Behind The Scenes

I remember the Very Smart People telling me that the Clintons were toxic and would undermine Obama at every turn. (I also remember them telling me we couldn’t nominate Hillary Clinton “because she would set off the right wing and we can’t have eight more years of those attacks.” When I pointed out that anyone we nominated would have that effect, I was told I “didn’t understand.”)

Looks like they were wrong!

The Clintons and health care: It was their issue, their passion and their failure in the ’90s. This time around, both President and Secretary Clinton worked behind the scenes to get it done, giving pep talks and campaign speeches and, in Hillary’s case, calling one stubborn Democrat as the clock ticked down to Sunday’s vote.

It ended with a hug, Hillary Clinton’s arms thrown out exuberantly to congratulate President Obama once the bill passed. The White House made sure to snap a picture and posted it online. But Hillary, and even Bill, were kept out of the spotlight for nearly all of the debate.

Hillary has been almost completely out of the public eye. It’s certainly benefited the White House — which has for months refused to discuss the Clintons’ level of involvement — to keep someone who once brutally attacked President Obama’s health care plans out of the debate.

So she extended a hand privately. She was reportedly called in as a closer over the weekend, making last-ditch appeals to difficult lawmakers. She called Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA), a surprise holdout who refused to vote for the Senate bill even after a one-on-one meeting with President Obama. (Lynch ended up voting against the Senate bill but for the reconciliation package.)

The White House kept her in the bullpen, she told CNN in February, taking the mound only when needed.

“When I am asked, I am very happy to respond. I mean, it’s not anything I have direct responsibility for, but I have had a number of conversations and both in the White House and on the Hill and with others who are playing a constructive role,” she said. The New York Times also reported that she made calls to on-the-fence lawmakers as the Senate neared its Christmas Eve vote.

[…] Asked after the meeting how he would feel if it passed, he (Bill Clinton) told reporters he’d be “one happy fella.”

“Maybe Hillary’ll be the happiest person in America, I’ll be the second happiest person,” he said. “Even more than President Obama.”

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