Hillary wants you to see those White House papers. Really.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) often talks about someone called “the president.”

This guy — “the president” — has ordered that zillions of so-far-unreleased documents in the National Archives concerning the former first lady’s activities in the Clinton White House will remain unreleased for several more years.

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That means they will stay secret until long after the current presidential campaign is over.

The papers might be quite valuable to voters, given that Sen. Clinton cites her White House experience as a major part of her qualifications to be president.

For example, it would be nice to know more about her work as head of the 1993-1994 healthcare task force.
What was her role in the welfare debate?

What other issues did she address?

Unfortunately, this fellow — “the president” — won’t let the public see the papers.

And Sen. Clinton — even though she, of course, would like the people to see everything — just doesn’t have any control over the situation.

NBC’s Tim Russert brought the issue up at the Democratic debate in Philadelphia Tuesday night.

There is “a letter written by President Clinton specifically asking that any communication between you and the president not be made available to the public until 2012,” Russert said to Sen. Clinton. “Would you lift that ban?”

“Well, that’s not my decision to make,” Sen. Clinton answered.

Hmmm. Whose decision would it be?

Might it be that guy — “the president”? And does Sen. Clinton know how to get in touch with him? If she could, maybe she could persuade him to unlock the papers.

Don’t bet on it. “I don’t believe that any president or first lady has [done that],” Sen. Clinton explained. “But certainly we’ll move as quickly as our circumstances and the processes of the National Archives permits.”

The key phrase is “our circumstances.” Does anyone believe “our circumstances” will change before the 2008 election?

Sally Bedell Smith, author of the new book about the Clintons in the White House, For Love of Politics, got a crash course in Clinton secrecy when she went to the presidential library in Arkansas as part of her research.

“I asked if it would be possible to see memos between Hillary and Bill on such policy issues as welfare reform, and the archivist said they would be closed because they dealt with policy advice,” Smith told me by e-mail this week.

Smith persisted, asking, “What about Bill’s advice to Hillary on her 2000 Senate campaign?”

Sorry. “He said that, too, would be closed because it was ‘political, not presidential.’”

Smith says she was not even allowed to see the president’s old daily schedules — until she found them online.

Some of Sen. Clinton’s Democratic rivals are starting to complain about all of this. At the Philadelphia debate, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) chided her for “not releasing … these records at the same time, Hillary, as you’re making the claim that this is the basis for your experience.”

But these are opponents who can’t even go for the jugular about matters of war and peace. There’s no reason to think they’ll put real pressure on her to release the White House documents.

So it’s likely we’ll go through the whole campaign with those papers all boxed up and safely out of public view.
If only Sen. Clinton could find “the president” and ask him to change his mind.

York is a White House correspondent for National Review. His column appears in The Hill each week.
E-mail: byork@nationalreview.com

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