A Passover/Easter gift for you –the audio and transcript of my long interview with Jonathan Allen, co-author with Amie Parnes of “HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton”:
HH: You’re not going to want to miss a minute of this, because I’m talking about Hillary Rodham Clinton. Specifically, I’m talking about a brand new New York Times bestseller about her titled HRC: State Secrets And The Rebirth of Hillary Clinton by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes. And I want to begin by saying it’s an absolute must-read for the center-right, especially for conservatives who are interested in 2016. It is the best portrait of Hillary available that is not comprehensive, because it begins in 2008 through the present day. But it is detailed, it is insightful, and I am pleased to welcome the co-author, Jonathan Allen, who is the Bloomberg White House correspondent. Jon, welcome, it’s great to have you.
JA: Thank you for having me on the show, Hugh. I apologize for the state of my voice. I’ve been talking a lot lately.
HH: Well, that’s okay. Now if you can make it as long as I can go, that’s great. I’ve had to play hurt before, and it sounds a lot worse than it feels, right?
JA: That’s right. It could not possibly feel as bad as it sounds, right?
HH: I want to begin at the end of the book, because you tracked down Jason Chaffetz, who’s the rising star of the House Oversight Governmental Affairs Committee, and I think he got it exactly right. Prior to the attack, he said Libya could have been Hillary’s swan song. It could have been her major achievement. But the whole deck of cards fell out from underneath her. Is that the widely shared view on the right?
JA: I don’t know that it’s the widely shared view on the right. I think one of the reasons that we spent so much time talking to Congressman Chaffetz is he seemed to have a handle on the big overall question which is what was driving all of this, and what was motivating Secretary Clinton. And you know, I don’t know, people can make a judgment about what they think was motivating her based on all the evidence, but you know, Congressman Chaffetz took a shot at that, and had a theory about. And I think it’s actually a more important question than whether or not there was extra security in Tripoli. You know, we talk about rejections of requests for security, but very seldom does anybody point out that those requests were for Tripoli, not for Benghazi, and that it may not have made a difference on the ground that night. But the bigger impact in question, of course, is why did we go in, in the first place? Were we ignoring dangers on the ground? Were we trying to do too much there? And I think Congressman Chaffetz is really focused on those larger questions, and they apply, I think very importantly, to Secretary Clinton’s perspective on the world and the United States role in the world.
HH: We have a lot of ground to cover about Hillary, and I’m starting with Benghazi only because I want to assure my conservative audience that you are thorough, fair and detailed, and that you do not spare the criticism or the insight into it so that they’ll not believe that it’s a Beltway book for Beltway insiders, but in fact, it does dig in to the good, the bad and the ugly of HRC’s four years at State. So I want to start with Benghazi, but we’ll move on from there fairly quickly. Chapter 15, Pages 283-309, is all about Benghazi. Earlier, you quote Hillary as saying we came, we saw, he died, referring to Qaddafi on Page 252. But the attack begins on Page 283, and I’ll summarize so that we can save your voice for your response. Stephen Mull goes into Hillary’s office to inform her of the attack at 4:05pm D.C. You go on to write when she heard Benghazi had come under attack, Hillary gathered several of her staff in her office on the 7th floor to get a full briefing on what was happening in Libya and give orders – Mills, Sullivan, Burns, Boswell and an aide from their Near Eastern Affairs Bureau, were among the group assembled. By the way, Jon, was Philippe Reines there?
JA: You know, I’m not entirely sure. We listed the people we knew were there, and in fact, it’s interesting. We said one of the aides from the Near East Bureau, because were two women who worked in that bureau, and we talked to people who were aware of that meeting, and there were disagreements about which of the two women were in the room.
HH: Interesting, interesting. Very careful. Was Huma Abedin there?
JA: I don’t know for sure.
HH: Do you suspect that she was?
JA: You know what? I couldn’t say.
HH: All right.
JA: We really put all the people that we knew who were there into the book.
