Democrats on Hillary Clinton’s ‘hit list’ seek to return to her good graces

Lauren Schneiderman

Democrats atop a political “hit list” of politicians who betrayed Hillary Clinton in 2008 are trying to get back in her good graces as she weighs a 2016 comeback.

Clinton campaign aides kept a detailed list of lawmakers who supported Barack Obama in the Democratic primary, according to excerpts from the forthcoming book HRC: States Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton, by The Hill’s Amie Parnes and Politico’s Jonathan Allen. The book says aides ranked them according to the gravity of their perceived betrayal, with several prominent Democrats — including Secretary of State John Kerry, then a Massachusetts senator — earning the blackest of black marks.

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The new revelation set off a flurry of praise for Clinton, also a secretary of State, from the damned on Monday.

“Secretary Kerry and former Secretary Clinton share a long friendship,” Kerry spokesman Alec Gerlach told The Hill in an email. “Secretary Clinton’s advice and guidance were both generous and insightful as he transitioned into his role as Secretary of State, and they’ve continued to partner together, most recently at Georgetown University promoting the rights of Afghan women, an effort started by Secretary Clinton and supported by Secretary Kerry.”

The 2004 Democratic presidential nominee endorsed Obama, then an Illinois senator, during a campaign rally in South Carolina at a crucial point during the primaries. Kerry’s declaration that Obama was the right candidate to “turn a new page in American politics” was seen as a jab not only at former President George W. Bush but also former President Clinton, who campaigned hard for Kerry during the 2004 election even as he was recovering from heart surgery.

Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.), another traitor in the Clinton campaign’s world, dismissed the “hit list” story as an attempt to undermine a future Clinton 2016 bid. A superdelegate in 2008, Andrews called on Democrats to unite behind Obama even while remaining nominally in the tank for the former first lady.

“This sounds to me like another chapter in the campaign to attack Secretary Clinton in advance of the 2016 campaign,” he told The Hill in a statement. “I have never had anything but the most positive interactions with both Secretary Clinton and President Clinton, and I will fully and enthusiastically support Secretary Clinton if, as I hope, she is a candidate for President in 2016.”

Likewise, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said Monday on MSNBC that he hoped Clinton will run in 2016, and would support her in a bid.

As chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2008, Van Hollen released a statement congratulating Obama before Clinton had conceded, but remained neutral through their bitter battle. He expressed bewilderment on Monday at earning the list’s worst ranking.

“I didn’t get involved in the primary — the Democratic primary that year. I was focused on supporting all our candidates and trying to make sure that whoever emerged as the presidential nominee for the Democrats would support our efforts,” Van Hollen said.

“So if this is true, and again, I have just read the reports, it’s a mystery to me,” he continued, “and I’d be interested in hearing what the basis of it is — would be.”

Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), another lawmaker who earned the Clintons’ ire by backing Obama, also rushed to praise her on Monday. Capps had endorsed Obama at the end of April in 2008, even though Bill Clinton had eulogized her husband and helped her win his seat in Congress. 

“I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for both Secretary Clinton and President Clinton. Secretary Clinton has been a true leader both at home and globally. Her work has directly improved countless lives and her dedication to public service is inspiring,” Capps said in a statement to The Hill. 

Other Democrats earning the Clinton campaign’s disdain include the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (Mass.), Sens. Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), Bob Casey (Pa.) and Patrick Leahy (Vt.) and former Indiana Rep. Baron Hill. 

The book makes clear the depth of the wounds inflicted during the primary struggle.

“Years later,” Parnes and Allen write, Clinton aides “would joke about the fates of folks who they felt had betrayed them. ‘Bill Richardson: investigated; John Edwards: disgraced by scandal; Chris Dodd: stepped down,’ one said to another. ‘Ted Kennedy,’ the aide continued, lowering his voice to a whisper for the punch line, ‘dead.’ ”

HRC will be published by Crown on Feb. 11. The book will tell the inside story of Clinton’s relationship with Obama, and of how she recovered after the bruising 2008 campaign and restored her political standing.