Presidential Oral Histories

Melanne Verveer Oral History

About this Interview

Job Title(s)
Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff to the First Lady; Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady
Presidential Oral Histories |

Melanne Verveer Oral History

Transcript

September 16, 2004

Riley

This is the Melanne Verveer oral history interview as a part of the Clinton Presidential History Project. For the record, I'll again thank you for coming to Charlottesville and taking time out of both of your busy schedules, Melanne and Phil. There are a couple of things that we do at the outset of the interview. First is for the record to repeat that the entirety of the proceedings is conducted under a veil of confidentiality. We've all taken the pledge here and we just want to reassure you that you can speak in complete candor. Nobody in this room is permitted to repeat anything outside the confines of the room that is said here, with the exception of the two of you. You can carry anything out that you want, but we're not permitted to do that.

The transcript will be prepared and provided to you after it has been lightly copyedited. You'll have an opportunity to place restrictions regarding usage if you prefer to do that. That transcript, by the way, becomes the authoritative record of the interview. We'll hold onto the oral record and that will be locked away in a vault and at some future date--again, contingent on your restrictions--might become available, but what we're interested in is a transcript.

The next thing is to help the transcriptionist by doing a voice identification. We always go around the table and have everybody at the table say just a couple of words. Jill will be taking notes about the sequencing of interventions to help the transcriptionist, but this simplifies matters a little bit. So, I'm Russell Riley. I'm an associate professor here at the Miller Center and am heading up the Clinton project.

Verveer

I'm Melanne Verveer and it's a pleasure to be here.

P. Verveer

I'm Phil Verveer, also pleased to be here.

Jones

Charles O. Jones, professor emeritus, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Shogan

Colleen Shogan, assistant professor of government, George Mason.

Abraham

I'm Jill Abraham, research assistant here at the Miller Center.

Riley

We had a brief conversation by telephone earlier this week about how to proceed with the interview and we thought, since we had the good fortune of having Phil down here, that it made good sense for us to begin talking about your earliest associations with Bill Clinton, which actually began at Georgetown University. Let me just throw out a general question. Can you tell us about those early associations? Do you remember when you first met Bill Clinton?

P. Verveer

At least in a general way. I'd been active in student government and was the president of the junior class, beginning in the autumn of 1964. The new freshman class came in, and people interested in student government would have their elections relatively early in the process. Out of that process came Bill Clinton as the president of his class. We'd then have these student government meetings on the order of once a week or so. I got to know him sometime relatively early in the autumn of 1964.

My recollections of him are not too colored by what's happened since. It was clear right at the outset that he was a person of extraordinary interpersonal gifts. He was a person who was able to engage others with remarkable facility. He was obviously a smart person, obviously somebody very interested in essence in political life, and it was pretty clear that he was a natural at it.

Riley

Was it unusual to have somebody from Arkansas in that position? Was Georgetown at that time more or less a kind of East Coast school?

P. Verveer

No, Georgetown in those days attracted students from all over. Because it was a Jesuit school, a Catholic school, it tended to have a pretty heavily Catholic student body as a percentage matter, so getting people who weren't Catholics, while it was far from rare, was a little bit unusual. But the students did come from all over the country and indeed from all over the world. It was a relatively cosmopolitan body. Given that so many of the students were socialized in kind of a Catholic viewpoint, in that sense it wasn't a terribly cosmopolitan student body and people like Bill Clinton obviously added a good deal to the sense of diversity.

Riley

I guess I'm trying to get a sense of whether--You're talking about this person who comes out of a rural, Southern background, who's not a Catholic. He would seem to stand out as a bit of an oddity in that kind of environment.

P. Verveer

I suppose, in a kind of narrow, cultural sense, he might have been a little bit unusual. If you were to probe deeply into this, you'd say that he was sufficiently unusual so that this could have been a handicap rather than a plus in terms of his attracting student votes and things of that nature. But again, he had even then a kind of overwhelming personal quality that caused people to identify with him, to feel a real affinity for him. He stood out virtually from the moment he showed up at the place.

Jones

Another way to ask Russell's question is why did Bill Clinton choose Georgetown? We've heard reasons why, but what's your version of why he was there?

P. Verveer

I have, of course, since heard versions of it, so that probably colors my sense of the situation. The thing I'd say is that the foreign service school at Georgetown in those days was a little bit unusual in that it held itself out, it publicized itself, as a place that was training people for international activities, for the U.S. State Department in particular, but generally for governmental international activities. The student body tended to be people who, for whatever set of reasons, were drawn to Washington anyway, drawn to the activities that take place in Washington.

At the time, and maybe even today--We perhaps flattered ourselves as well--on average the student body was a pretty serious group. There was a kind of culture in the school that, as the oral tradition came down to us, had sort of come down from the veterans from World War II. An awful lot of G.I. Bill [Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944] people had been attracted to the school, and the student body not too long before the '60s consisted of people who on average were somewhat older, had gotten past their adolescence pretty well, and were relatively more serious types. There was a little bit of that, as well. Again, there's a fair percentage of self-flattery in that. That notion also persisted in terms of the kinds of people who applied to the school. The story, at least the way I've heard it, is that it was mostly because it was in Washington that caused him to apply there.

Riley

Feel free to weigh in if you have any additional observations. Chuck, go ahead. Did you have something to follow up on this?

Jones

I guess just some sort of developmental impressions. You were there two years together, correct?

P. Verveer

That's right.

Jones

And as well, Melanne?

Verveer

Well, I stayed on for graduate school. Clinton hadn't graduated from undergraduate years at that point, so I was there for his loss of the student body presidency election.

Riley

Which becomes an important story, as I understand it, later on. To track through to Chuck's question, did you know Bill well, outside the channels of student government and politics or was he just somebody that--

P. Verveer

No, not really beyond that. He wasn't really in the kind of social circle that I was in. I was two years older and it turns out that in undergraduate school that probably makes some difference. While I knew some of his close friends, at least knew them casually and vice versa, it wasn't a kind of situation where we were socializing together. We weren't in classes together or anything like that.

Riley

Was there, among the students that you knew, any sense that this was a fish out of water? Here's a guy who's coming out of the South--I'm from Alabama; I guess maybe I'm overly sensitive about these things--you know, this rube, this hayseed who's out of his element. Was there any of that that you detected?

P. Verveer

No, I really didn't. There was, and there probably still is today when circumstances warrant it, a little bit of an ability on the part of President Clinton to play up or play down his Southern-ness. There would be times when he would play it up a little bit, but it was pretty clear he was playing it up. He had about him a quality that you could tell almost immediately was unusual. I don't think anybody from that point of view thought, Well, there's this fellow who is really kind of an alien presence. He's not a Catholic. He speaks with an accent. You didn't get any sense of that.

I should add one thing that's interesting. One never had any sense that his background was anything other than middle class, maybe tending toward upper middle class. There was never, at least in my association with him, any sense at all that there had been in his background--I now understand there was--a kind of socioeconomic struggle to move up. There was just no sense of that that ever came to me when I knew him back then.

Riley

Melanne, you were agreeing with this?

Verveer

He was not a misfit. He didn't stick out in any perceptible way. He was tremendously ingratiating, and very handsome. He loved life and he absorbed everything around him. There's the story about the Jesuit who was so taken by his ability in philosophy class that he approached him one day and said, "Have you ever thought about being a Jesuit?" Clinton looked up and said, "Well, don't you think I ought to become a Catholic first?" It was because he just really got into any subject that he cared enough about.

He says to this day that one of the classes that impressed him the most was the one that the non-Catholics took in lieu of whatever was put out as Catholic theology at the time. They took a course on comparative religions by a Jesuit scholar by the name of Joe Sebes. Clinton to this day says that that course had a tremendous impact on him because he could walk through the world's religions, and this young man from a very small place in Arkansas was open to a world he hadn't heretofore been in contact with.

Riley

One of the things that's striking in your description is the level of self-confidence that this very young person has in moving from something that's very provincial to something that's very cosmopolitan. That's an accurate reading. This is a guy who didn't have a problem with self-confidence at this stage to your mind.

P. Verveer

You're absolutely right.

Shogan

Would you describe him as being ambitious? Would that be a good adjective or is that too aggressive of an adjective?

P. Verveer

Perfectly fair adjective.

Shogan

Did he talk about his political ambitions to you when you were working together on student body politics? Did the conversation ever go to, "This is what I'm going to do when I get out of Georgetown. This is what I'm going to do with the rest of my life."

P. Verveer: No, he never said to me in any explicit way, "I'm going to run for office as soon as I can and move as far along in that process as I can." In a sense he didn't have to say it. I'm now certain that he would have succeeded in anything he'd undertaken. But if he had said to me at the time, "I really want to be a history professor," I would have been a little bit surprised. It seemed to me it was pretty clear where his interests resided.

Verveer

The other thing to keep in mind is the times. This was, for him, just after [John F.] Kennedy. We were all caught up in the Kennedy euphoria. A great majority of young people were impressed with the dynamic of public service and, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." I don't think Clinton was immune from that either.

In fact, I can remember telling him at the '92 convention when we were all gathered after his speech--I said, "You know, you've got the capacity to do for our kids what Kennedy did for you and me." He said, "Yes, I really remember what an impact he had on me." That context of the times is also important, even though, as Phil said, he was a real political animal.

Jones

Let me ask Colleen's question in a little different way. It's a hard question, reflective. Were there either developments in his political life, or characteristics of him as a politician where you judged, That doesn't surprise me, because--you fill in the blanks. Because, in our knowledge of him at Georgetown--this, that or the other thing. See what I'm saying?

P. Verveer

I guess the thing I could say about that--as you know, he ran for office initially when he was very young. He'd only gotten back to Arkansas when he took on a really major effort--

Jones

The House race.

Verveer

[Paul] Hammerschmidt

P. Verveer

He was on the order of 28 years old when he did that. It surprised me in one sense that he did it so quickly. Applying my great amateur skills in terms of political advancement, I would have said, "This is a little too soon. You ought to wait a bit." But as I look back on the time at Georgetown, it was clear he wasn't a person given to waiting. He was not a person given to this kind of deferral of activities, which he subsequently said he attributes, to some extent, to the fact that his father died before he was born. Life is short and uncertain and the rest.

From that point of view one might, looking back, say, "I sort of understand what's happening," whereas, in a somewhat different context one would have said, "This feels awfully soon to be moving into something as significant as a congressional race against a well-established incumbent."

Jones

Is it also possibly explained by his own personal confidence?

P. Verveer

Surely in part. I say this to experts, but it seems to me it is one of the things that is notable about anybody who stands for election. As a good friend of mine who worked in the Congress for 25 years said, "You have to understand, there's something a little bit unusual about anybody who does this, to put themselves forward and say, 'I'm the person who is able to do this. You really ought to choose me over everybody else.'"

Jones

There's got to be a little egocentrism there.

P. Verveer

There must be something a little bit different, that's right. And the higher up you go in the political realm, it seems, the more there must be of this. At some point, the normal incidence of self-doubt and so forth would perhaps stop some people. I can think of a lot of contemporary examples of people one might have thought might have been plausible Presidential candidates who have never taken that step. Some of it surely must be that.

In the case of anybody who has done it, I think we can reasonably assume they have a very high degree of self-confidence to take that step. I don't doubt at all that Bill Clinton had that. I never saw anything at Georgetown that would suggest that he didn't.

Riley

Let me ask you a related question. Were there other people at Georgetown at the time that you would have put in the same league with Clinton? We look back and we're thinking, Why didn't Billy or Jimmy or Sue--?

P. Verveer

I remember I once said something like this at a student council meeting toward the end of the time we were together. There was a fellow named David Bochnowski, a very capable fellow who was a year behind us, in between us and Bill Clinton, a very serious fellow from Indiana. He was leaving the student council for some reason and I complimented him and I said, "You know, I think you're the only person here who could win an actual election." Then I said, "outside of the Deep South."

It was clear to me that Clinton just stood in juxtaposition with all the others who were doing this. It was just very different. He had a skill set in this realm that wasn't really remotely of the same dimension as the rest of us who were student politicians. For most of us, fortunately, you get it out of your system and approach adult life in more conventional ways. In that sense, he was very different.

Jones

One of the things that struck me in reading the [David] Maraniss book, which remains, I think, one of the best profiles of Clinton, is the consistency of this characteristic that I can only describe as "talk." There are several phases of his life up until the time that he treated in that book, and you can find different periods where he describes this--not only talk, but, good talkers also listen, so you don't become a bore, right? That characteristic comes to be very important in explaining Clinton. That's just my estimate. Is that correct? Was it correct then?

P. Verveer

It surely was correct then. I've come to another explanation that relates in a way to the difference in the way in which I perceived Clinton as an undergraduate and the way I perceive him today. It's this: I'm inclined to believe that one of the things that Clinton did as an undergraduate and perhaps one of the things he did all through his career, at least to the point where he became President, was, he consciously or subconsciously masked his intelligence. That is to say, he prevented people from understanding that he has a kind of intelligence that has arced out of the known universe and is kind of singular.

That was never apparent at Georgetown. It was clear he was very smart, but this was never apparent at Georgetown, at least to me, and I think others might say the same thing. There must have been something conscious or maybe subconscious about it. People won't like me if they appreciate that I'm really, in this dimension, not one of them.

One other related thing I'll add to the historical record to the disadvantage of anybody who happens to read this. It seems to me that one of the realities of this man is that he has a memory bank that is different from almost anybody else's memory bank. He apparently holds every bit of information he ever encountered, wherever he encountered it, and he can access it in an instant to make use of it in terms of these interactions.

When you ask, "Did you see him progress as a sort of political figure or as an undergraduate," one of the realities is, yes, he did. But one of the reasons he progressed was that he would learn little bits and pieces about everybody he encountered and he was able to pull these up at a moment's notice and use them in ways that would be flattering. This skill, which he can apply on a personal level, say, the ability to listen, to focus on people, to basically say, "Is your dog still as healthy as it used to be?" It's something that he can apply to almost anything. If you saw him--as I was privileged to--make all these extemporaneous talks at the White House, it's just astounding to watch him pull information, in many cases relatively erudite pieces of information, about an incredibly wide range of subjects, just apparently out of thin air and lay them on the table.

To get back to the question you asked, it does seem to me that he clearly has this ability. Maraniss has this right, or what you've discerned from David's book is certainly right. But it's also a reflection of this unusual quality that he has, this unusual gift that he has, and which he clearly exploits.

Verveer

I can add a concrete example of that. I can remember being in Africa with him and we were sitting around a table like this with Hillary and Bruce Lindsey and a couple of other people. He was taking the events of the day and reflecting on their meaning, and all of a sudden he got into this extraordinarily long exegesis about a class he had had at Georgetown in English literature. He was making all of these comments relating the events of the day with what he had learned in this class. I'm listening and I'm thinking, What class was that? I said to him, "Who did you have for English?" He said, "Dr. [Robert] Irving." I said, "What was the class?" It was the same one I had taken two years earlier. It was a point about [William] Faulkner. I said, "I was in the same class and I don't remember any of this." He not only had the recall Phil mentioned but he did a synthesis that always just blew our minds. He would take these facts that either we didn't remember or we knew, and make connections that were just astounding.

Jones

The effect or even function of a talker with a memory bank is that others come also to depend on you. That's a possibility, that you develop--Because it's interesting, and because, if it's reliable, then there's a kind of a dependency. Is that the case? Are there examples of that at Georgetown, where there came to be Clinton followers, or people at least who wanted to be with him, for those reasons?

P. Verveer

Again, because I wasn't really in his social circle, I don't really know the answer to that. No doubt there are a lot of people being interviewed about this who could competently answer that question. I just can't. It's clear to me that one consequence of this is if you have the skills of a raconteur--There are times when he is capable, and I've seen him do it--His amazing monologues about the most remarkably erudite things, on the one hand, and on the other hand, popular culture and so forth. Astounding. I'd listen to these sometimes and after a while I would realize he must be talking about an actor or he must be talking about a motion picture or something, things that completely escape me.

Shogan

Someone like that can be spellbinding, but also may incur some enemies along the way. If you're that talented and you have that recall, you may in fact encounter people who dislike you for your talents. Did you see that at Georgetown? Did he have political enemies in student government? How did he treat them and how did that work out?

P. Verveer

You're exactly right, Colleen. Ultimately this creates resentments and--

Jones

I hated guys like that. [laughter]

Shogan

I went to school with all of them.

P. Verveer

It did create resentments and there was a kind of divide that eventually opened up between people who, in some workaday sense, felt themselves among the elect and those who didn't. There's no doubt about that. It's inevitable.

Verveer

I wasn't in the middle of any of this, but I had the sense in that student government race for president of the student body, when he lost, that he demonstrated a desire to be more the compromiser, something we've seen all through his political career, as opposed to taking on the university administration at the time, which Terry [Modglin] was doing. And in the end his analysis--

Jones

Terry being?

Verveer

Terry Modglin, his opponent, who came up victorious. Clinton's analysis of why he lost was, while he was trying to create a sense of can't we all just get along and work this out, his opponent was hitting hard on some of the things that maybe the administration at the time wasn't prepared to make happen. I don't know if that's fair.

P. Verveer

As you may recall, I was safely in Chicago.

Verveer

I remember. You were in law school.

P. Verveer

I'm sure there's something to this. Bill was probably seen a little bit more as a kind of establishment figure among the students. This other fellow, who also happened to be a good friend of ours, was seen as more of an insurgent.

Riley

So he wasn't, in the context of the times, considered to be radical or sort of "out there" in terms of some of the issues?

P. Verveer

I certainly don't think so, in terms of the concerns of the campus. A critical thing for people to understand about all this is the enormous kink in the curve in terms of our cultural, political, world that occurred in the late '60s. To go to Georgetown University, to graduate in 1966, which Melanne and I did, and to leave the campus at that point was to leave the campus at a point where it was surely closer to the world of 1946 than it was if you came back two years later to the world in 1968. To return to that campus two years later was to have seen a kind of revolution to have occurred.

One of the realities in all of this, in terms of his later undergraduate years, is that it was in the midst of this unbelievable upheaval. I don't believe I've ever seen anything remotely like it before or since in my lifetime. It was stunningly different. That also was seriously at play in this.

Verveer

Related to that, you have this young man who clearly had a sense of what the divisions between the races had caused in the South. He felt very empathetic to black people, which was demonstrated through his whole Presidency. He was the black President in many ways. It was rather striking as a young man in college in the period when Phil was no longer there. The riots broke out when Martin Luther King [Jr.] was killed and Clinton was going into the riot-torn area of Washington, trying to bring assistance as best a student could in those days. If the college years in any way are part of a continuum, that continuum in terms of reaching out to black people was pretty striking for a college student in the '60s.

Riley

There's a story Maraniss tells about your heading south--I may not have this right--for the Selma march, but Clinton was not a part of that effort?

P. Verveer

It occurred when I was a junior, in the spring of 1965. Some of us did go down. It tended to be people in the upper classes of the undergraduate school. I don't think any of the freshmen at that point went, but a bunch of us did go.

Riley

There was no disagreement at that time, insofar as you knew, about--

P. Verveer

Oh no, this wouldn't have been a function of any particular difference in outlook about the techniques, if you will, the means of civil rights activities. This was just a function--When you're an undergraduate, a couple of years makes a big difference.

Riley

I just wanted to make sure we weren't overreading his absence of involvement in--

Jones

One of the things that impressed me in his own book about this election in Georgetown is not only the recall but the analysis. Clearly he analyzed it afterward and what had to be changed if he were going to be in politics. It was not that different from some of the analysis when he lost in '80 for Governor and then the '94 loss of the Congress. He treated it, it seemed to me, as about that serious. Was that your impression?

Verveer

I was a lofty graduate student at the time, hardly caring about the undergraduate student body race, but there were two people running whom I knew well and I knew that Bill Clinton had lost. Phil's advice to me always is to stay out of it, which I tend not to do. In the lobby of the School of Foreign Service there's this massive globe of the world. I ran into Clinton maybe a day or so later and he was sulking under the globe. He was leaning against the rail.

I went up to him and I said, "Look, just get over it. These things happen." He was very analytical. I remember saying, "You can go up to the Hill now. You can feel free to work for [William] Fulbright. You can engage yourself in the real world as opposed to the fake world of student government." I was trying to be helpful and I really believed what I was saying, but I could tell that he was still really, really hurting from having lost. He didn't go into, "If I had only done this, or I had only done that," but he clearly saw that he had tried more to be the compromiser in that race, and the insurgent won the day because he was closer to the way the students were feeling.

But I think you are right, Chuck, that he was, even then, very analytical about why it was that he had lost something he had really put his heart and soul into.

Riley

You mentioned Fulbright. I taught at Georgetown for a bit and have friends who've gone there, and it's very common now for students who go to Georgetown to have a presence on Capitol Hill. It's almost expected. I get the impression that it wasn't that way when you guys were in school. Is that correct?

P. Verveer

It is correct. It was much less commonly done. People who did it were regarded as people who were very serious, not necessarily serious about running for office, but very serious about public affairs. It wasn't something that was easy to do, and as you suggest, not common.

Riley

You headed off to law school. Melanne, you stayed. You two were together as undergraduates? I'm just trying to get your own biography set.

P. Verveer

We were essentially a couple from the middle of our sophomore years forward and by the time we graduated, we were engaged.

Riley

You stayed in Washington for how long?

Verveer

I had gotten a fellowship to go to graduate school at Georgetown, so I stayed for another year or so and then joined him and wrote my thesis from there.

Riley

In?

Verveer

In Chicago.

P. Verveer

We got married a year after we graduated from undergraduate.

Riley

So, '67 or so. And you had maintained some connection with Clinton?

Verveer

You don't lose your connection to Clinton. I think that probably is an interesting piece about this as well. Part of it may go back to Chuck's question about ambition. I remember reporters asking me, ad nauseum, in the '92 campaign, "Well, you knew him in college. Was he running for President then? Wasn't he compiling his list of people that he was going to need?" Maybe subliminally that was always there. But he didn't let go of his friends. He was good to his friends and he would stay in touch. I've got all kinds of notes of things he would send or calls he would make. He wasn't somebody who knew you and then forgot about you.

Riley

Could you characterize for us the extent of your communications after this period? One of the things that I'm trying to do is get a sense about exactly what you're talking about, trying to gauge the degree of connectivity and what you might have been seeing of him during this period of time. I'm also keeping an eye on our own sense of timing because I know you've got other things you need to do and I don't want to keep you.

P. Verveer

I think the answer is, highly episodic.

Verveer

Episodic.

P. Verveer

This is one of the skill sets--that you always felt somewhat connected. Of course, there are times and places in your life where you tend to feel connected to other people. Undergraduate school is certainly one of those places. The military is obviously another. Even if you don't see the people very often, you believe there's more meaning in those relationships.

Verveer

One of the things that I found rather astounding--I was working at Common Cause in the late '70s. It must have been toward the end of that first term when Clinton was going into a deficit in terms of his reelection as Governor. We had put out a study on energy. I can't remember the specifics of it. I think it had to do with energy conservation on the state level and Arkansas did not rate well. In the scheme of things, this was not significant. It was not going to blow somebody's race, by any means. Common Cause was lucky if they got a headline that then was promptly forgotten the next day.

Bill Clinton called. As I remember, he asked for Phil to complain about me. I'm still quite astounded by that, but I think it's a reflection of, What are all of these things out there that may be undoing my reelection? I hardly think that that energy study was one of them, but it was quite fascinating.

Shogan

Do you remember when he met Hillary Rodham? Hearing about that or hearing about his marriage or any first impressions of that?

P. Verveer

There's the Capitol Hill story. There are sort of two stories. One of them is, Clinton said to me at some point with respect to his marriage, "I sort of followed your example. I've married for brains and ability rather than for glamour," or words to that effect. I thought that was a very kind thing to say and as subsequent events have had it, to identify my wife with Hillary is something I take to be flattering and a plus, but apparently it all depends on where you stand in life.

The other story is one Melanne had. She ran into him on Capitol Hill--

Verveer

Which one was that?

P. Verveer

You ran into Bill, who told you that you had to get to know Hillary because the two of you had a lot in common.

Verveer

Oh, yes.

Riley

Let me ask--There are just a few issue areas to see if this sparks any recollections. One is about Vietnam. That comes later. Do you remember any discussions or his positioning with respect to Vietnam?

P. Verveer

No, because it really did come later. It was beginning at that point. By the time I graduated from college, it was only beginning to be an issue. I really don't remember anything about that vis-a-vis Bill Clinton.

Riley

Melanne, the same is true for you?

Verveer

No.

Riley

The period when he was at Oxford--any recollections from that?

P. Verveer

No

Riley

Did you ever go to Arkansas?

Verveer

Not until much, much later. He had invited us down, but we just never got there.

P. Verveer

We were laboring under the disadvantages of a government income in those days. A trip to Arkansas was extremely exotic and well beyond any reasonable budget we had.

Jones

That may be the first time that's ever been used to describe Arkansas--as an "exotic" place.

Riley

Exotic--Hot Springs is supposed to be. I'm trying to track through the biography. You knew him a bit as Governor. You followed his electoral fortunes.

Verveer

Made campaign contributions probably, small ones.

Riley

You could see then, you were beginning to sense--You told the story earlier about feeling that he probably had been moving a bit more quickly than you anticipated, but he began to have some electoral success. You got to know the couple. You got to know Bill and Hillary.

P. Verveer

It became clear over this time where his ambitions resided. I used to say to younger people, trying to help them out--Without identifying him, I'd say, "I know this person fairly well who wakes up every morning and says to himself, 'I'm not what I want to be. What I want to be is President of the United States.'" I would try to say, "You have no idea how fortunate you are if you aren't in that kind of position, where you can wake up in the morning and say, 'I don't have some very-difficult-to-attain, maybe virtually-impossible-to-attain, set of ambitions.' You should flatter yourself. You've found the good life."

I always had to add, "This isn't what advances human civilization, this kind of complacency, but nevertheless it's what makes for a happier life." Some of these people who I told this story to came back to me in later years and said, "I now know who you were talking about and I see the deficiencies in your view about these ambitions."

Riley

Take us through, then. Where does the story really begin to pick up with--

Verveer

With respect to Hillary?

Riley

With respect to Bill and Hillary.

Verveer

Actually there were times in the evolution of public policy debates that were going on where I would make contact. I cannot remember the year, but I do remember meeting up with her in a hotel in Washington. She was active in the Children's Defense Fund and I was working on a number of social policy issues. We had not really met or talked at any length at that point and we spent several hours together just covering the landscape. It was clear that we really did have a lot in common and got to know each other much better from that time on.

But there were occurrences, like the judicial selection debates and the ideological litmus test that was occurring during the Reagan administration. I would get in touch with Clinton and ask him, for example, if he would testify--I can remember asking him if he'd testify against [Robert] Bork. At the time, even though he had had Bork as a professor--If I remember correctly, he was going to be out of the country and he may have submitted written testimony.

I had asked Hillary to get involved in several projects, mostly having to do with young people and voter participation and civic engagement, because she cared about those things and as a member of the ABA's [American Bar Association] panel on women and the law, she had a platform beyond her Arkansas-centric work. In addition to that, she had been on the board of the Legal Services Corporation. So there were ways for intersections to occur, but they weren't hugely significant in terms of how things would begin to evolve in 1991, '92.

Riley

Did you ever get a sense that she was frustrated in Arkansas?

Verveer

Oh, there were certainly limitations in Arkansas. She did have her legal career, but it was a place that one had to adjust to. It didn't have the kinds of institutions and interests that she was accustomed to. She obviously had to comport herself in a way where she had to adjust. We can talk about what some of those adjustments were in terms of his own political career. She did say later on to me that she had actually learned a great deal from Arkansas and that in the end it had been a very positive experience for her. This was just a quiet conversation at one time when she was reflecting back and they were moving to Washington, or it may have been after they were in Washington. She looked back at it as a very positive experience.

Riley

Were the two of you consulted or talked with about the 1988 decision about--

Verveer

His not running? No.

Riley

The period leading up to that--I suppose I'll just throw out a general question. He had a couple of electoral defeats. There was a period when he lost in '80, '82. Do you have any specific recollections about contacts with him or Hillary about that interregnum?

Verveer

When he lost that Hammerschmidt race, I remember his being down about that, but there was also a sense that we were all--I felt like it was that conversation under the globe in the School of Foreign Service. There will be a tomorrow. And it was clearly proven that there was. I don't remember the race for AG. When did he run for attorney general?

Jones

In '78.

Riley

We're at a little bit of a disadvantage at not having that great a familiarity with certain points and that's why I'm just throwing out these general questions. So you go from the loss; he comes back in. You've told us a bit about some of your conversations with Hillary. Bill came to Washington with some great frequency when he was Governor--National Governors Association meetings and things of that nature. Did you see him in D.C.?

Verveer

Just socially, but it was very quick conversations.

Riley

I had asked about '88 because there's an important decision that they make not to run in '88 and then that brings us into the interval of '89 to roughly '91, when he's trying to make a decision about whether to seek the Presidency. At that interval, did you have discussions with him or Hillary during the period leading up to the decision to run, or do you remember having conversations within your networks about whether this was the time?

P. Verveer

The only specific recollection I have is sending him a note saying if he decided to do it, I'd guarantee that we'd carry the District of Columbia for him. This was a moment when this whole FOB [Friends of Bill] phenomenon crystallized. He had at this point a very large, ready-made group of people, a lot of whom had at least some interest in politics, eager to help him. All of us at some point or another contributed either encouragement or at least the notion that if he decided to do it, "We'll do everything we can to help you." The heavy lifting, the really serious decisions and considerations were made way outside my field of visibility.

Riley

How was he viewed within your networks as Governor, if he had a profile at all? This is a guy who--of course the realities of Arkansas--was having to govern in a way that would not have been viewed as liberal on the national stage, and you were running in fairly liberal circles in Washington.

Verveer

That would be an understatement. It's a demonstration of friendship over one's political predilections, if you will. He was clearly positioning himself as a centrist coming out of the South. He had to run that way, but I think he also moved the party in a way where, in the end, a Democrat was able to run for President successfully and run for reelection, which hadn't happened in a long time. There was a lot of skepticism among the people with whom I spent a lot of my time as to whether or not he was the genuine article in terms of the issues that they and I cared about.

I found myself in a position of always siding with Bill Clinton, saying, "That may be, but we have to win. We've got to really move forward," whatever I could do. Really, what was overtaking me in many ways was that here was an opportunity for us as Democrats. I knew this guy. He had the capacity. He clearly had the political skills. He was more on the side of the angels than not. We shouldn't push the envelope in a way where we commit political suicide again, having been involved in the [George] McGovern campaign. In many ways, if I played a role it was to try to move the quote-unquote "liberal community," although I hate all these labels, more to embracing him than dissing him.

Riley

This was a tough task?

Verveer

Sometimes this was a tough sell.

Riley

Among the other prospects at the time--We're talking about a period of time when the Democratic fortunes really didn't look too good because [George H. W.] Bush-the-elder was, for a crucial period of time, close to a 90 percent approval rating.

Verveer

Think of where he was at the height of the Gulf War.

Riley

But there were presumably other potential candidates--[Mario] Cuomo's name comes to mind as one--that your friends and colleagues might have found more appealing.

Verveer

I don't remember that they articulated a preference so much for somebody else as a skepticism about Clinton. And you know, he was very active in the DLC [Democratic Leadership Council]. He had become the head of the centrist group, and there's always been this fissure within the party of us versus them. I felt in many ways like I was a mediator, a narrow strata of one community vis-a-vis him.

Riley

Phil, do you feel comfortable that you've done what you want to do?

P. Verveer

I've contributed everything I can, and about 85 percent more.

Riley

Why don't we take a break right now and say so long to Phil. When we come back, we'll start with your question.

25

M. Verveer, 9/16-17/2004

[BREAK]

Jones

I want to hear, and I'm sure future scholars will want to hear, about your experiences prior to going to the White House. It really is quite literally your experience, at least my view of your experience, and it's special in my view because you associated yourself with, or worked for, advocacy groups. I'm interested in those experiences and what motivates that interest in advocacy, because then you got a track that carries through the Clinton administration, both terms, that I would judge to be important in explaining the Clinton White House as well. The main thing right now is for you to discuss, if you will, the approach to the White House in your own political and policy experience, policy more than political, I suppose.

Verveer

As I suggested at the outset, I'm not unique inasmuch as I think, like so many young people who grew up in the '60s, I was influenced by the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War and certainly much earlier by John Kennedy. I can remember always caring about politics and growing up in a household in a very small town in Pennsylvania, where my father was very much a civic activist who cared about politics. We were on a different sides--He was a Stevensonian and I was a Kennedy person--but regardless, it was always there and government was considered important.