HH: You go on to give the narrative. Around the same time, one of Pat Kennedy’s subordinates told Hillary Clinton that Smith had been killed. That’s one of the people at the embassy who was with Ambassador Stevens, and that Stevens was missing. Hillary called Tom Donilon, the NSC advisor. We have an issue here, we need you to be on it. She called David Petraeus, and then you say by 5:30 D.C., an hour and a half into the attack, deputies meetings began, a rolling teleconference run from the Situation Room – Brennan, Biden staffer Blinken, Ben Rhodes, Tommy Vietor. “Mills represented Hillary from the 7th floor of the State Department, but at one point, Hillary walked into the Operations Center to participate in the meeting.” Now here’s where it gets interesting to me, Jon. You write on Page 295, “People got fairly frantic, particularly when they couldn’t find Chris.” And between 4pm and 8pm, we really don’t know what Hillary is doing, do we?
JA: Between 4pm and 8pm? I mean, I don’t have a minute by minute timeline of what she’s doing. What I do have is pieces of that timeline. I know there were conversations with foreign officials. I know that she was on these teleconferences with American officials. I know she called Petraeus. I know she called Donilon. But it’s true, like, it’s not like there’s a transcript of every minute that is available. I do know the State Department put together a timeline for people who had to testify on this, and nobody was willing to make it available to me or my co-author. So there is a timeline that exists. I don’t know how much more detailed it is than what we got into the book. But I presume that there’s probably more detail into her account.
HH: This is the most detailed timeline of the most important night of her secretary of State tenure. And you did the best job of reporting it. That’s why I like HRC, including the fact she called Gregory Hicks at 8pm in D.C., and she never called back. Does that strike you as odd, Jon Allen, that she never called Hicks back that night?
JA: I think there was a lot going on. It doesn’t necessarily strike me as odd, but again, without knowing what she was doing minute by minute, you’re having to figure out what are the priorities. And if somebody else is in contact with him, is able to handle that end of the discussion and she’s needed for something else, then it might make sense. If she’s kicking back and drinking lemonade by the poolside and not calling him back, I think it does sound odd. And without that full timeline, it’s hard to know. I do know that of the public, of the major public officials involved in that incident, we know more about her timeline than anybody else’s.
HH: We certainly know more about hers than the President’s. But I have always asked the question out loud to people both involved with the investigation and not, your number two is in the middle of Tripoli. They’ve got the axes out. It’s like a scene from Argo. They’re smashing up the computers in Tripoli. Benghazi’s under attack, Stevens is missing, you talk to Hicks at 8pm, he gets the okay to retreat to their CIA annex. A few hours later, SEALs are dead, another attack is underway, and you never call back your number two on the ground. It just seems like a massive leadership default.
JA: It’s a good question, Hugh. I mean, you’re right. You’re right that as Chris Stevens is missing, the head person in charge there, and de facto, because Chris Stevens is in Benghazi, but if he wasn’t missing, you know, Greg Hicks is the one that’s in charge. And I think it’s reasonable to ask that question and it’s not one that I have an answer to. If she runs for president, I think it’s one she’ll get.
HH: Again and again. I’ll tell people who are listening right now, and I’ve got HRC linked over at Hughhewitt.com. We’ll move on from Benghazi fairly quickly. But this does not spare Hillary. She goes home at 1am. She checks in with Cheryl Mills, her chief of staff, at 2:30am, and it is not a flattering portrait. You bluntly state the attack at the annex begins, officials were shocked by the second round attack, you quote. Administration officials didn’t anticipate the second strike. People got fairly frantic. You know, at one point, I wrote in my notes, I wonder if they sent Hillary home. Do you think she stressed out, and they just said go home?
JA: I don’t. I think at that point, they, and remember, this is now, by the time she goes home at 1:00 in the morning, we’re talking about, forgive me, after putting together that timeline, it’s escaping me right now. But I think it’s about 7:00 in the morning, 7:30 in the morning in Benghazi. They know that Chris Stevens is dead by that point. I mean, they’re waiting for the official confirmation, but at that point, they know that he’s dead. They know about the second attack at that point. And so my guess is that they were pretty confident, there were no other American outposts to attack. The group that had been at the CIA annex was on its way to the airport or had arrived at the airport by the time she left. So I don’t think it’s a matter of them shooing her out of the building so much as her role in being able to affect anything at that point was probably somewhat minimal. I will say this, though. I think it’s shocking, as you do, that nobody in the American government anticipated that there might be an attack on the CIA annex a mile or so from the diplomatic compound. It never occurred to them that this could be more than a one-off. I mean, I think it’s a startling admission that they were caught flat-footed. And obviously, we know that, obviously.
