former Indiana congressman Dan Burton and on and on to moderate GOP senate colleagues such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham. These figures universally describe Hillary Clinton positively.
Halper writes that “On or off the record, no matter how much they were coaxed, not one of them would say a negative thing about Hillary Clinton as a person–other than observing that her Democratic allies sometimes didn’t like her.”
The author speculates that the Republicans’ “love affair with Hillary–at least in their private conversations–probably says more about their susceptibility to flattery and praise than it does about her personality.”
But, according to Halper:
It also demonstrates the difficulty her likely 2016 Republican challengers will face in trying to build a coalition against her. Hillary Clinton has built a virtual dossier of praise and support from Republican colleagues who might publicly denounce her for political purposes but in private seem to downright like her.
Halper believes that the Clintons’ effort to in effect keep their friends close while turning enemies into friends has been a masterful and hugely overlooked part of the rebuilding of their machine:
What has been little understood in the past decade, from 2001 to the present, is how successfully the Clintons undertook a systematic, comprehensive, and sustained effort to win over leaders in the GOP, especially figures who were once the biggest critics. In return, both Clintons were able to develop a bipartisan, statesmanlike image that had eluded them through eight years in the White House.
Last Thursday New Jersey Governor Chris Christie backers, and there are still a few out there, were given a rare opportunity to celebrate when the Republican Governor’s Association, of which Christie serves as Chairman announced its largest-ever 2nd quarter fundraising totals, raising $26.6m. Christie has proved himself a far more competent party fundraiser than manager of his State, allowing some in the Republican Party to hail his comeback from the George Washington Bridge scandal. Those who are doing so seem to be avoiding the even darker cloud on the horizon for Christie, one which more even than the GWB scandal undercuts Christie’s claims to good governance and fiscal responsibility. This scandal too involves a bridge – the Pulaski Skyway.
For those who haven’t heard of the Skyway before (and really, if you’re not from the Tri-State Area, why would you have?) it is an elevated bridge connecting the northern New Jersey cities of Newark (of Corey Booker fame) and Jersey City. By late 2010, almost a year after Christie had been elected to office as Governor, Christie realized that he had a problem. Having beaten incumbent Governor John Corzine as much because his unwavering opposition to raising the gas tax, as because of Corzine’s immense unpopularity, and Christie’s reputation as a tough-on-corruption US Attorney Christie was faced by the prospect of having to renege on his campaign promise. Among the most prominent reasons for Christie’s dilemma was the crumbling state of the Pulaski Skyway.
However, Team Christie struck on a solution; he and his team decided to cancel a multi-billion rail project between New Jersey and Manhattan, jointly financed by the State and the Port Authority, with loan guarantees and funds provided by the federal government, Christie may have canceled the billion dollar project in revenge against former Senator William Gormley who Christie let walk in a corruption probe. Gormley then worked furtively for Corzine. Gormley, it seems had a law firm making big bucks on the tunnel. Then Christie sought to convince the Board of the Port to finance the Skyway refurbishment with the money they had raised for the purpose of financing the rail project. The Port, in short, would prove to be Christie’s “break in case of emergency” piggy bank.
Of course, there was a problem. The Port is legally barred from financing renovations outside their purview – that being the cross-state bridges and tunnels, the PATH subway, and the region’s airports. In fact, records uncovered by the office of the crusading District Attorney for Manhattan Cyrus Vance, Jr. appear to show Port Authority attorneys informing Christie that they did not believe the provision of Port funds to repair the Skyway to be legally permissible. Christie pressed on regardless, announcing his intention to use Port money to pay for repairs to the Skyway in early 2011, having conveniently avoided informing many Port administrators in advance.