In those very formative years for me, I certainly felt growing up that there was a role for government and that politics was a noble cause, that public service was a noble cause, and that we could make a difference for other people. Very tritely said, that pretty much is hugely influential. While I had spent most of my formal studies in learning Russian and Russian area studies, international more than domestic, what happened to me is I was also tempered by the women's rights movement. I was different from many of my professional colleagues inasmuch as I married early and started a family earlier than most, so I had the constraints of very young children that kept me from doing the kinds of things that I might have done had I not had the constraints of a family at that point.

I became engaged. I taught some, but the opportunities with respect to my field of studies were limited because I was also limited--one, by a family; two, by geographical constraints on us at the time. I had limitations that were keeping me from doing things that I might have done had I been on another track without those limitations. But the overriding interest of mine always was government and politics and public policy.

Also, to the extent that I found myself in Washington at Georgetown--Unlike Bill Clinton I didn't apply to just one college. I was less of a risk-taker, I guess. My classmates from high school tell me that on a junior trip to Washington I pointed to the spires of Georgetown without knowing anything about the place, saying, "That's where I'm going to school." It was less about Georgetown and more about being in Washington during the Kennedy years. I say all of that as background, because I think it was tremendously formative.

Riley

Can I interrupt? I don't want you to lose your train of thought, but in reading Mrs. Clinton's biography and other treatments of it, it's fairly clear that when she came along there was a real pull between the professional track and the wife-and-mother track. Did you feel that?

Verveer

I felt it intensely. I had a neighbor who was a professor at Georgetown and I was only able to work part time in the early '70s to mid-'70s. I felt this tension inside of me of wanting to take care of the kids but also wanting to do what I wanted to do outside the home. It was an extremely difficult time for some of us. Hillary, being several years younger, was much freer in many ways than I was, but for women at the time, if we're going to go on and talk about "tea and cookies" and other phenomena in our society, about the role of women, I was experiencing it in some ways and could appreciate how others may have felt. Then there was the pull from the professional women, for want of a better description. Yes, it was a time of a lot of sociological tensions.

To get back to Chuck's question, I always tell young people, "You can have goals about what you want to achieve, but if you're not Bill Clinton, you might wind up in an entirely different place, depending where you find yourself at the time." At the time, I was wanting to participate more directly than I had been able, given my personal situation. I was involved in the McGovern campaign, and after that I went to Common Cause.

There was a wonderful human being heading it up by the name of David Cohen. I said I could only work part time. I was probably the only person in my situation, inasmuch as I had very young children and nobody else did. David was so gracious. He liked what I was doing, and they made an exception to pay me to be a part-time worker. It sounds totally incomprehensible today, I realize, but for those times it was an extraordinary act of faith and an extraordinary gesture on his part to bring me on board. I was able to work in that capacity until I ultimately was able to work full time at Common Cause over a period of years, my children being at different places in their own development, and then moving on from there to other opportunities.

I went to the Consumer Cooperative Bank, and then I was at the U.S. Catholic Conference on the policy side of the operation, where I was doing urban policy and civil rights. That was at the beginning of the Reagan administration. I largely spent my life in those years trying to get the Voting Rights Act [of 1965] extended and then working with a coalition of organizations to fight off the Reagan budget cuts with the [Phil] Gramm-[Delbert] Latta bill, and the shrinking of the social service state that was occurring at the time.

It was then that I helped Bob Greenstein start the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, for example. We developed human needs coalitions and other kinds of efforts to really try to impact the government at the time, not with a whole lot of success, I might add. But it was another growth experience, because at Common Cause I was mostly working on institutional reform, campaign finance reform, the ever-present issue that never seems to go away and never really gets tackled.

Jones

God, I hate that issue.

Verveer

I hated it too. When I moved on, I was working on issues like food stamps and civil rights issues. I was on the board of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and that was a whole world that was opening up in terms of quasi-judicial issues, constitutional issues. I moved from there to--I'm trying to remember if I went up to the Hill before that or after that.

Jones

When you worked for--

Verveer

Marcy Kaptur was in--

Jones

Another Wisconsin graduate.

Verveer

Yes, another Wisconsin graduate, who is largely responsible for our son going to Wisconsin, so you see how these things happen. That was '82 that I worked for her. Did I go to the USCC [U.S. Catholic Conference] after that? Can't even remember my own trajectory. But at any rate, the congressional experience was being on the inside of government at the time--

Jones

Eighty-one, '82 you were at the USCC, then '83, '84 with Kaptur.

Verveer

--with Marcy, being on the inside of government and having to take on these issues in a way that was much more direct. There you had the Congress--The class of '82 was an anomaly. Nobody was expecting the Democrats to do as well as they did. Marcy had asked me to come up and work for her because I had actually played some role in encouraging her to run for office. She was at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] working on her graduate degree. She was being asked by the local Democratic Party in Toledo if she'd be interested in running. All of the obvious candidates said, "We're not running. Reagan is immensely popular. We don't want to destroy our potential." I said to her, "What have you got to lose?" She ran and won, with two staff people, labor support, a very small budget. She said, "You got me into this, now get up here and help me work this through."

It was an experience that is not a lifetime experience. I told her I didn't want to stay more than a couple of years, but I did play what I hoped was a useful role in beginning to move a legislative agenda at the time. Clearly the impact of these budget cuts--There were severe unemployment problems. We worked on unemployment compensation extension and issues like that. The long and short of that was that it gave me a real sense of government dealing with these issues, different from the side I'd been on, which was the advocacy side. It was useful to see what works and what doesn't, what kind of importunings really make a difference. What do Members of Congress have to go through? How do they make their decisions? How do they compromise? It was a bird's eye view that was actually like a graduate program for me to be able to see more directly what we were up against.

From there I had gotten a call from a friend who said, "People for the American Way is looking for a public policy director. Might you be interested in that?" I remember thinking, Well, what are the public policies? What made it so attractive was that he said, "It's up to you to begin to think this through." I found that incredibly challenging to be able to go into a national organization that was cutting edge but not having made its mark at that point in a significant way.

Jones

I've forgotten when People for the American Way started.

Verveer

It started in the late '70s and I was there in approximately '84. Its genesis was really to respond to the unfairness of the tactics of the religious right in American politics. I had a chance to develop a public policy. Part of that was this whole area of judicial selection at a time when an ideological litmus test was beginning to get imposed on the independent federal judiciary. So I found myself in another whole area of issues--constitutional issues, the separation of church and state issues, how we choose judges, the role of the courts, the importance of the Supreme Court. It was a very rich time for me.

In the process of all of that, I was also working on how to get young people engaged in civic activism. How do we get young people to understand how important democratic values are, and how they have to be nurtured, and the responsibilities that one has? As we were proceeding on this track and conducting focus groups, it was very clear that there were no mediating institutions today that were touching young people. Yet, if a democracy mattered, and we considered ourselves a democracy organization, youngsters in our society needed to be imbued with the kinds of values that were important to the nurturing of engaged citizens.

It was in the process of that that we had put together a VIP [very important person] blue-ribbon panel to look at the state of civic activism among young people. I asked Hillary if she would chair that panel. She was happy to do that. That was clearly several years after I had come to know her better. It gave us a chance to work more closely together on some of those kinds of issues.

It was at People for the American Way, where I still was, when it became very clear that Clinton was going to make his race for the Presidency. I didn't leave my job at the time, but I tried to be as helpful as I could on the outside. In fact, I didn't formally take a leave of absence until the fall campaign.

But that notion of being an advocate for a whole range of causes--all of them knit together in many ways, not wholly dissimilar but with different emphases to be sure, whether working in government, on the "inside" or on the "outside"--I do consider myself an advocate and I do understand the difference.

As an advocate and as one committed to the things one wants to make a difference on, you do push the envelope as far as you can. You do try to get in there and shake things up and make some noise and get some attention in hopes that one can achieve some solutions. On the other hand, in government, there is the art of the possible. It isn't so stark. It's more gray than it is black and white, truly. The glass is more half full than it is half empty, or at least I was always wanting it to be more half full than half empty, so I supported those kinds of solutions. I didn't want the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

Shogan

You're talking about the tension or the difference between being an advocate and being someone involved in government and you talk about it in your own professional development. Did you see that tension with Hillary Clinton as well? Was she an advocate, or was she someone who was more tuned to being in government?

Verveer

I would ask it a different way. Hillary is much more the pragmatist than she is the idealist. Certainly she is a person highly motivated by her ideals, but she knows the art of the possible. That may not have come clear in the health care debate. Maybe I'm getting way ahead, but she's much more a pragmatic person than she is perceived to be, particularly by her detractors.

One only has to look at her own personal comportment during some of his political campaigns. Clinton says, and I believe this, and I have never heard otherwise, that he never put pressure on her, for example, to give up her family name and take on the Clinton name during the period in his gubernatorial race when it was clearly controversial. I think it was Jim Guy Tucker who was running ads where you couldn't help but see "Rodham" flashed up there on the screen instead of "Clinton." Everybody was counseling her to change her name, that it was a problem for Bill. She did. In many ways, many feminists--I use that term knowing that it's explosive to some--but if one cares about women's progress and women's choices, and her making the choices that were right for her, many other feminists probably would not have done that.

She did that, and she moved to Arkansas, which I think a lot of other women may not have done. I have a very close friend who is her close friend, the woman who drove her to Arkansas, who maintains to this day that every so many miles she would say to her, "You're throwing your life away. Why do you want to go down there? You're a very bright person with enormous potential and capacities and capabilities. What's going to happen to you when you go to this place?" But she did that. She said, "I went with my heart."

Jones

Became an exotic.

Verveer

Became an exotic. I think those may be--Well, they're not so small examples, but they are examples nevertheless of a pragmatism, or a love, of a different consideration overtaking her decision making. I saw this an awful lot in those government years where I found myself in the same place with her. "Let's get done as much as we can get done." That was kind of the mantra, as opposed to, "Let's go for the gold." "Let's take the brass."

Jones

A couple more questions just to complete this, because I think what you've described will be of great interest to scholars. There are different ways to satisfy an interest in policy and advocacy. One is your track; another would be to run for office; another would be to work in government, in the bureaucracy at either the state or local level or the national level. How do you explain the track you took, and did you have an urge to do either of the others?

Verveer

I never had an urge to run for office. If I could have run, it would have been from the place from where I came, and I had kind of left it behind. I went away for boarding school for my high school years and then I was in Washington. I always saw myself as making my contribution in Washington. I really didn't think through whether that was going to be in government or whether it was going to be in affecting government from the outside. To me these were not serious choices in terms of differentiating choices. To me, either one would have been perfectly acceptable as long as I was participating in the fray. My overriding interest was always to be part of it, rather than to be part of it specifically in government or to be part of it specifically in public interest work.

I fell into public interest work, as I mentioned. I was very eager to be doing something other than staying home with the kids at the time, post-McGovern campaign. This opportunity presented itself and it really was the beginning of an evolution for me, where I always happened to be at a different place or the right place, but at a place, nevertheless, where new opportunities presented themselves and I could always seize them and they were extremely influential in my own personal development.

Jones

So in part, the constraints that you were describing earlier on women at that time help to explain--

Verveer

Certainly, I was going through my own personal identity crisis and I think that was not atypical for women like myself in the late '60s. You either postponed marriage and having a family, or got married and postponed having a family and proceeded on your professional track, or you were in my situation where you were making your contribution at home, knowing you had a long life, hopefully, ahead of you, and at some point society would be more responsive, and it would be easy to move back into one's professional situation.

I look at my own daughter today who is a lawyer and who has basically gone from law school to the workplace and had kids along the way and continues to do this incredible juggling act. Because of my experience and Hillary's own experience--as we get into the discussion of domestic policy we will see that this issue of balancing work and family is a huge issue for our society. Being a good parent and being a good employee and making one's contribution is something that is a public policy issue besides a personal conundrum for a heck of a lot of people.

Jones

You've partially answered my other question, that is, whether you know of other women, roughly the same age and similarly influenced, to go into advocacy and work for many of the same reasons.

Verveer

I don't know if they were for reasons that emanated from their own personal circumstances. Probably the predominant reason one goes into advocacy is because one can really personally resonate with whatever the predisposition of the organization is, the mission of the organization. But if you can have that accommodation where it fits with your own personal needs and responds to the kinds of things you believe in and want to pursue and make a contribution on, obviously you have a win-win situation.

Jones

I think it is the case, historically, that these public interest groups, the history of the public interest groups is--

Verveer

They responded to a need of the times. Women who were at various law centers or policy centers were pushing an agenda different from mine. Obviously, I was working on civil rights and I was working on impacts on low-income people, which weren't my personal situation. But there were many women, my contemporaries, who were beginning to blaze that trail of equal pay for equal work, or getting rid of discrimination in employment, or, later on, participation in athletics--all of the things that were preventing women from becoming total participants in their society. Many of the kinds of things, ironically, or coincidentally, or just because this is the way it all works out, we are able to do to help women in other places today.

When I listen to stories from women in other parts of the world, I feel like I'm thrust back 20 or 30 years in my own country. It's hard for them to believe that in the United States not long ago, women woke up and looked at the newspaper classifieds and read, "Men only need apply for this job." This is exactly where I think you were headed with your question, which is, it took a lot of work and a lot of advocacy to change the laws and then work in the trenches to ensure that those laws are enforced and implemented to bring about the kind of change that guaranteed equal rights. So yes, I think women were predisposed coming out of this, and seeing that even the professional women who were freed up from the domestic constraints were less able to participate in the workplace in a fair way, an equal way, than they may have dreamed, given the education that they had to be able to do that.

Jones

That story hasn't been told. It may have. It certainly should be.

Abraham

Did you have any conversations with Hillary Clinton during this time when you worked with her in the 1980s about the struggles that you were just talking about? Chelsea was very young during that time, too. Can you recall any specific conversations you might have had about the struggles between raising a family and working?

Verveer

I don't remember conversations about children so much as I do remember conversations about some of the issues that were making the headlines in those days--what we were going to do about cutbacks in X program, or other kinds of political changes that were occurring that neither one of us was happy about. It was much more public policy-directed. I remember extensive conversations about her experience with the ABA panel, because I knew a lot of the women in the Bar who were also involved in that work with her. Interestingly enough, in many ways Hillary did not, because she was younger. Even a few years in those days, as Phil said, could have been centuries. Because she was younger and because of her personal circumstances, she didn't feel some of this discrimination as keenly.

I can remember talking to the woman who was the staff person to the panel at the American Bar Association that Hillary headed up on women and the law. It looked at discriminatory practices in the law firms--What are the practices affecting women, from secretarial positions up to the legal positions? Hillary, frankly, was a little skeptical initially that things might be as bad as she was hearing or that some would have led her to believe.

They had decided to hold forums, hearings, listening sessions in several different parts of the country to hear what women were going through in the legal profession. Those were really seminal moments for Hillary, where she began to understand that while she had been able to move from law school to progress in her legal career--to experience good jobs in the summer, or the Watergate investigation, et cetera--then going into Arkansas and becoming a law professor, and then going to the law firm--which was, if not the best law firm in town, one of the best--she was, in some ways, not experiencing the same kinds of discrimination.

It made a strong impression on her, what she was hearing of the kinds of difficulties that women were experiencing, that they should not have been experiencing. It's hard to know, because we're all products of a whole series of experiences in our lives, but I think in many ways that was an example. I saw her go through all kinds of listening sessions as First Lady and then as candidate for the Senate.

One would underestimate the impacts on her. She is a listener and then she acts on what she hears. As good as she is as a talker, she does listen and process and act on what she hears. That very early experience, when she was a lawyer in Arkansas heading up a national commission on women in the law and hearing those stories, I was told, really affected her.

Riley

My questions are about the role that you played. You told us that you didn't take a full leave of absence to join the campaign until the fall. Had you been consulting with them informally beforehand? And can you tell us a little bit about your informal consultations? Were they directly with Hillary or were they also with Bill?

Verveer

It's very hard for me, given that I don't benefit from the instant recall that a certain former President had, to know when all of these things occurred. To a large extent most of us were trying to raise money because it is the mother's milk, unfortunately, of the political process, and vast quantities had to be raised. The Georgetown crowd, like the Yale crowd, was extremely engaged in trying to be helpful.

So a lot of what I did was to bring people together in Washington, which is the community in which I spent all my life, after just short breaks when Phil was in law school and a couple of years after that. Otherwise I've spent a lot of time in Washington and there were a lot of people to engage in the possibilities of Bill Clinton as President, to get a lot of women involved in fundraising and to come to events. There was as much excitement about Hillary, frankly, in my community, as there was about him.

But I do remember distinctly going up to Philadelphia one day in the primary campaign. Hillary had a break, and Maggie Williams, a very close friend of mine--In fact, I was instrumental in having her go to the Children's Defense Fund. With Bob Greenstein, we've spent many years together working on comparable causes. Maggie was in graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania in communications. She was not on the campaign. I was not on the campaign, but we were both good friends and we both were friends of Hillary's, and we were concerned at the way the campaign was going.

I can remember sitting in a hotel room where she had a break for several hours. It was the two of us. There may have been somebody else there, perhaps some young staffer whom we didn't know well. Hillary said, "Well, how am I doing?" I can remember saying, "Not very well." I can remember her looking at me and saying, "Why?" I said, "Well, nobody knows you're a mother, anything about your child, or that you were a Sunday School teacher. We know that you're this powerful wonk, that you can answer every question on every topic, but we don't have any feel for you as a person."

She gave me this riff on how these things are private; she's always been a private person. She asked what have they got to do with the fact that she's out there on the campaign trail to help her husband? Her daughter shouldn't be a part of this. She was extremely protective, from the very first conversation, about exposing Chelsea to the ups and downs and the nastiness of a campaign. But we both told her she basically had to give people a sense of the person we knew, as opposed to the person who was coming across. The stereotype was already developing.

Riley

The "milk and cookies" thing had already occurred?

Verveer

You know, I can't remember where this was. "Milk and cookies," I think, came later. This was much earlier.

Riley

But it would have been after the Tammy Wynette thing, which occurred in--

Verveer

This could have been earlier. There were several times. While my role was an informal role, I would get calls from her staff, usually her press person or someone else who was with her, saying, "What are we going to do about this? This just happened." There were three incidences on the campaign trail in '92 that were worrying his staff to no end in terms of her being a problem as opposed to an asset. The Tammy Wynette thing was misinterpreted as a condemnation of women who were loyal and stood by their husbands. She wasn't just brushing that off.

Riley

That was the 60 Minutes interview.

Verveer

The "tea and cookies" thing, if read in context, was an absolutely fine statement that any stay-at-home mom could agree with. If Hillary said it once, she said it until I can repeat it in my sleep without knowing I'm repeating it--and that's the notion to respect women's choices, that some will stay home, some will stay home until they reach a point where they will work outside the home as well, some will juggle, some will never have children. Whatever the choice is that's adopted, we should respect those choices. That never came across.

If you watch the evolution over a period of, not even days, over hours, it went from this to this to this, until it was just "tea and cookies" and an absolute dis. Hillary didn't understand initially how problematic this was, because she, in her own head, had not interpreted it this way. She would truly never have condemned a stay-at-home mom. She really felt passionately about issues regarding child raising and the roles and choices that women make, not feeling that one is better than another.

As she did realize what a problem this was, she understood that this was a terrible interpretation of where she was coming from. Had this other side of her been manifested more, the point we were making earlier, it wouldn't have been, perhaps, so significant. All people were seeing was someone who could answer every question with great facility about her husband's positions on everything under the sun.

Riley

And they were contrasting that with Barbara Bush.

Verveer

Who was coming from a different place. So you had "tea and cookies," you had "Tammy Wynette," and you had "two for the price of one." "Two for the price of one"--Bill Clinton absolutely adored that. He thought that Hillary would be the greatest bonus in his election because here was this phenomenal human being who had all kinds of talents and great intelligence. She could be running on her own, and indeed if he were elected, the country would get two for the price of one.

I remember a pollster, Celinda Lake, telling me that they had actually done focus groups on this and whenever the issue was brought up before a sampling of average people, women, especially, they would go bonkers, "We're not voting for her." This gets at the root of this position, this role, whatever you want to call it. It's not a job being First Lady. It gets at the fundamental essence of what's going on in terms of the American public vis-a-vis the holder of this role. That--at its root, at its heart, at its base, at its foundation--it is a derivational position. One is only in that position by virtue of one's marriage. Assuming power, assuming a partnership, assuming anything out of a derivational position of that magnitude just doesn't sit well with a whole lot of people. The pollsters would say to the then candidate Clinton, "This ?two for the price of one' is not a good thing for you to be saying."

Hillary, being the pragmatic one, got rid of it a whole lot sooner. She never made it part of her pitch, so to speak. He thought it was so great he wanted to hang onto it and he'd say, "Try it again. Test it again," because he just couldn't fathom in some ways that this could be a problem. That was another issue in the campaign. If you watch the polling data in that campaign, she went from being very popular to a point in the campaign where she was a problem, or there was certainly the perception. Her numbers were bad. Whether she was pulling him down at the same time, I don't know what the bottom line is on that. But the perception was that this was not helping Clinton, who had his own problems. While I maintain, and always will, that he would not have been President without her and she was clearly pivotal in so many other ways, this was a bother.

At one point I joined the bus tour through the South. I had really no role but companionship and just kind of watching it from my own vantage point, seeing how I could help as a result of what I saw. One night she was presented with the schedule. I can't remember where this was. We'd have to go back and look when this tour took place. She was presented with a schedule for the next several days. Part of it was exhaustion and part of it was incomprehension. Basically the schedule had her doing mostly photo ops with children.

Again, the staff was attempting to make the American people better able to grasp than they could at that point, realizing that all of these incidents that were occurring weren't helping the situation. She was not happy with it. Her reaction was something like, "I could be out there speaking to thousands of university students, and if I brought half of them to the polls and persuaded them, that would be a better use of my ability to be helpful at this time than these snapshots with children."

But in truth, a picture is worth a thousand words and those pictures did humanize her. It's hardly empirical, but there is a lot of work that goes on among the specialists to know what works and what doesn't work. There were these tensions as a result of who she was, this role that she would be going into, the role that she had in the campaign.

Riley

Was the President on the bus?

Verveer

Yes, he was on the bus trip. It was his swing from somewhere in Georgia. We went all the way through Georgia. We had six or seven stops, I think.

Jones

Was this a tension between them, as well?

Verveer

He wasn't in the room when we were going through the routine on the schedule, but campaigns are highly tense operations, especially when they're not going well. Clearly, she wanted to be a help to him and one of the things she brought to the campaign, and then brought to his Presidency, is an iron will of discipline, an ability to focus, an ability to keep going against the greatest odds. She still remembers how in New Hampshire, for example, when, I guess it was Gennifer Flowers at the time, reared its ugly head as a potential problem. Staffers were basically falling to the ground, maybe not literally but figuratively in terms of, "It's all over," and she had to keep everybody going, to take on the press questions that were put to her along those lines.

Jones

I just want to clarify--was the previous example that you gave, where she was upset about the schedule, was that in the primary period or later in the general election?

Verveer

That was the general.

Shogan

I have a couple of questions in this regard. Do you think that part of the tension had to do with different perceptions of how certain women in society, let's say highly educated women in society or professional women in society, viewed Hillary Clinton and the role they wanted her to take in the campaign and in the Presidency? You said your friends were just as excited about her as Bill Clinton. Perhaps another segment of American society, another grouping of women, was more ambivalent. Or was it more a male thing? Men weren't so excited about Hillary, but all women were excited about Hillary? Is that some of the problem?

Verveer

I think, Colleen, you are onto something that we still haven't begun to figure out. As a pollster said to me after Hillary's problem with professional women in the New York Senate race, "This doesn't need a pollster, this needs a psychologist." There is just a whole lot of work that needs to go on to understand what is happening in our society. Women are split. They are not monolithically in one place cheering on a woman candidate or even the spouse, in this instance.

I'll separate this out. We can get into the Senate at some point. With respect to Hillary's being the candidate's wife, professional women were extremely enthusiastic. As much as some of them, wherever they were on that ideological spectrum politically, may not have been enthusiastic about him, they sure were enthusiastic about her. There are people who say that in many ways she was responsible for his getting a whole lot of the votes in the New York primary, for example. While these women weren't prepared to make an act of faith in him at that point, they were prepared to make it in her--professional women.

There were other women, as "tea and cookies" demonstrated, who thought, How does this woman have a child, have a career, go out there and campaign, and I'm just here at home? What does this say about me? She is looking down on me. I'm not even going to go there, because that requires psychologists and sociologists. But there is something that is going on in terms of the ambivalence. There's also something that goes on in terms of women voting for women, which they weren't doing at this point, except vicariously for her as the spouse. The standard is much higher in many ways.

There was a whole lot of stuff playing out. I don't think we have all the answers, but I think we do know--Some people made fun of this because she had her own failings and this looked like an excuse when she said that--in many ways she was a Rorschach test. For a transitional figure, a woman of her generation in that derivational position of First Lady, in the times that we just went through, she was a Rorschach test for all the stuff that was playing out in society about women in leadership, women having power, women having a separate identity. Wherever members of society found themselves, it was playing out in her. They could be with her; they could be against her; they could be ambivalent; but she was kind of a symbol for all of the ambivalences of society.

Shogan

You're talking about being on the bus and looking at her schedule with her and having some interactions with her in a hotel room and talking about her style on the campaign. Did you find yourself at this time period deviating more toward her role in the campaign, rather than your friend Bill Clinton's role?

Verveer

I was certainly helping her more. She had a minuscule staff. She had very little in terms of support. She did have, in the fall campaign--and I was much more familiar with the fall campaign, although certainly in the primary campaign it was beginning to staff up--the typical positions: somebody to help with the briefing book, somebody to help put a schedule together, liaise with the candidates, the Presidential candidate side of it, and a couple of young people traveling with her. But she really did need the kind of support that some of the rest of us could bring in an informal way. We were all raising money. That was one side of the ledger. But in terms of more specific engagement, I was helping her more, absolutely.

Riley

You raised the Gennifer Flowers issue a few minutes ago and I was just going to ask you--The rumor mill had been at work for a considerable time even before then. Was this something that you had paid much attention too? Was it something that traced all the way back to Clinton's time at Georgetown?

Verveer

No. He was extremely popular and he was handsome, but he had a steady girlfriend, Denise Hyland, for a good portion of his undergraduate time, so it wouldn't have been terribly illuminating in that respect.

Riley

And he's not married, so--

Verveer

No, it wasn't anything I was really fixated on.

Riley

Once the Gennifer Flowers thing broke loose--Let me phrase the question this way--was it an issue that discomforted the people in feminist circles at the time?

Verveer

Not that they specifically said to me. There were certainly people who felt that this could overturn his campaign, so you had that reaction. But if her staying with him after the [Monica] Lewinsky affair in the White House and what she ran into in her New York Senate race was illustrative in any way, this was a problem for the feminists then, and more recently it was a problem in the New York campaign. I'm told in the New York primary campaign that women were discomforted--The feminists, professional women, were discomforted for all the reasons that you just indicated. Actually, because of her, they voted for him and may not have in the absence of her.

Riley

So her reaction was an important stabilizing--

Verveer

Her reaction was an extraordinarily important element. I have a recollection of the Flowers incident having come out, and someone who had just spoken to her who knew her called me to say it was phenomenal the way she dealt with it. The immediate reaction was, She is going to crumble with respect to this, as well. She was very firm and very straightforward and moved on and it had a stabilizing effect, much as it did in 1998 when we get there.

Jones

Is the topic something you discussed with Hillary?

Verveer

No.

Jones

So your connections with her during this campaign were fairly episodic?

Verveer

They were episodic and they were more--I'll give you some examples that we need to address. She was probably the first spouse's wife attacked as extensively and directly. She was probably the first spouse's wife attacked for her own work. She was attacked for her writings on children in the campaign.

Jones

Including the primary?

Verveer

Including the primary. There was this extreme interpretation of her stand for the rights of children that got boiled down to, She's the kind of person who, if you as a parent don't think your child should have her ears pierced, she believes the child has the right to reject parents over something like that. This was not even in the realm, not even close, but that's what her detractors were able to do very early on with these writings.

In fact, she stayed an extra year at Yale and did a lot of work on children's rights, and in the process of that, did some writing that had to do with children in extremely abusive situations and the rights of children in those situations. Ironically, when we read about such cases now, how could that child have been kept with that parent when that parent was doing X, Y, and Z? Well, that's what she was saying in her writings.

But they took on a connotation at the hands of her detractors that was extremely unfair and grossly wrong, and she had nobody to deal with this. She had no staff who really knew what the facts were. What I did was quickly get all of her writings on children's rights. I worked with her to figure out who knew about them, who worked with her on them back when, who could be a spokesperson for her, a validator for her. We put together a network of people who could then talk to the press.

I remember an article that Al Hunt wrote in the Wall Street Journal, saying Hillary was absolutely mainstream in what she wrote back when about children in abusive situations and children's rights in those situations. I had to create an infrastructure of the experts. There were a couple of Washington lawyers who did a lot of the interpretive work, laying it all out. Then we brought together validators, child psychologists and others, who were familiar with it. We could then say to the press, "Call X, Y, and Z." That was one example of a need she had.

The young staff would call me from the road saying, "This just happened. What should we do about this?" It was that kind of role. It was more an informal role. She had such a very small staff and we really did have to put together an informal network of people who could help her.

Riley

Are there other people who were playing similar roles to your own, and could you tell us who those are? You said you brought Maggie Williams in.

Verveer

Maggie did not want to come on the campaign. She was working on her doctoral studies and it was really several of us ganging up on her, telling her she had no choice. Why she was freer than the rest of us is probably not even an issue. In the end she did agree to take a hiatus in her studies, but then it turned out to be a very lengthy one, and she went on the campaign.

Riley

Was Susan Thomases doing it?

Verveer

Susan's role was also on the Presidential campaign, because she came in as the President's scheduler, formally. She moved to Little Rock and she was the scheduler. She was very much front and center.

Jones

Any others who played the role you played in the time you went with her on the bus tour?

Verveer

There was a woman by the name of Peggy [Margaret Milner-] Richardson, who was a lawyer in Washington who knew Hillary from her ABA work. She had this huge circle from the ABA. Mine was kind of interesting because it was as a friend. I was helping with the fundraising part, which many more people were engaged in, but I was also doing that sort of substantive, personal, being quasi staff in a limited way. There weren't too many people in a comparable situation. I can't think of who else might have done that.

Riley

Did you go to the convention?

Verveer

In '92, yes.

Riley

In New York.

Verveer

Yes.

Riley

Anything memorable from your time at the convention?

Verveer

What I remember about that was, we came into the Presidential candidate's suite and one of the issues that was rather overwhelming was, "Who could speak about Hillary as a person?" The Today Show, the ABC [American Broadcasting Company] show, this show, that show--Everybody wanted people who knew her to come on and speak to who she was, what they were like, because this was still very much a mystery. Presumably it continued to be, when one looks at the stereotype of her throughout. [Mary] Steenburgen, the actress, was one such person, and there may have been a couple of other people from Arkansas. Her mother may have done an interview or two. That was one of the things we were concerning ourselves with: who could speak on her behalf?

We were also working on the implementation of her schedule, and it was much more of a backseat role going into the convention. She had events that she did. One of them was for the Children's Defense Fund. There was a gathering of advocates for children in New York. It may have been a prayer service, in fact. I can't remember distinctly, but Hillary spoke at it. The role was more, here's what she needs; let's make sure we have people for that, traveling with her to these various events. It was sort of nonessential but helpful.

Jones

You said you played less of a role in the general election?

Verveer

No, during the general election I took a leave of absence. Hillary said to me, "Please don't come down to Arkansas in the campaign headquarters. I think you could do a better job for us if you stayed in Washington." I moved to the DNC [Democratic National Committee]. There were a couple of us at the DNC who then were on the ground, able to put out fires, to take calls, to do the kind of research, to get people engaged. I was freer in some ways than I would have been had I had day-to-day responsibilities in Little Rock. So at her suggestion, I had an office at the DNC and I worked mostly on her things in the fall campaign from that vantage point.

Riley

Did you report to somebody in the DNC?

Verveer

I don't think I had anybody I reported to. Maggie by then was in Arkansas. I was in Washington. We had this small group of people with whom we worked and we just worked things out that way.

Riley

Did you travel at all with her in the general election campaign?