HH: And you do not spare that. And I want my listeners to realize that’s why HRC is like crack cocaine for political junkies, but this is also very, very good reporting.
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Ron Johnson: We’ve ascertained that that was not the fact, and the American people could have known that within days, and they didn’t know that.
HRC: And with all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans.
RJ: I understand.
HRC: Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night or decided to go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?
HH: Welcome back, America, it’s Hugh Hewitt. That, of course, Hillary Clinton sparring with Senator Ron Johnson, an exchange which is deeply detailed and backgrounded in the brand new book, HRC: State Secrets And The Rebirth Of Hillary Clinton, co-authored by Jonathan Allen, Bloomberg’s White House correspondent, Amie Parnes of The Hill. It is a New York Times bestseller, and with good reason. It is absolutely riveting on the entire tenure of Hillary at State, not just Benghazi. But I do want to finish up that conversation about Benghazi. Your book opens, and no one noticed this, Jon Allen. I did. With Hillary watching videotape with senior staff, including the very controversial figure of Pat Kennedy, in early April, 2010, this was 30 months before the Benghazi incident, and the video she’s watching is about embassy security in Peshawar, Pakistan, where the compound was almost overrun. And so at the very beginning and the end of the book, you open with her duty as the steward of the professional FSOs, and being aware of the problem, and then not having acted in a way to prevent the murder of four Americans.
JA: Yeah, I was shocked that people didn’t make more of a big deal out of that when the book came out. And maybe it’s because it’s in the introduction, and people sometimes skip the introductions to books. But yes, she’s, in 2010, an attack at the Peshawar compound in Pakistan sort of, like Benghazi, one of these outposts sort of in the middle of nowhere with a lot of terrorist activity around, it comes under attack. The attack was thwarted by some of the defenses of the compound which were better than what we had in Benghazi, and she wants all of her aides to watch this, to see what happened, to know that the diplomats were in these places, are in peril, to know that safety measures can thwart attacks, but to be aware of the general situation, because in Washington, I think it can be easy to forget that a lot of the diplomats, a lot of the people in the Foreign Service are, you know, under threat. They’re in places that don’t like us, and necessarily sometimes in places that don’t like us. And I was a little befuddled that that wasn’t one of the big headlines coming out of the book.
HH: Jon Allen, I actually don’t think conservatives have read your book, yet. And I’m trying to urge them to do so, because I think it is so fascinating and detail-filled. And they may not have read it, because the New York Times reviewed it favorably. They said it’s a largely favorable portrait of Hillary. I just think it’s a largely objective portrait of Hillary. And you, like me, have been a partisan in the past, and so maybe conservatives don’t think you’re bringing the dish. But I mean, the dish is here, starting with the story that did get a lot of play, the enemies list. And I love this line. “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.” It includes Rockefeller, Casey, Pat Leahy, I love seeing him on that list, Chris Van Hollen, Baron Hill, Rob Andrews. There’s even a sub-basement in hell, and that’s for Claire McCaskill.
JA: Yeah, she’s never getting out of there.
JA: She’s like the walking dead to the Clintons. Put her in the basement and don’t ever let her out.
HH: There is a quote. “Hate is too weak a word to describe the feelings that Hillary’s core loyalists still have for McCaskill.” But I must say, the arc of the story of Jason Altmire, which begins on Page 16 and ends on Page 274, that was a creative decision that you and Amie Parnes made. You use him as a sort of a totem of what happens when you cross Team Hillary.
