The ill-feeling between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) was at one point so intense that the Missouri Democrat told a friend that she was scared of getting stuck alone with the former first lady.
The deep tension between Clinton and McCaskill first formed after McCaskill made remarks on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that struck raw nerves for both Hillary and President Clinton.
In 2006, McCaskill was debating then-Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) on the Sunday morning political show. The two were in the midst of a campaign that McCaskill ultimately won, and the Clintons had given her strong backing.
But when the subject of Bill Clinton came up, McCaskill said, “He’s been a great leader but I don’t want my daughter near him.”
According to Parnes and Allen, McCaskill instantly regretted the remark. A friend of McCaskill’s told the authors the unfiltered comment brought her “to the point of epic tears.”
McCaskill later phoned President Clinton to apologize; his gracious response only deepened her distress. Later, as Hillary Clinton began ramping up her own run for the White House, she sought to bond with McCaskill at a private lunch in the Senate dining room, where the two discussed the physical rigors of the campaign trail.
The outreach gave McCaskill an appreciation for Clinton’s human side — but it was not enough to stop her from endorsing then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for the presidency.
She did so in January 2008, and successfully proposed to the Obama campaign that two other prominent female Democrats should come forward during the same period. They were Kathleen Sebelius and Janet Napolitano, who were then serving as the governors of Kansas and Arizona, respectively.
During the epic battle that followed, McCaskill was a frequent surrogate for Obama, earning her ever more intense enmity from Clinton’s inner circle.
“‘Hate’ is too weak a word to describe the feelings that Hillary’s core loyalists still have for McCaskill,” Parnes and Allen write in the book.
McCaskill has been doing her best to mend bridges since then, most conspicuously with a startlingly early endorsement of Clinton for president in 2016.
In June 2013, McCaskill released a statement through the website of Ready for Hillary, the super-PAC working to promote a Clinton candidacy. In the statement, the Missouri Democrat acknowledged that she had backed Obama early on in 2008. “I worked my heart out to elect him president,” she wrote.
But she also stated: “Now, as I look at 2016 and think about who is best to lead this country forward, I’m proud to announce that I am Ready for Hillary.”
The following month, McCaskill publicly apologized for the 2006 comments about not wanting her daughter close to President Clinton.
“It was not necessary,” McCaskill recounted at the 2013 event, a public interview with a Washington reporter for Buzzfeed. “It was gratuitous and hurtful and I have apologized to both President Clinton and Hillary Clinton for saying it.”
At the same event, McCaskill again defended her support of Obama in 2008, even though she acknowledged it had caused her trouble with female Democrats in particular.
“I think they understand that it wasn’t like I endorsed a good ole boy against her,” she said, but added, “A lot of the women were upset with me.”
McCaskill emphasized that “Having said that, I couldn’t be more enthusiastic for her to be president now. And I can’t wait to work as hard or harder for Hillary Clinton as I did for Barack Obama.”
HRC will be published by Crown on Feb. 11. It will focus on Clinton’s political comeback in the wake of her 2008 defeat and explore the nature of her relationship with Obama.
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