Blair Papers offer window into Hillary Clinton
Bill Clinton in 1979 with Hillary Clinton (L) and Diane Blair (R)
February 11th, 2014
04:36 PM ET
4 years ago

Blair Papers offer window into Hillary Clinton

(CNN) –  Monica Lewinsky was the headline from newly accessed writings of a Hillary Clinton confidant, but a closer look at Diane Blair’s private notes reveal other personal struggles and frustrations.

These include how the former first lady coped with severe back pain from wearing heels and her belief that no one in her husband’s early White House, as Blair’s notes indicate, was “tough and mean enough.”

With Clinton’s world now tightly controlled ahead of another possible presidential run, such reflections open yet another anecdotal window into her years at the White House through most of the 1990s and give the public views of her thoughts on politics and leadership.

Blair, a former political science professor who worked on Bill Clinton’s presidential campaigns, died in 2000. Her husband donated more than a hundred boxes of documents to the University of Arkansas that were not made public until 2010.

Read the documents

Based on the contents of 16 of those boxes, which focus on the Clintons, Blair was a prolific note-taker and kept clippings on much of the Clintons’ political life. The contents vary from notes Blair jotted down about her conversations with the Clintons to countless pages of talking points from Bill Clinton's two presidential campaigns.

Outside of confirmation from Mrs. Clinton, there is  no way to independently confirm the accuracy of Blair's specific recollections and direct quotations. A spokesman for Clinton did not respond to CNN inquiries.

Here are a few interesting nuggets we've read so far:

Not interested in "backstage manipulation" or “phony makeovers”

Blair notes that in a conversation around Thanksgiving of 1996, Hillary Clinton talked about her frustration with the press and what they thought should be her role as first lady.

"She thinks press complete hypocrites,” Blair writes, adding that Clinton said the media prefers the more dramatic “backstage manipulation” of former first ladies, naming Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan, Bess Truman, and Rosalynn Carter as examples.

“It's the honesty of their partnership that's driving (the press) nuts and making her a target,” Blair writes. “On her death bed, wants to be able to say she was true to herself and is not going to do phony makeovers to please others."

In the same conversation, Clinton concluded that no matter what she does, it’s “going to piss off some people, so (she’ll) just continue to be herself,” Blair writes.

“I'm not stupid; I know I should do more to suck up to the press, I know it confuses people when I change my hairdos,” Blair quotes Clinton as saying. “I know I should pretend not to have any opinions–but I'm just not going to. I'm used to winning and I intend to win on my own terms. I know how to compromise, I have compromised, I gave up my name, got contact lenses, but I'm not going to try to pretend to be somebody that I'm not.”

Freed from high heels

In late December 1998, around the time the House impeached Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton spoke with Blair about some acute back problems she’s been having—“a dislocated sacroiliac, caused or precipitated by wearing high heels.”

Blair writes that Hillary Clinton tried to keep it quiet but worried about the public perception of “hiding out.”

“Really she didn’t want people to know her vanity,” Blair writes. “She looked great in these shoes, wore them, threw out her back, exercised, got better – and then wore the shoes again, and this time the pain was theworse ever.’”

Blair goes on to recount a story that Clinton later wrote about in her 2003 memoir, “Living History.”

One of the White House physicians who examined me called in a physical therapist from the Navy. After the Navy therapist examined me, he asked, “Ma’am, have you been wearing high heels a lot lately?"
“Ma’am,” he said, “you shouldn’t wear high heels again.” 
“Well, yes, never.” He looked at me curiously, and asked, “With all due respect, ma’am, why would you want to?”

In Blair’s telling of the episode, Blair writes that Hillary Clinton referred to that physical therapist as “darling.” It appears she heeded his advice, as she’s become known for wearing low pumps.

Clinton’s view of the press: big egos and no brains

Around May of 1993, less than six months into Bill Clinton’s first term, Hillary Clinton was lamenting to Blair about the press during the White House travel office controversy, in which seven employees were let go.

“(Hillary) says press has big ego's and no braisn (sic) and they're just going to have to work them better; that her staff has figured it out and would be glad to teach BC's staff (but still tension between them),” Blair writes.

It was one of many instances that Clinton expressed frustration with the press.

For example, Clinton told Blair the media had a hard time not understanding the difference between she and her husband when it came to recuperating.

When Hillary was exhausted, Blair writes, she just wanted to relax and read. But Bill Clinton “relaxes” by “touring, shaking hands, meeting new people.” Bill Clinton has long been known as a people person, someone who thrives off of retail-politicking.