JA: Yeah, we loved the idea of drawing that out and sort of, because one of the big themes of this book is the way in which Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton interact, and how their operations support each other and are integrated with each other. And there are other places where you see that, for instance, some of the things she was doing at the State Department to raise money for things across the world. She would dip into the Bill Clinton fundraising network. But with Jason Altmire in particular, he was somebody who was elected to Congress in part because he campaigned on having been on Secretary Clinton’s Health Care Task Force in the 90s. And then he didn’t endorse her in the 2008 primary, and the Clintons really worked him hard, and so did Obama. And he remained neutral, remained neutral, and then right at the end, she wins his district by like 31 points. And they sit down together, and she’s been told by her aides that he’s going to endorse her. And he refuses to endorse her, and after a few minutes, she gets up and says thanks for coming, and then she lets her aides have it with some language I can’t repeat on this family show. But some adults who are listening might be willing to read that in the book.
HH: She drops the F bomb. And that, by the way, is itself a story. Hillary seems fairly comfortable with the use of that term.
JA: Yeah, I think she uses it a lot.
HH: And see, that’s going to, you know, when Nixon’s tapes came out and all the expletive deleteds were deleted, they should have left them in, because they weren’t the F bombs people thought they were. But this revenge epic on Jason Altmire ends up with Bill Clinton putting a stake through his heart in a special election in 2010, where he lost to Mark Critz by 1,489 votes out of 63,000 cast. And Bill went and campaigned for Critz as payback, and Critz won 91% of the votes cast in the county that Bill Clinton went to. I mean, they killed, they buried Jason Altmire.
JA: Altmire was going to win this primary. He had it in the bad. And then Bill Clinton comes in for his opponent. All of a sudden, the votes shift, and boom, Jason Altmire’s in the private sector in Florida instead of serving in Congress from Western Pennsylvania. He’s not the only one. There are several of those stories we tell in the book. But Altmire was sort of one of our favorites, because it was so fresh in the minds of the Clinton people when we talked to them. They would just, I mean, they still would spit if they saw him.
HH: And let me just pay you a compliment. It’s so well told, because Altmire disappears for 20 or 30 pages at a time. Then he pops up. And he’s like the extra guy on a Star Trek episode. You know he’s not going to make it out alive.
JA: He’s wearing the red shirt.
HH: He’s wearing the red shirt through the whole thing. Don’t go anywhere, America. I am talking with Jonathan Allen for as long as his much-stretched voice will hold out. HRC is his brand new book, authored along with Amie Parnes. HRC is, of course, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The subtitle of the book is State Secrets And The Rebirth Of Hillary Clinton. When we come back, we’ll continue to talk about her legacy and what she did. Let’s go out with a little Nicholas Kristof on what he thought of her accomplishments, cut number 6:
NK: You know, the…the gains were in many ways fairly modest. You had, you know, the success at Burma, which as you say, sort of pales next to some of the difficulties. On the other hand, we did de-escalate, we did move down from a mess in Iraq. And for now, it’s a somewhat better mess than it was. That may also be true of Afghanistan. And the crisis in the Middle East was, I don’t know that it was handled brilliantly, but it was a mess for anybody who would have been dealing with it. Likewise China, North Korea, I don’t think that those are shining successes.
HH: Look in the dictionary under faint praise and you’ll see Nicholas Kristof on Hillary. More with Jonathan Allen when we come back on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
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HH: Jon, I have made a habit over the last few months of asking a variety of people, and I’ll play some of these clips for you today, what they thought of Hillary’s tenure. I went out the last segment with Nicholas Kristof damning with faint praise. Here’s Jonathan Alter of Bloomberg, one of your colleagues there, a regular guest on this show, and a pretty good historian himself, cut number 7:
JA: It’s a really good question. You know, I traveled around the world with her when she was secretary of State for an article that I wrote about her for Vanity Fair. And I gave her, you know, decent marks for essentially for being a goodwill ambassador. You know, she was met very enthusiastically every place she went. She did these town meetings that were very effective in building goodwill for the United States in many countries around the world. That’s an important part of the secretary of State’s job. It is not, however, fair to call her an historic secretary of State. Now part of that is not her fault. You know, the stars were not aligned properly for her to make peace. The truth is that you have to go back to Richard Holbrooke, who wasn’t even secretary in the Clinton Administration to find an American diplomat who was actually, really brokered peace in a real way, which he did in the Balkans. So I have a feeling that when we look back on it, if John Kerry catches a break and his persistence pays off in one of these areas, that we will see him as being a more historic secretary of State than Hillary Clinton.