Verveer

I don't think I traveled with her much in the general election. There may have been episodic moments; one was the bus tour in the South. It's all a blur. There have been so many campaigns since. But there were a couple of other things going on at the time that might be useful to you. One was AmeriCorps. One of the initiatives of the Clinton campaign that I was particularly, personally invested in was his call for an AmeriCorps, a sort of national service. Part of it may go back to my early years and my interests. Part of it came out of this People for the American Way experience that we were working on with young people. I was bound and determined for this to become a reality.

It was also true that in the campaign when Bill Clinton would talk about young people and service and tuition assistance, that this was one of the most compelling initiatives that he had put forward on his campaign. He would always get a tremendous response from it. There was a woman whom I knew from Senator [Edward M.] Kennedy's staff. Her name is Shirley Sagawa. It may be a name that you've come across.

Riley

Sure.

Verveer

She later came on Hillary's staff in two different iterations. I called Shirley and I said, "I think we really should be working on this very quietly." It seemed extremely presumptuous. He had, you know, no clear-cut polling data at the time that he was going to be the President, but we thought that if we had made this contribution and had readied the process, if he did become President he could really get out the door quickly with this initiative.

I called Bruce Reed, who later went on--You may well have interviewed him by now--to be his domestic policy person. Bruce was a little bit nervous, but he had been at the DLC, where they had supported the [Sam] Nunn version of national service, which was a much more--I don't want to use the word "extreme," but it was different because it basically said that if there was going to be college support, it should only come through public service, which may have meant that existing programs that weren't predicated on college service or community service or national service would end. We weren't comfortable with that and neither was Clinton. So there was some tug and pull in terms of the DLC and the Clinton proposal, how it eventually evolved.

At any rate, I'd called Bruce and he was a tad nervous, to be sure, because this is not perhaps the best thing to have going on--where you're working on the specifics of a Presidential proposal to make them ready for the moment--but at the same time, it seemed like good stewardship and it seemed to make a whole lot of sense. Lots of people were developing all kinds of things. Why shouldn't we zero in with experts who really knew this area? We were in a position in Washington to begin to work on it. So we did. We brought together a group of people, Shirley and myself included. There might have been six or seven of us. We would meet from time to time at law firms and begin to try to fill in the blanks of what this proposal could look like. What Bill Clinton basically had was a theme and some provisions, but not a whole lot. It was a very general concept. He had a concept.

We were beginning to fill in the blanks. From time to time we'd have these very quiet, almost underground, conversations with Bruce Reed, wherever we could find him on the campaign trail, and at a certain time he would call in and we'd say, "Well, here's where we're going. Is this reflective of where you're going?" We obviously didn't want to have a proposal that was completely out of sync from where the campaign was. All this work had been going forward at the same time the campaign was going forward. To race this reel fast-forward, we're at the White House at this point, very early, right after the inauguration. I have persuaded Shirley, with Hillary's OK, for her to come on board the First Lady's staff. Hillary did not know her.

I had worked with Shirley not just in this more immediate experience on the proposed AmeriCorps but as a staffer to Senator Kennedy, where we were involved in legislation to make community service part of high school, and in some respects, lower school education, with certain assists from the federal government. It was this whole notion of school-based community service.

Hillary said, "If you think Shirley's that good, fine. Hire her." So Shirley came in to be her domestic policy person. Within no time, Shirley spent 100 percent of her time on AmeriCorps. Now, AmeriCorps is not known as a Hillary Clinton initiative, but this is illustrative of the fact that Hillary was always thinking about Bill Clinton's Presidency. How do we move Bill Clinton's Presidency forward, and how does he get done what he promised to do?

Eli Segal, who is the AmeriCorps person--Bill Clinton then designated him to that role--comes into the White House, hires a staff, and there's nobody on his staff who has any experience with national service. I cared about this, so I said I would try to be as helpful as I could, but I had other responsibilities. Shirley became very engaged, because it's now known that she had been working on this very quietly and she has a lot of experience. Before long, Shirley is furloughed to this national service group within the Old Executive Office Building, no longer really doing a whole lot for Hillary Clinton, or trying to do both jobs and Hillary finally says, "Just go and get that done. It's really important, because this is one of Bill's seminal proposals, key initiatives. Let's go work on it."

Eli was extremely grateful, because Shirley is an utter dynamo, who knew what she was doing, and in many ways this was a model for how to get this done. By September of '93, Congress was passing AmeriCorps because Shirley and Jack Lew, who went on to be head of OMB [Office of Management and Budget], and prior to that was on health care reform, spent days and days on the Hill, negotiating with the Republicans, not going and dropping a proposal, but working out the details. From time to time we had at least one, maybe two, meetings with the President. He came into the Roosevelt Room and we said, "Mr. President, this is what we have. Are you in agreement with this, this, and this? Is this how we go?" He blessed it and then they were empowered to go and negotiate.

You have several things going on here. You have a model way to get an initiative done across party lines where there was significant Republican support. To this day, when Bush was running for President, he had made extraordinary statements about "Why AmeriCorps in Texas?" The Governors had a lot of control over this program. You had a great bipartisan model. You also had a person assigned to Hillary Clinton, on her payroll, being given up to go and do this role. Then when AmeriCorps became law, Shirley left the White House staff and became the youngest federal appointee in the Clinton administration to become the Deputy Director of AmeriCorps, the national service corporation.

Jones

Excellent story. It's also illustrative of how the lawmaking process can begin in the campaign and however it's done, through some satellite operation--

Verveer

Right, covertly.

Jones

--that preparation then provides a real kickoff for getting something done once you get in office.

Verveer

I think that's true, Chuck. Another reason that it is helpful to all of you is that it shows just how integrative the First Lady's office was with the overall operations of the President, that you could have that freedom of movement in a way of not really looking at the rigid lines and saying, "Why is this person who works for Hillary going to go and spend most of her time with Eli Segal trying to develop the national service initiative?" It reminds me of a call I got from a New York Times reporter several months into the Clinton administration about Clinton and the arts, which I will come to because it's also related to the campaign. I remember her saying to me, "What are you in the First Lady's office doing working on the arts--" which is a Presidential initiative, or position, if there is one--"for the whole of the White House?"

You're beginning to see, very early on, these kinds of differences in the way the White House staff functioned, or at least the First Lady's staff functioned, vis-a-vis the overall West Wing operations of the Clinton administration.

I was very involved in the so-called "culture war" when I was at People for the American Way, because the National Endowment for the Arts and to a lesser extent the Humanities, but also the Humanities--Lynne Cheney and others--was involved in this back-and-forth over all manner of things that only the detractors know what they were doing. At any rate, the NEA [National Endowment for the Arts] was up for grabs. I had many in the arts community, once they knew I knew Bill Clinton, calling me every day saying, "What is he going to say about the arts? What's going on?" I would call down to Little Rock and say, "We need a position on the arts."

Jones

This is during the campaign?

Verveer

During the campaign. It was still in the campaign, but I find myself in the White House. I'm sorry for these deviations.

Riley

No, you're trailing through thematically.

Verveer

So we're still in the campaign and I'm calling down to Little Rock and they don't want to touch this arts issue with a ten-foot pole for obvious reasons. It's not going to make the campaign, in fact, it could break the campaign. In the meantime, I think it's important. I understand the political inhibitions and I know there's a strong community of people here who need to be impressed that Bill Clinton is an intellectual, does care about culture, does care about the arts, does care about their role in society, et cetera. Finally, I reached Diane Blair, who was volunteering on the campaign. Diane says, "Look, I'm with you 100 percent. We've got to find some way--"

"Well, Diane, you're down there; I'm up here in Washington. I'm just kind of an interloper. Can you make something happen?" But the issue staff that Bruce was leading up just didn't want to go anywhere near this thing. We worked something out that was OK and then there was a Broadway salute to Bill Clinton that was a fundraiser and the community began to feel more comfortable with him.

We'll fast-forward again and we're in the White House. Where's the arts portfolio? Well, it's with nobody. It's certainly not at domestic policy, so we took on the arts portfolio. Hillary said, "Fine, we've got to get it done." It was at a tremendously difficult time in terms of the evolution of public policy vis-a-vis the small contribution that the federal government makes to the arts, the survival of an agency. Who are we going to get in to head up the NEA when it had been just one horrific problem after another through the Bush administration, headlines about pornographic art and all manner of things? We had a decision to make. We had this agency. We had a lot of people who supported Bill Clinton counting on him. What was going to happen?

We haven't gotten to the transition, but here I am in the White House. I spent a lot of time during the transition thinking through what kind of person we needed to head up the NEA to begin to defuse the terrible battles that were going on, that we didn't want to continue, but at the same time, we wanted to demonstrate support for the NEA. So I'll not move that thing to closure unless you want me to.

Riley

It's completely up to you, although we do want to talk about the transitional period to find out what all of you were working on.

Jones

I have one other question before we get to the transition.

Verveer

I'll just make a note to go back to this.

Riley

That's fine. Chuck, I want to be clear about a factual point that you probably mentioned and I just didn't pick up on, but it was with the earliest initiative on the AmeriCorps to begin convening this to look at the postinauguration phase. That was at your initiative, or that was at Mrs. Clinton's?

Verveer

That was at mine, but it was endorsed. Obviously we couldn't have done anything unless people in Little Rock said to go forward.

Riley

Exactly, but--

Verveer

It was not Hillary at that point on AmeriCorps, although she was absolutely the critical player, and I say this without taking anything away from anybody else who was engaged on AmeriCorps. Had she not provided Shirley, had she not been there every inch of the way on AmeriCorps--You have to understand, as other issues were taking over the President's time, there was less and less time for this initiative that was really one of his pet projects. If you go back and look at his schedule vis-a-vis any AmeriCorps events, she did almost all of them. He was able to do relatively few of them. Some of the times, I'm not sure he knew that he wasn't getting to do them and his staff was saying, "We just don't have time for it." But the reality was, she became probably the most significant player for the full realization of AmeriCorps.

Riley

I think that's important, but it's equally important for the historical record--Chuck has studied transitions for much longer than I have, but this is what I think is a highly unusual track line--for a new administration to have something like this so thoroughly in preparation. Usually what happens is--And what I assume is happening now in the present Presidential campaign--every energy, 110 percent of people's time, is devoted to, "Let's get elected and then we'll worry about--"

Verveer: That's why those of us who weren't giving 100 percent--We weren't in staff positions, so we were freed in a way to be able to make this kind of contribution, and it was sanctioned.

Jones

We want to hold that, what is a successful story of the involvement of the First Lady's office, to when we get to health care and some others--what ends up being effective and successful and what doesn't. But I wanted, before we get into the transition, to ask about relations you had with the DLC prior to going to the White House, or even prior to 1992, and your picture of the DLC in relationship to what you were working on, and your location in the public interest world.

Verveer

I always felt, maybe fairly early, that I was probably viewed as suspect by them. When I was appointed to be on Hillary's staff, I think the Washington Post quoted somebody as saying I was an "old-fashioned liberal Democrat." That wasn't the language of the DLC, to put it mildly.

By virtue of some of the back-and-forth with the DLC proposal and the Nunn proposal on national service, I didn't have that many interactions with the DLC for perceptions to be formed. So we start with that, but to the extent--

Jones

Not even at a personnel level?

Verveer

I didn't know Al From that much at all, really. Will Marshall had the portfolio for the national service piece and he was probably more skeptical of us than he was a proponent of what we were trying to do. How much my having been where I was, at People for the American Way, particularly heading up many a battle against the Reagan administration in those times--How that looked to them, I don't know. But most of the community with which I worked more closely would have seen the DLC as not exactly where they were on a lot of issues. Over time I really came to be very much a supporter of what From was trying to do, in many ways, and we worked closely together on a number of initiatives in the White House. I count him as a friend.

Jones

Any impressions or judgments about Clinton's close identity with the DLC?

Verveer

Bill Clinton is one of the most masterful political tacticians of our time. He understood, as a Southern Democrat who was very forward thinking and clearly understood where one ultimately had to go in terms of public policy progress, how much the territory would bear and what we had to do to get there. Admittedly, there were a lot of mistakes. But as that political genius, which I think he was, he knew that the Democratic Party was not going to be able to make it unless the party moved to the center, without giving up the heart and soul of what it was. That's what he was trying to do and the DLC was the place for that action.

He also was looking for a place, frankly, to hang his hat in that period after his gubernatorial loss and then beginning to make a national name for himself. One way he did that was through the Governors, where he was the expert on education, as he was the expert on any number of things, and he was becoming a national figure. The other place was the DLC. A lot of that was his recognition that the DLC had a prominent role to play in moving the party from the margins, maybe the righteous margins, to the mainstream if it was ever going to command. We never did get a majority in his votes, but at least enough to get the Presidency back.

Jones

Were there any other groups, centers, institutes, or congressional committees or other loci--I guess that's the plural of locus--where when you were with People for the American Way you said, "Boy we're really in tune with those people. We work well with those people. They're effective and we can be more effective."

Verveer

We were all feeling fairly ineffective in those days. We had been through the crucible of the '80s, which had everything up for grabs that anybody had struggled for. Nobody was moving the agenda forward. We were all trying to keep it from being savaged, all the gains from being eviscerated. It was defense as opposed to offense that continued in [George H. W.] Bush I. I don't think anybody was feeling particularly as though we're on the top of the mountain and we've got all these kindred spirits and we need to keep moving the train forward. The train was successful only inasmuch as we felt we weren't ripping up the Constitution.

Jones

Sort of a network of commiseration?

Verveer

We laugh, but it was a really tough time. There weren't a whole lot of success stories. I remember a Republican friend saying to me that after the Bork battle--I personally think to this day Bork lost that on his own in his testimony during all of those hours--they were asking themselves at the White House whether or not this force that had come against this nomination was something that was a political force, because frankly it was one of the few times something like that was put together in those years. It wasn't easily transferable, to be sure, but it wasn't a time of extraordinary series of victories, one after the other. It was by the skin of one's teeth holding on or just marginally moving forward.

Riley

Is there anything else about your work in the general election campaign? I don't want to stay too wedded to the timeline.

Verveer

Maybe as we go over it I'll come back.

Riley

Then did you go to Little Rock for--

Verveer

I was at Little Rock for election night, yes. Lots of people. A lot of people were as concerned about the Senate races and what was happening. We're only watching this thing on the screen. If we had our own clicker and we were controlling our destinies a little bit more, we might know what was happening sooner. There was elation. It was a high, but it was also a period of, Now there is just so much to do, and moving all of this thing forward. You almost didn't have time to celebrate.

Riley

Did you immediately join the transition team officially?

Verveer

Yes, I was on the transition team and I'm trying to remember how that happened. I think what happened was either Hillary or Maggie called me and said, "You need to be heading up her operation on the transition in Washington." Maggie was heading it up generally.

Riley

Hillary's operation?

Verveer

Yes. "Move into the transition office. You'll be there and we'll be in Little Rock until such time as the inauguration takes place. There's a lot of work to do in terms of determining all the ins and outs of the inauguration, meetings that she will need to have in Washington and then the whole process of setting up a government."

There was no real job description for my role in the transition office. I felt sometimes that I was "Chief Kibitzer." There were discreet things that needed to be done. For example, this is probably interesting to history. One of the things that we all know is that Mrs. Clinton was extremely interested in children, and social programs that impacted children, and families, in a very significant way. One of the places that that was going to happen was at HHS [Health and Human Services]. Donna Shalala was named the President's choice to head up HHS fairly early in the appointments process, as I recall.

Jones

Wisconsin chancellor.

Verveer

Donna and Hillary knew each other, obviously, but she was not so much a choice of Hillary's. I think Bill Clinton knew Donna equally well and she was always going to be someone who was among the early selectees. One of the things I did during the transition was begin to take in names of potential political appointments for the key pads at OMB that oversaw HHS and some of the related areas, as well as appointments for the key positions at HHS. If one goes back and looks at the history of the quick timetable in which a lot of key decisions were made for those positions, State Department did very well, and that was operating on a fairly expeditious track. HHS did very well.

I remember Hillary saying to me, "Go and talk to my good friend [Richard] Riley who is heading up the personnel process." I remember going and meeting with Dick Riley and we had a long conversation about, "Isn't Hillary wonderful?" and all she's done for children, and all his stories about all she's done and how we really needed to work together to make sure these key positions had the best possible slate of names for the President to make his decisions. I worked with Dick; I worked with Hillary; I worked with any number of related people who were putting together these names. I remember going down to Little Rock sometime in late November, early December with a slate of names that personnel in the transition had blessed as the choices. Then there were some other options, choices for the President-designate to make to these positions.

Bill Clinton at the time was eager to tell me about any number of other things when I went in to him with this list. I remember coming out saying, "Hillary, I'm never going to get him to make these decisions." She said, "You came down here with a job. You know this all needs to get done. Just get it done." I remember going back in and we talked about some more things. I said, "You need to make these decisions." And the decisions got made. That is probably not a role one would think the First Lady's person in the transition office would be working on, but I think it was an early sign. It's not this co-Presidency business. Somehow the story of this administration has got to get off of this co-Presidency--which two for the price of one seemed to conjure up--to partnership and people making their contribution in ways that were moving this new Presidency forward.

Shogan

What's the difference, specifically? This is something I get from my students all the time. What's the difference between a co-Presidency and a partnership, specifically?

Verveer

I think a co-Presidency assumes two Presidents, one that has Presidential powers. At no time did Hillary, either as the First Lady-in-the-making, or First Lady, assume the powers of her husband. She didn't have the power to say, "Colleen will become the political appointee for X." She had abilities to influence the process and she had abilities to push the decisions to be made, not to be made for a certain person, but for them to go forward and to be made. For the trains to run, if you will, more than for the type of train. She didn't ever have Presidential powers. But she was a complement to his work.

This is a big part of this story. They had a genuine partnership in Arkansas. She had a full-time job as a lawyer and she had her personal responsibilities to the family. But she was a partner in his Governorship. Now, nobody says it was a co-Governorship. But she headed up his education reform, which was a very serious undertaking and one of the most serious initiatives that he had as Governor. She went through a lot. She got spat on by allies of the administration, from the teachers' unions. She was instrumental in persuading the business community to raise that tax--all the things that were involved.

She was involved in rural health. She was involved with him in bringing microcredit, the Shore Bank self-help program that later she would develop on the international stage, to Little Rock with him. She was at his side. In many respects it was the '60s generation. This evolution that was taking place that we talked about with respect to women and their own careers was also impacting marriages and how couples worked together. He valued her talents. He clearly wanted her talents not to be wasted in the White House. He didn't want her to open that White House door and check her brain on the coat hanger, or brain hanger, wherever this is leading. But it was this partnership. It wasn't to assume the powers of the Presidency so much.

Yes, she had a lot of power in health care, but we'll talk about all of that. In retrospect, it looked like Arkansas was more advanced than the country was. They seemed to accept this with not a whole lot of problem, whereas, taking that model to Washington was a problem.

Shogan

Was she ever shocked at this, that she came from a less progressive state and--

Verveer

Yes, she was shocked, and she was also shocked that when she was appointed with something straightforwardly, that the whole public could see so you could get at this accountability issue for a person who was acting through derivational power, that accountability didn't matter. She was still acting in a way that wasn't viewed to be proper in light of the role she had. That behind-the-scenes power that couldn't be seen was in many ways more acceptable. First Ladies have always had enormous power behind the scenes. Some have used it--and a lot of it depended on the role that their husbands wanted them to have--and others have not. They've always had that power. But most of it has not been seen, so much as has been seen.

I don't think she ever functioned in a way, ever, where she was the President. The decisions were always his. He did ask a lot of people, and he did always go out. It wasn't that she had the last word, even.

Shogan

Some of these portraits of her--I know David Gergen's book, Eyewitness to Power, does portray it as being a sort of co-Presidency, that she was able to sign off on decisions as well as the President, as well as the Vice President. There was a three-headed system of power.

Verveer

I know he talked about the three-headed White House, and I think he meant them as three places where there was a lot going on at any given time. But I don't think, even though Al Gore was reinventing government, that anybody thought for a moment he was the President. Even though she was doing health care, she was actually carrying out Bill Clinton's health care initiatives. Managed competition may not have been the best way to go, but it was the way Bill Clinton wanted to go.

Shogan

I think this is a very interesting--

Verveer

This is another whole area where I think people in the future will look at the exercise of power.

Jones

I wanted to just clarify what you were saying about your role in getting a list of potential appointees. That was driven by issues in which the First Lady had interest? Is that what you were saying?

Verveer

Yes, she clearly had an interest in the kinds of people who would be heading up policy areas that affected children and families. She thought one of the ways that we could help the situation would be if I worked with Dick Riley, who had the authority over the personnel selection process, as well as others who could be extremely--You're only as good as the information you get and a lot of the information was coming in to her because people on the outside viewed her as this great expert, so the information, much of it, was coming into our office in the transition. In many ways, I was getting that information also to Dick Riley, just in case it wasn't coming to him in some other way. It was being a partner in a process to do the selections.

Jones

And the other part of that is positions within the government. Part of it is the issue itself, but then positions in the government.

Verveer

AmeriCorps was about issue positions. This was about personnel position in the government.

Jones

You mentioned HHS, but I assume also the Department of Education. You mentioned the State Department.

Verveer

Department of Education, some. I only mentioned the State Department, not that she was involved. She was never involved in international issues at this point. State Department was also very timely in getting a lot of these personnel decisions made. You might remember that one of the criticisms of the early Clinton years was that it took so long to get key people into the key positions, that it was a lugubrious, slow process to get some of these key decisions made. My only point here was to say HHS happened, in my view--very high quality people, many of whom stayed on a long time, not just with the selection of Donna but also in terms of the people under her in significant positions--because there was this collaborative that was pushing those decisions forward.

State Department was going a different track. I wasn't privy to it; I learned subsequently that they also did a very good job in making those decisions.

Jones

That clarifies that. The other question relates to the matter of the speed of making appointments. Did the First Lady, or the First Lady-elect, if that's a term, indicate who would be on her staff early, before January? The White House was so criticized for waiting so long with regard to--with the exception of [Thomas] Mack McLarty--so many key positions in the White House.

Verveer

Mack came on late, too. Mack's decision wasn't made until--It was Mickey [Kantor] and Eli Segal and then Mack sort of came in when all that got worked out. No, there were assumptions made because Maggie was in Little Rock this whole time and working with her every day. I was up in the transition office. But there was no formalization of it. In fact, I don't think I learned that I was going to be Deputy Chief of Staff until hours before Mack was bungling my name, as he has told me subsequently.

Riley

We've heard similar stories from other interviewees.

Verveer

In terms of knowing what was going to happen. I do think one of the big early mistakes was not taking more time, and I'm sure Bill Clinton admits to this now, too--taking the kind of thoughtful time to put together a White House staff that had experience--and not just move the political staff to the White House--that could move him forward. But I didn't know until the last minute what the formal role was.

Jones

Have you reflected on why? There was even a memo from Dick Neustadt, who was the man on transitions, that suggested the importance of appointing the White House staff, if nothing else, to reduce the competition.

Verveer

And there was a lot of that kind of jockeying going on, I'm sure. No, I can only think that it had to do a lot with the time that was being taken to make those Cabinet selections and the fact that that took longer than was intended. Then there were all these other issues that had to be addressed as people were bringing down the health care piece--and the budget piece, and the economic piece and all the other things--that this new President would be grappling with, that kind of kept getting shoved to the side until it was so late. And it was late. We were days out and then decisions were made rather quickly.

Riley

You had mentioned in your own case taking for his review this slate of candidates with instructions--that may be too formal--with the idea that we've got to get it resolved, and it didn't happen. You interpret it didn't happen because--

Verveer

No, it did happen--

Riley

Ultimately it did.

Verveer

It happened within the same night, within several hours, but Bill Clinton being Bill Clinton always has a lot of other things on his mind that he wants to talk about.

Riley

This is what I'm trying to get you to elaborate on. Did you find that it was often the case that if he's presented with a decision such as that, for whatever reason, he had difficulty reaching closure on things of this nature?

Verveer

I wasn't close to enough to his immediate decision-making challenges to know the answer to that. I know what it was like being there and knowing that things were going forward, and sometimes we thought that decisions had been made that later were countermanded. It was not always clear who was countermanding them. Sometimes it was another faction on the staff winning out and getting to the President and then revisiting something.

It's a difference in personalities, not that we're comparing here, but one of the strong suits, and sometimes it proved to be a problem for her, was that Hillary's was much more of a disciplined approach. We've got a task to do. Let's get it done. His was much more of a drawn-out process in which he addressed these things.

Riley

That suggests one of the reasons that he found her to be so valuable as a companion, if not a co-President, is that her discipline supplied a deficit in his own--

Verveer

Others have commented on this and I think there have been some writings about the fact that their personalities were very complementary. What she lacked, he had and vice versa. He was certainly much more politically skilled than she, and when she became a candidate, she said she just learned volumes about how extraordinary he is, because this is so hard to do. They did have a different set of skills. Sometimes his were more important than hers and sometimes the other way around.

Riley

Could I ask you to play that out a bit?

Verveer

One of the criticisms of her role in the early Clinton White House, even during the health care piece, was that she was always interfering. There are plenty of writings about this, that she'd go to this meeting or have this to say about that. Much of that had to do not so much with her predispositions about outcomes, about policies that needed to be adopted or decisions that needed to be made a certain way, as it had to do with her perception of his needing to be Presidential and get these things done. They weren't getting done and what was the problem?

Reading in the papers, in those early periods, of how mixed up and messed up some of these White House decision-making processes were--for example, you had his first State of the Union where it's the morning of, or the day before, and the speech is in no form to give. Who comes to try to organize this mess but Hillary, because clearly he's counting on her. It's not that she knows best, that she's coming in there, "This is what he wants to say." It's, "OK, let's tighten this up. You do this. You do this. You do this." Because what they had was just something that was unrecognizable as a State of the Union speech.

It's a matter of really understanding what was going on, because if you look at it one way you could assume one thing. If you look at it another way, which I think is closer to the reality of what I'm trying to explain, it's entirely different. It's really trying to be the helper because he has to give this speech--It's got to get done; the world's going to be watching; it's his first one; what are we saying here?--than it is an imposition of an Edith Wilson, if you will.

Shogan

Is part of the reason why this is such an interesting couple, and we're fascinated by them, that he takes on some characteristics which may be considered to be traditionally or typically feminine characteristics? In other words, he has these interpersonal skills that are extraordinary, he has this empathy or caring that we find striking, and she has these ultimate organizational skills and discipline that we typically think of as perhaps masculine characteristics. Is there an inversion of gender types there?

Verveer

I'm not going to go there. I never even thought about it that way, but she is a litigator. She's very analytical, and part of it is her training, perhaps, as opposed to indigenous personality traits. This is the world in which she has been trained and has operated to work in this linear way.

Jones

I'm puzzled in a way, because I thought when I asked you about the transition and her organization that you would have gone a different way and said, "Oh yes, it was all very clear. We didn't make the appointments because we couldn't before the President made his appointments," but you didn't.

Verveer

Her role--And this is really an important distinction. He was the President, to be sure, in every respect. She was there to help and she had capacities and abilities and skills beyond that of any of her predecessors. They had played a role for many years in his public service where she was that kind of helpmate. "Helpmate" sounds so traditional and domestic, but helpmate in a way where she really understood a lot of what was in his head and how he operated and what he liked to say and what he liked to do.

I remember a Governor's wife saying to me that she was on a plane with Hillary before Bill announced that he was going to run for President. She was just getting to know her, really didn't know her at all, and couldn't believe what Hillary Clinton knew about every state, the political demographics of every state, the role of the Governor, the state of the party. She and he could sit and talk about these things. Where one's conversation would begin, the other would leave off. They had an ability to talk about the issues. If some wives never raised food stamps at the dinner table, Hillary would be the one who would raise it. They talked about these things. These were the kinds of discussions they had, because this was sort of the norm of how they were together.

Understanding this partnership--but in a way where one doesn't jump to the extreme of the co-Presidency--understands it as an extension of how they did work together when he was Governor--Rosalynn Carter had this to some extent with Jimmy Carter. She played some of this kind of role when he was Governor and tried to be much more the professional First Lady in the White House and ran into all kinds of obstacles. But she tried to do a lot of these kinds of things. She was a different person, she was a different generation, and she had a different background, but I do think there's something here that only the experts in the field, over time, will begin to untangle.

Riley

Your observations are enormously helpful in this. We have about 15 minutes more before we're going to break for lunch. You said that you were approached very late about the position. If you know it was decided that you were going to take the position that you had, tell us a little bit about the portfolio or how decisions were made about what your job would be and the people that you were working with--how that came to pass.

Verveer

That wasn't extremely clear. What I was told was that I would have her chief policy role and that Hillary's role would be very much in the area of policy, without being explicit as to what that was. The expectation was that this would evolve over time and it would be made more clear.

One of the first things that I worked on in my role was legal services. She had been on the Legal Services Corporation as an appointee of Jimmy Carter's. Legal Services had been eviscerated, and would have been eviscerated more but for some extraordinary life-support efforts by supporters of the program during previous administrations. One of the things that she was committed to, and I certainly shared, was that we salvage Legal Services. So I spent lots of time soliciting the names of people who would make great appointees for the Legal Services Corporation for Bill Clinton.

Now, under no circumstances would this be viewed as a priority, probably, for any administration, but because of her experience--something I shared with her, knowing that this was something that was going to make or break the ability of poor people to have access to legal services--it was something that got done pretty well, and got done in a very timely way.

What that something was, was that very good names were solicited. A lot of them came in through her office. We worked closely with the personnel office and good slates were put together for Bill Clinton to make his decisions. But had that impetus or initiative not been taken by her office, who knows when Legal Services decisions would have been made?

Riley

I want to go back to the question of the other people in the office and the informal roles that these people played, as well as the formal roles. One very early question was about the location of your offices. I want to hear if you know how that came about.

Verveer

I don't know how it came about, except that I know the President really did view his wife as somebody he wanted to be engaged in a more positive, substantive way in his administration, and that the East Wing was hardly reflective of the role that she would play. That was where the social office is located and where the very traditional activities were carried out. Since this was going to be an integrated White House with her staff and the activities that he would assign to her, it would be more appropriate for her to have an office, and to have it reflective of that role.

The decision was made for her to have an office up on the second floor in the West Wing. And there was an adjacent office for her Chief of Staff. Then most of her staff, except for the social office and related activities, were in the Old Executive Office Building with all the other policy people and operations of the President.

If you go back and read the headlines out of that--I remember the cartoon that showed a skyscraper bursting through the roof of the White House that was Hillary's White House, which was taking over. I also remember so many people coming in to visit with her. The office was as big as the corner of this room. You could fit four of her offices in this room. People were stunned that this is what all of the excitement was about. But it was such a symbol for what was to come and what was anticipated that it really was a very significant indication.

Shogan

They didn't pull back? They just went with it?

Verveer

No, they just went with it. Of course the other thing that happened was that several of us on the First Lady's staff had Presidential commissions, so we were Assistants to the President or Deputy Assistants to the President, or Special Assistants, all of which were Presidential commissions, most of which were unprecedented for a First Lady's staff.

Riley

Were you surprised that Maggie Williams was selected as Chief of Staff?

Verveer

Not at all. Maggie and Hillary were close. Maggie had the capacity. She was rooted in values and she was a solid citizen. She had a wealth of experience and her background was in communications. It made a lot of sense.

Riley

Who were the other key people?

Verveer

I don't even think there were contenders for these positions. This thing kind of evolved. We were people Hillary knew and she was comfortable with. The other people who went into her positions were the schedulers, the press secretary--Maggie and I interviewed Lisa Caputo during the campaign. She had come from Tim Wirth's office. We thought she was fully capable. She went on the campaign staff and then stayed. Shirley was really the only one who was an unknown in a significant position. Her immediate personal secretary, Pam Cicetti, had worked with me and she came during the transition. A lot of it was Hillary just depending on us when she didn't know who to put in these slots.

Riley

Ann Stock was from outside.

Verveer

Ann Stock was from outside and I don't know how her name came to Maggie's attention, because Maggie had interviewed a number of people for that position. The first time I met Ann was when we were going down to Little Rock before the inauguration. I talked through some of Hillary's schedule with her.

Riley

Chuck, do you have anything on this?

Verveer

Chuck, is this kind of wearing thin?

Jones

You were located in Little Rock during the transition?

Verveer

No, in Washington.

Riley

But you traveled. You said you made a trip down there.

Verveer

I went to Little Rock at least twice.

Jones

And physically still then at the DNC?

Verveer

No, the DNC ended on Election Day. When the transition office was set up, I moved to the transition staff for that period of several weeks in November and December and early January and then moved to the White House after the inauguration.

Jones

Where was the transition staff located?

Verveer

On 14th Street near Thomas Circle.

Jones

Problems of coordination between Little Rock and Washington?