Christie having put executives at the Port in an unwinnable situation bullied the Authority into acquiescing to his demands. On March 29, 2011 the Port unanimously authorized the project calling it, “access infrastructure enhancement” on the theory that the road and others like it “approach and feed into the Lincoln Tunnel”, which, though the Governor seemed not to care, the Pulaski Skyway most definitely does not. The Lincoln Tunnel and the Pulaski Skyway are eight miles apart. However, in the absence of any investigation, the misappropriation of Port funds served only as an irritant to Christie opponents, particularly the Democratic Congressmen and Senators who had fought to pass the federal funding in the days leading up to the 2010 Republican wave.
Unfortunately for Christie someone is looking. The Manhattan DA’s Public Corruption Unit, in conjunction with two SEC bond lawyers seem to be of the opinion that Christie’s actions were highly suspect, and very possibly criminal. That is the Christie legacy for New Jersey, cronyism, creative accounting practices, and self-serving corruption. When it comes down to it, maybe he is perfect for Washington.
I have just seen a poll that shows Senator Cory Booker at 43% with his opponent Jeffrey Bell only 13 points behind. This is not considered safe for an incumbent.
Cory Booker is a charming and dazzling pol who is most famous for...well, being famous. He is the perfect Senator for the Facebook Age. He has vowed to take and post a selfie with every single senator. Presumably he prefers this to the hard work of legislating. As mayor of Newark he got huge "fees" from a law-firm doing business with the City. He claims this ended in 2012. His subsequent filings won't reflect that but they are ...uh...delayed. But Cory champions on for People magazine and the twitter crowd. Call him Senator Kardashian.
Jeffrey Bell is a pioneer of the Reagan Revolution who has worked as a proponent of growth oriented monetary and tax policy. Bell knocked off Senator Clifford Case in a 1978 Republican primary in a stunning upset that was a historical milestone for the American Conservative movement. Bell , a Catholic convert , is above all a man of ideas. Senator Booker seems to be particularly bereft of these.
New Jersey is a blue state and Booker is an incumbent who hasn't been Senator long enough to be blamed for the current mess. At the same time watch this race. It could get interesting. Surely the Senator will debate often with his opponent Jeffrey Bell.
Last November, my book "The Man Who Killed Kennedy- The Case Against LBJ," ripped the facade off our most corrupt and amoral President, Lyndon Johnson. September 11th, my book comes out in a paperback edition with two incredible new chapters.
Here is an excerpt:
"Documented examples of Johnson's brutality have largely been suppressed by the mainstream media. For example, Ted Van Dyk, aide to then Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey recalled LBJ’s savagery in 1968.
“In the middle of the night I was shaken awake by David Gartner, a personal aide to the vice president. And Dave said, "Humphrey says get up, Robert Kennedy's been shot." And I said, "David, that's a sick joke." He said, "No, no, Robert Kennedy has been shot."
So I got up and Vice President Humphrey was absolutely distraught; he was just absolutely beside himself with anxiety and concern. And we then received a phone call from Steve Smith (JFK brother-in-law) and Pierre Salinger (JFK Press Secretary) in California. They said, "There's a brain surgeon we trust in Boston. Could you arrange for a private plane to fly him to Los Angeles? Because Robert Kennedy's still alive and there's a possibility of saving him."
Humphrey called up the commanding general of the air force, who happened to be there at the academy. And Humphrey said, "Will you please dispatch this plane?" The general said, "I surely will."
Ten minutes later we received a call from an aide in the White House: President Johnson had canceled the plane because Humphrey had no authority to send it. Johnson called and chewed Humphrey's ass. The fact was, Johnson preferred Robert Kennedy dead. It was one of the most heinous acts I've ever experienced in my life, and it all but broke Humphrey's heart.”
Incredibly, While Robert Kennedy was still in surgery and doctors struggled to save his life, Johnson called the hospital to bark "Is he dead yet, is he dead yet?" This is reminiscent of Johnson calling Parkland Hospital while Oswald was on the operating table and ordering the Secret Service to obtain a confession.
Order now in Paperback - The new UPDATED edition of The Man Who Killed Kennedy the Case Against LBJ- with two new blockbuster chapters
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