HH: And Jonathan Allen, one more for you to comment on, Mark Leibovich of the New York Times, a shorter one, cut number 8:
ML: Geez, look, I think, I don’t cover the State Department. Look, you have that look on your face like you expect me to duck this question.
HH: No, I expect you not to be able to say anything, because she didn’t do anything.
ML: I actually didn’t, I don’t, here’s the deal. I have not written any stories on Hillary Clinton since 2008. About, what’s like the graceful way to duck a question?
HH: Not even ducking, just this is, we’re playing Jeopardy!
ML: Yeah, I honestly don’t know.
HH: Nobody can come up with anything, Mark.
ML: Yeah, let’s see, what did she do? Yeah, I mean, she traveled a lot. That’s the thing. They’re always like, well, she logged eight zillion miles. It’s like, since when did that become like, you know, like diplomacy by odometer?
HH: Jonathan Allen, this is where your book is a great assist, they think, because you chronicle what she did. But boy, the conventional wisdom, Kristof, Alter, Leibovich, it’s pretty settled that it was an undistinguished four years.
JA: Yeah, she’s no Thomas Jefferson or James Monroe when you look back historically. So you know, I agree with you. We put together what she did do. I think there are things you do as a diplomat that are important that are not a marquis peace deal creating a harmonious Middle East. Obviously, everybody goes in wanting that. I think averting problems is a big part of the secretary of State’s job. I think advising the President is a big part of the job. I think being a goodwill ambassador for the United States is part of the job. All those things are part of the job. But let’s not forget making big strides on big issues are also an important part of the job. And you know, for that, there is no big deal. There’s no Clinton doctrine, not that secretaries of State really have doctrines. They’re usually the president’s. But there’s no doctrine, there’s no big deal to create peace, to extend peace. A lot of what she did was to, I think, you know, particularly in war-torn areas, was to keep partnerships going, to try to keep the Pakistanis on board so that our intelligence community could work in Pakistan. But again, yeah, it’s fair to criticize her or fair to look at her record and say there’s no big agreement there.
HH: 956,733 miles traveled, 112, countries visited. You’re very careful to include the specifics of that. But you know, cruise directors go farther than that. Is that going to actually become a negative? We’ve got about a minute to the break Jon, for her to bring up the odometer diplomacy? Or is it going to remain a positive?
JA: I think it’s a mistake to bring up the odometer diplomacy. It just invites the contrast of what she accomplished to how many miles she logged, and nobody really thinks that’s the measure of what a good secretary of State is. You know, we make the point in the book that her aides are very quick to point that out. They were very quick to keep a record of it and put it on the front page of the website. But you know, when you examine her record in deeper detail, it definitely invites comparison of what she actually go done to how many miles she went, and that’s not good for her.
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HH: Jonathan, voice-challenged though he is, he sounds like those days when I would come in and put lemons on my desk and take steroid packs. And I sent him a note this morning when he was struggling to get ready for the interview. I said you know, Carville played hurt on a Dallas debate that I moderated with Mary Matalin the day after the Denver debate between Obama and Romney, and I complimented him on it. He said if you can’t play hurt, don’t get in the game in his typical Louisiana drawl. And then I noticed, Jon Allen, that Carville’s not in this book. And I’m kind of amazed by that. The old team is sort of gone from Hillary’s new team.
JA: Yeah, it’s really interesting. Carville and Begala win two elections for President Clinton, and they are not part of the inner circle of Hillary Clinton. That said, their voices are still influential. They still can get Bill Clinton on the phone when they want to. If they had some advice for her, I’m sure they could get it to her. But it’s not like they brought those guys back. And you know, I think both of them are pretty good political strategists. And the people that she had running her 2008 campaign were not particularly good political strategists as it turned out. So there may have been a mistake there.
