John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei have a column on "What Obama wishes he could say":
The one line from the what-Clinton-thinks column that most agitated Obama supporters was our assertion that Clinton, for better or worse, was a known commodity. Her "baggage" has already been "rummaged through."
To which Obama supporters say: Oh yeah?
All manner of Clinton controversies, Obama partisans argue, have not been fully ventilated.
This includes old issues, like Hillary Clinton's legal career, which includes lots of cases that never got much public attention even during the Whitewater era.
It also includes new ones, like recent stories raising questions about the web of personal and financial associations around Bill Clinton. Since leaving the presidency, he has traveled the globe to exotic places and with sometimes exotic characters, raising money for projects such as his foundation and presidential library and making himself a very wealthy man.
Which gets us back to gall. In the fantasies of some of his high-level supporters, Obama would peel off the tape to say something like this:
You want to talk hypocrisy? How about piously criticizing me for Jeremiah Wright when you have a trail of associations that includes golden oldies like Webb Hubbell? ('90s flashback: He was one of Hillary Clinton's legal partners and closest friends, whom she installed in a top Justice Department job before prosecutors sent him to prison.) It also includes modern hits like Frank Giustra. (In case you missed it: There was a January New York Times story, which did not get the attention the reporting deserved, highlighting how this Canadian tycoon and major Bill Clinton benefactor was using his ties to the ex-president to win business with a ruthless dictatorship in Khazakstan.)
Obama has never pressed Clinton to talk about Marc Rich, even though the former fugitive financier who won a controversial pardon from Bill Clinton gave money to her first Senate campaign.
He has never mentioned her brothers, even though Hugh and Tony Rodham once defied Bill Clinton's own top foreign policy advisers by entering into a strange investment in hazelnuts in the former Soviet republic of Georgia (they later dropped the deal) and Hugh Rodham took large cash payments for trying to broker presidential pardons.
Obama is likewise galled to be lectured by Clinton for not being sufficiently committed to universal health coverage. Why is it, his team asks, that Democrats have done so little to advance a long-time progressive goal for the past 15 years? The answer has everything to do with Hillary Clinton's misjudgments when she was leading the reform effort in 1993 and 1994.
Most irritating of all to Obama partisans is what they see as her latest pose: that she is selflessly staying in the race despite the long odds against her because of devotion to the Democratic Party and the belief that she is a more appealing general election candidate.
It is an article of faith among most people around Obama that the Clintons were a disaster for the party throughout the 1990s. When Bill Clinton came to town in 1993, Democrats were a congressional majority, with 258 seats in the House. When he left in 2001, they were a minority with 46 fewer seats. There were 30 Democratic governors when he arrived, 21 10 years later.
This just scratches the surface: Hillary Clinton was the main attorney drafting the documents on some of the Whitewater deals, including both sides of sham transactions in which the profits for sales were funneled to Web Hubbell's relative, rather than the actual sellers. At times, she headed up efforts to trash the reputations of Democratic women who plausibly claimed that they were sexually assaulted by her husband. The John Huang case detailed in "Year of the Rat" was the most outrageous and dangerous payoff of a large campaign contributor that I have ever heard of, exceeding even anything in the Nixon administration. I could go on . . . .
One of Harris and VandeHei's arguments (attributed to the Obama camp) against the Clintons, however, lacks merit. It is almost inevitable that the party in office would lose seats in Congress and lose state governorships. This "lightning rod" effect is detailed in a Yale Law Journal article that I co-authored, which can be downloaded at the bottom of this SSRN page.