Cover Story

Reinventing Hillary

"Reinventing Hillary" Continued...

Issue: "Reinventing Hillary," Nov. 17, 2007

Born on Oct. 26, 1947, Hillary Rodham during the 1950s was a familiar face at the First United Methodist Church. Her father, Hugh, taught his children to be self-reliant and beyond that to rely on God, not government. "We talked with God, walked with God and argued with God," Clinton wrote in her 1996 book, It Takes a Village (Simon & Schuster). "Each night we knelt by our beds to pray."

In 1964, as a high school senior, Hillary campaigned for Barry Goldwater-but she had also come under the tutelage of a youth pastor, Don Jones, who steered his flock away from historic Methodist teaching about salvation and personal morality. Instead, he set out to "awaken" his charges to white privilege, instill in them guilt, and enroll them in the "cultural revolution"-and young Hillary became his star pupil.

She kept in touch with Jones when she went off to Wellesley College, then Yale Law School, where Michael Medved remembers her as a warm, nurturing person, in contrast to the evil ice-queen image that many conservatives love to hate today: "She was probably the most liked and respected student at Yale Law when I was there. You could talk to her. This brittle lady that we see today, I mean, it's almost unimaginable to me."

At Yale, Hillary Rodham's metamorphosis from "Goldwater Girl" became complete. In 1970, she worked as a legal volunteer helping to defend Black Panther leader Bobby Seale against a murder charge. Protests over the "racial injustice" of the charges shut down the Yale campus-this though three of Seale's conspirators, all of whom were also black, had already pled guilty.

In the summer of 1971, she interned with attorney Robert Treuhaft, a social revolutionary and former member of the Communist Party USA. She graduated from law school in 1973 and was soon working on the Watergate investigation of President Richard Nixon. In 1975 she married Bill Clinton and moved with him to Arkansas, where Bill was elected attorney general and then, in 1978, governor. She became an attorney with the prestigious Rose Law Firm and kept her maiden name.

Hillary gave birth to Chelsea Clinton on Feb. 27, 1980, and was soon speaking in support of her husband's reelection bid-but voters made known their dislike for her. Gay White, whose husband Frank, now deceased, challenged Clinton in the 1980 governor's race, remembers that people would shake her hand and ask, "If your husband gets to be governor, are you going to keep his name?" Frank White edged out Bill Clinton that year, 52 percent to 48 percent. The defeat marked another era of reinvention.

"There was a dramatic change in Hillary," White said. "All of a sudden, she became 'Mrs. Bill Clinton.' She seemed to understand what the people in Arkansas were looking for. To her credit, she did what she needed to do to be more acceptable." One thing she did was go back to church, attending First United Methodist where she served on the board and did pro bono legal work.

Was career always first with her? Medved says, "I have the best proof that's not true: She went down to Arkansas to be with Bill. . . . If you're a Yale grad, and you've already done well enough to land a job on the Watergate committee, going to Arkansas to get married is not a good career move. It is an insane career move."

Clinton is ambitious, yes, but she also did the "traditional female thing," Medved said: "Somewhere inside her there is still that Methodist youth-group Goldwater Girl who has done everything possible to advance her husband."

Clinton's next makeover took place on a national stage. As soon as her husband became president she set about socializing the nation's health-care system-and crashed like the Hindenburg. Former House GOP leader Dick Armey says, "She really went to laying low after that. I think she realized that the country did not want a co-president no matter how much she may have wanted it . . . [so] she learned to be very undercover about it-almost invisible."

Out of sight, yes, but not out of touch. Clinton was "the consistent, stable, and reliable guiding organizational hand for the entire Clinton presidency," wrote former U.S. attorney Barbara Olson in The Final Days: The Last, Desperate Abuses of Power by the Clinton White House (Regnery, 2001). Olson wrote that her research "found Hillary involved . . . in virtually every White House scandal-even if just masterminding the defense and counterattacks as in the Lewinsky affair."

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