HH: Here is Dana Milbank of the Washington Post talking with me about what Hillary got done, and I think he is just absolutely pin perfect on his assessment, cut number 11:
DM: Well, she, I suppose what she accomplished for her reputation was she increased her standing to the point of invincibility.
HH: But what did she actually do, Dana Milbank?
DM: Well, I don’t know. What did Lawrence Eagleburger do? You know, I don’t believe we had any major peace treaties under her. We had some brief military actions, but basically cleaning up the ones that were in play. So I don’t…
HH: You’re a columnist. I’m just asking. Do you think she accomplished anything? Or was she basically a non-entity at State?
DM: I think she was successful in the sense of projecting a strong American image abroad, and of restoring American standing and reputation in the world. But these are nebulous…
HH: Dana, how do you get there? How do you measure that? How do you, I mean, under that talking point, what are the data points?
DM: Well, right. What I was saying before you said that is these are, that’s sort of a nebulous notion of American standing. You know, and so whether we are more popular in European and foreign capitals, I’m not sure whether that particularly matters. But you know, I mean, I certainly didn’t come on this call to be a defender of Hillary Clinton.
HH: And he wasn’t, Jon Allen.
HH: But he’s right. She made herself inevitable. And in your book, you write on Page 23 about Team Clinton, “No holes were barred in Democratic primaries. It’s better to be with us than against us. They’re practical as well as punitive. ‘And the Mossad-style get you when you least expect it payback politics’ would have a chilling effect on politicians who thought about crossing her in the future.” She did use these four years to clear the field, didn’t she?
JA: She did use these four years to clear the field. But I mean, I think there are a couple ways to look at it, and one of the things that I think is an important moment, if somewhat undervalued in that, is just accepting the job as secretary of State. Here she got beat by this upstart, took the job she thought was hers rightfully. She gets offered it. She’s wavering on it, and she takes it. I mean, at least within Democratic Party circles, that showed her to be something that I think they didn’t expect necessarily from the Clintons, which was, and not that they shouldn’t have, but her showing loyalty to the party above herself, and her showing loyalty to the country, the way the Democrats look at it, saying Obama’s going to be the president. He needs his best team. He thinks you’re part of the best team. You ought to jump in. I think if you look at those things from her perspective and from the perspective of Democrats, that moment was huge for her in terms of proving herself to the Democratic base.
HH: So was, as you detail, both her concession speech at the National Building Museum when she lost to Obama, and then her convention speech. A couple of quick clips from that, cut number 2, Hillary at the ’08 convention.
HRC: It is time to take back the country we love. And whether you voted for me or you voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose.
HH: Cut number 3:
HRC: I haven’t spent the past 35 years in the trenches advocating for children, campaigning for universal health care, helping parents balance work and family, and fighting for women’s rights here at home and around the world to see another Republican in the White House squander our promise of a country that really fulfills the hopes of our people.
HH: And then one last one, cut number 4:
HRC: No way, no how, no McCain.
HH: Now Jon Allen, you tell the story of this speech, including Bill Clinton’s last minute edits. Lissa Muscatine, Maggie Williams, Cheryl Mills, Melanne Verveer all scrambling, and then Jim Margolis, the ad man for the Obama folks, saying never a dull moment with the Clintons. That speech came together. That really marked both submission in order to triumph later.
JA: That’s exactly right. Her best move was to really make an endorsement of Barack Obama. She had to do it a few times during that summer. The convention was the one that most people would be paying attention to. There was some back and forth in her inner circle, including a fight with Bill Clinton over the edits, a very dramatic moment in the Brown Palace Hotel there in Denver where all of her aides were gathered. She was heading toward being done with the speech. She’d gone out for a little while. She comes back into the room, and she starts working with the teleprompter, and she looks down at this speech, and she says what is this?
HH: It’s amazing.
JA: Really, what happened to my speech? And they gently tell her, well, Mrs. Clinton, the President, he delivered his edits.
HH: And she put it all back.
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HH: We’ll get to more of what she got done at State and didn’t, and the Russian crisis in Hour Two of our conversation. But Jon, I want to talk just briefly about the people who aren’t there. Now did you watch The Sopranos?