Verveer

Not that I remember, but I was in my own little world. The other position I did work a lot on--there were transition teams that were appointed from the outside to put together briefing books on recommended options, both policy-wise and personnel-wise for the new President and the new administration. I worked really closely with the Arts and Culture transition team and I recommended many, if not all of them, for that task. One of the things was to try to ferret out the single best possibilities for head of the NEA.

Riley

So the ultimate appointment was one that you had recommended?

Verveer

There was agreement by the personnel office that Jane Alexander was the single best choice of all the options. But then it was really tough trying to get a decision from the Oval Office, and especially from some of the people directly around the President. This nervousness about the potential for this arts piece blowing up as a political problem, when it had been such a problem to his predecessor, loomed large in their eyes. It was really tough and it took a long time to get Jane finally done, because there was this, Well, you know, are we sure she's really the right person? In my mind, in the minds of the people in the personnel office, and the people who looked at this more closely, having somebody of that stature who had the bona fides in the community, who had a background of interest in public policy issues, who was articulate and a communicator, and would be loyal to the President seemed like a no-brainer, but it took a long time to get there.

Riley

And Sheldon Hackney's appointment was--

Verveer

Sheldon's came on the heels of Jane's, and I worked a lot on that. That one was easier because Sheldon was known both to the President and the First Lady, not really intimately, but Sheldon's wife was active on the board of the Children's Defense Fund, again showing you how all of these interactions occur in terms of where people wind up in government.

Riley

And a fine Alabamian.

Verveer

Just a noble human being. He's just one of the most extraordinary people I know and he writes about how hard it was to get through the appointments process during the culture wars. Here was this college professor, president of a university at this point, who has to suffer people like myself sitting around a table going through mock confirmation hearings, telling him what he should and should not say, or what might blow up in his face. He had to take it in good humor and then he had to go up and meet with all the Senators and basically talk to all of them. He had a very rough hearing in some ways because of an attack or some incident on campus that involved a black student, if you remember, and his reactions to that, which was terribly unfair to him what they made of it.

At any rate, he got through it and he was just a fine, fine appointee. But again, it was our office that spent all the time getting these nominees ready, putting a team together from the Hill, from outside experts, and getting them through the confirmation process. I went up to the Hill both with Sheldon and with Jane on a number of their confirmation meetings, with the staff person from Congressional Affairs. Somebody said--I think it was Jane--if they had to depend on Congressional Affairs, they probably wouldn't have been confirmed. This is not always, but the way this evolved and getting to closure on a number of issues that may not have been priority issues but were important in some way, was because of the role that the First Lady played.

Jones

A quick question--You were paid with transition funds?

Verveer

Yes.

Jones

I've always been curious, when you get paid by transition funds, did that work well?

Verveer

What do you mean, did it work well? I got a paycheck.

Jones

Did you get paid on time?

Verveer

As best I recall, Chuck, I did get my paycheck.

Jones

I've always wondered about that.

Verveer

I don't think it was a humongous amount of money to be sure, but we did get paid.

Riley

Now that we have that important historical point clarified--

Jones

It's General Services Administration--

Verveer

Yes, I think it was overseen by GSA.

Riley

We'll break for lunch for about an hour and reconvene and come back and talk about health care and some other things.

[BREAK]

Riley

Do you have an opening question?

Jones

Well, we're into her role as Deputy Chief of Staff, so we might as well pursue that.

Riley

Why don't you open with that and we'll see where it goes and hold the health care thing in abeyance for just a bit longer, because I think that's going to be a big piece.

Jones

We've got you as Deputy Chief of Staff in the First Lady's office, so let's begin to talk about that role, how the agenda got defined for you. You began to talk a little bit about defining the role, so I think it's useful now to expand on that some with illustrations.

Verveer

It actually got defined very quickly because several days into the new administration the President named his wife to head up a certain health care task force and that became the driving force of my life. It was not a First Lady's office initiative, to be sure, but I was with her through the evolution of all of that and traveled with her and made sure that the people who had been engaged through Ira [Magaziner] and his operation but also people like Chris Jennings, who was the lead health person on the White House staff, and Jack Lew at the time, who did the congressional piece of the health care effort. We were all working as a team. I was working very closely with them as well.

While there was work on a lot of the initiatives that we talked about, from some of the minor issues comparably like Legal Services or the arts, immunizations was a big endeavor of the First Lady's. It was a huge success in the early part of the Clinton administration. The numbers have been stunning in terms of the achievements on immunizations of children in this country. She was vested in that. She did a lot of work on that.

Jones

This was in cooperative relationships with the--

Verveer

The domestic policy staff when Carol Rasco was--

Jones

As well as with HHS?

Verveer

As well as with HHS. Rosalynn Carter and Betty Bumpers, who have been doing immunizations as a huge project for a long time, were part of it, but it was developed in conjunction with domestic policy, HHS, and Hillary's own work and her own staff. That initiative has done very well in terms of measurable progress on that health care need. But the truth of the matter is that health care reform and all that that involved became a very big part of our lives, almost taking over.

Riley

Do you remember how much advance notice you had before the President announced this?

Verveer

Very little advance notice. I think Maggie was told and called me immediately and said, "You'd better get over to the Roosevelt Room. There's going to be an announcement." Our press person was having to work with the West Wing staff because it was a Presidential announcement, but one of the first questions would be, "What qualifies Mrs. Clinton to do this?" Lisa was working really hard to pull together the documentation from her past, in terms of the rural health piece in Arkansas, in terms of the education reform effort in Arkansas. In other words, trying to lend some professional legitimacy to this major undertaking.

After all, this was one-seventh of the economy. It was the mother of all health care projects. Many Presidents in modern times, prior to this effort, tried and failed. How was this going to be different? We were going to have a First Lady lead the effort. One of the first things that we had to do in the office was make sure that we could answer some of those press questions, maybe not to full satisfaction, but that kind of collaborative had to be developed very quickly with the West Wing, to be able to respond to the inquiries that were immediately forthcoming.

Jones

Before we go ahead--there's so much to talk about there--I have heard in several different places that there was a discussion that the First Lady might become Chief of Staff. Is there anything to that?

Verveer

I never heard anything about Chief of Staff. I don't think that was ever in the cards. What I have heard discussion about, and she says it's not true, is that she would be the lead person on domestic policy. There are some who say, and I wasn't there so I don't know, that the possibility was broached and immediately shot down as something that would not be tenable--to have a formal White House role in a line position that domestic policy would represent.

Hillary has said that that never was a real consideration. Apparently what did happen is health care reform was a top priority of the new President. It was an issue that had come up repeatedly throughout the '92 campaign, and one that he knew he wanted to address and needed to address. Ira Magaziner had been told several days prior to the inauguration, during a meeting that took place at Blair House, that he would be playing a major staff role in this and that Hillary would be a partner in that effort. Then the announcement came, I forget how many days after the inauguration, but it was very early in the new administration.

Riley

But you had been informed that this was on track?

Verveer

On the day of, I was told. I think it was either the day of, or the evening before, but we really--Maggie knew probably hours before I did, if that much. I think she called me immediately. We didn't find out that this was in the offing until it actually was about to happen.

Jones

To your knowledge, was there any discussion of the possibility or perhaps even probability that such an appointment would feed the two-for-one?

Verveer

No. Hillary had been asked that many times in discussions like these, with either reporters or outside people, after the fact or during. If it was ever viewed as having potential negatives to it, the determination by her and her husband was that the positives far overrode those negatives and that's about as far as the discussion of it went.

Jones

Did you have any discussions with her about the decision making and the conversations between the two of them?

Verveer

No, only in terms of what she said, which is, "Bill asked me to do this. He had every confidence that I could get it done." I remember telling any number of reporters who would ask the same question--"Wasn't there the consideration of the problems that this represented, given her role not being a formal one, bypassing HHS, the ways that it was done," et cetera. It was always what we have come to know, not just from this but from other undertakings, which is that he had utter confidence in her and knew this was going to be tough, knew it would involve countless numbers of people within and without the government, and that if anybody could organize such an endeavor, it would be she.

I don't think there was much more thought to it, not that I was in the middle of the conversation to make this decision, but I have never heard anything different all of these years, from that time to the present day, and I believe that that probably was the case. It just seemed like something she could take on and do. She'd certainly have the capacity to deliver, and, "I have confidence that she'll organize everybody who has to be organized and we'll get it done."

All of the questions began to come out once the announcement was made. How forthcoming is this process going to be? Who is going to want to speak out and challenge her? After all, she's the President's wife. It puts the staff in an untenable position. There are as many people who say that's a reflection of the staff and not of her. If people don't feel strong enough to put their views on the table, it's their own problem.

In her very first meeting with the immediate players of the task force, people like the HHS Secretary and Laura Tyson and Bob Rubin--I can't remember who was on it--Hillary was very forthcoming on that point. She said, "I hope that you will tell me what you think," but in retrospect some of them have said after the fact that there was a sense that that wouldn't be as welcome and that this train was on the tracks and it was going to go forward.

Jones

How did it go, as far as your own activity was concerned, following the announcement and the inevitable questions that were in part perplexities to which no one knew the answer? Describe your role, essentially.

Verveer

There were those perplexities that were ongoing and they were stated more on the outside than the inside. There was the whole operation that Ira undertook and was charged with in terms of a process that he put in place that often, in shorthand, is referred to as the "tollgates," because it was this truly complex process with many layers. We often wondered how it was ever viewed as a secret process because there were such large numbers of people engaged from every facet of government, and they were all going on different highways. At some point they'd come up to the tollgate and you'd have to begin to figure out where this was headed and whether or not it was headed in terms of creating that proposal that responded to the definition of what managed competition was.

Maybe that process alone should have been the alarm and the red flag that should have gone up, that this is just so complicated and so cumbersome, and in many ways so alien from a typical governmental process for this kind of goal, that it might have said something. But that went forward.

My role was not so much in terms of Ira's operation with these hundreds of experts. Mine was more directly related to her own needs on any given day, so I would work most closely with Chris Jennings, who was the chief health person, particularly on the congressional relations piece. And Jack Lew. We were putting together a lot of the congressional meetings and preparing her for the congressional meetings and staffing those meetings. Separate from that, there was the schedule that she undertook to go around the country and be the chief salesperson for this proposal. We can talk about whether that shouldn't have been her distinct role. That might have made a better contribution in the end, had she not gotten caught up in all this other bureaucratic stuff.

She played that role, which was basically to go into the media markets and the states and congressional districts of all the key players, from the committees up to a potential floor vote, to begin to impact them through their own constituencies and through the public. There was that outside role she played. There was the congressional role she played. You could look at it as direct and indirect lobbying.

Then there was the whole media piece and the organization of this process within the White House. The media piece was tough because you had a press that was clamoring to know what was going to go into this proposal, and the White House not wanting to talk to the press about the proposal because it would only create more stories that nobody was ready for, or, if nothing else, be premature to whatever was going to develop as this process went on. There were all these issues about public consumption and what needed to be done, vis-a-vis the public. That only got more complicated and developed as this process began to take hold.

A war room was created at one point to begin to deal with all of the kinds of questions and challenges that were coming in and impeding the process and the developments of this health care proposal. In addition to that, there was the whole organization within the White House and whether there was support within the White House for Ira to do his job, because he was the one setting up this elaborate structure, and there was a staff with that. But he couldn't function in isolation. This thing had to be related to what was going on in the Oval Office, in the West Wing to be sure, if nothing else. Ira often was his own worst messenger. He didn't always have the best ability to be able to get across to some of his colleagues what it was he needed or where things were going. That was some of the role that Hillary played as well.

As this thing began to evolve, it turned out that the President was trying to get a handle on the budget deficit and needed to get the budget proposal passed. There was NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement] coming down the pike. There was welfare reform that was postponed. Each thing that happened on health care was beginning to impact whether or not a critical vote would be garnered for all these close votes that were ahead on these other initiatives.

So the project never really had the full attention of the President and, in fact, got derailed several times in terms of its original timetable, were that it had been ready, because these other initiatives took over. One of the real problems was that this was too micromanaged an initiative, in retrospect. For every eventuality there was a provision in the health care reform package. It got so absurd that one of the organizations that represented children's health, for example, that was 100 percent embracing of health care reform and universal coverage and taking care of all the children of America, was arguing that they might withhold their support for the initiative if it only had--whatever it was--six inoculations covered and not seven inoculations. It was down to that level of negotiation among groups, and microconsiderations.

Some of these things began to leak on the outside, certainly bigger than that one--let's say, taxing bullets to pay for emergency health care, or whatever. Well, the pro-gun people in the Congress whose votes were needed on the budget and on NAFTA and the crime bill--the West Wing was saying, "What have we got going here? This is a nightmare. We can't have these kinds of headlines coming out affecting potential votes that we need on these other initiatives."

So you had a dynamic. The [David] Broder, Haynes Johnson book is a very fair assessment of all the difficulties that were inherent to this process. It was truly a complicated process and it was tagged with a burden of achieving a goal in a way that had heretofore never been seen in government, in terms of getting from this process to this goal.

Shogan

Why did that happen? You said before that Mrs. Clinton had led these task forces in Arkansas, she had led major education reform in Arkansas, albeit this is a totally different magnitude of policy reform, but she must have had attention to the fact that this type of micromanagement could actually do them in. Was it sort of her call, or was this a process that she just became part of?

Verveer

You have to remember, Colleen, that fairly soon after she was designated to head up this task force, a lawsuit was filed. While those groups got a great deal of legitimacy in the press, some of them frankly were--I should say this very advisedly--not so much really serious players in this field. The judge on the D.C. Circuit, who had been a thorn in many ways, ruled against her. There was an open-meetings ruling of the advisory regulation that nobody had looked at going into this process. All of a sudden there's this challenge to--She's not a federal official at the table, therefore, the public should be able to participate as well, because under the regulations it doesn't fit reasons to have closed meetings. You have a party at the table who isn't a federal employee.

Now we know that the appellate court months--months--later overturns all of this and she is, at least for purposes of the open-meetings rule, found--As First Lady, the position is found to be a legitimate position for purposes of her being a government employee. That early challenge had a stunning impact on the internal operations, because she basically removed herself from the process that the task force was engaged in, in terms of its role vis-a-vis all of these players coming down the tracks looking at the various issues.

Early on, her father got very sick and in the middle of trying to put this in order she flew off to Little Rock to be at his bedside. So you had a less-than-optimal arrangement, even with a very cumbersome process.

Riley

I have a couple of questions on this. One is about Ira himself. I wonder if you could tell us what it was he brought to the process and what was it about Ira that commended him so to this particular business?

Verveer

He was somebody who the Clintons knew well, so he was not a stranger. He didn't come just on the recommendation of somebody else. He was a brilliant thinker. Big companies solicited his help in trying to deal with huge institutional goals that they were trying to achieve. He was known for being absolutely brilliant and for having the capacity to take on enormous challenges and delineate a process to begin to address those challenges and work out a systematic approach. I think he had had some previous experience working in the corporate sector with the health care delivery system.

Now, on the negative side, he had never worked in government. He had a personality that often came across as maybe challenging, maybe aloof, unresponsive, but in fact he was quite a shy person and he had to deal with people in the Congress who were quite troubled that this was the person that they had to deal with. After all, they'd been doing health care for decades and now they were dealing with this person who wasn't even the Secretary of HHS or the head of the health care operations at a major part of HHS, but this person who had come in from the outside.

There was an instant tension with some of those people. He didn't have the personality to engage so much. He could get really quite tense and speak in a way that was less political. By political, I don't mean partisan political; I mean political in terms of what that represents in dealing with people, the give-and-take, the ability to consider somebody else's viewpoint and move it here. He was much more into his systematic approach and meeting the President's deadline, which was also another factor--this unrealistic deadline to produce this child.

So that was a big piece of this. Hillary could have run interference some, but she could only run so much interference. She was the President's wife, with the connotations that that represented for some people. She was being challenged with this lawsuit in terms of her legitimate participation and she was also spending a lot of time on the road trying to sell the need to cover all Americans, to bring down the cost, to deal with all of the complicated questions that rose over the specific nature of this proposal.

Riley

You mentioned at one point earlier that he was often his own worst enemy in terms of making announcements. I don't remember exactly how you phrased it.

Verveer

Well, you know, Ira didn't always talk the talk that people understood. He was extremely well-meaning. He was extremely dedicated. He was very smart, but sometimes he just had an inability to fit in an institutional setting in a way that made the process work more effectively than it did.

Riley

We hear this from a number of people, after the fact, and indeed the written reports often comment similarly. Was this off-putting component not something that the President and the First Lady understood? Was there ever discussion of whether maybe there ought to be a change of command?

Verveer

No, not that I ever heard about. I don't think it was ever considered. There was a real reluctance to hurt Ira. There was a real feeling that he was doing everything he could within his limitations, his personal limitations, and that he was working hard and we should find ways to address the immediate problems in other ways. Certainly I never heard of moving him on to something else.

But in fact, many on the President's staff were extremely uncomfortable dealing with Ira, and while one had to sell the proposal to the Congress and to other experts, one also had to sell what was going on within the White House. That process wasn't always achieved, because the messenger was somebody that a lot of them just felt didn't get how you need to go about doing legislative work.

Riley

Is it the case, given the circumstances, that you, yourself, actually ended up getting more complaints or recommendations funneled through you because the two people who were at the head of this effort, we've already established, are not people that are available to take that kind of information, not because they didn't want to hear it, but they didn't want to deliver it. Mrs. Clinton you weren't going to take bad news to for obvious reasons and Ira didn't quite understand.

Verveer

It was not always so straightforward. I found myself feeling really sorry for Ira at times, because he was working around the clock. He probably slept a handful of hours. It was an enormous undertaking and he was feeling like he was the punching bag. You couldn't help but empathize as another person. Also, you couldn't help hearing that everybody wasn't totally satisfied with the process. On the other hand, people were also so tremendously involved in so many other things. This was kind of going on in its own place in its own way, while a lot of the players who were also engaged in this were involved in the other things that were on the front burner.

Riley

So it may have been the case that, because the ultimate result of this whole health care effort isn't coming due for some time, if I've got other things on my plate, I'm going to tend to that.

Verveer

But I also think there was a resignation, and maybe that's the word, that it wasn't going to operate differently.

Jones

What wasn't going to operate differently?

Verveer

Having Ira work on this.

Riley

The health care process.

Verveer

And the fact that the President had utter confidence in him. He certainly had the substantive skill to understand every complicated aspect of health care financing and everything else; he just didn't have the best bedside manner. Not that he was a mean person, but he just didn't have the right personal set of skills to be the best salesperson.

Riley

Sure, there are people who are technicians in various areas who--

Verveer

Internally you had that, but I don't think there was a sense that the players were going to change or there was an effort to change the players.

Riley

I guess what I'm getting at is there appears to be a kind of dysfunctional design here when each of the two major players has identifiable deficiencies in the areas that they had some responsibility for. With Mrs. Clinton in particular, it wasn't her work; it was the position that she held with respect to the President that made it difficult for her to be a conduit for tough advice.

Verveer

And certainly the people who complained most vigorously about that were people who were in a position to say that, but felt whatever their personal inhibitions were. It wasn't anything she said or did, at least that I saw, that would have created that inability for them. They just felt this thing is going in a direction that we're not going to be able to change.

Riley

So you've got her in one position and you've got Ira in the other position with his particular characteristics. I'm trying to get a sense of what kinds of efforts are made to correct for these deficiencies in the process, if there were any. Or was it the case that the dysfunctions were so fundamental that you really couldn't fix the system without completely doing away with the whole enterprise?

Verveer

No, everything just kept going forward with all of the obstructions that were put in its way. Even though it was a less-than-optimal situation in terms of persuading the decision makers, whether they were in the Congress or wherever, that this was the way to go internally, it kept going forward. There were lots of people engaged in that process and all the pieces that needed to get done were somehow getting done, but we didn't have traction.

There are several things to keep in mind here, because I think we just concentrate on one side of it. The first thing is, in that year, '93, the First Lady was enormously popular. Her numbers and support for taking on this serious problem that affected close to 40 million people uninsured in the most prosperous country on the face of the earth--There was tremendous support for her doing this.

She was viewed as somebody who could get it done. Were I a historian, and we'll not know this, but it's conceivable--had events not dramatically changed in '94--there really wasn't a lack of public support for her in this role. We'll not know that because of the way the situation develops in '94. What happens in '94 is you begin to have her stained with all of the Whitewater stuff and as Rush Limbaugh says, "Health care is Whitewater; Whitewater is health care." There was a real effort to strip the messenger of legitimacy and credibility.

So she's dealing with an attack on her as a person, on a policy issue that is something every American can relate to, if they can't understand. It's about them and how their well-being is going to be addressed. She begins to lose standing, as somebody who is involved in a string of scandals and accusations. She is having to deal with a besmirched character; she can't even believe it is she when she's reading about herself. So you've got that.

At the same time, you've got all the forces that have prevented change in the health care sector for decades beginning to organize themselves. The [Robert] Dole campaign comes a little later, but once his support is clearly not part of this, the Republicans sense, Well, maybe this isn't such a popular undertaking. Maybe we don't have to work together on this. You've got everything from the Harry and Louise ads to all the attacks from the powerful lobbies to some of the most horrendous manifestations of opposition I've ever seen.

On a trip to Seattle, I've never seen such venom as was directed at her. Knives and guns being stripped off people who come out to the speech that she's supposed to give. A right-wing radio personality is fanning the flames of his listeners, urging them to come out and telling others to tell her the way it is. As her car is going into the hotel afterward, these faces--I can only imagine what it was like in the South in the worst of days during the civil rights struggle--are pressing into the car and screaming at her.

So you've got this thing coming apart with a massively organized effort to undermine it. You've got a traditional group of very powerful interests determined to knock it down because changing the status quo is going to hurt them, and you've got this person who is the singular face of health care reform now mixed up in a series of scandals and accusations that sort of come out of nowhere. All of this is putting enormous pressure on trying to get the initiative in a place where it could be achieved. Obviously, it wasn't.

Jones

It is, however, imaginable that you could take away what you've just described and still have an awful lot of problems, given the structure itself.

Verveer

Yes, it's entirely conceivable, Chuck. I do know that in that first year, and this is the thing that always makes me think twice about that fact, that there really wasn't that lack of public support for her in this role. There was, in many ways, some hope that maybe they could get from here to there in terms of health care. But as the nature of the initiative itself was reduced to a series of charges and countercharges about what it was and what it wasn't, and confusion--Remember, there was that article in the Wall Street Journal with the headline, "What the People Really Want is the Clinton Health Care Proposal Only They Don't Know It."

When they tested all the provisions, those were the ones that rose to the top, yet the totality of the proposal itself was something viewed as hurtful, as opposed to helpful. But in that first year, her being in this role, not in terms of execution, but the public perception, was a very popular supportive role. Conceivably it was the nature of the proposal itself, ultimately, and perhaps the structure that was put in place, which was its undoing. But I wouldn't want to just concentrate on the internal White House structure as being the sole reason for its undoing.

Riley

And our line of questioning is not intended to imply that; it's merely a line of questioning to try to dissect what's going on.

Verveer

It's also conceivable that if her role had not been to go up and do the negotiations on the Hill, and I say negotiations advisedly because she wasn't really negotiating the minutia--We never really got to that point. We never got to the point where there is the Clinton proposal and all the comparable proposals and then you'd really work it out and begin to compromise and have a legitimate answer. We never got that far. Her role was more presenting what the administration was trying to do and then answering volleys and volleys and volleys of questions. The constant pictures of her walking the Halls of Congress--Who knows what those images represented at some point when these other things began to break?

Secondly, the sense that--You know she testified five times in front of all of the committees of jurisdiction in the House and the Senate, and to say that she dazzled them would be an understatement. But in a way it was probably not helpful because the perception of--She knows so much. She clearly had the capacity, but was that the best way to deal with these people on the Hill who viewed themselves as the experts? It turned out she knew so much more in many respects than many of them. I'm not sure, in the long run, whether or not that was actually a positive happening for the ultimate support for Clinton health care reform. Had she just been out there around the country as the spokesperson for this, doing a lot of work behind the scenes, it may have been more palatable than the way that she did engage herself, which is some of everything.

Riley

There's a piece of the conventional wisdom on this, and criticism, which may or may not be terribly well informed, that says part of the problem with this plan was that it was developed without the input of Capitol Hill, that it was an executive-created beast in its entirety. How do you respond to that?

Verveer

I think there's a lot to that, but I remember being in the meetings with our leaders from Capitol Hill who said, "Come up here with a proposal." What they were putting together was the proposal, even though many staff people from Capitol Hill were engaged in developing it. They were in these lines of activity. There was a legislative drafting group that was a very large group that worked out of a room on Capitol Hill.

So it wasn't that there wasn't Hill input, but I don't think many Members of Congress felt that they had an ownership of this thing. Would we have gone about it the same way? I don't know. But in fairness, the leadership did say, "Get it done and get it up here and then we can begin that legislative process of dealing with counterproposals and really beginning to make sausage that will have a lot of different parts than we have today with your proposal. We'll make the legislation."

Jones

I had heard a somewhat different interpretation than just that Capitol Hill wasn't more involved. This goes back to the structure and to Ira's intent. Whether intentionally or not, the effort turned out to be re-creating a lawmaking process within this operation, task force of the committees and all this sort of thing, as well as a bureaucratic process, both of which existed within the bureaucracy, within the departments and the agencies, and on Capitol Hill. That this was happening also then contributed to the effort to cross every t and dot every i along the way. I want to get your reaction to that.

Then, a question associated with that, as far as the lawmaking part is concerned in particular: who was there to help on the congressional role, on what Congress could contribute in any plan that comes down from the White House? Part of the latter question of who could help on Congress is whether you played some role.

Verveer

I think that's a very fair criticism, that there were all of these experts on the Hill. There were committees that were totally devoted to health care, health policy. Many of those people were engaged in the White House process, so you wouldn't have what you just said, but in truth you were duplicating a process. You were taking them out of one setting in which they were already operating and creating another setting.

Jones

That's the argument.

Verveer

That was not an optimal arrangement. It wasn't even a good arrangement. You did have that kind of thing going on. If we all had the benefit of hindsight, it probably would not have happened the way it did, knowing that this congressional piece was going to be so difficult. Even among the Democrats, some of whom were in different places--Many said, during and since, that some of the other proposals on the table were not even considered, that they got the back of their hand when we should have been negotiating with them. The response has always been that we tried to get out what we thought was the Clinton proposal and then when it got to the Hill we would have all these negotiations and the best pieces that could muster the majorities would be what prevailed.

We never got there, to be sure. Were that we had a different kind of system in place that was more Hill-driven than White House-driven, or was more of a team effort as we've had in other legislative proposals, would we be in a different place? The answer is, at least we might have been in a better place, considering we didn't make it in the way that we did this.

To be sure, the West Wing congressional office was minimally engaged, if at all, because first of all they had other major things that they were working with the President on. The first thing was the big budget package, the economic plan, which only passed by one vote in the end. Then there was NAFTA and then the crime bill. They had more than their hands full with all of that. We had a separate parallel process in place with people like Chris and Jack and others to deal with the Hill piece. There were periodic meetings with Howard Paster in his congressional office to talk about where some of this is.

But frankly, the train was always derailed, because the health care piece was never the priority. Even though it had a major place in the State of the Union and then would be jump-started several times, health care was always having a starting point, it seemed. There would be the next big event to yet again jump-start health care. It never really had that kind of total focus.

Then you had the specter of meetings with the President that often went hours and hours and hours in the Roosevelt Room to address various significant parts of the health care bill. So you'd have maybe one whole meeting about the financing piece, or a whole meeting about the veterans' piece or a whole meeting about whatever--

Jones

With the President?

Verveer

With the President.

Riley

Ira is leading these meetings?

Verveer

Yes, Ira was leading it and Hillary would play some role. You had all the players around the table, all the players around the room. They were like massive tutorials where everybody is learning a lot and you're having these extraordinarily learned people in the government talking about their bailiwick and how this functions, but the clock is ticking and there has to be a proposal that is going up.

Inevitably, every single discussion wound up on the front page of the Washington Post the next morning. This was tremendously debilitating and disheartening, because you couldn't even have a frank discussion in the White House about the possible constitutive elements of this proposal and what the President was going to say--"Yes, go forward on that." "No, let's not do that." He was grappling with the fact that after all of these tracks were reaching some closure, there would be a series of decisions the President had to make about what was going to go in this overall proposal. So we had these big meetings.

Jones

At one point he says, "I will take this pen and--" That's a Presidential imprimatur on whatever it was at this point.

Verveer

Yes, but he had signed off on what it was at that point. That was the big debate. "Taking this pen" was a big debate.

Jones

Talk about that a little bit.

Verveer

I wasn't involved in the debate but I understand from the people involved in the President's speech at the time--What was he saying when he made that promise or commitment that could potentially negatively affect other things? Some were cautioning him about going that far and others were saying if you really want health care you've got to do that. He was persuaded it was the right course to take.

Shogan

Was Hillary Clinton doing anything else at this time besides working on health care, or was that her full-time purpose?

Verveer

That was really her full-time preoccupation. There were other responsibilities that she had to be engaged in. Any time there was a focus on a state dinner or the Governors' dinner--There weren't that many state dinners that early on, but the Governors' dinner and a picture of her looking like she's working on it. That came across as disingenuous, because how could she possibly be working on a dinner when she had this important health care piece to do?

That was another issue in terms of covering her in the media. I had reporter friends who would say to me, "We're having major debates within our newspaper as to where the First Lady belongs." Does she belong in the first section of the paper in national news or does she belong in the women's page or the soft page or the style page? Different reporters were fighting it out in the newsrooms over who should be covering her. You had many layers in terms of her participation in health care that go back to the things that we were talking about early on in terms of the person in that position and how she's perceived, and how that position is perceived.

Jones

I'm losing sight a little bit of your role now. I know how it started, but can you say a little bit more?

Verveer

My role was basically to make sure that she got what she needed and had her questions answered in terms of what she was specifically doing. Let's say it was her congressional testimony. It would be to make sure that we knew everything there was to know about the committee that she was going before. The various people who were tasked with the backgrounds on the committee members or the general thrust of that committee, the interests of that committee, what were the significant messages that she had to deliver to that committee in terms of its interests and its jurisdiction. Everything she needed to discharge her responsibilities in any given piece of the health care role--I had to make sure that she got what she needed.

For example, if we would wake up and read that we'd had the latest setback on health care, as happened just about every other day, it would not be uncommon for Hillary to be on the phone with me early in the morning when I was still at home, saying, "What are we going to do about this? When you go in, why don't you call So-and-So and try to get together and figure this out?"

I was more like the implementer of both what she thought needed to be done and making sure in all the circumstances in which she was engaged that she had everything she needed, whether it was in traveling to Kansas for the forum with Nancy Kassebaum and Bob Dole, or whether it was in her next meeting with the Republican leadership on the Hill, or whether it was in going before a labor union that was supporting her effort, or with the countless numbers of outside groups that came in, whose support we were trying to get on the initiative, hearing them out to make sure that their interests were taken into consideration. I was like her personal staffer on this initiative, but there were vast numbers of players who were intimately involved in the evolution of different aspects of health care.

Jones

It was the Hill, out of town stuff, outside groups in town--

Verveer

It was the functioning of Ira's process and how Ira was doing. There was the media piece and how the White House was to respond to questions relating to health care. There were the outside groups that public liaison was working with, or the health component of public liaison to bring into the White House, or respond to. There were fires that had to be put out. There were people who came in separately, trying to petition, who may not have gotten in some other way, as happened on everything. It was more to be the person to whom she could say, "What do we know about So-and-So?" It was making sure that the people who most directly worked with her specifically on health care from the President's staff were all coming together.

Jones

It's wonderful that you survived so you could be here today.

Verveer

You know, I'm feeling totally exhausted just thinking about this process.

Riley

You're not done with it yet, because I've got a couple of particulars and then maybe we'll let it go.

Jones

Include in that the specific relationship between the First Lady and Ira Magaziner.

Verveer

The two of them go way back. I think he was at Brown when she was at Wellesley and they were both, in their time as college students, recognized as student leaders in Life magazine, I think it was, so they had known each other. Then they were on some commission together and had traveled some in Europe as part of the work of the commission. They were not strangers. I think Hillary knew that she had skills that Ira didn't, and he certainly recognized those. It wasn't like he didn't recognize his deficiencies, particularly along the lines that we discussed. There was always the sense that he was a smart guy and yes, there were these limitations, but somehow it could be made to work.

