By Dick Morris and Eileen McGann - 05/28/08 04:02 PM EDT
In January 1998, right after The Washington Post revealed President Bill Clinton’s relationship with Monica, I spoke with him about his predicament. Shell-shocked and stunned at the calls for his impeachment, he knew he was facing the fight of his life. At first, he was vintage Bill Clinton: maudlin, sad and full of self-pity. But as we talked, he gradually changed his tone. Admitting that he was not innocent, but recognizing his diminishing support, he then told me defiantly: “Well, we’ll just have to win.”
Several years later, I was surprised to read in Sidney Blumenthal’s memoirs that then-first lady Hillary Clinton had used the exact same words on the exact same day in a conversation with the White House aide. “We’ll just have to win.”
That’s how the Clintons think — no matter what, they have to win. Winning is everything, and how you do it is not determined by any inner sense of values or ethics, but by a resolve to do whatever needs to be done, no more and certainly no less. So, on that day in January 1998 — because they had to win — their campaign to discredit a 23-year-old intern began in the White House. Private investigators dug up her old boyfriends. White House operatives spread the word that it was the president who was the victim. The young woman was an unbalanced stalker.
As impeachment unfolded, the extramarital affairs of key members of the Republican leadership in the House were suddenly outed.
Hillary Clinton began the disinformation campaign. Appearing on “The Today Show,” she righteously claimed that there was nothing to support Lewinsky’s claims and insisted that Bill was just “ministering” to a “troubled young woman.” Then came the blue dress and the Clintons finally — and reluctantly — changed gears.
But they never changed philosophies. Winning is still everything. No matter who gets destroyed, offended or hurt in the process.
We’ve seen it throughout Hillary’s campaign: the race-baiting by Bill Clinton in South Carolina and by Hillary in Kentucky. His comparison of Obama to Jesse Jackson and her talk about “hard-working whites” was not accidental. The Clintons don’t make verbal mistakes.
Everything they say is deliberate. And then Bill Clinton actually had the nerve to say that it was the Obama campaign and not him — that they had played the race card. Once again, he’s the victim.
Now Bill and Hillary are desperate to keep Hillary in the race. Despite mathematical impossibility, the Clintons are biding their time. Out of money and out of delegates, they are waiting for some unknown force to suddenly emerge and change the race. That’s why Hillary made the reference to Bobby Kennedy.
Because the Clintons know, better than most people, that time has often been a friend.
Anything can happen. Remember how, in 2001, they left the White House as pariahs amid the uproar about the last-minute pardons involving brothers of both of them, the hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts of china, silver and furniture that they arranged to get from donors, and the theft of White House furniture. They were in disgrace. Hillary’s first press conference was a defense of her brothers’ payments for pardons. Both Clintons were lambasted by The New York Times, The Washington Post and every other media outlet. And, in Bill’s last hours in office, he pleaded guilty to crime and was disbarred.
But seven years later, Hillary has come amazingly close to becoming the Democratic Party nominee. And until he destroyed his reputation by his bizarre and belligerent behavior in Hillary’s campaign, Bill Clinton was the most popular guy in the world.
Time allowed Bill and Hillary to remake themselves — he as a save-the-world philanthropist and she as a hard-working senator who got along with everyone.
Just like time had turned the special counsel’s draft indictment of Hillary into scrap paper, particularly after Jim McDougal, the chief witness, died in prison.
And time erased the memory of the Clintons’ pardon of the FALN terrorist group to help Hillary with the Puerto Rican community.
But now time is finally running out for the Clintons. They’ve stayed at the party too long, and it isn’t a pretty sight. But they won’t leave gracefully. No way. They still believe that there’s a chance to win. And they’ll do anything to make that happen.
Because they just have to win.
Morris and McGann, husband and wife, have written several books together, including Rewriting History, a rebuttal to Living History by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). To get all of Dick Morris’s and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email, go to www.dickmorris.com .