JA: I did.
HH: You know, Big Pussy was a big character in the first couple of seasons, then he’s gone, right?
JA: I don’t want to, I don’t want to know where this is going.
HH: Well, I’m just saying, people like Mark Penn, Patti Solis Doyle, Howard Wolfson, they’re like Big Pussy in The Sopranos. They’re gone. They’re put over the side.
JA: Yeah, they didn’t do a very, well, let’s put it this way. They were unsuccessful in a campaign. And that usually means you didn’t do a good job, or at least you get blamed for not doing a good job. Hillary’s, some of her aides came to her after the campaign and tried to outline what had gone wrong. She had a bunch of one-on-one meetings in her Senate office and at home, and they told her what they thought she had done wrong, and what others had done wrong. And some of those big name people were considered to be toxic. Mark Penn was certainly considered that way. Patti Solis Doyle was considered to be less than able, less than up to the job, in over her head, if you will, and also, if you will, a bit arrogant. So some of these folks, you know, they’re not going to, they weren’t around for her time at State. They’re not going to be back around if she runs for president.
HH: And you know what’s fascinating about that…
JA: And by the way, some of it’s by choice. Howard Wolfson, for instance, her communications director, became a deputy mayor of New York under Bloomberg, who I work for, full disclosure, Michael Bloomberg. But you know, so he had a second act in politics, just not with the Clintons.
HH: Yeah, what the interesting comparison is Team Romney in ’08 that failed to win the nomination stayed together. I mean, it was the same team that triumphed in 2012 with the same major players. And she is blowing it up entirely, right? It’ll be a completely different team for 2016 than she assembled in 2008.
JA: I think that’s a real question for her is will it be an entirely different team, or will it just be a few of those people that aren’t invited back. I think there are a lot of people in Democratic circles that want to see her do more demolition of her team. I would think that there are more people that need to go, who think that she ought to start with a fresh batch. And see, the difference between Hillary Clinton and say a Mitt Romney, or really almost anybody else who runs for president is there are so many people who have worked for the Clintons in one job or another. If you think about it, you know, Bill Clinton had the entire federal government as president, two campaigns. She had two Senate campaigns. She was at the State Department for four years with almost entire autonomy over who she hired and fired, and also has run a presidential campaign. There are so many people there that even if you get rid of a few people who are considered to be problematic or difficult, you still have a whole other crop under them that have been with her for a long time. I think a lot of Democrats want to see her clean house entirely.
HH: I’ll be right back with Jon Allen.
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HH: If you’re just walking into the middle of this, you’ve missed a fascinating first hour of conversation with Jon Allen, my guest, co-author along with Amie Parnes of HRC: State Secrets And The Rebirth Of Hillary Clinton, prominently linked at Hughhewitt.com, because I want everybody to read this for the same reason that I urged on everyone Dan Balz’ Collision 2012 and especially Jonathan Alter’s The Center Holds. If you’re a conservative, you have to get inside the other side and understand why they win and how they think and how they do this. And I just don’t think there is a better glimpse inside Team Clinton than you’re going to get from HRC. Jon Allen, I want to go back to a couple of quotes about what she did and did not do before we turn to her substantive record at State. Let’s do E.J. Dionne, of course, Washington Post columnist, friend of the show, cut number 9:
EJD: I think there are, first of all, her accomplishments inevitably are going to be linked to what we see as Obama’s accomplishments. And if you see, as I do, ending the war in Iraq, knowing the place is a mess now in many ways, but getting our troops out of Iraq, that’s part of it. I think that for the period she was secretary of State, opinion of the United States rose in the world. I think that she did a lot of work on human rights and women’s rights around the world. I think that you know, and you and I will just plain disagree on this, I think at the end of her four years, we were in a better position in the world than we were when she took the job. And that is the old Ronald Reagan question.
HH: And here is Lanny Davis on my show answering the same question, cut number 10:
LD: Well, the biggest thing of all is goodwill around the world, which is what secretaries of State do. I don’t know what any…
HH: Like in Syria and Egypt and Libya?