But when Hillary Clinton didn’t care to be out in public, Blair writes, the former first lady said the press speculated she was "brooding, nursing her psychic wounds."

Hillary also couldn’t stand Washington, at first

In 1993, Blair writes about a visit Hillary Clinton had with Sharon Rockefeller, wife of Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat.  They had a lengthy “discussion of superficiality of (the) DC scene” and described most senators as “diseased from egomania.”’

Blair notes that Clinton was “dumfounded by people who look her in eye and lie to her.”

That same year, Clinton was well underway in pushing health care reform. Blair writes that in June, Hillary held a meeting and kicked it off by stressing its secrecy.

“By next morning it was on front page of NYT, then Wall St. Jrnl – now all meeting scancelled (sic) except for her…Ira and Bill,” Blair writes.

The conversations also show how frustrated Hillary Clinton was with a lack of passion among White House staff to pursue health care reform.  In July, 1993, Blair says Clinton was “still in despair that nobody in WH tough and mean enough.”

By the end of the year, Blair writes that Clinton is “tired of all those whiney women, and she needs (Bill Clinton) on health care.”

“I told her I'd been bonding w. creeps; she said that was the story of her whole past year,” Blair continues. By March of 1994, Blair writes that Hillary found certain White House staffers had “exceeded their capacity” and were “just not good enough.”

That policy frustration extended to her husband

Also in 1994, Clinton told Blair that Bill was not being aggressive enough in the White House.

“(Hillary) furious at (Bill) running himself and the (presidency),” Blair writes. “She keeps trying to shape things up, knows what’s wrong, but he can’t fire people, exert discipline, punish leakers – throws tantrums (sic), but when (he) does nothing, (it) lowers their respect.”

Blair goes on to say that Hillary told her Bill never had a “strategy for Whitewater, troopers, Paula. Self-inflicted wounds. Inability to organize, make tough choices, drives her nuts.”

The Lewinsky affair

While Hillary Clinton described Monica Lewinsky as a "narcissistic loony toon," according to the Blair papers, she also discussed in detail why she decided to forgive her husband for having an affair. The candid comments come in an excerpt from Blair on September 9, 1998, –after Bill Clinton had admitted in a grand jury testimony that he had cheated, but before he was impeached.

"HRC insists, no matter what people say, it was gross inappropriate behavior but it was consensual (was not a power relationship) and was not sex within any real meaning…of the term," Blair writes.

In the same conversation, Blair notes that Hillary is “in it for the long haul.”

“(Partly) because she’s stubborn; partly her upbringing; partly her pride—but, mostly because she knows who she is and what her values and priorities are and she’s straight with those—she really is okay,” Blair writes.

Just days after Bill Clinton's impeachment by the House in December, Blair writes that Hillary Clinton called her, and they had a lengthy conversation about the issue.

"She sounded very up, almost jolly," writes Blair. "Told me how she and Bill and Chelsea had been to church, to a Chinese restaurant, to a Shakespeare play, greeted everywhere with wild applause and cheers."

Like in her 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton struggled with likability among voters in 1992

Blair’s papers included a memo addressed to the Clinton campaign from campaign pollsters Celinda Lake and Stan Greenberg. After doing focus groups, they found that voters needed to meet the “real Hillary Clinton” and have a “distorted, limited and overly political impression of her.”

The pollsters wrote that people were familiar with her tough, corporate lawyer side, but needed to meet “Hillary Clinton, the mother, the activist, the daughter of middle-class parents, the romantic…”

While focus groups agreed she was smart, some voters found her "too strong" and "too outspoken," according to the memo. One voter said, "She knows what she wants and she'll do anything to get it." They appreciated, however, her "straightforward" nature, saying it wasn't "shifty."

But one woman voter said she felt like Hillary Clinton put women down with her infamous remark on the campaign trail in 1992, when she said “I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession."

"She put women down,” one voter said, according to the memo. “There is nothing wrong with being an ordinary housewife. It does not mean you are barefoot and pregnant."

At the Democratic convention a couple months later, however, the pollsters noted her favorability ratings were going up.

"Her mean favorability stood at 41.7 degrees before Gore, but rose steadily to 50 degrees and a net positive by Wednesday night," he wrote. "Moreover, there was an utterly new reaction to Hillary in the dial groups... At the convention Thursday night that all changed: the line held steady or moved up."

