by Jordan Zakarin
After numerous calls for transparency and over two years of waiting, the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and the National Archives released nearly 11,000 pages of documents from Hillary Clinton’s time as First lady. Clinton, who served in the position from 1993-2000 by virtue of her marriage to President Bill Clinton, is now seeking to become the first directly elected First Lady in the nation’s history.
The documents, which include memos, legal documents and schedules, display a broad range of sensitive meetings and critical decisions that Clinton was involved in, both in the domestic and international sphere. While in some places vague, with names blacked out on 4,400 individual pages, the documents help substantiate her claims of having the necessary experience to serve as an effective First Lady from day one. Several instances in particular stand out amongst the eight years worth of events.
In a memo dated March 18th, 1995, Clinton debates the colors that will be made available to children wishing to paint their eggs during the annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn. Facing a potentially controversial decision, she huddled with aides for the better part of two days, locking themselves in a security briefing room until a decision was made.
Red, she wrote in the memo that preceded the close-doors meeting, would be an unnecessary acknowledgment of the massive Republican victory in the 1994 mid-term elections, and would undermine her husband as he tried to regain his political footing. Blue, however, may seem too defiant, and would perhaps torpedo any hope of bipartisan comity, she reasoned. Green was ruled out because Clinton feared that conservatives would call her husband soft on drugs, and rainbow, a potential happy medium, was eliminated due to lingering resentment over the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on homosexuality in the military. Eventually, Clinton settled on a mucky, vomit-hued brown, a combination of all the potential egg colors.
The First Lady also faced difficult international relations decisions. During a Fall, 1994 visit from Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama of Japan, Clinton was hesitant as to what to include on the menu for the customary state dinner. With issues of foreign trade and international cooperation to be discussed following the dinner, there was significant pressure coming from the President to make sure the meal was satisfactory.
“My first instinct would be to make the Prime Minister feel at home, and thus arrange for a grand sushi bar, but there is a nagging doubt preventing me from doing so. Perhaps our sushi is not up to par to the world class raw fish that the Prime Minister is accustomed to in his homeland, or perhaps serving California rolls will be mistaken for a claim of American sushi supremecy,” she wrote. “Miso soup is a non-starter, because it makes Bill flatulent, and to be honest, I am unsure whether egg rolls are Chinese or Japanese.”
Eventually, Mrs. Clinton arranged to give Murayama a “taste of America”, and had White House chefs serve barbecued ribs, hamburgers and buffalo wings. The meal, according to Takeshi Kaga, was “slightly heavy, but with a flavorful consistensy and interesting broil not unreminiscent of sake.”
“These documents leave no doubt that Mrs. Clinton is prepared to lead as First Lady,” remarked University of Michigan historian Annette Miller. “Very few have experienced the types of difficult situations that these papers show that she was forced to face, and I think voters will now understand the message she has been trying to transmit.”
Fellow New York Senator Charles Schumer, a Clinton supporter, added that, “She weathered a lot in her days outside the Oval Office, and the experience she accrued will help her successfully navigate the rocky waters that lay ahead for America. There are big issues at stake in this election, I can think of no one more qualified to tackle the serious problems of White House drapes, the Presidential Christmas card and token appeals for poverty relief in Africa.”