Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Secret Clinton papers released

By Charles Brooks

The Clinton’s are in the news again as thousands of pages of confidential communications from the Clinton days in the White House has finally been released for public view after legal restrictions expired.  During the last two weeks, about 73 files containing documents such as internal memos, handwritten notes and drafts of speeches were made available by the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas. The public can now see the president's handwritten notes clarifying his thoughts, internal memos from White House staff outlining political strategy and political advice for the president.

CNN reported on their website that the confidential memos, notes and other papers were part of files that had been requested for public release over the years under the Freedom of Information Act, but were withheld by the National Archives due to their sensitive nature. While the Presidential Act established public ownership of White House documents as far back as the Reagan administration, it specified that documents pertaining to federal appointments as well as confidential correspondence between the president and his advisers could be withheld from the public for 12 years after a president leaves office.   

The documents cover a wide range of issues relating to domestic and foreign policy that includes topics such as health care reform, terrorism, international trade agreements, Cuba, the transition from the Bush presidency to the incoming Clinton presidency, elections in 1994, 1996 and 2000.  These confidential correspondence can help provide additional insight into the Clinton presidency; their political rationale for policy decisions and political positions.  But these confidential memos could open the window of opportunity to finally have a debate about the successes and failures of the Clinton presidency.  With the recent release of confidential papers from the Clinton White House, we are reminded once again of the relationship between Bill Clinton and Black America during the nineties. Although Mr. Clinton was very popular with Blacks – the relationship was often misunderstood and frequently framed around his presidential approval ratings with Blacks.  The Clinton papers also contains documents relating to AIDS in Africa, Urban Task Force, the president’s speech to the National Baptist Convention, the Million Man March, Rwanda and Somali.

Highlights and excerpts from the Clinton Presidency

1994 Crime Bill memo:
(Rep. Donald Payne) feels that the Administration has handled issues concerning African Americans very poorly, and also Africa – especially Rwanda. Re the Racial Justice Act: the Administration should have lobbied the Senate heavily rather than leaning on the CBC. He does want the President to win this bill, but believes that enough CBC Members "are now voting for the Rule, that it will be okay. He cannot vote for the Rule on principle; he voted against the Rule before.  Dr. Brown suggests having the Police Chief in Newark call him. I will make sure that is done in the morning.

Just days before the Million Man March in October 1995 a confidential memo read:
The whole country is waiting for the President to talk about the racial divide. If he does not step up to the plate, it will be seen as an abdication of leadership. If he does step up to the plate, but does nothing more than fall back on the dated elixir of "opportunity and responsibility," then the effort will fall flat and we will have missed 'a terrific opportunity to show leadership. It will be seen as a failure. The President must address the rift head-on… This is a defining moment. The country is waiting for the President to talk. He is one of the few American leaders with the credibility to address both blacks and whites -- more than the G.O.P.; almost as much as Powell. In fact, if he demonstrates that he can bring people together now, he could preempt the vision of Powell as the only leader who can erase division and bring us together.

A memo regarding entitled, “AIDS Africa Initiative -- NAACP speech”
This will certainly be A centerpiece of the VP's speech, although not the only one. I think if we do this in conjunction with something Sandy does back here at the WH (keep in mind, NAACP is a political event for us, and therefore, we cannot legally be making the announcement at that event -- we are just "amplifying" the announcement here), we can do this in a way that gets very high lift.

Memo from Rick Allen regarding an upcoming speech May 12, 1994,
An exploration of race relations: Here, the President might refer to the May 17 anniversary of the Brown y. Board of Education decision, and review our history from that case, through the heyday of the civil rights movement (for which April 4, 1968 marked a watershed), to the state of current race relations, with a sidebar on South Africa (where once again Kennedy provide a tie). I think this is a critically important topic, but I think it may be too risky, especially with the Congressional protest about our Haiti policy heating up and Randall Robinson in the hospital.

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