The Magazine

Ready or Not . . .

Here she comes.

Jun 2, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 36 • By DANIEL HALPER
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His role as senior adviser to the super-PAC signaled to Clinton watchers that the group was legitimate, sanctioned by a Hillary (and Bill) intimate. Smith has said that campaign law prevents him from talking to the Clintons and their employees or other-wise coordinating with candidates. This, despite the fact that Hillary is not technically a candidate for political office.

At a private event last December at the Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Smith told donors to the super-PAC that it would be part of a $1.7 billion pro-Hillary effort. Just that day he had met with President Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, Jim Messina, and Sean Sweeney, another former Obama aide. It was “extraordinarily helpful,” Smith told the crowd. 

Messina, along with President Clinton’s former chief of staff John Podesta, would run the TV ads through the super-PAC Priorities USA, which ran Obama ads last go around. “Podesta and Messina are .  .  . going to do $200 million worth of TV ads,” Smith said. (Within a couple months of the meeting, Podesta would actually be back in the White House working for Obama, though it was reported he’d stay only a year, before returning to the world of super-PACs, undisclosed Democratic money, and the potential Hillary campaign.)

Smith also told the donors that the president of the abortion-rights group Emily’s List, Stephanie Schriock, “just launched a $5 million research program” to help determine how voters feel about a woman president. According to Smith, the early findings suggest people might even prefer a female candidate—except on foreign policy. Which may be why Hillary’s memoir of her four years as secretary of state is being pushed so hard. The super-PAC adviser also mentioned yet another group, American Bridge PAC, that had well over a dozen researchers working for Hillary and against her potential Republican opponents. 

Smith warned that, while his new allies had been “very helpful,” they have “their own sets of politics that they’ve got to take care of.” President Obama himself is a case in point. “The president has been very helpful,” Smith says, before making a reference to a possible 2016 bid for the White House by Vice President Joe Biden.

“We all have to be cognizant that we have a vice president of the United States,” Smith told the crowd of about 30, each reportedly contributing over $1,000 to attend this private session. “He doesn’t want to be disrespected, and we have to be sensitive to that, or as President Obama says, ‘I have to have lunch with this guy once a week for the next three years.’”

BACK in Herndon, we make awkward small talk (I mention that I work for this magazine and am called out for being a “spy”) until Holly decides she can’t forget the reason for our gathering. She grabs a bottle of Corona to use as a faux microphone and silences us so she can speak. She starts by praising Obama, who, while not perfect, has done the best he could under the circumstances the Republicans have put him in. And, as the first black president, he’s paved the way for the first woman.  

Holly passes around the Corona, and everyone timidly expresses support for Hillary. They support her not because they’re true believers, it seems, but because she is the most plausible Democratic nominee for president in 2016.

That’s a good enough reason. Politics is about winning elections, it is said, and if they believe Hillary can win, more power to them. But Hunter—who at this writing is probably out somewhere in that tugboat—offers another rationale: He can’t wait to see the shenanigans Bill Clinton will pull as first dude. The crowd (there are now nine of us) laughs.

Daniel Halper is online editor at The Weekly Standard and author of Clinton, Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine (forthcoming).

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