A real problem was that lawsuit, because once Hillary took herself out of the task force's immediate work and working on that kind of basis, interfacing with the key players, she was out of the picture and he was the only operator. Many times there was the need to intervene for Ira because he couldn't get a meeting with the President, or he needed to give a status report of where things were. Because his strong suit wasn't what it needed to have been with some of the President's people, he really did have to fall back on Hillary or often come to me, even, and say, "I've just got to get this meeting. I've got to tell them where things are."

Riley

Did you ever get the sense that he was lost in the technical aspect of this? I understand the politics--

Verveer

I never got the sense that he was lost. There was tremendous arcana, almost too much for us to be dealing with as people who weren't day-to-day technicians so much as train operators. The technicians were someplace else in the bureaucracy, playing a very important role. I always felt that he knew a lot, but somehow the important things, the glue, the ability to sell, the ability to persuade and talk about it in the way that one does in political life--that part was missing. That's what I think.

He was terribly frustrated. He couldn't help but be frustrated because there was a timetable and every time one thought that the train was making its way to the next stop, all of a sudden the train wasn't going to go to the next stop because there was this vote and oh, you're not taking off again because there's this vote.

It never really had the full attention of the President. It was the President's proposal. He said, "I want managed competition, I want an employer mandate, I want savings to be squeezed out, I want universal coverage." All of these pieces then were put into a massive proposal. But it's complicated stuff and maybe too much of the complicated stuff was done at the White House and not enough at Capitol Hill.

Riley

Let me ask you the other side of that question, which is, how well did the President get along with Ira? What was their chemistry?

Verveer

I had no sense that he didn't get along with Ira. I think he felt the same way. I think he felt that this guy is really trying and he's a very smart person and I gave him this job to do and we have all of these other things that aren't breaking our way.

Riley

I've got a list of a few things that came up that I wanted to go back and probe about. One was the development of a war room at one point. Was that for you a good development? Was it another complication?

Verveer

No, it was a good development because I think it was the political reality finally seeping into the process. There are some people who say this tendency always to have a war room comes out of politics, that it comes out of the campaign that never ends. In truth that's how government is today. If you can't, through the normal way of doing things, get the kind of legislative outcomes in the Congress or stories from the media, sometimes you need to organize staff in a way that plays right into that more successfully, and that's what a war room is, essentially.

It was an effort, with all of these charges and countercharges being lobbied against the health care bill, to respond, to take the offensive, to basically organize the various pieces. In a war room you had people who were dealing with Congress, people who were dealing with the media, people who were dealing with outside organizations. As you're creating a strategy, you need all of these pieces to be engaged, running the same way, not running in all these different ways, running into each other. That's what the war room did. It brought a semblance of some kind of specific order.

That's where Harold Ickes came on the scene. Harold came, originally, to work on health care and to try to get a handle around this beast. That was probably the recognition that it is not working the way it needs to work if we're ever going to get this baby done. So here comes somebody with complete political skills to try to figure out how to make the various places dislodge their responsibilities in a way that was contributing to the whole.

Jones

But there's another case of where Whitewater proceeded to take his time.

Verveer

Yes, it did. That kept happening. It seems so overwhelming in retrospect, seeing it from these years removed, how many complications there were for this that were--not even the outsiders and the opponents--Forget that piece, which was huge--but just internally, within the White House, in terms of the White House agenda. Then the outside things really did begin to affect the everyday workings of the White House, or could have, had they not gotten the attention that they required. But Harold did come in to work on the health care piece.

Riley

How was Harold's chemistry with Ira?

Verveer

I don't know how much time they spent together, but they were not birds of the same flock.

Riley

They don't seem to be, from the outside.

Verveer

They didn't speak the same language.

Jones

That's for sure.

Verveer

Harold is known to decorate his every sentence with several "f-words" along the way and I don't think Ira has ever talked that way, or at least certainly not in the company of others. They were very different personalities, very different.

Riley

Did you make trips up on the Hill with Mrs. Clinton?

Verveer

All the time. Every single one.

Riley

Can you tell us about how those--

Verveer

They were extraordinary. She always says it was this stunning reaction that people have: the dog can really bark and do something else at the same time. She was always received as though the Queen had arrived. They had all this stuff they were doing behind her; they were really leaving it behind because it was not manifested up front. She met regularly with the Members of Congress. She had separate meetings with the committee members. She had separate meetings with the Republican leadership. She had separate meetings with all of the various actors on the House side, separate meetings on the Senate side, separate meetings with every kind of caucus under the sun that had any relationship to health care. It was a constant effort on the care and feeding of the Members of Congress on this bill.

I don't ever remember her not having a cordial time. There wasn't a lot of nastiness. Now and again Pete Stark would get his dander up and talk about how he really felt. There was many a candid conversation behind closed doors with her, one-on-one, with the members of Congress, some about Ira not being the very best messenger and some about, "Mrs. Clinton, I'm really worried about how this piece is going to sell," or, "I'm really worried about getting these votes in the Congress."

I remember once when she met with John Dingell. We were in a room decorated with the heads of various animals that he had shot hunting.

Jones

Three of them Republicans.

Verveer

She is waxing on about how maybe a tax on bullets would go a long way to paying for the kind of emergency care receipts that hospitals are experiencing, and sweet, cordial John, who loved her and did everything to get the legislation passed, kind of peers down at her and says, "Mrs. Clinton, with all due respect, I wouldn't go there. I happen to have been a member of the National Rifle Association." Maybe he still was at that point.

She had really, really good relations with the Members of Congress. I felt in many ways they felt very free to talk to her. She had done everything they wanted. "Come out to my district and do this." "Come out and have a town meeting with me." "Come out and meet with this group." "Come out and do this." She was on the road all the time, basically being responsive wherever she could. The New England Symposium, the doctors' conference here, the senior citizens' conference there, separate meetings with the Senators in a key state.

She was there, doing that all the time, a lot of time being on the road and not in the White House following the process that was going on from day to day and where things were in terms of the numbers and the added costs and the actuary tables that were run one more time in the middle of the night, and, "No, there's not going to be enough money for this." All of that kind of thing was going on while she's trying to sell the bigger thing.

Shogan

Was there any special relationship between Mrs. Clinton and maybe female Members of Congress that she was meeting with? Did you notice any difference there in their interactions?

Verveer

She met with all the women Senators at one point. I think she did the women's caucus on the House side. I don't know that there was anything perceptively different from those conversations. They genuinely felt good about it.

Shogan

Anything different with Republicans versus the Democrats?

Verveer

No. She had a meeting with all the Republican Senators and they just peppered her with questions, including Strom Thurmond. She answered every single one and he told her what a lovely lady she was. It was a cordiality with a capital C. I still have the note that Senator [David] Pryor passed me as she's in one of these sessions. She is taking every kind of question. You couldn't imagine defending a doctoral dissertation with a more difficult panel on things that were so marginally related to the theme that they were throwing at her and she was just handling. Pryor sends me a note and it says, "This is the damnedest performance I've ever seen by anybody up here."

It was almost too good. It's part of this power versus "Who are you to know all of this stuff?" that factored into it at the end. But certainly not that first year.

Riley

This leads to my next question. Was the cordiality an exercise in misdirection? That's poorly phrased, but did it mislead her? You had a lot of experience in Washington.

Verveer

I don't think it misled her. We were truly aware of what we were up against. The chairmen of the committees were as brutally candid as they could be about, "You know, Mrs. Clinton, we don't have the votes in this committee. We're not going to get a single Republican vote," when the first committee took it on. "We've got all these problems with X, Y, and Z on this committee." It wasn't sugarcoated. She knew what she was up against in terms of our proposal passing through the process that it had to pass through on the Hill. In the end there were hardly any hearings on the bill. There were Senator Kennedy and Congressman Dingell. Congressman Dingell worked really hard, as did some others, but it was very heavy lifting and there was no doubt that it was anything but heavy lifting.

We had a list; we had some people who just kept track of the potential votes of the Members of Congress and what they had said on health care. So, Russell, we knew exactly what you were concerned about. We knew if you had changed your position, who you had articulated it to, who visited with you to change your mind. We had the same thing with Chuck and the same thing with Colleen. It was all there. There was no sense that this thing was doing better than it was doing.

Riley

A couple more questions on this. Who were the really good friends, the most reliable people for you, on the Hill, and conversely, who were the biggest disappointments for you on the Hill?

Verveer

It has been so long. As I said, Senator Kennedy was really working very hard. The Senator from Rhode Island, [John] Chafee. He died when we were still in the White House, but he and his staff, a Republican Senator who really was valiant in his efforts and his counsel, always very fair. Dingell and that committee, even though he had members on that committee who were in a completely different place. He had the urgency of his father having tried to do health care reform a generation before and having failed. There were large numbers of really--Including the leadership, George Mitchell and [Richard] Gephardt, people were really trying to make this work.

But as '94 hit, as the Whitewater stuff began to hit, you know, it was "scandal du jour." It was charge, accusation, countercharge. What kind of shape is she going to be in, and the unleashing of the opposition fusillade with the multimillions of dollars that was spent to begin to bring down the proposal. You had two things going on at the same time: you had an attack on her to destroy her credibility, and you had an attack on the proposal that was very organized from various elements in the health industry. Those two things, combined, really were making it extremely difficult to happen. And you had a President who was being sidetracked with so many other challenges that he had to confront.

Riley

Chuck had mentioned the speech that was delivered in the fall that forced him to "take this pen." Is there anything else you wanted to say about the preparation for that speech?

Verveer

Only that there was a debate as to whether or not he should do that. I don't even know the numbers or who was on each side. I just know that many of his people, if not most of them, didn't think it was a good idea, thought that it boxed him in, thought that it gave him not much escape room in the end. The questions that were coming to us in the summer of '94, earlier than the summer, late spring, were, "How much is universal coverage?" "Could you cover 90 percent?" "Could you cover 80 percent?" "Could you cover 40 percent?"

You start getting into these bidding wars. "Clinton will accept less than universal coverage." "Could you wrap universal coverage over ten years?" These boxes--You were constantly being put into a box of what you were willing to accept and not accept and then the headlines were "Backing Off." They felt that by doing this, if there was an opportunity to really begin to compromise and get something, he was creating a no-exit situation for himself.

Jones

I was in Washington during that time, occasionally talking to people on the Hill.

Verveer

Did you feel my pain?

Riley

No, but today we can.

Jones

Part of it, from the Hill's perspective, at least according to some people, was that the more questions that were tried to be answered within the plan, or problems resolved in the plan, the less latitude Members felt they had, because their role was being shrunk all the time.

Verveer

Absolutely. Yes. When I guaranteed you that we would have X numbers of inoculations and I guaranteed you that X would be covered, and you were guaranteed something else, where was the gift? These things were being locked into the proposal. You could say, and it would be the truth, that if you reached the point on the Hill where you could drop this thing down and say, "OK, let's really begin to have a legislative process now. We may not recognize it when it comes out, but let's at least start to go through it. Let's go through the give-and-take. Let's have the counterproposals, go through this provision by provision."

We never got to that point. But in the meantime--You're exactly right--we were creating a paralyzing situation and there was that sense that these commitments were being made that were unrealistic.

Jones

So as pleasant as they may have been and impressed by the First Lady, they still had to find a place where they could put their--

Verveer

Yes, their stamp. But I'd also say, Chuck, it wasn't just a place where they could--Some of them were actually negotiating. They were saying, "We think X should be in the bill," not waiting for the negotiation to take place when they had the jurisdiction in which to do it. There was also no lack of understanding how difficult this was from a congressional perspective. I don't want to convey that the Members of Congress were not candid as this thing began to go forward. As cordial as they were in her meetings with them, they were extremely candid about the reality--especially the key people with whom she was dealing on a regular basis--of how tough this was.

Riley

This may have been answered in some of the treatments of this, I just can't remember. Was there any serious attention given at the outset to beginning with somebody's bill and using that or was--

Verveer

Not that I remember. It was always that the President wants to go the managed competition route with all of these key elements and we were going to begin to develop that. Then you had the parallel messaging that was coming down from the Hill in the earliest meetings from the Members about needing to get this proposal done and up there, and of course it took forever to do because of all the things that conspired in making it tough. But it was also hard to do in terms of developing the proposal itself. It took longer than was originally thought it would. That was basically where it was.

Riley

Forgive me, but I do have one other one. In terms of the prioritization of proceeding with health care as the administration's main initiative, it was fairly well understood why he had to get the budget piece done first. There was a question then about what comes after the budget. Were you involved in the discussions about which of those administration priorities would come next?

Verveer

Not in terms of having a vote at the table, but certainly in terms of understanding what the arguments were as to why NAFTA, for example, was going to take precedence over health care.

Riley

That, as I understand it, was because there was a timeline with NAFTA. Then you get to the point--

Verveer

But at the same time, the clock is ticking and you're delaying health care even more. And there was the issue, put forward more by Senator [Daniel] Moynihan than anybody else--Senator Moynihan really played a role in making this proposal look not credible. He met with Hillary early on in his office, which is now her office. I can still remember him sitting in the chair in the corner and he said, "I really think this is backward, that you really need to be doing welfare reform before health care reform." He went through all of the reasons, he having spent much of his professional life being an expert on these issues. He gave her some advice in terms of experts with whom she should consult, and she consulted them absolutely immediately, trying to figure out if that was a way to bring the good Senator along. But he always had a way of saying that one sentence that would all of a sudden create the latest incursion in the war that would set things back for another several weeks. He did that on a number of occasions.

Riley

Why don't we break here for five or ten minutes?

[BREAK]

Riley

I want to ask, before we get out of '93 and on down the road, about Vince Foster. On some of the reports he was said to be Hillary's closest friend in the White House. Can you talk a little bit about what happened in the White House and especially the impact on Mrs. Clinton from that tragedy?

Verveer

I didn't know Vince Foster before I came to the White House, and I loved Vince Foster. He was one of those people you couldn't help but like. He was just the kindest, most decent, nicest guy, very sharp, almost too gentle for Washington, truly. He worked with us on a number of things. He worked on the health care piece in terms of the task force and the open-meetings piece and felt really bad that the lawsuit had come down and was kind of blaming himself that we hadn't addressed all of these issues.

I worked with him, I sat on judicial selection conversations, and I think he was on that. We worked some on Legal Services because he was passionate about Legal Services, so I'd come to know him and I really thought the world of him. As stuff was happening vis-a-vis these scandals and charges, Vince was appearing more preoccupied and unhappy. One day I came up to him and I said, "Vince, you don't look good." He said, "Did you see the Wall Street Journal today?" I said, "No." He said, "There is this big editorial, 'Who is Vince Foster?' and it was quite nasty." I said, "Vince, there is a rule of thumb. The rest of the Wall Street Journal is very good. You don't read the editorial pages. None of us pay any attention to the editorial page. We know what it comes out of, what it represents." He looked at me and he said, "Where I come from it does matter."

It was the first clue in some ways of how troubled he seemed. It didn't come close to preparing me for the horrible situation that his suicide represented. He was in many ways too gentle and too innocent a soul for what had befallen the Clinton White House in terms of all the charges and the accusations and the nastiness of Washington. Whatever the reasons, there was that war that was unleashed on the Clintons in terms of their illegitimacy in being in the White House and the lack of any kind of expectation that they would find themselves there. I don't think Vince was prepared for it. Obviously, none of us ever knows what leads people to do something like that, or what his history was, which I certainly didn't know, but it had a terrible, terrible depression on all of us. It was just stunning.

Riley

What was the process of trying to move past it? Is it just that you're so busy and occupied that you--?

Verveer

There were so many horrible stories that came out about what really happened and what was in his briefcase and going into his office. The things that Maggie was tagged with, more accusations that, in my view, were certainly not deserved in any way, that she had to undergo. The President called everybody together in Room 450 of the OEB [Old Executive Building] the next day. Hillary wasn't even in Washington. He talked to us all about it. It was like trying to talk to a bunch of people who were so overcome with grief. You sort of were in your own thoughts.

But it is what tends to happen in the White House, which is, you can't take a whole lot of time on much of anything that is different from what you have to confront each day, because the magnitude is just there in your face with so much needing to be done. You move on, but you don't move on easily.

Riley

Did you have conversations with Mrs. Clinton about the episode and how one copes with the pressures of being in Washington?

Verveer

No, not that so much that I remember. I was with her all the time, so I don't remember what all we talked about, but I do remember going to the funeral in Hope and talking on the plane on the way back or on the tarmac after we arrived. There was just this sense of what an extraordinary guy, and how did all of us fail him that we weren't able to put sort of a protective shield around him so he wouldn't feel that whatever was going on wasn't his fault, who he had let down, or that he hadn't protected the President and the First Lady from some sort of charge that was his responsibility. That's just how he was. He was always looking at himself in the performance of his own role.

It was just a very sad thing to happen to somebody. I still remember getting the call from a Washington Post reporter late at night. I didn't know until around 11 o'clock and I was utterly stunned. I couldn't talk on the phone. I passed the phone to my husband and I had him talk to her. He knew her. It was one of those things that you can't believe that you experienced.

Riley

One of the things that I often ask people who know the Clintons, have known them personally well, is a question about their personal resilience. They went through a lot of personal pain in those early years, each of them with the loss of a very close parent and then with the Foster suicide. I wonder if you could comment on that. What sources of personal resiliency did they tap in order to--?

Verveer

That's a really good question. Having been so close to watching both of them, more her than him, through some really horrible times--not just deaths, as terrible as that is, but also the terrible charges that were brought against them, an impeachment, the possible folding of a Presidency--I used to say to myself, How do they get out of bed in the morning and just go forward?

I would get so many calls, particularly in '98, from people on the outside calling me, worrying about me, saying, "Are you all doing OK?" and whispering into the phone. In truth, and I know this probably sounds unrealistic, given what everybody was reading on the outside--and we had CNN going all the time in my office, on in the background all the time--It wasn't that there was a running away from the reality, but there was so much focus on the work that, I think, we lost ourselves in our work. I really do think that that's what she did too, and he had to do.

He talks in the book about "parallel lives," but whatever was going on, they were both able to focus in an almost inhuman way. Most of us couldn't focus like that. There was religion, for him, too, because he's a very religious guy, but certainly for her. She would find herself reading spiritual books that people would send her that she could lose herself in. She had that very strong foundation that way.

I remember his saying to me one day in the midst of the impeachment stuff, "I'll be OK if the people stay with me." He had a kind of visceral closeness to the people. I keep thinking of Russia and the narod, the holy people described by Tolstoy. He had this kind of relationship to the people, and clearly they stayed with him, for the most part. That kept him going and focusing on "the job I have to do." He'd keep talking about it. But there is no easy explanation for how the two of them kept going.

I think they were bound and determined, also. They were blessed by the enemies they had and they were bound and determined not to let those awful people destroy them. Whatever horrors they were personally enduring, whether it was her humiliation in '98 or the thought that there were these outside perpetrators who were trying to bring down this Presidency, it was enough to fight the fight. It was, "No matter how I feel, I am not going to let this happen." That was stronger than anything imaginable.

Jones

I have a kind of segue question that moves us from health care, and that is the effect of health care on subsequent advocacy.

Verveer

Advocacy by her within the White House?

Jones

Yes.

Verveer

It was a very awful impact. Not just health care, which was bad enough, but losing the election in '94. It was tremendously deflating. She didn't know to what extent she was to blame. She worried that she was to blame, that she had let him down. All of a sudden you have Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House. You had a turnabout in American politics that was stunning and it had all happened, in many respects, on her watch, too.

She was having a very rough time trying to figure out what she should do. What kind of First Lady should she be? Had she come on too strong? Was she too much of the transitional First Lady? Did she push the envelope too far? I think there were moments of real questioning of herself, from somebody who is a fairly self-confident person.

I remember one instance when she was supposed to go and do a panel with Carl Anthony, the First Lady historian. It was that night or the day before and she just had a real honest questioning of herself in front of a handful of us about, "Where do I go from here?" It was not something that happened all that often, but we were often called factotums, or people who didn't leak in the White House, this being the First Lady's staff, or being foot soldiers for her, or just not really questioning.

The truth of the matter is that so many of us related to her so deeply. We were a group of people who had come together, shared her policy aspirations, shared her goals, couldn't believe what she was going through so much of the time, and there was a real effort on our part to protect her. We would often say to her, "Yell. Get it out of your system. Tell us exactly how you felt." She could come in and basically say, "These terrible people" or whatever, and it wouldn't go outside of the room. But it helped her then go to that microphone the next day and not explode or collapse or do something that she'd come to regret. It was a very low time--with a capital L.

There was a real struggle to figure out, "Where do I go from here? What can I do in this position that isn't going to cause further problems for my husband's Presidency?" Over time, it was mostly discussions about what would be an important role that she could play that would get her out of this health care vise, that it was inappropriate that she had headed up the health care task force.

We consulted with all kinds of people; Doris Kearns [Goodwin] came in one day for a discussion. We met with some of the top people in the various agencies of government where there were issues in which she had a policy interest. She would often tell me about this Republican friend she had who would offer some advice without ever divulging who it was, until one day in exasperation, she said, "Oh, just call him." It was Dick Morris.

Riley

Charlie.

Verveer

No, it was "my Republican friend." He wasn't called Charlie to us.

There was a lot of consultation, a lot of trying to really get her to understand that there were other things that she could do. She recoiled from being a symbol. She thought that being a symbol was not really a tangible, concrete, active kind of role. In time, what she discovered was how efficacious being a symbol could be, and that that position is not a job; there is no job description.

Everybody knows what you should be doing, but they really don't know. It is an American institution. That institution, that role of First Lady, really comes with a lot of power. Call it symbolic power, but power for change and power to make a difference. Over time she did come to realize that she didn't need to be out front in the comparable way that she was in health care reform to make a difference.

Within days of the election outcome in '94, there was a discussion about "Whither goest health care?" She was in the middle of that discussion, contrary to some reports that she was taking breathing salts from collapsing and hiding out and basically ready to institutionalize herself. None of that was going on. She did feel depressed. She did feel that she needed to figure out where she was going to go from here, but she was also very much engaged and she wanted to be helpful to the President, as always. "We're in this very difficult bind. This Presidency is in this difficult bind. What should we do? How can I help?"

In this discussion on health care she said, "I think we should go to Newt Gingrich. The President should go to Newt Gingrich and understand that there isn't a whole lot we're going to agree on potentially, but hopefully there are some things we can agree on, and one of those things will be children's health." One of the first messages that was transmitted or raised with Speaker Gingrich was the need to do something about, since we had failed with health care reform, but at least trying to get kids of parents who weren't covered under Medicaid. Large numbers of working parents' children had no health insurance, no access to health care whatsoever, except what they could afford, and they couldn't afford it.

That is illustrative of the fact that she not only didn't stop thinking about where to go with health care, there were also a string of things that over many months, years, were health care-centric that she was centrally engaged in. What she would do differently is she wasn't so front and center. It's fascinating for me to read the accounts now of that period, because in most of the accounts she has disappeared. She is not doing anything. We're still punching the clock seven days a week, wondering what they're talking about. But the fact remains that from the public perception point of view, at least what was transmitted, she was not engaged. She had pulled herself back.

In essence what she had done was to work more behind the scenes to get things done, but to get them done in not such a transparently public, in-your-face way that health care represented. That also meant that she didn't get credit for a whole lot that was going on. It also meant that a whole lot of people weren't paying attention to it. It wasn't that any of this was really kept secret, it's just that, frankly, various issue initiatives weren't as interesting to the press as health care reform was. There was something that was much less interesting about a First Lady working on X, Y, and Z issues, who was no longer at her husband's side in this public way as his policy partner. So the press and public didn't pay much attention to it.

I was talking to Rosalynn Carter and she was saying how she felt when she was working on mental health and they had this big event. It might have been on her testimony. I don't remember what it was, but it was significant in her eyes in terms of her work, and she said there wasn't a single article about it. That pretty much was what had happened as Hillary moved from here to here. The mistake that many observers on the outside made was to assume that when she moved from here to here she basically became the "traditional" First Lady, whatever that is. I think what they mean for it to be is that she really wasn't engaged in policy and really had little influence.

Jones

Would it be fair to say that you returned to what you described with the AmeriCorps example, as far as advocacy is concerned, where she was not going to get the credit and yet played a--

Verveer

Pivotal role. And if I can just jump ahead to illustrate this more precisely, because you're right on, Chuck. When she was mounting her campaign for the Senate in New York, the big question thrown in her face by both potential voters and particularly her opponent was, "Well, what have you done?" What she had done was work on children and families for the better part of 30 years. But, specifically, what had she done for the last eight years? She had a whole string of accomplishments that we can talk about and how she got to do some of these things. When they were mentioned to the press--I still remember a New York Times story in August, at the time of the Democratic Convention for that 2000 campaign, where the question back to her was, "How come we're learning all of this stuff now and we didn't know about it?"

Her answer is, "I made a decision after health care--" I don't know what words she used, basically, not to be so public but to do a job that needed to get done, and the way that she worked to accomplish it and not to take any credit. Now she needed to let people know what she had done and it was looking a tad disingenuous that none of this stuff was talked about in quite this way previously. All of a sudden the reaction was, "Well, how come she did all of these things?"

I had the lovely task of going back and pulling together all of the background materials. All of these things were fairly public; they just weren't covered. It wasn't that these were secret things going on behind the scenes; they were public events. The press didn't write about most of them, so you had that catching up with her when she was running for the Senate. What everybody did know was the fact that health care failed. So she had to deal with the problems of health care and she became a proponent of the "school of smaller steps," if you will. At the same time she had to put out the things that she had worked on and really had made a difference on, but it was the first time many were hearing any of this and there was some skepticism.

Jones

What you're describing post-health care and the 1994 election was essentially a redefinition of her role, of her tactics, her strategy, not necessarily a change in her position as she viewed it in relationship to the President.

Verveer

That's exactly what I'm saying; you said it far better than I said, which is that in terms of her interests and in terms of the contribution she thought she could make, she was still making that contribution. She wasn't doing it in the way that she had done it with health care reform. Consequently, because health care reform was so unprecedented--No matter how you look at it, it was unprecedented in terms of the issue, in terms of the role, in terms of so much--that everything else paled in comparison to the degree that the interpretation that was put on that comparison was that she wasn't really engaged, or that she was engaged as a traditional First Lady because she was traveling around the country talking about mammography.

Jones

Did that change your job then, this redefinition?

Verveer

No, my job didn't really change at all. What changed were the issues we began to grapple with, because at the end of '94 we talked about the demise of health care and we talked about the impact of the election. In March of '95 she was in Copenhagen at the UN [United Nations] Social Development Conference. The head of the conference, [Juan] Somavia, told me subsequently that she mounted the podium as the First Lady of the United States and she walked off of it as a respected global figure and expert in her own right. In many respects that was one of those seminal moments that began a prodigious amount of work that is probably going to go down as her greatest contribution, and that's what she contributed to global women's rights. It was her own agenda, albeit complementary to what the administration stood for and not something that was different from, but she drove that agenda.

Jones

That's a very nice statement, the transformation from symbolic position to recognition of substantive capability.

Verveer

Absolutely. And not that there wasn't a whole lot of substantive change that went with it, but the perception was that she was very effectively using a platform that she had in this American institution. Also in March of '95 she made that trip to South Asia, to five countries. There were images of her for the first time traveling with her daughter to truly exotic places, not just Little Rock, and capturing her in ways that were much more appealing and changing her in some ways. That was the beginning of this evolutionary process.

That said, at the same time, she was taking on a series of domestic issues because she never did one to the exclusion of the other. Among the things that she was doing back at the White House--mammograms, for example, under Medicare, were only provided for women who qualified for Medicare, and men to the extent that they needed them, every other year. Changes in policy were occurring where the testimony she was gathering was demonstrating that this should be available every year as a preventive technique. So she did work going on in mammography that resulted in the President changing the policy.

Gulf War veterans. Hillary was hearing from veterans and their families about the health impacts of whatever it was that they were exposed to. They felt that they were exposed to something, because the veterans were coming back different people from the people they were before they left for the war. Again it was the health care piece. There is so much in what she did that was health care-related, domestically. She embarked on listening to veterans at Walter Reed and at the Bethesda Naval [Hospital] and at other places, much to the unhappiness of people at DoD [Department of Defense] who wondered, What the heck is this woman up to?

And we worked very closely with [Samuel] Sandy Berger and the NSC [National Security Council], in trying to get a handle on what we owe these veterans, and what is it they're going through that nobody is addressing? As a result, after many months, the President put together a blue-ribbon commission to investigate the whole Gulf War syndrome: was there really a syndrome, and what was it, and what's going on here? That all happened because she got engaged in that issue.

She wrote a report. He decided to establish the commission. The commission was independent, did its own thing. She was one of the first witnesses. One of the colonels, a good Republican who never thought well of her until she became engaged in his case, actually appeared in a video in her New York Senate campaign saying that she had truly made a difference trying to get to the bottom of this. Her work resulted in new benefits and new resources in the Department of Veterans Affairs, et cetera, to deal with this problem.

I use that as an illustration of the fact that life hadn't ended for her. If I'd read the newspaper, I would say life ended. But it was going on in ways that just weren't sexy, I guess, or weren't of the magnitude, certainly, that health care was. There was a full domestic agenda and at the same time she was evolving on the world stage.

In evolving on the world stage, she was basically taking her expertise in the domestic agenda--in the domestic field, whether it was health care, whether it was education, whether it was microeconomic development like they had done in Arkansas--and she transported that overseas. They were the tools to lift women up so that their full potentials could be tapped in their own societies. This doesn't happen overnight. This is something that happens over time, but does bring her to a point that none of us could have predicted, sitting there at that table at the end of '94 when she doesn't know exactly what's happening to her and where she's going to be.

Riley

There's a larger problem for the administration, or an opportunity, in some respects, in retrospect. The media spotlight shifts from the White House to Capitol Hill for a period of time, right?

Verveer

Yes.

Riley

So that it's not just the First Lady who is not getting a lot of coverage, it's not much of anybody in the White House in the period when Newt Gingrich is on all the news programs and the front page of the news magazines and so forth.

Verveer

The other thing that is happening, which is neither domestic policy nor international affairs, is that there is a 1996 reelection campaign and a huge question mark, given the difficult situation that Bill Clinton now finds himself in, as to whether or not he's going to make it to a second term. Hillary is already engaged on that score. She is working to make sure that there's a women's office for the first time in the White House, that women are going to be clearly dispositive in the '96 election, and she spends a lot of time over the next two years helping raise money through the Democratic Women's Leadership Fund, crisscrossing the country doing political events, making sure the women's message and issues that women care about begin to figure largely in the President's campaign.

One of the untold stories is how many of those small bites, small issues that were so made fun of, from uniforms to whatever, are in It Takes a Village, and that It Takes a Village in some ways is used very significantly for some of these family issue initiatives in the Clinton administration.

Shogan

Let me ask about It Takes a Village. That was going to be my question. What's the thinking behind the idea of her writing this book? When does this come about, who becomes involved, and why does she pick this particular topic and title?

Verveer

I remember her calling me from a Renaissance weekend, New Year's '95, telling me that several people whom she respects came up to her, feeling her pain and worrying about her future and saying to her--

Riley

This is December '94, January of '95?

Verveer

Yes, and saying to her, you should write about things you care about. We should come to know you through something that is yours, not something that you've just had to carry out, or that doesn't really tell us a whole lot about you. It really got her thinking, to the point that several days later she's back in Washington and she calls to tell me about this idea that was planted. She may well have thought about it earlier, but that was--Health care was behind her. She had an opportunity now to really develop some of these themes in her own words if she wanted to. I think she felt it was important for her to let people know what she really cared about and what she really thought should be done.

She did it in this kind of folksy way, although it is studded with policy through and through. It came from that African phrase that she liked. I don't know, maybe somebody recommended it. Maggie would know if somebody else recommended the title, but it was a phrase that she liked. It was right for the time and the advice was that people have to know you and what you really care about. What are your values? You say you care about families and children. Tell us about that.

Shogan

I've read that in some ways the Office of the First Lady was run with the theme of It Takes a Village in mind. In other words, you had a lot of female staffers working in the Office of the First Lady and if they ever had an incident, they had a child who was sick or some sort of family conflict, that the way the office was run it was acceptable to take care of the family crisis and get your work done and there were accommodations made in that very theme. So she was embodying it.

Verveer

It was a very collegial group. "Hillaryland" is what it was called.

Jones

Were there any men?

Verveer

Yes, there were and almost all of them were named Neil. Don't ask me why. It was almost, if your name was Neil you were hired.

Riley

There went your chance.

Verveer

Actually it was Eric, Eric was the common name, but we did have a Neil, too. He was the exception. We had some guys and they were great guys.