CNN’s Dan Merica and Robert Yoon contributed to this report.

Filed under: Hillary Clinton
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Gurgyl

    --–I am glad, you did not put a picture when he was a baby! The most idiotic. No wonder pres. Obama cries for EDUCATION IN USA.

    February 11, 2014 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    "made public until 2010."

    And the MSM and GOP/Teatrolls waited 4 years to try to smear her with them because? Reality: They weren't news before and they aren't news now. They've just come up now because they need something to attack her with in an attempt to even the playing field. I guarantee you that if Christie wasn't walking the political green mile right now, they wouldn't even be bothering. But, when the GOP/Teatroll 2016 field has been reduced to Randroid, the Ayatollah Santorum, Huckleberry, Turd Cruz and maybe Captain Thirsty...well....there's no bringing them up to her level in hopes of maintaining the hope for a horse race narrative, so they've got to try to cut her to ribbons a bit and bring her down to their level.

    February 11, 2014 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  3. Silence DoGood

    We need someone strong to stand up to the TeaParty and the Theocracy movement.
    Benghazi is the new birth certificate.
    Thanks CNN – I really don't think there were enough semi-literate conservative rants today.

    February 11, 2014 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  4. Thomas

    "She knows what she wants and she'll do anything to get it.

    “I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession."

    Hillary Clinton is looking and acting more and more like Margaret Thatcher .

    She will make one tough first lady !

    February 11, 2014 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  5. Rick McDaniel

    Hillary is a mean and vicious person. That much has evolved over the years.

    She has nothing of substance to her credit as Secretary of State. She did nothing during Bill's presidency, but the CHIPS health care for kids.........which primarily benefited illegals.

    There is zero reason to consider her a good choice for President........except the stupidity of the PC mentality, to have the first woman President. That is entirely the WRONG reason to vote for someone........and we have the current regime as the evidence of that FACT!

    February 11, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  6. Wake up People!

    I'm curious, with all of this talk about Monica...who exactly had the affair with her? Hill or Bill? Were there menage a trois?? If not, I'm not seeing the relevance.

    February 11, 2014 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  7. Lynda/Minnesota

    "These include how the former first lady coped with severe back pain from wearing heels ... "

    Yeah. My friends and I share this kind of stuff all the time. Who knew it could be a hidden gold mine of facts to use against Presidential hopefuls.

    February 11, 2014 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  8. The REAL Truth...

    @Rick McDaniel – There is zero reason to consider her a good choice for President
    maybe if you keep saying it often enough timmy, you'll actually believe it.. mean while back in egoville, see if the GOP can come with an ELECTABLE candidate to go up against her.. Methinks much like Issa's Benghazi and IRS witch hunts so far.. nada.. ain't gonna happen. I dare the GOP to give me a better alternative to Hilary.

    February 11, 2014 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  9. O'drama ya Mama


    "She knows what she wants and she'll do anything to get it.

    “I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession."

    Hillary Clinton is looking and acting more and more like Margaret Thatcher .

    She will make one tough first lady !
    February 11, 2014 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |

    President, sir, she will make one tough President.

    February 11, 2014 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    And let's not forget to mention the writings and memos that specifically address the fact that what the data was showing is a gross double-standard on the part of the public in terms of what they wanted from a male politician and a female politician (particularly the wife of a male politician). There are memos specifically addressing the fact that what the public was polling well on for Bill...things they considered made him "slick" or 'tough" etc....were perceived by that same public as making Hillary a cold, shrieking, grasping harpy. Use the word "ruthless" in a room full of Teatrolls to describe Christ Christie and half of them will need a tissue and a pants change. Use it in that same room to describe HRC and those same people will scream ugly s-xist insults about her. CNN only makes itself look foolish continuing this line of bobbleheaded punditry...and yes, that counts even if you assign the article to one of the women reporters.

    February 11, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  11. T Howard

    All one needs to do is look at the collection of left leaning, anti=American statements that Hillary has made over the years. She is obviously a socialist. Her interests are not the Republic but handing us over to world powers. She is not for us, so she must be against us. American's had the opportunity to " see" who Mr. Obama was before the first election but didn't bother to read his books. People who would do America harm are at an advantage now as Americans become more and more self serving and stupid.

    February 11, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    Brass tacks:

    Man: "Tough, takes no prisoners, puts up with nobody's guff and won't let anyone get away with treating Amurika wrong!!!!"