LD: I don’t know, well, Libya and certainly the intervention in Libya, getting rid of Qaddafi, you would say is a pretty good achievement for the President. But these are presidential achievements with a partnership with the secretary of State. What do secretaries of State do? For example, she was very instrumental in the details of the Iranian sanctions program, which has produced apparently some results. I’m very skeptical about this deal in Iran on the nuclear weaponry, but the credit she deserves on this sanctions program, which literally was her program in the State Department to enforce, but in partnership with Barack Obama.
HH: Let’s go right there, Jon Allen. You spend a lot of time on Iran sanctions in here. And you know, it’s falling apart. I’m not sure she wants to run on this, but you write that she was caught in an administration that did not believe in the blunt force of sanctions, and that she also kind of botched the Green Revolution, because while Jared Cohen got the Twitter thing going, they didn’t really stand with the Green Revolution. How is Iran going to play when HRC gets evaluated for president?
JA: That’s a great question, Hugh. I mean, I think there are a couple of things to look at here as far as the Green Revolution goes. I think it’s hard to step out from where the President is. If the President is saying we’re not going to interfere in their elections, and you’re the secretary of State, if you go out and talk about interfering in elections, if you talk about supporting the Green movement, you’re being disloyal to the president of the United States. And that could be a problem. What we saw in the book, and we go into this story in detail, is that one of her guys, Jared Cohen, who was actually a Condi Rice protégée, and is now at Google Innovation. He’s the head of Google Ideas. He had basically gotten in touch with Twitter, and tried to get them to help with the Iranian Green movement, revolutionaries being able to keep in touch with each other. And you know, we go through this sort of dramatic thing in the book where there’s a big question at the State Department over whether he should be fired for contravening what the President had said in terms of not interfering. He was supporting the Green movement. The President said we’re not going to do that. And ultimately, Hillary Clinton comes into the room the next morning after the New York Times has written a little bit about this, and plops the paper down on a table and says this is exactly what we should be doing.
HH: And that is, by the way, for people who want to know from the foreign policy specialist standpoint, the chapter on the Twitter revolution in foreign policy is worth the price of the book, because very few people understand how this has dramatically altered. You know, I got into this, Jon, working for Richard Nixon in San Clemente in exile writing the book, The Real War. And so I’ve been following foreign affairs for 30 plus years. And Twitter has changed everything, and Jared Cohen got that. And Hillary kind of gets that she needs to get it, and you illustrate that. I’m not sure she managed it very well, but on Page 188, you summon up the final judgment. “She was always for turning up the heat on Iran. She just took a more nuanced view of it when she got to the Department of State.” You quote an unnamed State Department official, or a national security official saying this. It looks like a White House source. You know, whatever her nuance is, Iran’s going to be nuclear when she runs for president, and that’s going to have happened on her watch.
JA: Yeah, I mean, so we don’t know obviously where this latest round of negotiations is going. And frankly when we wrote the book, we didn’t know that there were these back channel communications going on with the Iranians, which was reported I think either at the beginning of this year or very late last year. We’d already gone to print with the book at that point, or were about to go to…somebody did some good reporting on that. But there’s no doubt that the sanctions were aimed at dragging the Iranians to the table. And I think they were successful at that, but the question is, is it good to have them at the table. If they’re not good faith negotiators, if they’re stalling for time, if they are going to nuclearize while negotiating, then of course that’s a problem.
HH: Yeah, huge.
JA: So they accomplished the goal, but the question is whether the goal was the right one.
HH: Yeah, it reminds me of the ’94 negotiations with North Korea led by Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright. They got the North Koreans to the table, and they got taken to the cleaners when they got to the table. So they managed to get the poker game going, and then they lost all of America’s chips. I mean, it’s going to be ugly when it’s over. Let me play for you one more cut, i’m trying to save the Allen voice here, Maggie Haberman, your old colleague from Politico, came on the show and talked to me about Hillary’s accomplishments. Here’s that cut, number 12.
HH: How long you been with Politico? 5 years?
MH: 4 years, 3