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Clinton Library Secrets II: Hillary trips over her sealed papers

October 31, 2007 |  3:38 pm

Well, it didn't take long after last night's debate for Hillary Clinton's waffling over keeping her first lady documents secret to ignite a firestorm.

The Barack Obama camp, which needs a long-running issue to gain some traction and poll points on the front-runner, smelled blood on the issue and widely distributed a memo today titled "Turning the Page on Secrecy, Calculation and Caution."

As we reported at length here the other day and our Peter Nicholas first chronicled for the nation last summer, three years after the Clinton presidential library opened in Little Rock, three years after Hillary Clinton told Larry King "everything's going to be available," 21 months after the library's documents became subject to the Freedom of Information Act, virtually nothing has been released about her role in those eight White House years. And it won't be before the 2008 election.

In fact, Newsweek uncovered a letter to the National Archives, the documents' keepers, from Bill Clinton specifically ruling out release of communications between himself and his wife.

Yet, those are the years and times that candidate Clinton now constantly cites as proof that she has the experience necessary to become president. So, trust her, she says, it's all there. You just can't see it.

Last night Tim Russert asked about that. It was painful to watch the squirming and disingenuousness. "Actually, Tim, the Archives is moving as rapidly as the Archives moves," Clinton said. "There's about 20 million pieces of paper there and they are moving, and they are releasing as they do their process. And I am fully in favor of that."

If Clinton, who has harshly criticized the Bush administration for its secrecy, thought that was...

the end of it, she was wrong. "But," Russert continued, "there was a letter written by President Clinton specifically asking that any communication between you and the president not be made available to the public until 2012. Would you lift that ban?"

"Well, that's not my decision to make," she said, "And I don't believe that any president or first lady has. But certainly we'll move as quickly as our circumstances and the processes of the National Archives permits."

C'mon, is there anyone who honestly believes that Hillary Clinton is not involved in not releasing her papers? So, what's to hide? Especially if we're turning a new page and returning to the halcyon Clinton days of the 1990s.

As Newsweek and others have reported, neither of Pres. Clinton's immediate predecessors--George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan--placed restrictions on their wives' papers.

"Senator Clinton," the Obama campaign memo said today, "has clearly decided based on political calculation that her campaign strategy is to tell the American people as little as possible, avoid the difficult issues, and try to blur as many differences as possible. After last night's debate, the choice is clear: Barack Obama is the kind of leader that will...tell the American people not just what they want to hear, but what they need to know about the challenges we face."

We're not much into predictions at Top of the Ticket. But we suspect this issue is not going to die, if only because we'll be revisiting it over and over in coming weeks.

--Andrew Malcolm

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