    Woman: "Ruthless, vindictive, self-absorbed harridan who clearly is cold and aloof and doesn't perform her role as wife and mother well."

    Any questions?

    February 11, 2014 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  13. Tampa Tim

    If you read beyond chapter 1, you will realize the right has nothing on Hillary. As for mean, vicious and vindictive, you look no further than the previous president, Dick Cheney.

    February 11, 2014 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  14. Tampa Tim

    Right wingnuts need to turn off Hannity and Limbaugh. If I may generalize like T Howard, most republicans are domestic terrorists or supporters of Sharia Law.

    February 11, 2014 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  15. Smitty

    So Hilly cant keep Slick Willies zipper, but would be good for running the country, probably couldn't do any worse than the BIGGEST LIAR OF THE YEAR Obammy !!!

    February 11, 2014 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  16. jerry walters

    Just love Bill ... and Hillary too!

    February 11, 2014 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  17. Chipster

    {Yawn...} The Right Wing just gets more silly every day. Just when you think they can't get more desperate, they go off on some tangent that is even less relevant and more ridiculous than the last one. When they embraced the Tea Party, their self-destructive downward spiral gained momentum. Senior citizens, working class people, students, women...more and more Americans are learning that Republicans work against their interests. No matter how much mud they throw at the wall, it won't stick because there is no substance to it.

    February 11, 2014 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  18. Hector Slagg

    There is nothing new about Hillary Clinton. These revelations just add gasoline to the fire. The Liberal Left has already sold the country down the river. With Hillary you get more of the same. So sorry so many of you have no clue of how to take care of yourselves. Now conservatives expecting you to take care of yourselves is really mean!

    February 11, 2014 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  19. Neutral Observer

    Someone put it perfectly: "He's a great guy, just don't let him near your daughter". That's how Hillary should play it.

    February 11, 2014 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  20. Jim Jimson

    Because the right wing doesn't have any vision for how to move the country forward, they constantly resort to baseless personal smear campaigns.

    The more they try to smear Hillary, the more will keep alienating women.

    February 11, 2014 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  21. Matt

    I really don't care about her personality. What few clues I've seen over the years about her policy positions, I know I don't want her to be president. But I'm pretty sure she will be. Because the GOP is running stupid campaigns of stupid candidates lately, and Democrat grass roots expect that Hillary will continue the government by handouts method.

    February 11, 2014 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  22. Bill from GA

    Notice, in the pic, Check the posture: the fingers resting on Hillary (standing up straight), casual, on the shoulder; but on Diane, pulling her in, her hand on his chest, Bill's head toward her.

    Bill, you ol dog.

    But we all knew Bill was a, um, (how to put this), 'friendly to the ladies'. I knew it and voted for him; didn't care.
    Still, kinda amusing.

    February 12, 2014 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  23. Bill from GA

    The REAL Truth – "I dare the GOP to give me a better alternative to Hilary."

    I dare the DEMS to give me ANY alternative to Hilary.

    How Bout Barbara Boxer?

    She is sharper than Hillary; has REAL and extensive experience, no one could call her ruthless, vindictive, self-absorbed, ...

    AND, Senator Boxer voted against the resolution to authorize the use of military force in IRAQ. (Hillary likes senseless wars whose costs are passed on to the next generation. If you liked W, you'll like Hillary.)

    SMART WOMAN, Barbara Boxer. And nice, too.

    She wouldn't look stupid against Russia, like Hillary did. (Remember 'Reset/Overcharged' with Russia?? Watta Looser!)

    February 12, 2014 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  24. Name

    The GOP have nothing better to spew except to again dig up the past rather than pass a jobs bill! Republicans are a do-nothing party !

    February 12, 2014 03:54 am at 3:54 am |
  25. Holly

    Couple of observations here....first, this article wasn't a criticism of Mrs. Clinton. I'm amazed at how many of you see it that way. It was simply some notes taken by a staff member. It wasn't making her look bad. It was telling things the way that staff member saw it. How do people like sniffit consider that Trying to "smear her"? Sniffit feels free to criticize everything and everyone not Democrat so often that they see conspiracy everywhere. Perhaps a Valium would help. Second, also about you honestly think saying things like "Teatroll", "Randroid", "Ayatollah Santorum", Huckleberry", "Turd Cruz", and "Captain Thirsty" make you sound mature enough to be taken even remotely seriously? Not even close. This isn't the playground.

    February 12, 2014 05:08 am at 5:08 am |
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