Hillary Clinton had read some 43 biographies of her predecessors to prepare for becoming first lady, according to her close friend Diane Blair. But ultimately, Clinton would chart her own course.
New documents, recollections and letters collected by Blair and obtained by ABC News about Clinton’s time as first lady show a Clinton simultaneously struggling during the low points of her husband’s presidency and moving steadily toward satisfying her personal ambition -- even when it polarized the public and activated her enemies.
“Just visited with Hillary. I told her how fascinating I found the latest spate of Hillary-at-two years stories, and she expressed her total exasperation with all this obsession and attention, and how hard she’s finding to conceal her contempt for it all,” Blair wrote.
Clinton discussed often a desire to correct the record and was frustrated by a seemingly endless spate of stories that she could “totally refute,” according to Blair.
Yet Clinton feared keeping records of thoughts and conversations in a diary that she might use to eventually write her own “history” because they might also be subpoenaed by the Clintons’ political enemies, Blair noted.
Blair, a political science professor at the University of Arkansas and a longtime friend of both Bill and Hillary Clinton, mused that Hillary had instinctively done “First Ladylike” things to cover for her “policy stuff” as a way of mitigating the backlash over her more active role in policy making in her husband's administration.
In her most private conversations with her friend Blair, Clinton is often faced by what Blair described as being a “pioneer in an anachronistic role.”
But Blair also laid some of the blame at Bill Clinton’s feet.
She suggested that a “big problem” had been Bill Clinton “being less than presidential, which [Hillary] warned against from the beginning.”
“[Hillary] said he’d been trying really hard –- he thought it was rude to walk off from questions, but is beginning to see that he must,” Blair said, a reference to Clinton’s famous tendency of answering virtually every question from reporters during media availabilities.
In 1994 as she continued her intense lobbying for health care reform, Clinton mulled telling her side of the story.
“When I first asked ‘what for?’, she said ‘revenge,’” Blair wrote. “Later, telling our side. Later, after more talks, just brain dumps, just to get it down while still fresh, so when everyone else is writing their books, she will have the materials –- dates, meetings, events, to write hers, and for at least that story to be told.”
Clinton asked Blair to lead the task of collecting interviews from her staff: “at one point she said, ‘I don’t want to call this a feminist perspective, but I guess it is’ –- her staff of course mostly all women,” Blair notes. (Ultimately, Blair would end the interviews due to fear that their contents would be subpoenaed).
Around that time, there was a sense of chaos in the administration that Hillary Clinton both fought to fix and tried to move away from.
In a meeting with Al Witte, a law professor, who Clinton came to know at the University of Arkansas, she vented frustration with what Blair described as a “paralyzed” White House.
It was 1994, and a midterm election where Democrats would resoundingly loose both the House and the Senate was quickly approaching.
Witte advised her that if Leon Panetta became White House chief of staff, she would need to “stop being an authority center.”
“She told him she’d be thrilled to stop that,” Blair wrote. “She’s at wits end. Its almost as tho [sic] [Bill Clinton’s] in denial, and sadness.”
Clinton’s dreams of stepping away from the reins at the White House went even further, Blair revealed.
Blair once voiced concern to Hillary Clinton that pro-health care ads challenging Congress could potentially tarnish her image in the public, but Clinton brushed off the concern.
“She appreciated my concerns, but also said it’s the only effective tool they have,” Blair writes. “AND when done with this, are done with their agenda and she’ll go be a kindergarten teacher and never have to hold hands on the Hill again.”
“Wow!” Blair writes.
Later in the administration, however, as the impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton wore on, Hillary Clinton juggled weariness from the ongoing spectacle and constant speculation about her own political future.
“She says she’s generally doing fine, other than this ‘maddening abuse of Constitution,’” Blair notes in early 1999. “I said I wasn’t watching –- she said, good you’re like 75% of [American people].”
At the same time, Clinton was seriously mulling a run for Senate and simultaneously, her supporters hoped to draft her into a presidential run.
The press speculated wildly, but Clinton was non-committal.
“She really does not know,” Blair writes in a 1999 journal entry. “She needs time to think, get all this behind her, then decide.”
Later that year in October she would ultimately decide to jump into the Senate race in New York.
At the same time, the impeachment and scandal was also taking a toll on her college-aged daughter Chelsea.
At Stanford, Clinton told Blair that Chelsea worked tirelessly at her schoolwork only to be faced by the jeers of her classmates when a family photo was shown.
“2 or 3 hissed; just killed her,” Blair wrote. “[Hillary] did ‘give Bill credit for being aware of pain and anguish he’s caused her.’”
ABC News' Erin Dooley contributed to this report.
- Politics & Government
- Hillary Clinton
- Bill Clinton