Shirley, for example, had just given birth to her first child when I called her to join Hillary's staff and she thought, My God, when will I ever get another offer like this? But I'm a new mom; I can't possibly come in and do this job under the circumstances. I told Hillary that she had this baby and she said, "Just tell her to bring the baby in." So for days, we had the baby--Shirley's office was just behind Hillary's office in the West Wing--in a closet of a cubbyhole. She remembers one day she was trying to calm Jack down and she was on an important phone call. Hillary comes in, and she's thinking, Oh, what is she going to think of me? What kind of employee am I? Instead, Hillary comes in, takes Jack from her, rocks Jack so she can get through her phone call and then gives him back.

We had Jack in meetings, in buggies. It just seemed like the natural thing to do because we couldn't lose Shirley. So it wasn't that it was a predisposition to always seek out the family members of the staff in need. It was like, "You mean you can't come in? Bring the kid in," that sort of thing. It was very flexible and very accommodating.

This is another interesting story and I think it is probably going to take a woman to write it. The staff was predominantly female, but most First Ladies' staffs have been, but it was also much more policy oriented. There were lawyers on the staff. There were the kinds of people who don't tend to be on the First Lady's staff. We could hold our own pretty well in any discussions.

It also had a different esprit de corps and I think in many ways there was this sense that we could have a good time, or we could rally around her. We also had to bear the criticism of being factotums and not leaking to the press, in ways that they were coming to value the Clinton administration for all the leaks.

Riley

At the same time--and I think Chuck will confirm this because he's been in a number of these interviews--there is a kind of grudging respect that you pick up from those who weren't in Hillaryland about the cohesiveness of the group and the fact that you didn't leak.

Verveer

We didn't leak and we didn't leave. There was this image of Hillary-the-witch, like Lady Macbeth, just a horrific person. I used to say, "Why, at my stage in life, would I stay with this person if it were so unbearable?" Frankly, it was like being with a group of colleagues whom you valued. You got a lot done and you were always stimulated and you had a boss who put herself at the table with everybody else, not at the head of the table. It was a great working arrangement.

That, more than anything, was the reason people generally didn't leave and didn't leak and there was a sense that we had to rally around her. Not anything she imposed on us but the way we keenly felt about her. It was kind of like a family member who was always being picked on, you kind of rally around. That's sort of an interesting evolution, too, not just this transitional First Lady generational person, but the fact that what she did and the kind of staff she had was also pretty different from her predecessors.

Presumably we will talk at some point about what her contributions may have been. One of the things she did was to enlarge the Office of First Lady, enlarged it in terms of its possibility. While she would be the first to say that this was not in any way to suggest that her predecessors should have been like her, but that this was the right way for her to operate and it was certainly something her husband wanted. That, obviously, is the paramount consideration for how you play out this role.

In enlarging it, the possibilities are there for her successors to do things that would have been not thought of before. Laura Bush did the President's radio address. Laura Bush sat in the Roosevelt Room at the head of the table at meetings, which were early snapshots that we got. They seem so natural. They weren't natural when Hillary did them. She only did a radio address with the President, but not alone, and that was after the Oklahoma City tragedy. I don't even think she did on childcare with him. There was a thought that she might do that. Her using the Roosevelt Room in ways where the White House staff more largely came together--that was fairly innovative. So, even without being conscious of these things, being the trailblazer and in many ways being hit for it, actually does free up the successor, to a point where it's not even noticed.

Jones

Is there some way you would describe how the role of the First Lady--what role it settled into, post-'94, in regard to policy process? That is, was it the role of nurturing and initiating, the role of advocacy as a corrective to some of the purely political processes that were going on elsewhere? I'm just trying to--It's your description, not mine.

Verveer

The way that she conducted herself was not so much being in the front of the White House staff all the time as she was in health care, in the discussions, very much a presence at the table, very much talking about where do we go from here, and how are we going to move this?

She is now basically doing what she's doing behind the scenes and through her staff. So, on the domestic policy staff there was a position that was basically--let's call it the children and families position--but it was Hillary's staff position. It would have been Shirley's position, [Jennifer] Jen Klein's position, Nicole Rabner's position, Neera Tanden's--and a whole series of domestic policy issues that were the President's initiatives, whether it was adoption and foster care, whether it was the major childcare initiative that he announced in his State of the Union speech in '98, whether it was a whole series of health care initiatives, from pediatric labeling, which was a big White House event, to the mammography campaign.

I put some of these down so I wouldn't forget them--more money for the children's asthma initiative; epilepsy; children's health, CHIP [Children's Health Improvement Program]; a big initiative for children's hospitals so that their doctors could be reimbursed. If they weren't getting it under Medicare, it could be reimbursed in ways that comparable academic institutions were being reimbursed. These were all Presidential initiatives. They were all initiatives that would not have happened had Hillary Clinton not been involved.

Now, sometimes she'd make a call to the Hill if the staff said that was necessary, or she'd make a call to somebody in the White House if we said it was necessary. But most of the time she is working through her staff people. She did the child care initiative and first ever White House convening on childcare. The President of the United States is there; the Secretary of the Treasury is there; all these experts are there; it's a big issue. How are we, as a society, going to balance work and family, appreciate parents, appreciate our workers, if we don't begin to tackle this problem?

The end result was this major initiative that included after-school programs, more money for low-income parents so they could have quality childcare, raising the standards for childcare workers, et cetera. A huge deal. That would not have happened. That all percolated with her and her staff with her, working as we were with HHS, with other experts from the outside, bringing them in, doing a series of recommendations that basically turned into this initiative, that was then blessed by the West Wing. It was a Presidential initiative. Hillary was certainly front and center, but it was done through her staff and through all of her efforts.

The same thing happened when people came to her and said, "Asthma is a growing problem in our urban cores. Epilepsy isn't getting the kind of research dollars." She'd come back. She'd talk about this. She'd figure out what we could do about it. We would then go into a series of meetings with our counterparts and the end result would often be recommendations for Presidential initiatives. They would require Presidential OKs for more resources, and here again would not have happened without her leadership.

There was a series of these kinds of things, some of them major legislation, like adoption and foster care, programs for kids who were in foster care and for those graduating out of the system--interregnum programs for them to deal with job training and other kinds of needs before they're back on the streets. There were many policy initiatives, but they were done differently from health care. That's the difference.

Jones

But were these initiatives in the sense that they were on a list somewhere that the White House had acknowledged, or that they became initiatives because of the First Lady's involvement?

Verveer

The latter. They became initiatives because of her interest. And when the President would get to the point where he's presiding over the signing of the foster care and adoption bill, or where he's participating in the childcare piece, he would say, "As long as I remember, Hillary has been interested in this." She would never talk about that part. She wouldn't even allude to her role. She would just go into the riff about why this is important. But he would inevitably raise that.

One time we were working on a new regulation to deal with FDA [Federal Drug Administration] and pediatric labeling. Kids, for example, who are afflicted with the HIV AIDS [human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome] virus or had other health problems were getting medication that had only been tested on adults. You're giving children medicine that nobody knows what the impact is going to be on a child and there's guesswork. Do you give a smaller amount, or whatever physicians do to have some kind of prescription to provide?

This was brought to her attention and then the head of the FDA came to see her and together they decided that this would be an important contribution to make to begin to address this deficiency. Over much time and much effort in preparing all of this, the President announces new regulations in a public event. He looks at her--She's participating with him--and he says, "Gosh, this was really a good idea. Who thought of this? I'm really glad we're doing this." She tells me, "The President has no idea how hard I worked on this."

She was setting these agendas. They were fully complementary to what the administration stood for. They were, through the legitimate process in domestic policy, being driven by her staff people, but everybody on domestic policy knew that this is what Hillary's office was working on and, yes, it's part of what we're going to be doing with the President.

Jones

So it was agenda setting, and in a sense an agenda-monitoring process.

Verveer

And it was integrated. The important thing was how integrated this was into the regular operations of the White House. It wasn't a solo operation being pushed out there with no knowledge provided to the rest of the White House.

Jones

I was going to ask about that. Did this activity--Was it perceived by, say, Bruce Reed, or Carol Rasco, as in some sense competitive, because there's only so much time and only so many resources, and there's only so much time with the President? Is that the case or not?

Verveer

Sometimes competitive inasmuch as they wouldn't get scheduled or you'd have competition over the schedule. We had a lot of issues of scheduling the President's time, but more often than not they came to us from other actors in the government who asked us to do the special pleading for them because they'd just been rejected in scheduling. The NSC was the biggest needy candidate in that category because there was the sense that you could only have X number of events related to foreign policy on the President's time. You want to do a human rights day or you want to do something else that they knew we would agree was important to do. We were often the lobbyists for the President's time on something that the NSC also wanted to do.

Jones

I see.

Verveer

Everybody is not always in agreement, but usually the way this worked out in domestic policy was there was an appreciation that, yes, we did care about adoption reform and foster care. The President had a campaign against teen pregnancy. There were significant efforts being made to bring down the abortion rates. All of this fit together and it was something the First Lady was really interested in. It was a win-win. For most of these initiatives there was not a whole lot of back-and-forth over why are we doing this.

Shogan: This time period--You obviously still have friends from your policy days before coming to the White House. What kind of pressure are you getting from them after 1994, when it's commonly thought that Clinton starts to become perhaps more centrist. These are the effects of Dick Morris or--whoever you want to pick. How are you dealing with this? Are you getting a lot of phone calls from some of your advocacy friends who are not too happy with the turn the Clinton administration is taking?

Verveer

The phone calls didn't come in isolation. They would come over some initiative, welfare reform, for example. There were lots of people who weren't happy about welfare reform. But the reality was that Hillary Clinton was very engaged in welfare reform. She believed, contrary to some perception that she was against welfare reform, that it was important to do.

I can remember her saying, "What do you say to the mom who takes on the night waitressing job? She's a single parent and she's really working, not just collecting a check, but working to take care of her family, and then having a wholly different standard for somebody else." She was very much supportive of welfare reform, but she had two major issues in that, and they were contingent on the provision of childcare and health care. Without having access to either of those, she didn't think it would work and she weighed in very strongly on those two points.

While people, including people in the administration, quit over this, her position was maybe a pragmatic one, the jar-is-half-full one, which is, yes, let's do welfare reform. We need to do it, but let's make sure we're not just putting poor women out there with no access to childcare, saying they have to work, no access to health care. What have we accomplished? We've made life considerably worse, not given them the potential to better themselves. So even on Presidential initiatives that were not driven by her office, not put on the agenda by her office, she, like in the case of welfare reform, really did play a significant role in steering that.

Long after welfare reform, we became the place that if there were provisions that could be manipulated at the executive level with respect to food stamp regulations or welfare regulations, we'd get the calls and then we would work the process internally with the President's key people to figure out how to fix those problems. They'd say, "Yes, you're right, this really should be fixed." It wasn't, "We disagree with you." It was, "This really should be fixed." But we had to push to make sure somebody was paying attention to it, because the world is so big when you're in the White House. There's so much happening all the time. It's very easy for things that should have attention paid to them, that the President would want to have attention paid to, that if you don't find some ombudsperson to do their bidding, it isn't going to get done. We, by default, for many issues, became the ombudspeople.

Jones

You've mentioned a number of areas where it appeared to be, in your description, really a description of effectiveness of the office. Again, post-'94, were there some subjects, issues, where you couldn't be effective, either because of the nature of the issue or the politics?

Verveer

I think the ongoing problems--let's call them Whitewater-at-large. The problems having to do with Mrs. Clinton in the middle of a storm on the charges often made the President's staff very nervous about very close association with her in ways that might rub off on him, because she was the one often who had the charges lobbed against her. For example, in the 1996 convention there was a huge debate as to whether or not she should speak. There were certainly people who thought she was more of a problem than an asset in terms of her engagement in the campaign and certainly in terms of speaking to the Democratic Convention.

She knew that there was this huge debate going on and in the end, obviously, the determination was made that she should speak. I think she was pleasantly surprised when she walked out on that stage and there was pandemonium. A number of reporters said to me they couldn't believe the palpable affection for her on the part, certainly, of the base that was represented in the convention. But there was a real worry that somehow she would be a minus, if not a problem in some other ways.

This is a funny thing with the President and First Lady. When she was up and doing well, and high in the polls, she would look stronger than he. If he were up and she were down, she could be a problem to him. You have this dynamic going on, sometimes consciously and sometimes not so consciously. That was also a time when she was in the middle of some really awful personal charges against her, the beginning of '96, the year of the Presidential election. It Takes a Village comes out. She was about to embark on her book tour, and the Whitewater billing records are found. You've got everything that that represented in terms of a perception of her having hidden these records and no matter how much she tried to say, "Those records actually help make my case," or whatever, that certainly wasn't the feeling on the part of large numbers of people.

She started the book promotion and had the single worst ordeal any new author could have, because there she is set up in city after city, with television cameras representing all the networks, each of them getting five minutes, and the only thing they want to ask her about are the billing records and nothing about It Takes a Village. At the same time that [Kenneth W.] Starr is going to have her subpoenaed before the grand jury and she going to face the public humiliation of being the first First Lady ever going before a federal grand jury, you've got that playing out. As we're talking about what's happening on the domestic front, the political front, the international front, you've got this thing, which is affecting the coloration in some ways of these activities, if not stopping her, certainly worrying others that maybe she's not the messenger she should be to the public.

Riley

This may be the time to raise this issue. That certainly has an effect on operations within the White House, because I get the perception that people were afraid to talk about certain things out of fear that they're going to be subject to subpoena.

Verveer

Well, in the second term, where these things were flying across my desk, and some in the first term as well, there's something about getting a piece of paper from the counsel's office, which seemed like every other day, saying, "Check your files for X. There's yet another investigation." You had this constant, overwhelming presence that wasn't paralyzing in terms of the execution of one's job, but it was a real problem having to get your staff to go look through the files, to know that there's one more charge, to have staffers being called in before congressional investigators and other staffers going over to grand juries.

Mr. [Larry] Klayman, whatever he was doing, harassing people in yet another forum in the judicial life of this country--Having to deal with all of that has a real inhibiting effect. None of us would write anything down, not just related to any of this but just the meetings we went to. You wouldn't keep a diary, because you felt that everything you did had the potential to be subpoenaed. Beyond that, it really did have an impact of not raising any of these issues with your principal. Hillary would never talk, even if she wanted to. She would never talk about any of these things that were swirling around her for fear that we'd be hauled in having to talk about those conversations, which was ever so likely.

So you really were walking around kind of knowing that you could only function in this box, whereas there was all this other stuff in the papers and in the media in other ways, having to be dealt with by specific people in the White House. The counsel's office was always having to deal with all of this.

Riley

You were subpoenaed twice, is that right?

Verveer

I testified in the [Alfonse] D'Amato interrogation, not in the public hearing, but I was called up on that. Then I was called to the grand jury, as well.

Riley

The grand jury call was about the Foster papers?

Verveer

I think the grand jury might have been about [Webster] Web Hubbell. It was hard to keep up with the number of things that were--I was one of the fortunate ones. I had very little harassment, comparatively.

Riley

You attribute that to the fact that you learned very quickly how to protect yourself--

Verveer

I just wasn't in the middle of those kinds of discussions. I was doing the policy thing most of the time, so I was not a target for some of these interrogators.

Riley

I have a question for you about this for you to reflect on. We know that for historical purposes this is going to have some fairly significant consequences. Is it your perception that this also had consequences in terms of your ability to do your job? Were there cases when the fact that you couldn't refer back to carefully written notes of a meeting caused you to question your recollection about what had happened, or where there wasn't a paper trail that you relied on, or did you become subsequently adept at keeping everything in your head?

Verveer

I think probably less for the day-to-day operations and more for history. There isn't going to be the kind of record that could be useful years from now to understand why certain things happened in the administration. There just are not going to be contemporaneous notes from the actors in positions of responsibility who could reflect on what was going on at the time. That is gone. There wasn't anybody--there was a young man in Treasury who kept a diary and that was subpoenaed.

I had a colleague who got a phone call from one of agencies that it turns out was involved in one of the investigations. The phone call was merely to ask an information question. It had nothing to do with the substantive pieces of the evolution of the problem or the charge. Because of that phone call, she was hauled before the grand jury. She had to testify because it was in her telephone log that she had returned this call. The big question was why was she making that phone call? Clearly she had some implication in the charges that were being made against the First Lady.

That's the height of preposterousness that this kind of world in which we were living took us. We were returning phone calls, unbeknownst to whom we were calling, but we were doing our job and returning a call, not keeping any kind of notes, not realizing that somebody with whom we spoke was the target of an investigation and what potentially could be read into that conversation. There was all of that going on.

Riley

I don't know if there are any other questions on this track. There were two thematic points that you raised when we talked earlier this week that I thought I might go ahead and raise now. One was about the whole international affairs component that we touched on a little bit but you're thinking very systematically about this right now and I think we ought to devote a fair amount of time to talking about Mrs. Clinton's role in that, her evolution, and your piece of that.

The second thing that you had mentioned was the business about her personnel networks elsewhere in the executive branch and in the White House and the importance of understanding how the placement of those people was important in the development of policy. I think I've got this right. Maybe I misunderstood that second point. Would it be a good idea for us to start talking about--

Verveer

Let's go to the second point. I'm not sure exactly, but it is true, she did have a base of her own. She had a wide network of contacts, some of whom the President knew, all of whom he perhaps didn't know, but as a result of these various networks of expertise, whether it was in the children and family world, whether it was in legal circles, et cetera., there were large numbers of people who potentially could become very good contributors to the work of the government during the Clinton administration. So she did play a role in forwarding a lot of those recommendations to the personnel office to work their way through the process. Many of the people in the administration, obviously, were not strangers to her. She had known some of the people a long time.

She had worked side-by-side with some of the people. And these are not just people from Arkansas; they were people from a wide range of policy worlds. She had been on the W. T. Grant Commission [W.T. Grant Foundation Commission on Youth and America's Future], looking at skills development for noncollege young people and what we should be doing to bring those young people into productive life. She had been on the board and chairman of the board of the Children's Defense Fund. She had been the chairman of the Legal Services Corporation. She had been very active in the ABA. There were large, large circles of people. So in terms of knowing a lot of the people in the government, they weren't just people all of a sudden who were put in positions of responsibility by her husband. Many of them were people she knew quite well.

Jones

Truly in those circles, as well known as any First Lady of a state.

Verveer

Yes.

Jones

A Governor's wife.

Verveer

That probably was another way in which she was different from many of her predecessors, because she had an independent stature, based mostly on her professional activities. Certainly her wide-ranging experience took her to a different place than her predecessors. She was the first person in her generation who came to the job having come from a job. Now, it wasn't a job being First Lady; it was a role or a position. There is no job description, as I said. But she came to it with a different skill set. She came to it from a career where she received a paycheck in all the days that she worked. Now she was coming into this voluntary position and all of that influenced how she did this job, for better or for worse.

Shogan

Do you think these independent sources of authority, or independent kinships that she had within the government, in any sense contributed to the commonly held perception that the First Lady operation was out to promote Hillary first, and secondary was the idea that it supported the President? That these were loyalists and--

Verveer

I never, ever, saw that. I would say the First Lady operation was out to promote a set of issues and concerns and policies that were of interest to and supported by the administration. It was always about. "What can we get done?" That was the absolute, overriding ethos of our operation. See a problem: "How can we address it?" There were problems brought to us all the time. There were issues brought to the table all the time. We became the office where many people would come for the special pleadings because they couldn't get in anyplace else.

Hillary's going to the Social Development Conference in Copenhagen happened because a number of people in the International Development community were very concerned about this summit, what was supposed to be a summit of Presidents. It was about social development, so it was about, in a shorthand kind of way, the haves and the have-nots. How are we going to work to ensure that the potential of the people in the developing world is realized and efforts are made in that way? There was tremendous angst in the international human rights community that the President was not going. Who was going to go and represent the United States? In the view of many people, this was an extremely important gathering. So it was, "Can you go?"

I remember the first time I broached this with Sandy Berger. He had said, "Let me check." I learned subsequently that there was a very strong feeling on the part of National Security people: "We don't have any money in our budget. We can barely get the money in the 150 Account," which is the International [Affairs] Account, "that we have to do for priorities. There's going to be a real push on the United States to bring more resources to the table, which we're not in a position to do, so why would we open ourselves to that? No, the President is not going to go, and we don't think she should go."

Well, the petitioning didn't stop and more reasons were advanced, and the second time I asked, it was, "Yes, she should go." In the end, Gore went, too. I don't think that decision was made until after she was going. She had a real impact and she did a lot for the United States among those countries in terms of the human face of the United States, not just the superpower face of the United States. It had a positive impact. But it was about the difference to be made, not about, "How can I promote myself?" That was never really on the agenda.

This is one of the problems she had running for office, making that transition from Bill Clinton to Hillary Clinton. "How do I promote myself as a candidate?" She had a really rough time. "This is what I've done; this is why you should vote for me." It was always about him and his administration.

Riley

The story that you tell may be a good illustration of the point that Colleen is trying to make, and that is, from the perspective of those people in the State Department who had the principal responsibility for making these decisions, their original decision didn't obtain, right? I mean the First Lady's office then comes messing around in their business, if you want to take it as sort of devil's advocate.

Verveer

But we would never have gone had it not been blessed to go.

Riley

Exactly. But blessed to go by Sandy Berger or somebody. I can see, as a student of bureaucratic politics, how the people at the lower levels would think, There go those people doing their own thing again.

Verveer: That happened initially with this whole business of her traveling overseas, not in quite the same way, because what happened very early on with the international piece was that the headlines weren't particularly good in terms of the administration vis-a-vis our foreign policy posture. All of a sudden you had these very positive images coming back from the trip to South Asia, for example. The realization, as I've learned in talking to people afterward: "Wait a minute. She can probably do some stuff for us that we didn't think could be positively done in terms of foreign policy." She wasn't competing with anybody. She wasn't taking anybody's portfolio away. She was talking about social development, which was really not a front-burner issue for anybody. She wasn't in competition and she was doing good for the United States and making the administration look good.

Going to Beijing was a huge contretemps because there were all kinds of people saying, "Oh my God, what is this going to do to our bilateral relationship? We're opening ourselves up to the far right. This is nothing but trouble." It was one tough road. Then Harry Wu is taken prisoner in China and it looked like no matter that she worked for a year in getting everybody ready for this conference, working very assiduously behind the scenes to position the United States in a way that would make a difference at home and overseas--It didn't matter, because all of a sudden this was really a terrible situation and she probably wouldn't go. She didn't get to go until the very last moment, when he is released.

What is the aftermath of that? You've got the Washington Times and the New York Times both saying in essence that it was her finest moment and she did extraordinary things for the United States. "She made us so proud. She lived up to our ideals." Once again you had everybody saying, "Oh, it's a good thing that she went." In fact, a lot of people who said she shouldn't have gone were taking credit for having persuaded her to go, so there are these tensions. But the kinds of things she was doing were not usurping and they were not really in competition, and that's why she was more successful in some ways doing what she did overseas. Frankly, people weren't paying a whole lot of attention, but it was doing a lot of good compared to if she had done some of those things at home.

Riley

Well, we're about at closing time, but I hope maybe the first thing that we can start on tomorrow morning is this international portfolio and we'll just turn you loose to run with it. We've got another two minutes or so. Were you involved in the '96 election? Were there discussions in advance about a second-term agenda that you were involved in?

Verveer

There was not a discussion about her second-term agenda around the campaign, so much. It was unabated after he was reelected, because everybody wanted to know what she was going to do. There was no extraordinary agenda; it was more of the same. "I'm going to continue to work on families." It was just ad nauseum saying the same thing. "I'm going to do that at home and I'm going to continue to work for promotion of women's rights and well-being overseas." It wasn't very satisfying to any of the people who were asking the question. But there was tremendous interest in what she was going to do. We had this awful situation.

Right after the election, she and the President went to Australia and then to the Philippines and Thailand. In Australia there were two reporters who wanted to cover her. It was a Presidential trip and they were on the trip. Hillary always had her own schedule on these trips and they wanted to cover some of what she was doing and they also wanted to have an interview with her. On this trip he was going to the Philippines for an APEC [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation] meeting and she was just going to do a speech in the Philippines and then fly up to northern Thailand before she hooked up with him in Bangkok.

These two reporters wanted an interview. She had a problem with the press. She did not like to have to deal with the press if she didn't have to, because inevitably these questions were very invasive questions or had to do with all the stuff that was swirling around her, which wasn't pleasant to talk about and would never satisfy anyway. Her press person said, "You said you'd talk to the two of them. Let's do it." So she's waiting on the tarmac in Sydney for the President to come back from some event in the driving rain, and stashed in the car with her and the press person and myself are these two reporters.

The question that is put to her after a couple of more casual questions is "What are you planning to do with your second term now that the President has been reelected?" She was not particularly zeroing in with a lot of precision, but she says in the process, "You know, welfare reform was passed and I think it's important for us to be able to understand what's happening in the states and how it's being implemented. I hope I can do some of that. I can travel around and see how this is playing out." Then she added, "Kind of like I did in the Gulf War," which is talking to the veterans, seeing the impacts, working to ensure that adjustments would be made in the larger government if there were problems.

Well, one reporter doesn't think there's any news here at all and so she doesn't write about it and tells me subsequently that she got in a lot of hot water with the people who paid to send her on the trip, her magazine. The other reporter makes something hugely big out of it: "Hillary Clinton is now going to take on welfare reform the way she took on health care." It was a matter of interpretation, but the words, "like I did in the Gulf War" were lost in the appreciation of what that was and this was viewed to be a really huge deal.

[Michael D.] McCurry is answering press questions hours later and dealing with all of these questions, like "So Hillary Clinton is going to take on welfare reform now." He doesn't know what the heck is going on, what she said in this interview, and we're spending the next 58 hours, maybe longer, trying to make some sense of what went on. She doesn't want to hurt this reporter who is now bent out of shape, who feels she was clearly representing what was said to her, and the whole thing was a big tempest, but very illustrative of what it was like so much of the time.

On the same trip, she makes a speech about balance in people's lives. She's not just talking about geopolitical balance but also balance in individual lives. The audience is agog. It's a huge success, but a lot of the press people covering the President come to the speech. They would always sort of torpedo in. If they didn't cover her regularly, they'd torpedo in. They'd hear stuff she's been saying for months, for years, and all of a sudden it becomes a huge deal because they hadn't heard it before.

She gets a question about being First Lady--"How is it? You seem to certainly have your own problems in dealing with this position."--something to that effect. She makes the point about how hard it is. And no matter what she says, it comes out that it's a problem in some way, or it's misinterpreted, and she makes the remark that the only thing she could do is keep a brown paper bag over her head and go around like that and maybe that would keep any of these things from happening.

Well, this becomes a huge story in the beginning of the second term. The first big story we have, she's going to do welfare reform. The second big story is she's complaining about the way she's treated as First Lady and she's back to being very critical and forthcoming in this very distant place about how she really feels. In some ways it was metaphorical at the beginning of the second term, because we were back in some ways to where we had been, which is all the problems with health care, and all of the stuff that was ongoing with the various charges and countercharges and accusations, and the role that was continuing to be a huge ordeal. Even after two years post-health care and seemingly doing it differently, this was jump-starting it a different way, supposedly.

Jones

Got to be a lesson there somewhere.

Verveer

There's got to be, and I leave it to the historians and the political scientists to figure this all out.

September 17, 2004

Riley

I thought what we would do is begin today where I had suggested yesterday afternoon, which is this fairly large piece of your work related to the First Lady and her international profile. I know you're working on a book on this subject. What we might ask you to do is to lay out for us the contours of what you see as important in the development of this role, understanding that future scholars will have the good fortune of having your written work to refer to.

Verveer

If it ever gets done.

Riley

We'll count on your discipline to help out that way. That would give us an opportunity then to probe a little bit into specific areas, which could help you a bit as you're working on the book to know where are the places that others find particularly interesting or particularly fruitful in terms of probing. You had indicated that that was a fairly large piece of what you were doing, so better for us to go ahead and get started on that and see how far we take it.

Verveer

Her role on the international stage really came by default in some respects. It certainly wasn't premeditated. In the first term, the first couple of years, for certain, there was very little indication that this might be someplace where she would spend a good bit of her First Ladyship, or that she had any interest. A president of a foundation had come to meet with her at Blair House during the transition, and the meeting was about a possible agenda on families and children and what needed to be done in terms of public policy. He whispered to her at the end of the session, literally, as he's going out the door, "You will have tremendous possibilities to make a difference in the international arena. I hope you won't consider that something that you may not want to undertake," never dreaming where she might find herself. He remembers that keenly because he thought, particularly given the efficacy of this powerful symbol of the position, she'd be in a position to make a difference.

Riley

She didn't have much prior experience--

Verveer

She had no background. She had traveled minimally. She has no facility whatsoever with foreign languages. We would practice, practice, practice how to say an exotic name. She'd get to the moment and she would say instead, "Mr. Minister," or "Madam Minister," whatever, anything to--

Jones

"You there--"

Verveer

She usually didn't go there, but she just had no capacity to engage in the language of the places where she found herself. It really was an evolutionary process, even though she has never said it in as many words. Certainly after the devastation that we talked about yesterday in terms of the health care failure and the brutal losses in that '94 election, she was feeling low, to be sure. The prospect of foreign travel was liberating.

As many in the press and others pointed out, it was sort of an escape for her, except that this escape turned out to be something far more tangible, concrete, and affirming as a full-time program than anything she had anticipated. At the end of 1994 there was a Summit of the Americas. If you recall, the Clinton Presidency was occurring at a time when we had the breakup of the former Soviet Union. We had the prospect of dictatorships and the kinds of systems that were set up based on that dual polarity all collapsing. The dictatorships in South America were giving way to nascent democracies. Africa was changing, no longer the battleground between one side or the other. The former Soviet Union itself was giving way to the prospect of new democracies.

It was a place of enormous change in the world. Nobody knew what this post-Cold War world was going to look like. We thought, Oh my goodness, to have that behind us and to be able to do all these positive, wonderful things. I think of where we are today and that was certainly a vanishing thought. It seems to have disappeared overnight.

At any rate, the President wants to be that good neighbor to South America and there are opportunities in South America that hadn't presented themselves through the terrible times in Nicaragua and El Salvador and Guatemala and everything we remember, and the role of the United States in those conflicts, and the human rights violations that came with them.

A Summit of the Americas is called. Really, the major thrust of this summit in Miami is trade, economic partnerships, and yet, South America has all kinds of social challenges in terms of education access, large numbers of dropouts, tremendous health problems, et cetera. Hillary is trying to figure out what role she is going to play with respect to the Summit of the Americas.

At this point her international work had been extremely limited. If I could back up for a second. To the extent that she traveled overseas, she traveled with her husband. She was the spouse. She would veer out on her own in terms of having her own activities in his travels. But almost all of her work was health-centric because she was in the midst of the health care fight at home. Everybody wanted to talk to her about health care. In fact, in some of the foreign countries, they knew more about the health care bill than people did at home. There was much discussion about it among health ministers.

For example, on the trip to Russia, she was trying to be responsive, given the collapse of the social infrastructure there, with meeting some of their health needs and trying to be supportive in ways that she could make a difference through invocations to her own government. With respect to the Summit of the Americas, there is this opportunity either to go shopping and to go to teas and to be a companion to the spouses, or, should opportunities present themselves, to try to be helpful in some more tangible way.

She got a list of opportunities that she could pursue that were more in the realm of entertainment and said, "Isn't there anything that I can do to be more useful?" She asked me to gather some people who were experts on the region from our own government and from UNICEF [United Nations Children's Fund] and PAHO, the Pan-American Health Organization, and other related entities. She walked into the room--It was a room like this--and she said, "Look, if I can be useful to the promotion of what you're trying to do vis-a-vis children, vis-a-vis the health of people in South America--If there's a role that we can play, that I can play, with the spouses, let's work on it."

Out of that evolved a symposium. During the time that the Presidents of the Americas were meeting, she brought together the spouses. They had huge binders, three times the size of this. We had translations in all the languages. There was an agenda and there were goals. It began a process that said to her counterparts, "You too can make a difference in your countries. We together can figure out some priorities and hopefully we can take some tangible steps." At the same time, people at the U.S. Agency for International Development and others who oversaw South America, particularly the social development side in our foreign policy, were gleeful, because what had happened was the education piece, the health care piece, the economic pieces beyond trade and the lofty market economy considerations, weren't part the President's agenda, even though they were very much a part of the declaration of the Summit of the Americas.

