By Bill Press - 03/03/14 05:55 PM EST
If you believe the media, it’s the greatest trove of hidden treasure ever. Not even the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Chris Christie BridgeGate emails received as much attention as the almost 4,000 pages of documents from former President Clinton’s eight years in the White House, released last week by the Clinton Presidential Library.
Of course, what fascinated the media were not insights into the last Clinton presidency but into the potential next one. Network and newspaper scribes immediately dived into the Clinton dumpster to retrieve whatever nuggets they could find about Hillary Clinton in that document dump and found — absolutely nothing. At least, nothing new or worth reporting.
Prior to the first lady’s historic speech to the 1995 U.N. Women’s Conference in Beijing, aide Lisa Caputo suggested a one-on-one interview with Dan Rather in order to “establish women’s issues as a serious story.” The ultimate goal, according to Caputo: “Hillary should own women’s media.”
In 1993, Hillary understood the immense political risk she and Bill Clinton had posed for Democrats by trying to push a healthcare bill through Congress. “I’m not going to underestimate the political battle that will ensue because of this,” she told Democrats on Capitol Hill. And she was right. The bill didn’t pass and, largely because of that battle, Democrats lost control of the House in 1994.
As one way of softening her image as first lady, Caputo actually proposed the “wild idea” that Hillary Clinton appear as a guest on TV sitcom “Home Improvement” with actor Tim Allen. “The outreach would be enormous,” Caputo noted, “and it would present Hillary in a very likeable light, I believe.”
Toward the end of the Clinton presidency, as Hillary Clinton was contemplating a run for Senate in New York, media consultant Mandy Grunwald gave her some very practical advice for dealing with reporters: “Don’t be defensive. Look like you want the questions. ... Even on the annoying questions, give relaxed answers.” And above all, counseled Grunwald: “Be careful to be real.”
So there you have it: highlights from the Clinton Library. Hillary Clinton seized the lead on women’s issues, grasped the political perils of healthcare, considered appearing on a popular TV sitcom and was mindful on how to deal with pesky reporters. Shocking! Ground-breaking journalism! Alert the Pulitzer Prize committee!
What any of this says about a possible President Hillary Clinton is hard to fathom, but it’s part of the media’s total obsession with anything Hillary. Practically every day there’s a new poll about how she would fare in a horse race against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) or Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). All are meaningless, but allow lazy reporters to catapult over the more important Senate, House and governors’ races of 2014 and wallow in speculation about 2016.
The former secretary of State should take no comfort in the early media spotlight, however. Surely, she must know: Reporters are only building her up now for the pleasure of tearing her down later.
Press is host of “The Bill Press Show” on Free Speech TV and author of The Obama Hate Machine.