What the women did, in essence, was zero in on a couple of aspects of that agenda and came out of it with some goals: goals related to maternal and child health and reducing the numbers; goals related to ridding the continent of polio; and very tangible, concrete action pieces that they committed themselves, through their governments, to work on. They invited her for the first time as the representative of the United States to be part of--It was just about two years old at that point--what had become the spouses' meeting that they had annually and the United States had never attended.

She turned those meetings--with their complicity--into agenda-setting mechanisms, so that every year, with all of the experts from multilateral institutions, the women got together with their Ministers and adjuncts of all kinds from their governments to pursue an agenda where they could make a difference throughout the continent. As a result, she not only was able to help move that agenda to concrete accomplishments that they all engaged in but it also brought her to South America at least once a year, and then as an accompanist of her husband on his trips to South America. She went to South America somewhere between 10 and 15 times, which is pretty astounding over a six-year period.

That experience, and then the more limited experiences over the two years that she was working on health care, were kind of her taste of what was possible. It was really melding things she knew, things she had worked on in America, things that were her own experience--the domestic social agenda plus human rights--into what would then become sort of her own doctrine, if you will. It sounds a little highfalutin' but it's a shorthand way to discuss it. Then in early '95 when she's really trying to find herself, she has--

Jones

This first meeting was--

Verveer

At the end of '94, the Summit of the Americas.

Jones

I'm sure you said that.

Verveer

In early '95 she finds herself, as we discussed yesterday, at the Social Development Summit that the United Nations was sponsoring. This is now a world Summit on Social Development, so some of the issues that came out of the Americas experience were absolutely relevant and comparable. And she has that trip to Southeast Asia, which was in many ways a trip. You can watch it from the outside and you can see a First Lady traveling with her daughter. But what was happening internally and what was happening experientially was a little bit deeper than what was seen on the television set or in the newspaper articles. She found herself really beginning to highlight, rather significantly, several pieces of what we would term social development, human development, critical to the prosperity of countries--developing the potential of the citizens of a country, particularly the women.

In India she was having a really rough time trying to figure out--The trip was to Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, some places in really desperate shape and some in better shape. In India, coming from Pakistan, she was having a tough time trying to figure out what she really wanted to say. She had a big speech at the conference center, where Indira Gandhi was playing a central role.

The day before, at a luncheon at the Embassy, she was handed a poem by the headmistress of a university, a college for girls. It is by a young woman. She doesn't read it at that moment; she reads it later in the hotel that night. The poem is about silence. In essence it is, "Our grandmothers were silent. Our mothers were silent. It is time for the silence to end." It's this plea of the young woman from this part of the world, saying we need a new day, a new time.

She revamps the whole speech around this silence, and ending the silence. The major theme of the speech is that one way to end the silence is to develop the potential of women. This is in a place that still is dealing with dowry burnings and not educating many of its girls and a lot of other really serious challenges to half their population, that is viewed too often as secondary. Her big call is for the education of girls and how we have to invest in girls. Actually, she comes with a deliverable from USAID [United States Agency for International Development] that promises a greater commitment of American resources to girls' education in India.

Just to fast-forward on that point, several years later she would go to the funeral for Mother Teresa [Mary Teresa Bojaxhi] in Calcutta and meet with the new President of India at the time, recently put in power. The first thing he wants to tell her in their private meeting is, "Mrs. Clinton, we remember when you talked about girls' education. Did you read my speech to the Parliament?" She said, "No, Sir, I don't think I did." I learned subsequently that that speech is sort of like the State of the Union. It's a blueprint for what the new government proposes to do. And he said, "You will be happy to note that we have dramatically increased spending on girls' education."

This became one of the points of her work. It was gradual. Again, it was not part of an agenda: this is what I'm going to do for an agenda. She began to realize that she did have a symbolic role. It did have power attendant to it. She could make a difference and she would take this message as it evolved, not just to the villagers, which was very unprecedented for a First Lady in a lot of places where she traveled. In fact, the State Department initially couldn't understand, either, why she wanted to go to some of these areas, neither could the host governments. The point was to go to the people and to go to the leaders, to speak to the UN and to the villagers.

When we were planning the Southeast Asia trip and she had no idea what she was getting into, her only guidance was, "I know in every place even poor people are making a difference. Let's highlight the things that are working." This became the modus operandi, not to go in and to lecture and to point fingers and to say, "You're not doing this," and, "You're not educating your girls," and, "You're stomping on women's rights," and, "You're not bringing resources for family planning," but to say, "In your country today I have seen this extraordinary thing and I've seen this extraordinary thing." Mind you, some of it may have been a teeny percentage of how they were spending their budgets, or something that really wasn't a huge priority, but for her it was a way to showcase some very positive things that were happening that then became an impetus--sort of a human psychology way of dealing with these issues--for them to move forward more aggressively in various areas.

Jones

Were there resistances, either in the country or within the State Department or other agencies, international agencies--

Verveer

Initially. "Resistances" may be too strong a word, but there were certainly questions raised. They were more along the lines of, "Why does she want to go to this kind of program or that kind of program?"

Jones

Who was asking why?

Verveer

The area people in the State Department. For every trip--and we were just at a very beginning stage with this--we would bring together the relevant players from the State Department, usually the desk people for the countries, or the area person for the region, and the USAID counterpart, to know what kind of social development programs USAID was funding, for example.

The people who met the resistance more were the small team we would send to advance her trip. Basically, we'd sit around a conference room outside of my office and people would make suggestions, "Here are things she could do." This is where the difference came. Previously, First Ladies, for the most part, were given a list of things that would make sense to go visit and do, and they usually supported the work the U.S. was doing. These were natural things to do.

What this trip represented, and this was just the first one, then it was significantly developed over time and became a mantra--It was very clear from the start that what she was going to do was not hard economics, was not the environment, was not defense or military, but that this is what she cares about. It was, "Where are programs that are making a difference for legal reforms for women? Where are programs that are enabling women to participate more fully in the politics of their country? What's making a difference in terms of access to health care, access to education for girls and women, literacy programs, microcredit--" which was one of her big portfolios, small amounts of credit that could then be used to transform people's lives.

The trips became ways in which she would begin to see these kinds of bigger issues executed on the local level to change people's lives, particularly women's lives, and their family's lives, and their communities. When the advance team went, for example, to India, to Pakistan, it was our Embassy people at first who said, "Why does she want to do that? This doesn't make a whole lot of sense." It took some real negotiating.

I didn't know this at the time, but I was told that in one session there was so much disagreement that the head of our advance team at the time we made it--This was a trip Maggie was on. She advanced Southeast Asia--and she said, "You know, Mr. Ambassador, if you think this is not going to work out, we just won't come here." Then of course everything changed dramatically.

There was resistance because it was the unknown. There was no vision or imagination and there wouldn't be any reason to be, admittedly, because this had not been tried. But once it happened, I can still remember Ambassador [Frank] Wisner in India saying to me that night when the trip was over, "I have never seen anything like this in all my years in the State Department." The face of America that she was able to project in what she did--not going to the fancy places. She basically eschewed state dinners and eschewed meetings with the spouses of the Ministers and all of the sort of fancy things, and went out to the people, but in a way that was respectful and always in a way that said to the government, "What wonderful things the people are doing here," particularly in the projects that she was highlighting.

The speech in India could have come across as a hit at India for not educating their girls or being very negligent, at least in a significant way. It was the way it was done. It was we're all in this together, in all places I go. But differences are being made. The thing that astounded them the most was she quoted an Indian young woman. She didn't come in and say, "This is what we think," but, "This is your fine talent, this is the potential in your country. This is the amazing capacity you have here and I have not heard of anything more noble than these words that were given me yesterday by your own people." For the people who were within hearing range and then read about it, it had an amazing impact on women, because nobody of her stature--not that she was seeing herself that way at the time--nobody had raised these issues on that level.

Jones

You were involved in a fair amount of these arrangements?

Verveer

Yes. I just didn't advance the trips. I went on the trips with her.

Jones

My question is, in setting up the schedule, after getting beyond the question of why does she want to go here, you had to be convincing and clear as to what it is you wanted to see and do, I assume, and then the Embassy would go ahead and set it up.

Verveer

Because of the Washington meeting, the advance people when they went out already had ideas of what they wanted to see, usually what USAID was funding, or what USAID was recommending--She really became the ambassador for the work of USAID, which was an agency for the most part not integrated into the State Department's more realpolitik world, but was so important to how we presented ourselves in the various countries where we had had projects.

Jones

So a lot of your work was through them?

Verveer

They didn't go cold, exactly. In other words, by the time they went to sit down with the Embassy, with the Ambassador and the staff that would be assigned to them, they already had a whole slew of ideas, and it's always bigger than anything could be executed on a trip. Then it was trying to figure out which of these things would present the best kind of message, because there was a theme that was being implemented. What, of these things, would present the best message?

For example, in Bangladesh she took the experience that she and President Clinton had in Arkansas with Shore Bank. Shore Bank was a bank in Chicago that had a self-help fund. It was a commercial lending institution but there were small amounts of credit. This was something done in this country. We think of microcredit mostly in the developing world. Muhammad Yunus was one of the iconic figures in the world in terms of microcredit. Yunus actually came to Arkansas from Bangladesh several years before they ever made it to the White House to talk about how this way of lending small amounts of money to people who aren't creditworthy in the view of the commercial lending institutions, but are creditworthy because of who they are, their potential--but they didn't have that kind of collateral with which to back up a loan, so they could never make it. As one woman in the United States once said to us, "The best ideas die in bank parking lots," because banks aren't about to make loans in relatively small amounts to people they don't consider creditworthy in the normal way of doing business.

What Yunus was able to demonstrate very successfully through the Grameen Bank is that even the poorest people can transform their lives through small amounts of credit. So they worked with him in Arkansas. When she knew that she was going to Bangladesh, she said, "I really want to see what Yunus has been able to do firsthand." We went out to a village in Bangladesh and there were people who could never imagine the lives of any of us in America or imagine what it's like in America, asking things like, "What kind of animals do you have at your house?"

But they were able to tell her how their lives had been changed because they got a fifty-dollar loan. They were part of a borrowing co-op. When they paid back their loan, the next person in their group would get her loan. They received training. They learned how to use this money effectively in a small business, whether it was cell phones or getting an oxcart or getting a milk cow or getting a rickshaw, or getting bricks to build houses. They were self-sufficient people who were able to feed their families more than adequately and were able to change their villages.

Women would always, through a translator, tell Hillary how their lives had changed. One couple said that the mullah that was very active in their community, in their village, told them not to have anything to do with this thing called Grameen and microcredit because Allah would not look kindly upon them. In fact, there was a very fundamentalist, extremist strain at work even in those days. This trip was shortly after the attack on the Twin Towers the first time that did some damage, but nothing like what would come several years later. The extremists were in operation. They were burning down schools that were educating girls. There was already an extremist presence that was contributing to tension in these societies.

This couple said, "We prayed over this. We didn't want to offend Allah. We really thought about it and we decided that we would take this loan, that it would help our families." They told her about how it helped their family. Then they said, "When our son grows up, he'll be a different kind of mullah." They were already, in their own lives, making these adjustments because they saw what a difference it had made.

So here she is, seeing all of these things that she had either known about or heard about, was now seeing adapted to another place, places in which she had never traveled, having this transformative impact. On the trip she highlighted the things that she would highlight for the next six years of her time in the White House--microcredit and all of the policy changes we would make in the administration in terms of resources and priorities: girls' education, health care, family planning, and women's rights. That all began to germinate on this trip. It was a life-changing, or First Lady-changing, experience for her.

That said, she didn't come back saying, "This is what I'm going to do from now on." That wasn't part of this. It had clearly affected her, but it still was moving forward on several fronts.

Jones

Since we create jargon--that's part of the job of professors, to be obscure--my little bit of jargon in summary of what you're talking about with her and what she's doing would be kind of a strategy of purposeful symbolism that's not exactly power. I thought at first maybe symbolism is power. It isn't exactly that, but it is very purposeful. Was it the case then that having, especially the success in the Southeast trip, that the pattern came to be understood about what it is she wanted to do, that she had purposes in mind, not just serving purposes that were defined in connection with others, but that she had purposes in mind so that that became easier?

Verveer

I don't think it was still that clear. In many ways what she said at that Social Development Summit was more theoretical. It was the construct of all of this. She then began to see it with her own eyes firsthand and talked to real live people in places that were as poor as anything imaginable. But I don't think it was there yet in terms of a mission, or in terms of the purposeful symbolism of the platform in ways that would have efficacy. I don't think it was there yet. The really life-changing moment for her was the Beijing Women's Conference. Should we go into that?

Riley

Go ahead.

Verveer

The Beijing Women's Conference, which took place in the fall of '95--What had happened in that preceding year was that people, particularly women's activists in this country, were aware that the conference was coming up. At that point there had been no activity, not even a little activity, in terms of the thrust of the administration. What were we going to do? Countries were already organizing themselves and nothing was happening. There was some concern and those concerns were being raised. Some people even said to Hillary, "You might consider looking at all of this, seeing if there's a role for yourself," but certainly in trying to be helpful to the administration in figuring out what posture it wanted to take.

In a short period of time, as she reflected on it, she thought that this was something she wanted to be involved in. I began to work more closely with people in the State Department, most especially Tim Wirth, who was then Under Secretary for Global Affairs and had the women's portfolio under his jurisdiction, and with some other people. As this developed, there were preparatory meetings, as there are for all these world conferences, so there were regional meetings that were beginning to happen. There was a long schedule, because a document was being put together that ultimately would become the document that was adopted by all the participating countries. That was the Platform for Action. We had to begin to choose delegates and work with the personnel office to make sure that we had the right kinds of people involved in this.

We were also very mindful that 1996 and the President's reelection campaign was literally around the corner, and how this was done could either play into the hands of the opponents or could be a real plus in terms of telling women across America that this is about them, too, whether you work in a factory or you work at a university. And there was a huge right-wing backlash, as there always is to anything involving women, particularly in policy, saying that this was all about breaking up the family. This was about all of the forces of evil that were trying to destroy everything that was good. In fact, over time they were going to be propagating five genders and they were doing all kinds of things that none of us could even imagine. So there was a whole right-wing opposition that was growing. This obviously became something that had to be done very carefully, because some in the West Wing were getting very nervous about it. If we do too much with this women's conference, who knows what kind of Pandora's box it will open. You'll have thousands of Bella Abzugs saying crazy things and raining condoms on everybody. They were conjuring up the worst possible negative political repercussions.

You had the right wing carrying on their campaign. You had some of the elements in the Catholic Church saying things about family planning or abortion that really weren't part of the agendas. It behooved us to really put together a team of people who could be very smart, not just smart in the typical State Department way: We've got an international conference;, let's get a bunch of people there; let's really work with the international law experts and make sure there's nothing in this document that we disagree with. This was far bigger in its implications. Besides, it was on the heels of the Cairo population conference [International Conference on Population and Development], which had occurred several months earlier and was a real problem. In fact, Gore had to go and put out some of the flames that were ignited over there with respect to opposition from the Catholic bishops who appeared on news programs in the United States, saying that that international conference was putting the United States in a pro-abortion stance. Gore is on the plane heading over to Cairo, trying to defuse the explosion that had been created, at least an explosion in terms of what this could mean for the Presidential election campaign that was coming up the following year.

Then you had the additional element of the Chinese government. You had a bilateral relationship between the United States and the Chinese that was eroding. In 1995, it was going from bad to worse. It got really bad when we let into the United States the head of the Taiwanese government, supposedly for an alumni meeting at his alma mater, but the reaction from the Chinese was truly negative. There were all kinds of problems. The China hands were very nervous about what this conference would represent, either in exacerbating the problems we were having with China or making it difficult in some other ways.

The Chinese weren't behaving, either. They had thought that this would be very prestigious, to bring in thousands and thousands and thousands of women and some men from around the world, only to realize that they weren't coming to shop, but coming to do things that were potentially problematic. They were coming to rant and rave about things like human rights. The Chinese all of a sudden recognized, That might be about us.

So they had made a commitment to have the NGOs [nongovernmental organizations]--There are some who are delegates that the governments have on their delegations, and tens of thousands of NGO representatives who gather for a parallel NGO forum. They were promised a facility in Beijing that was adequate to meeting their needs, but the Chinese subsequently decide to put them in an outpost that was some 30, 45 miles out of Beijing in a muddy field. There were negotiations about that going on as well.

There were visa negotiations. They didn't want to let people in from countries that they had a problem with, like Nepal, for example. The context I'm trying to set, perhaps not very adequately, is that this was fraught with problems.

Riley

You did it adequately.

Verveer

There were potential political problems, bilateral problems, problems with specific constituencies in the United States, and a Congress that was now hostile, where we had no majority. As this thing evolved, Mrs. Clinton got more involved, to the point where she was going to the United Nations and saying to the leaders in a meeting--Madeleine Albright is now our Ambassador to the United Nations and they're teaming up on the leadership at the UN--saying, "Put adequate resources into this thing. Put your best people into this thing. This has got to work." We're thinking really hard about the American delegation in terms of the context I had tried to set. How can we demonstrate that this is about everybody, that it is all-inclusive?

We had Republicans, we had Tom Kean, we had a Catholic nun who was the president of a university. We had wanted to demonstrate that this was no mediocre undertaking. Madeleine Albright headed up the delegation. Donna Shalala was the deputy of the delegation. It was about the most high-powered team we could put together to say, "This matters." That was the message from America, "This matters. It matters for our women and it matters for the world."

All of these kinds of negotiations are going forward. Every day is filled with some sort of occurrence that is usually not a positive one and the Congress is beginning to weigh in. It's not just our enemies in the Congress, the Republican opponents. It's people like Nancy Pelosi saying, "I don't think Hillary should go." We'd never said Hillary was going to go. She was the honorary chair of the delegation. She was not formally on the delegation. It was anticipated that she would go. The United Nations had invited her to make a speech, but she didn't have the speech that Madeleine Albright had as the head of the delegation. She had a separate opportunity. We'd never said she was going, although it was anticipated that she was going and in her mind she was going, and all the work she was doing.

The Congress is now weighing in, saying all the money should be taken away and we should not be sending a delegation to China. Pelosi and others were saying, "These are the butchers of Beijing. Why are we going to go into their country to sit at their table? What's going to happen to Hillary? If she goes, she can be manipulated in ways that will make a difference." Others were saying, "Hasn't she already caused enough trouble? Health care was a disgrace. She lost an election." Even friendly people who were part of the planning process began to say, "You know, maybe she shouldn't go. Maybe we should just do this quietly and do it more under the radar." I don't think I'll ever adequately be able to describe how tough it was.

Jones

Your job in all of this is--

Verveer

To head up the White House side of our operation.

Jones

If she was going, and you had to plan as if she was going--

Verveer

We did, Chuck, always on target. Not only that, we wanted to go to Cambodia and Vietnam and Mongolia. And the State Department was very encouraging, in a quiet way that we weren't discussing, about how important it would be if she could go to some of these other countries. It became very clear that we could not send out an advance team to any of these places without sending some kind of signal that she was going. So we had to drop Cambodia, we had to drop Vietnam.

The only thing that was still in play was Mongolia, because [Winston] Win Lord, who at the time was heading up the team for China and other parts of Asia, was very encouraging about the nascent democracy that was struggling there and what a signal it would send to bring somebody of her stature. Nobody had been there from America since [Woodrow] Wilson's days, I think. We left that as a possibility, and the speech itself, going to Beijing, with nothing else happening in China except what she would do with respect to the conference, if she got to go.

She heads out to the Clintons' vacation in Jackson Hole. It's now late August. We're supposed to leave by the 28th or so, and we're talking about the middle of August. Harry Wu, just before she left, has been taken prisoner. This only exercises the whole human rights community more and you begin to have a rift in the broader human rights community. You've got the human rights community that we all have been working with over a long period, and then you've got the women's rights, people who have been struggling for years, through all the women's conferences, to take issues like violence against women and honor killings and all the atrocities and saying, "This is human rights too," and trying to move the law. They had just really made some progress at a human rights major convening in Vienna and they desperately wanted her to go, because they wanted this women's rights piece of human rights to progress.

The broader human rights community is saying, "No, we don't want her to go." Women's rights has always been subsidiary to human rights, so you had a rift in the human rights community. She is in Jackson Hole and Harry Wu is in prison and nobody knows what's going to happen vis-a-vis her going. Madeleine Albright is going. The delegation has already left for Beijing. There have been all kinds of negotiations and all kinds of tough issues, from universal rights to gender issues, et cetera. Everything is slowly being worked through.

Jones

You're in hourly communication with her?

Verveer

I'm in constant communication. I remember a call to her and I said, "This doesn't look good." She was out there writing It Takes a Village.

Riley

While Bill and Chelsea were out having a good time.

Verveer

While he's out on his horses, or whatever, she's holed up in a garret in some house writing It Takes a Village. She says to me on the phone, "I'm going. Get me a visa. I'm going as my own person. I'm a person. I don't have to go as First Lady. I've done this before and if any of you want to go with me you can decide to go on your own."

We, of course, got hysterical, laughing at the thought of her even filling out a visa, but aware of the fact that--It was so symbolic of the exasperation of working a whole year, meeting with people all over the United States to get ready for this, and now literally looking like she's not going to get to go.

Shogan

So what's the big issue? Madeleine Albright's going. You have an American delegation already in place going. Why does the Wu controversy and everything else, the human rights controversy, center around Mrs. Clinton?

Verveer

Because of the symbolism of her position. You can ask that question both ways. Why does it matter if she goes? We already have this team going. That's what a lot of people were suggesting. By her going, you up the ante. You up the ante positively and negatively, potentially.

Shogan

That's very interesting, because that shows how powerful the First Lady role is. You're already sending the Ambassador, she's going. But the controversy is around her.

Verveer

Exactly, and part of it is the polarizing figure that she is. She's already somebody who is bigger than life in all of the connotations, good and bad, for a lot of people. So she has upped the ante for this conference by virtue of her interest in it. The proponents feel that if she goes, she will really help us set the agenda. The opponents feel that it would be the worst thing to happen, that to have her as a representative of the United States is not good. Then there are all these people in the middle all of a sudden, who are saying, "Wait a minute, maybe she shouldn't go."

Jones: The controversy, also, comes to be an impetus for her to go, as well as a potential defeat for her if she doesn't go.

Verveer

Or a defeat for her if she does go. At this point she could not afford another disaster on her watch. She had already been through two, fairly or unfairly, justified as her problems. But certainly the perception was that she was a contributing party to the disasters, if not solely responsible. She can't afford to have another disaster on her watch of her own doing.

To get back to your earlier question, Chuck, we are sending an advance person to China with State Department people. He is not being recognized as being on the First Lady's team. He's State Department, because we can't send any signals that she might be going. So he's over there trying to look at the situation, at the NGO forum site and the conference sites. We are putting a team of people together. They don't know whether they should get on a plane or not get on a plane, to be the people on the ground when she arrives. We are working on the speech. It was extremely tightly held. There were four of us involved in it. Hillary is getting the drafts.

Jones

Who are the other people involved?

Verveer

[Alison] Lissa Muscatine, Ann Lewis, and myself. We're sending drafts back and forth and the last draft we had before any decisions were made--

Jones

Back and forth between Wyoming and--

Verveer

Between Wyoming and Washington. The last draft that we had sent to Hillary and she had signed off on, she showed the President and he had also said it was fine, this would be great. So we have the draft at that stage, which was 75 to 80 percent of where it ultimately wound up, He was onboard as well. This is where we find ourselves and there are all kinds of negotiations going on, obviously, to get the release of Harry Wu.

Riley

Are these White House negotiations?

Verveer

No, they're all State Department, and we were not parties to them. I don't really know what was being done. Had she not had an interest in going, there would be negotiations to get his release, but the ante was up.

It was August the 25th, I think, when I got word that Harry Wu was released. In the meantime, Harry Wu's wife was saying she should not go under any conditions. Anybody who counts is saying she shouldn't go. We get word that Harry Wu is released and I call out to a young woman from our staff who was with her to try to get word to Hillary that she's going to get to go, because now all systems are clear, all systems are a go, everybody says she can go. She's at a rodeo with the President and Chelsea. I can hear them in the bleachers and we get word that she is going. They are leaving Wyoming two days later for Hawaii, where there are Pearl Harbor Day remembrances of some kind.

Jones

In September?

Verveer

We are heading down from Washington. We're going to meet up with them in Hawaii. On August 26th--so this may have been a couple of days earlier than that--on August 26th, which is Women's Suffrage Day--It's the 75th anniversary of American women getting the vote--she and the President do an event in Wyoming, a state that played a critical role in the suffrage movement, in the ratification. At that press briefing they announce that the First Lady will be going. They announce the makeup of the delegation. And the President announces that he is creating a President's Council on Women that, as he put it, "will take all the good ideas that come out of this conference and help us implement them in our own government."

That Council on Women is an interagency mechanism that has representatives, women at the highest levels of our government, who will come together to achieve whatever the stated policy and program goals will be in the future. That Council becomes a very effective model for something that will happen later on, which is getting several things done in the Clinton administration. All of that happens, and several days later they are en route to Hawaii.

At this point, no one has seen the speech besides the aforementioned people. We're sitting in the hotel in Honolulu and Hillary says to me, "You'd better show Tony Lake the speech," which I do. Tony kind of gives it a quick look over and says, "Looks fine to me," and there's no other input from anybody. Within 24 hours we are heading on the plane to Beijing. Madeleine Albright flies in from Washington, having had her daughter's wedding that day, and Madeleine, Hillary, Win Lord, a young man from the human rights office of the National Security Council, and a small group of us and a press contingent are on our way.

Jones

Madeleine flew to Hawaii and--

Verveer

She flew to Hawaii and then we all got on one plane. Everyone else is in Beijing. Shalala is and Tim Wirth are basically heading up the delegation for all of the things that are going on before we arrive. En route to China, Win Lord and Madeleine look at the speech and Madeleine says to Hillary, "Well, what do you want to do here?" She said, "I'd like to push the envelope as far as we can go, as fairly as we can go." Both of them tinkered some and maybe made 3 percent more changes. We keep working on the speech all the way over, Lissa polishing it.

Hillary had several other appearances as part of the conference; one was to be on a panel on microcredit, which Yunus is also on, and to be on a panel with the World Health Organization, the health piece. We're working on all of those speeches as we're working our way and we're half-asleep. I can remember giving her the health one and she says, "No, we've got to be saying this, this, this." Some of us didn't get any sleep at all on the way over there.

Jones

Just a short hop.

Verveer

Yes, just a short hop. The press is very interested in what she's going to say, obviously, and the President's press people in Hawaii and in Washington, as all of this up-and-down is going--If one were to look at the newspaper stories in that couple of weeks of high tension, they're all speculation--Will she go or won't she go? As part of the speculation, the question arises, if she goes, what is she going to say? Is she going to blast the Chinese? You've got Congressman Chris Smith and other people saying that they are evil, with a capital E, and there's no way we can set foot on the soil of that country without calling a spade a spade.

Our guys at the White House play the whole thing down. It's hard to know whether it's the usual We know more than we really know, on their part, because they hadn't seen the speech. They had no idea what she was going to do. But really they gave no signal that it might be a hard-hitting speech. On the plane the press is asking, "What is she going to say?" Rather than speculating, we just said she's still working on it, but that she would cover all of the critical issues. Again, there was no expectation from the traveling press that this would be a tough speech.

When we arrived there were all kinds of concerns about the Chinese spying. There literally are hidden cameras everyplace. Our delegation had encountered all kinds of incidents. One of them turned on the TV [television] and saw herself sitting there in her underwear. We were forewarned by the Secret Service traveling with us that we had to be really careful if we didn't want them--and the Chinese were very curious about the speech--to read the speech drafts. Our advance people told us that every other question out of their mouths was some way to try to get at what she might be saying. So we'd walk around that hotel room late at night, in a circular fashion, in hopes that the cameras in the ceiling weren't able to catch what was on paper as we were making some final changes.

Shogan

Can you tell the story about--You said you wanted a newspaper and it appeared minutes later.

Verveer

Oh yes. In fact, it was Hillary. The next day she said, "Gee it would be great to see the Herald Tribune, or a real newspaper." All of a sudden there's a real newspaper at the door. Our advance people had the same experience with pizza. Somebody said, "Wouldn't it be great just to have a slice of pizza right now?" Before they knew it, pizzas were being served, so we were truly aware that we were not alone. In fact, the lead advance man, Brady Williamson, from Madison, Wisconsin--

Riley

Must be a fine man.

Verveer

He is a truly fine man, a lawyer, a really experienced hand. He was flying over a couple of days ahead of us and he said when the agents went into the room that Hillary would be inhabiting in the hotel, they somehow got behind a panel of one side of the room, and they'd never seen such sophisticated bugging equipment in their experience. We're talking about big-time interest on the part of the host country.

That first day she had done the health panel. Hours before the speech we sat in a room three times the size of this. All the chairs were against the wall. There were no chairs in small conversational settings. Somebody ran off and got some McDonald's hamburgers and fries, and I think we had ice cream. It was the worst mess of things because nobody was eating what was there for us to eat. We finally gave out copies of the speech about 45 minutes before, to our delegation, just to make sure nobody had any problems with it. Win Lord was having some meetings with the Chinese. He came back and we met with some delegation leaders who had asked for meetings with Hillary.

Then she went into the room. It was a cavernous room with tiers. You know what these international settings are like, with hundreds of people, several thousand people. She gets up to speak in her pink suit and big hair, very flipped, long at the time. We went through several thousand hairdos in those eight years!

I'm behind the scenes with Lissa, feeling more nervous than I can describe. Initially there's no reaction at all, not that there ever is at these international things. It's not like an American audience, where you get applause if they like it and some grunts if they don't--just nothing. I remember Lissa saying to me something like, "She's not delivering this right." It was just so tense.

Jones

Lissa is?

Verveer

Her speechwriter from the White House. She was in that period, anyway. She took a leave and then she came back as communications director at the end. She then reaches the part in that speech where the litany begins about, "It is a violation of human rights when," and goes through this long list of various manifestations of abuse against women, many of them occurring in countries other than the United States, so that, if it is something that is happening in South Asia, for example, or in Africa, for example, all of a sudden those delegations are on their feet applauding and making very loud noises: We're being affirmed. We've been struggling for years, and now this person comes from America and she's affirming our own problem and saying it's a violation of human rights. Not just women's rights; it's a violation of human rights.

There were about seven or eight such expressions that covered the gamut of all the things that we know about that are serious problems, and includes the issue of forced abortions or forced conceptions--without mentioning China--in terms of the woman's right to make her own decisions. The "forced abortions" is a direct hit on China, as is another point that she makes, again without mentioning China, about the way that the people who have gathered for this important business have been treated and that their rights to expression have been impeded. Everybody is on their feet. She receives a tremendous expression of support the likes of which, as I've been told many times later by people who deal with the UN all the time, they've never seen at an international gathering.

She knows by then that she has really made a difference here, but not knowing exactly how in the long term. She comes down from the lectern and walks through the audience to get to the exit and everybody is just wanting to touch her and scream, "Thank you! Thank you!" She walks past the Vatican delegation, which is headed up by an American academic, Mary Ann Glendon, from Harvard. Months earlier, I personally went over to the Catholic conference and told them, "We may be in disagreement on a certain issue, but there's a whole lot we can agree on here and you ought not to be a party to the expression of the extremists, that this conference is anti family."

Just to fast-forward very briefly, we met with Glendon and some of her counterparts the next day and in the end the Vatican voted for the Platform for Action. As she was walking out of the hall, they're saying, "We could have said it ourselves." Everybody was sort of in this unanimous place. A year later, Hillary is in Chile and the women leaders tell her there--They were from both sides of the political spectrum--"We went to Beijing with two delegations because we could not agree. We heard you speak and we realized we had a lot more in common than separated us." That was an expression of how people felt: We're all in this together. You spoke for us. There was something about the purposeful symbolism of the First Lady of the greatest power on earth standing up there and talking about issues that nobody ever talks about, that they're struggling with in their own countries and she's saying, "These things are violations of human rights," and she's saying it from an international platform.

She races out of that room because she's supposed to do an interview with Judy Woodruff that's going to be carried on CNN, and then meet with our own traveling press contingent. Some of the reporters have told me subsequently that they had tears running down their cheeks; they felt great pride as Americans: Yes, this is what we're about. These are our ideals. This is what we stand for. This is the better part of us. She talks with Judy Woodruff and the others; the comment from everybody is "We had no idea. We weren't told this was going to be such a hard-hitting speech. We were told exactly the opposite."

At first, I thought, My gosh, we're going to be dealing with a press that's telling us we're disingenuous. This was supposed to be a different kind of speech. Clearly we hadn't said that.

Riley

There had been rumors that the Wu release--that there was a quid pro quo, that you soft-pedaled the speech in exchange.

Verveer

Among other things. That was the moment the South Asia trip was building toward. She's never said this in that many words, but that was a life-changing moment for her as First Lady. She realized at that moment, This position that I find myself in, that in many ways has been extremely difficult to execute and I can't seem to please anybody--It is very clear that there is some difference that I can make that might make life a little better for people around the globe, particularly women. That became the beginnings of, from'96 on, intensive work, where she would take what she said there and just develop it. We had agreed to the Platform for Action. The United States signed it along with 186 other countries. We had things we wanted to do at home in our own government and we wanted to help others achieve it in their countries.

That platform gave the activists in other countries a vehicle with which to move their own governments to make a difference in their own lives. It was the start of that process. It's interesting, to this day whenever she meets anybody who was in Beijing, they will say, "I'm So-and-So, and I was in Beijing." The second part is always, "and I was in Beijing." It had that kind of impact. In truth, for an international conference, it had far more energy and resoluteness to it than most other convenings; they are a lot of talk, and a lot doesn't come out of them. The people who were there have never stopped working in their own countries. There have been setbacks but there has been progress. Then the markers, like Beijing + Five at the UN, which she marked in the middle of her Senate campaign--It was a way to say, "We've gotten this far, but we still have a long road to travel." But that was a very significant moment.

If you're an outsider you can look at that and say, so she went to Beijing, she made a great speech, the accolades from the right and the left were astounding. All of her detractors said, "We made a mistake." Representative Chris Smith was part of the congressional delegation that went over. So all the people who were on the other side said mea culpa; we had no idea it was going to turn out this way. Then it ends there. It is that she went, she made a great speech. But in truth, it did not end there, it began there.

Shogan

Is this also where she starts to develop a closer relationship with Madeleine Albright?

Verveer

It is.

Riley

I hope you'll address this in relation to the whole cluster of people. You mentioned Tony Lake before. I'd like to hear your perceptions about how they worked across the board rather than just one instance. Then Sandy Berger comes in, but then also you've got Warren Christopher and Albright. Albright clearly is the central figure for purposes of this discussion.

Jones

As well as your shift from Deputy to Chief of Staff.

Verveer

Madeleine and she didn't really know each other very well. They began to spend more time together in her meetings at the United Nations when Madeleine was at the UN. I think Hillary stayed once in her apartment, the U.S. mission's apartment, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and there was a growing relationship that was more based on this work that they were doing together. It was obviously closely forged through this process, because my counterpart, as we were inching closer to Beijing, was Madeleine's chief of staff. I would work with other people in the State Department. We had a very close-knit group of people, all of whom were in constant touch so that nobody was missing a beat in terms of the latest developments that could impact what was going to happen in Beijing.

Riley

Who was her chief of staff?

Verveer

Elaine Shocas. Then from the Beijing Women's Conference, they had done some other work together in 1996, the following year, a little bit more than six months, Hillary went to central and eastern Europe. It was a trip to the new democracies in that part of the former Soviet Union. Madeleine joined up with her in Poland for one meeting but then went on with her to her native Czech Republic and to Slovakia.

That was a trip where this friendship was forged even more, because the two women not only spent a lot of time together but it was a time for Madeleine to show her the place from where she came, to tell her what it was like, and to spend time with [Vaclav] Havel. They both had dinner together with Havel, who became a very close friend of Hillary's. They went to Radio Free Europe together, and put all of this in context, what was happening in this new world.

It was clearly a time not just for a substantive engagement but for them to get to know each other as people. They both had gone to Wellesley. They were different generations of Wellesley graduates, so there were some common bonds there.

Jones

About eight years apart, something like that?

Verveer

Maybe about that. I want to go back to Slovakia after I get through this. Anyway, they had done this democracy building, if you will, worked together, and then there was a lot of speculation as to whether or not, once we're past the election, Madeleine is going to become Secretary of State. There was a lot of rooting in Hillaryland and in other places among the women, not just because she was a woman, but she happened to be an extremely qualified woman, that she ascend to the Secretary of State position. But Hillary, frankly, never showed her hand as to where her preferences lay.

I would get all of these calls--I was in constant touch with a number of people who were very supportive--and we'd pass along some of the information to Hillary. We thought that Hillary was interested in being supportive of Madeleine but were never sure, because she never really said. In her own book she talks about an incident with Pamela Harriman, where Pamela comes to see her and says something like, "Can you believe the speculation about Madeleine Albright to be Secretary of State?" as though, Who would believe that? Hillary says something to Pamela--I can't remember exactly what's in the book--but she says something like, "Well, you know, the President might just be considering her," or something to that effect.

Later on we're on a trip to Barbados, a Presidential visit during some other conference of leaders, and the President is at the Embassy. He always did these "meet and greets" with all the personnel, the Foreign Service. Usually, depending on who the high-ranking people are who are traveling, they get to speak a little bit to the various Embassy staff in the country.

Madeleine is introducing the President. When he gets up to speak, he talks about the Secretary and he says, "You know, when I was trying to decide who to put in this position I was talking to Hillary about it and I said, 'What do you think of Madeleine?' and she said to me, 'Well, she certainly is a supporter of your vision of where American foreign policy should be. She has been extremely supportive, she's a great communicator at a time when we really do have to articulate America's global leadership, and she would certainly make every little girl in America very, very proud.'" He didn't say anything more. She has always said, "I'm often asked my opinion, but so are a lot of other people's opinions solicited."

There was obviously a good feeling with Albright and they had worked very closely together, certainly, from the time around that Beijing experience forward. That would only become closer as we go forward and she is then Secretary of State.

Riley

Can we ask a probing question here about her holding her cards close to her vest? That can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. I'm wondering in your own mind--

Verveer

I still don't know if there was anything more than her saying, when the President asks her what she thinks, exactly what he said, but I think this is Hillary being extremely careful. She's not the President; she doesn't make these decisions. If she's asked her opinion, she has her opinion, but she never has publicly talked about what she and the President talk about.

Riley

No, it's just kind of important to hear what your--

Verveer

And she was certainly engaged in no activities vis-a-vis our staff, Madeleine's staff, anybody else's engaged in this examination.

Jones

This is slightly off-track but we can easily get back. Since you've raised the question of second-term appointments, were there other second-term appointments that she or your office were particularly interested in?

Verveer

No, not that I recall at the moment. Something might come to mind.

Riley

There were a couple of things on the agenda. One was the people in the foreign policy operation.

Verveer

Tony Lake was there in the first part of the administration. There was not a close working relationship with Tony. It was closer to Sandy. Sandy was the deputy head of the National Security Council at the time and then he went to become Tony's successor as head of the NSC. I worked particularly closely with Sandy on just about everything. We probably had one of the closer relationships with the National Security Council of any previous First Lady's office. Not that I am an expert on her predecessors, but as an office staff, I spent more time working with NSC staff--NSC, State Department--than probably with any other people in the government.

Riley

I can't imagine that you're wrong--

Jones

That's right.

Verveer

I often used to joke with Sandy and say, "You know, Sandy, we spend so much time working for you," and he would look at me and say, "Perhaps we spend so much time working for all of you." It was one of these mutually symbiotic, synergistic relationships that proved to be very effective for people who were engaged in the foreign policy operations of the government.

The various officials in the National Security Council would beat a track down to our office and say, "We can't get this event scheduled on the President's agenda. Can you help with that when you go to the scheduling meeting?" Or, "The OMB mark just came for UNICEF," or, "It just came for Russia," or it just came for some other aspect of the 150 Account and it is wholly deficient. Sometimes it would be the NSC, sometimes it would be people in the State Department calling, saying, "Do you think the First Lady could weigh in on that aspect of the budget?"

Or it would be USAID. These were very common happenstances, but particularly on the human rights piece. Her office became the adjunct human rights office in the White House, whether it was Algerian mothers whose children and families were being killed in Algeria or it was Argentinean grandmothers who'd lost their family members or it was Kosovar activists or it was Northern Irish women politicians, everybody wound up in our office and ultimately in meetings with her. They were almost always brought in by the NSC people pleading to have her attention brought to whatever the need was at the time.

Jones

This developed over time?

Verveer

This developed over time.

Jones

It didn't start; it developed?

Verveer

None of this was obvious. None of this was an agenda that we followed. It was an evolutionary process that grew.

Riley

Which would partly explain why your relationship with Tony Lake was not as close, just because that wasn't at the outset something that--

Verveer

Exactly. And Sandy Berger became--He obviously knew Hillary well. They had had a relationship over the years. He knew her capacities. I was even told by several of the people in the West Wing that after the South Asia trip--after Beijing in particular--as they began to watch her on the TV news programs at a time when the administration was having a rough ride and there weren't a whole lot of good news stories, all of a sudden, instead of being the problem, she was looking like a positive instrument for the administration. There was no competition with anybody else. She wasn't usurping what anybody else was doing on these issues. This really wasn't on anybody's priority agenda, yet it was making a good face for the administration and for the country.

So within the foreign policy establishment, and particularly within the foreign policy officialdom of the administration, there was growing support for what she was doing. All of a sudden they had an ally. You have to remember, because context is really important, that it was so hard to get attention to foreign policy in those early years. It was a struggle to get increases for the 150 Account. Part of what she would try to do is get people together to talk about how to persuade the American people--not just the administration, but the American people--that this increased spending is in America's interest. This is in their interest.

They began to see her as this ally in the White House that we never dreamed we'd have. All of a sudden she becomes an ally for the State Department, USAID, people who cared about our involvement in the United Nations, people in the foreign policy councils. She's becoming the person to whom they frequently go for the second or third plea.

Sandy was extremely supportive. He knew her potential. He saw what she could do. He had tremendous confidence in her skills; although not a practiced diplomat, she actually did diplomacy, but she did it in a different way. She was a diplomat in what that means in representing her country to other people. She did not work a whole lot with Warren Christopher. They respected each other. Chris had to sign off on the China trip and he wrote her an extraordinarily effusive letter after that Beijing trip, saying it had done all of this good for America's relations. Within that triumvirate, for reasons mostly of the fact that Sandy continued beyond the first administration and also knew her, he and Madeleine became the two critical people with whom she worked.

She actually had a very long outreach to officials that normally wouldn't work with the First Lady. If you had Brian Atwood, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, here, he would tell you that she was the person that he worked with more often than anybody in the White House. There was little opportunity for AID, or various ambassadors, certainly the heads of bureaus and desks of countries. They began to see her value.

I had so many people coming to see me saying, "Do you think she could go here?" "Do you think she could go there?" You couldn't get the President's time. The world is big and our needs were great. There was this natural evolution after those seminal experiences where others in our foreign policy establishment began to recognize how they could use her.

Riley

Two items that you mentioned that you wanted to come back to--one was Slovakia and the other was Russia.

Jones

Before we go there, was it true that Sandy Berger's office was as messy as--

Verveer

You know, I don't remember it being all that messy, but for a very precision-driven kind of thinker, he was discombobulated personally.

Riley

For the record, the subtext of this is the archives.

Verveer

Of which I know nothing.

Riley

Somebody would pick this up in 50 years and would have no idea what that interchange was all about.

Verveer

There was this women's piece and it was overarching. Within that, there was an application of it and an expansion in a different kind of way. She played a growing role--and this trip in 1996 and the early trips to Russia were seminal to this--in the new democracies, in the postcommunist world. She recognized that if we really wanted flourishing democracies in places that had no previous experience, we really had to invest. If we wanted market economies to all of a sudden take off with a flourishing capitalist system where there had previously been command economies, we had to begin to make investments, not just in those market reformers, but with the people.

Critical players in all of this were going to be women. They were half the population of these countries. They were educated in the former Soviet Union. If anything, they were among the educated population. It wasn't the same story that we saw in the developing world, where women, for the most part, were not educated. In the former Soviet Union they were, although conditions were becoming like a developing nation in some of those countries after the breakup.

She began to see and worry--She was a worrier with a capital W. She began to see and worry about the fact that if life didn't become better for these people, they were going to chuck democracy. "What's the point of this thing called democracy if you're living in a substandard fashion, worse than you ever did under the former regime, even though it constricted your freedom in every way? This was supposed to be a new day."

As she was making her way through central and eastern Europe--On several trips to Russia, what was foremost in her mind was trying to get the women engaged, particularly through the development of civil society. She stressed nongovernmental organizations. This was the new thing. In America we organize for everything. We organize for the slightest project. In these places, the government always had the last word. The citizens were told what they were supposed to do and say. For them to begin to understand that power was now theirs as citizens and this was something that was going to become a gradual process, and it was as important as the messages about values they whispered in the ears of their children when they put them to bed as it was in the organizations that they established. They have power, she stressed, in their hands to form their new societies.

This is where Vital Voices started. Vital Voices became a program of the U.S. government. It was the Vital Voices Democracy Initiative. As an initiative, what that meant was that women are key to democracy building, as are men, but nobody concentrates specifically on the women. They have a role to play in the economy of their country. If we really want the outcomes, if the goals of our government are what we know them to be, then we have to invest in women as well. What the Democracy Initiative represented was, at once, investments, increased funding, particularly for democracy building, for microcredit and for other needs, because you had a desperate situation, doctors and teachers who weren't being paid for a year in some instances. The standard of living was becoming desperate. You had health care systems collapsed. So there were investments, but there were also convenings.

It sounds kind of know-nothing-ish, I guess, to say we had a Vital Voices conference. But the conference was a jump-start. It was an impetus. It was the beginning of what was meant to be an ongoing process. What it would do is bring together women in different parts of the world. For this part of the world we had a conference in Vienna, and then a conference several years later in Reykjavik, Iceland. In Iceland the point was to get the Nordic countries to join up with the United States to begin to do more for women in the Baltics, in Estonia, and Latvia, and Lithuania, and in Russia. In Vienna it was central and eastern Europe and Russia. It became a way to try to say, "The civil society involvement and economic participation are absolutely crucial if these countries are going to change."

At the same time Hillary was trying to hold up and give counsel and strength to NGOs. It was tough for them. It was very tough. At the beginning there were resources to the civil society sector from American foundations, Europeans, the governments, et cetera. For these newly democratic entities to become self-sustaining, to know what to do, et cetera, in the Vital Voices conferences--One of the things we try to transmit is know-how, skills development. Here's how you communicate effectively. Here's how you mainstream an issue. Here's how you influence your government's decision making. The women would say, "Nobody ever taught us this. We don't know anything about any of this." We make this grand assumption that they're free, so they can do this. As one said to me, "Vital Voices was a smorgasbord. I wanted to take everything. I wanted to know how to grow a business and I wanted to know how to talk effectively. I wanted to know how to be compelling in negotiations."

We got private actors in the United States, corporations and other people, more interested in providing resources to be helpful. On the trip to central and eastern Europe one of the big problem places was Slovakia. They were dealing with a Prime Minister who was turning the country back, turning the clock back. They never really got off the ground in terms of democratic processes. At the time that Hillary was going there, [Vladimir] Meciar was really putting the clamps on the growing NGO movement. Basically, if he did succeed in what he was trying to do, they were not really going to be able to function in any effective way.

Madeleine and she came in and double-teamed. Madeleine made hard-hitting remarks to the press and with some government people and Hillary met with the NGOs. They told her what was going on. She brought the prestige of the United States and said, "What you are doing is extremely important." In the middle of her talk, they were pulling the plugs on the state-run television so that her message couldn't get out. All the other papers the next day are covering what she said, except the state-run papers.

She meets with Meciar and--They're sitting on a sofa; she's on one end of the sofa and he's on the other end of the sofa. He wants to tell her how lovely she is and how nice it is to have her and she says, "Sir, I just met with the NGOs and they're doing very important work and this is why it makes a difference." He lifts up his finger and he points at her and he says, "Mrs. Clinton, you do democracy your way in your country and I will do it my way in my country." It was one of the most tense conversations I was every privy to.

What her visit represented for the NGOs was a significant moment in their survival. We worked hand-in-glove with our Ambassador at the time, who knew how desperate the situation was and knew how this visit could begin to turn things around. As they have told me subsequently, it became the impetus for the Slovak NGOs to come together. Ultimately, over time--That was in '96. Within two years they had the OK '98 campaign [Civic Campaign '98 (Obianska kampa? '98)], which was translated in Slovak as, "Slovakia is going to be OK." They mounted a get-out-the-vote campaign that was not to promote a party preference, but to get young people and others engaged, people who never voted, engaged and excited, and it changed the government. Me?iar was ousted.

Hillary arrived in '98 in the Czech Republic to participate in a civil society meeting with Havel and he says, "Please, please." The first thing he wants her to do is meet with all the NGO leaders who effectively helped to change the government in Slovakia. She returned to Slovakia later and met with Slovak NGO leaders in other countries, always trying to encourage them. I learned from them, subsequently, about how transformative for them her visit was--in giving them the spine and the sense that they were going to be OK and they should plow ahead--that's what you did in a democracy.

Jones

The "them" being?

Verveer

The Slovak NGOs. This was one incident. This whole theme of democracy building and civil society building, particularly in the former Soviet Union, was something she began to devote herself to in an evolutionary way. Over a period of time it became a very big basket of the baskets that she would fill in her international involvement.

Riley

You mentioned Russia and UNICEF. I don't know if that's related--

Verveer

Russia was in a comparable situation in terms of the absolutely desperate conditions that regular people were feeling; the years in the transition were not making life better for them. She got into this initially. She actually developed quite an extraordinary relationship with Naina Yeltsin. I think everybody's view was that these women had nothing in common. They're of a different generation. One is extremely old-fashioned; the other is a plow-ahead activist. They actually developed an extraordinary closeness, and it started over health care.

Mrs. Yeltsin was held back. Mrs. Yeltsin had no staff, not even any stationery. She had no resources whatsoever to make a difference as the wife of the Russian leader. She was a very intelligent woman, an engineer by training. Whenever we would be with her, she would have all these apparatchiks from his side trying to keep her from saying too much. Hillary would keep encouraging her to speak up and to participate in forums where she engaged with Russian women.

Oftentimes Mrs. Yeltsin bore the brunt of the animus of the people over the developments that were going on in the country. She would have to defend her husband or talk about how slow this is going to be, but oftentimes she would, for example, say, "You're right, these regulations are causing a problem." The people who were assigned to her are often trying to cut her off, keep her mouth shut. But in some ways, she found in this partner from across the ocean somebody who understood the situation. Neither one of them was afraid to say that things needed to be better, especially Mrs. Yeltsin. But it started on that first trip with President Clinton to Russia and then Mrs. Yeltsin's trip to the United States with her husband, and then subsequent trips.

In the process, it was health care. Mrs. Yeltsin kept raising the serious needs that they had. At the time, we had a program called Project Hope that was bringing emergency medical equipment into the former Soviet Union. We were dismantling bases and hospitals and dental clinics and things we no longer needed as part of the old Cold War apparatus. She and Hillary worked a lot together with Project Hope to address needs. Hillary brought pharmaceutical companies and others into the White House to say, "How can you help? This is a serious need that they have in Russia."

Starting with health care, not seeing this as anything more, really began to lead to other things. There was a program that USAID had, called the Hospital Partnership Program, which was scheduled to end. Hillary saw during her visits to Russia what a difference this program was making. American hospitals would team up with Russian hospitals, and it cost very little except for the transportation cost to get the key medical people back and forth, et cetera. After that, as needs were assessed, they might request equipment, but it was making an astounding difference. Even when a specific project finished, formally, with AID, it would go on, because these doctors from America and other health practitioners became so invested with their colleagues from Russia or from other countries in the former Soviet Union that it built into something that was a remarkably positive and cost-effective investment by the United States.

Hillary became a proponent of the program, among others, and salvaged it from demolition and/or expiration, and, in fact, successfully got it into several other countries at a time when AID--It was a competitive program, so we could never interfere in terms of saying which hospital should get this or otherwise. We would communicate with them, "We've just come from Latvia. They have this critical need"--that sort of thing.

Out of addressing the health needs, she began to spend more time in Russia, often at the request of the State Department. She made a trip to Siberia. They thought it was important for her to visit with Russians outside of Moscow, where all the concentration was, and to go to places like Yekaterinburg and the former big defense site Akademgorodok, which was where all the elites gathered to hear her in this closed world of defense development.

It was quite unimaginable--Hillary coming from the United States and standing there with these physicists and mathematicians and saying to them, "I know you feel your world is very different, but the future will be bright again." Not being condescending--The Russian pride was really tremendously diminished through all of this. Not being condescending but saying, "We understand how tough it is and how difficult it's going to be to get through this."

Nothing was more illustrative of this than when we were in an apartment in Siberia with a three-generation family. The grandfather was a physicist-mathematician and his wife was a librarian. They had led a pretty decent life. They were among the elite of that society. They were well educated, they were contributing, and their world was shattered. Their daughters, on the other hand, were getting to travel. They were teachers. They were getting to go places that they had never been, and they were dreaming of a new life and a new day and they thought things were much better. The physicist kept saying, "But my bicycle was stolen." The daughter kept saying, "But Daddy, you're not standing in line for butter any more at three o'clock in the morning."

You could feel the tension inherent in this generational view and see how it was going to take a generation for the transition to a democracy. There Hillary is, in the middle of this. You can imagine the impact that these kinds of experiences are having on her. And she's coming back home to talk about them to her husband. She is seeing things that one only hears about. He was always jealous of her ability to experience more than official events. He always had the obligatory bilateral meetings and speeches; he always did the very formal things. It was leader to leader and then the formal dinner. She's out there in the villages, in the apartment houses of people, sitting and trying to understand what's going on.

Jones

Oh, to be First Lady.

Verveer

Oh, to be First Lady. These things had an impact on her. And she's never alone in experiencing them. On her solo trips she's usually with the chief person for U.S. assistance for Russia or the chief person overseeing some aspect of our work in Russia, if not some of the top Russia hands. She really felt that she was educating in some ways, not by her being the teacher but that she was educating some of our diplomats in why social development was really important in the overall work that they were doing. If there were a poll done, they would all say, because they used to say it on the plane coming back, "Absolutely, this stuff makes so much sense." But if you're dealing with it in a more narrow official capacity, you don't usually see it.

Jones

You talked a lot about your work in preparation, but obviously there's an awful lot of work associated with follow-up.

Riley

Let's make sure if we reach the noontime point and we decide to run a bit longer that we deal with any of these other thematic issues. You and I had had this previous conversation and I think we've pretty well dealt with the things that you came--

Verveer

I think especially the major themes.

Riley

Let's go ahead and proceed then. I'm sure that both of you are interested in the impeachment question and maybe we ought to go ahead and move to that piece, although, Chuck, you posed the question about follow-up and in fairness, let's let you answer that first.

Verveer

When we would come back from any of these trips that were of a certain duration or had special elements that merited it, she would do a report to the President. We would draft the key points that came out of the meetings. There were always cables. The Embassy personnel were involved in the trip, so they would do their report from the country and send cables to the State Department that represented their account of what went on.

The information agencies in the countries, the United States' information operations, would send very lengthy reports on how the press played up the trip and what was significant. Usually the Ambassador would take notes in the meetings with the leaders and those would come into State as well. Separately, Mrs. Clinton would do her own reports to the President that would be copied to the Secretary of State, to the head of the National Security Council, et cetera. It wouldn't just be an account of what she did; it would be "This came up and it might be something we want to look into."

There was some prospect of follow-up on various agenda items. Beyond that, uppermost in her mind was always that the United States needs to learn from this--we, the people. So she would invite the African American community and others to Howard University after the Africa trip, or the ethnic Americans and those active in the region after the eastern European trip and others interested and provide a report back of what was happening in those places based on her travels and conversations. She was intent on building support for our engagement globally.

She would fill the auditorium in the State Department, for example, with a slide show of her trip and report country by country and say, "This is what happened, and this is why it's significant." All of these things were a continuum. They led to other opportunities, to be sure, but they also didn't end with her coming home.

Jones

I'd like to ask a question now that would be properly asked toward the end, but it fits here. It's a reflective question that occurred to me when you were talking about what was naturally developing with her role. The question really goes back to the whole initial health care experience.

It occurred to me that in a way it was difficult for her to start where she ended up, if you follow me. That is, she was by instinct wanting to change the role of First Lady, or have the First Lady role be consistent with her own judgment of what her talents were. That was her intent. But to come in in that role made it so abrupt. That change couldn't happen that quickly. I just wanted to get your reaction to that.

Verveer

I think there's something to that. We're going to need people to reflect on this in the years to come, after a lot more reflection than I can provide. Clearly, she was trying to do this role differently from her predecessors, with the very strong support of her husband. We go back to that "two for the price of one," in terms of her talent. This talent should be unleashed for the good of the country.

Going into a policy assignment, overseeing one-seventh of the economy--a trillion-dollar budget, approximately, goes into health care--she is viewed as unaccountable because she is in this position that is hers only by marriage. Her power in a way is seen by some as illegitimate in that capacity. Had she been more the spokesperson for health care reform, not being viewed so much as the policy maker, it might have been more palatable.

There were other people who felt that there wasn't a problem with her doing this role. She was highly successful the first year, based on polling and the sense of, Thank God, we've got somebody working on health care who's good at it and who cares about it. It was what was evolving in that second year, in terms of the attacks on her and lacking the credibility that she now had as a messenger and the opposition that brought. We need more time to assess how this all is going to shake out.

In truth, had she come into this position not immediately taking on a very significant policy role, which was not what was customary, and she was this transitional person with a different set of experiences from any of her predecessors, it is conceivable that she would have more easily gotten to that point with a lot more support, just as she built up her credibility in other ways. That said, when you look at this foreign policy role, which it was, it had tangible impacts in terms of changing policy.

In fact, in '97 when Madeleine is Secretary of State, she and Hillary are standing together at the State Department, saying, "From this day forward--" or words to that extent--"these issues of concern to women and women's rights are integral to U.S. foreign policy." Some who worked at the State Department could document the changes that began to come about as a result of that. She wasn't really in a State Department policy role. It was an unprecedented role, but she wasn't usurping anybody else's power. She wasn't taking away from what somebody else was doing.

In health care it was viewed in many ways that she was. Why wasn't this the HHS Secretary? Or why wasn't this some other group of government health care policy makers? Why all of this work with Congress? That's part of this, as well. I see where you're coming from. It's an interesting observation. I think it's going to take a lot more understanding about how all this looked from many different vantage points. It is conceivable that, had this come at a different time--

Jones

So much of what you have described is her having defined policy issues with which she felt comfortable and that were clearly important to these countries. Had that developed, then she comes to the domestic side with that orientation, even within health care--women and children--her role in the health care thing may have been more powerful.

Verveer

I think there's something to that. If you look at Rosalynn Carter, who at a comparably early time in her husband's administration was sent to South America as his emissary, she's not going on a "soft power" agenda, if you will, as important as it is. She is there as his representative to negotiate his positions on foreign policy issues having to do with human rights in the hemisphere, and the nuclear freeze, and things that are the work of the people who are representing the President with this agenda.

She is criticized, both by people in the government and by people in the media, for assuming that kind of role. She is asked, "What qualifies you for this?" She answered, "Well, I'm closest to the President and I know what he wants me to do." And she studied to do it.

There is something still--and there has to be change, and we will see that in the years ahead, I'm sure, as more and more career women come into this First Lady role. But it is still very hard to assume a policy portfolio that is a President's portfolio or one designated to other line officials in government. That's why we had the reactions we had, to some extent, both in health care and in Rosalynn Carter's experience.

Abraham

I have a general question about women's issues in the Clinton administration. Are you saying that most of them originated in the First Lady's office and there weren't any comparable people in the West Wing dealing with these issues? You mentioned the President's Council on Women, previously. Before then, was there--? Or were these all First Lady initiatives?

Verveer

Well, it depends on what they were--Violence Against Women, the Family and Medical Leave Act that had been vetoed so many times and was one of the first initiatives--There were issues that were clearly on the top of the domestic policy agenda before Hillary got more engaged in some of the family and children's issues. But she had staffers who were part of that bigger operation. Hillary was not the originator of all policies and programs affecting women, to be sure.

One of the things we discovered in having more women in the government was--It used to be that in a White House the outside advocates would frequently just go to the women's office. But we had women on the domestic policy staff; we had women in the counsel's office; we had women in the First Lady's office; we had women who cared about these issues who came out of policy experiences who could become a team of people around the bigger table, to move the issues forward. So, no, not in isolation. What we're talking about is the fact that she did make a distinct contribution on many of these issues, both on the domestic side and the foreign policy side, but not to the exclusion of nothing else happening.

Abraham

So there was a team of people--

Verveer

Yes, and many of those issues were grappled with in domestic policy.

Riley

We can come back to those in a little bit, if you want. I wonder if you could take us back to January of 1998, and how you first discovered the news that shook the White House about the Lewinsky business. Tell us your story about what it was like being in the White House, and in particular, in your position during this time. Just sort of track this through for the next year or so, toward the impeachment.

Verveer

Well, like everybody on the outside, as well as the White House staff, we were learning about it from the media. Some people were going into the [Matt] Drudge Report and seeing possible extraordinary revelations coming out, but you couldn't always believe that. Within 24 hours the front page of the Washington Post is carrying this terrible news in early January.

Frankly, we didn't know if the sky was falling, if the Presidency was ending, if it was true, if it wasn't true, or where we stood. It was a really, really tough time. Just to paint a picture for you, those of us who parked in the parking lot between the White House and the Old Executive Building are driving in, going through a checkpoint with television cameras in our faces trying to catch the dour expressions of the White House staff reporting for work, not knowing whether these accusations against their President are true or not.

We used to get there very early in the morning for the senior staff meeting and we're all gathered that fateful morning around the table with Erskine Bowles, as the Chief of Staff, presiding over the meeting. All of us had only one thing on our minds, wondering, What the heck is happening? We go through that meeting as though it were the daily ritual of business as usual. We're reporting what's happening in the various offices we're representing.

We always start the meeting with a report on the world developments overnight. What's blowing up someplace else? We get to the counsel of the White House for his report. As with most of these things, he didn't want them discussed in senior staff and said, as always, "I have nothing to report." It was this unreal setting in which we were all engaged. Erskine did say, "We know there are all these stories out there. My advice to all of you is to just know why you are here, why you report for duty, the work that you have to do. As best you can, carry on," or something to that effect. But that was the only reference to the fact that there was a bigger tempest going on right outside the building, and maybe inside the building.

Jones

Had you folks in the First Lady's office had initiatives in the State of the Union message, which pretty much had been crafted at least in outline by then?

Verveer

We did. We had the childcare initiative, which was a fairly big one and it was for a lot of money. Save America's Treasures might have been in there. I can't remember all of what was in there. I do remember that Sunday, going to the State of the Union practice, and we were with the President. We were all coming in Sunday afternoon and he was practicing in the Map Room, which is a relatively small room that still had one remaining map from the World War II period. It was the room that FDR [Franklin D. Roosevelt] used for strategic planning for war purposes.

There was a podium set up in the corner and a few of us in chairs. He carried on as though there was no other story, there was nothing else going on. We went through that whole speech. It was, "Mr. President, I'd say it this way," or somebody else trying to change a word here. It was surreal. The staff meetings were surreal; the daily operation was surreal; the speech practice was surreal. You know, there was speculation as to whether or not he was even going to give the State of the Union. Was he going to talk about this in the State of the Union?

We were ramping up for Mrs. Clinton to do a full-court media press on the childcare initiatives that were in the State of the Union speech. Often what happens when you're putting forward new initiatives is you want to amplify the words of the President. She had made commitments to be on the Today Show and to be on other national programs, certainly not knowing that any of this was going to take place. She faced the prospect of the Today Show not that many days later with Matt Lauer. If she had canceled, that would have been a big story. We are proceeding with business as usual in the most surreal fashion that anybody can imagine. You come home and you turn on the TV, or you start to hear from everybody--you know, "Are you OK? What's going to happen?"--then you get there and you're trying to valiantly carry on.

Riley

Is it that you're trying to figure out how best to deal with and serve the First Lady?

Verveer

Well, you know, Hillary is a very private person, and, for the reasons that we've already talked about, talking about any of these accusations was something that she tried really hard not to do, because her staff was being hauled in, subpoenaed for this or for that, to see what her level of implication was through us, or the other way around. You didn't want to invade her privacy in this very difficult moment with these charges. None of us raised it with her unless she wanted to talk about it with us. It was one of those kinds of things where, clearly we knew and we felt really bad for her and knew what she was going through, and in the meantime, she's trying to reconcile both her own personal situation with many questions: Is this more of the same from his detractors? Is this yet another attack on us after everything we've been through? What else are we going to be hit with?

Within days of leaving for New York for the interview with Matt Lauer, we go into the Roosevelt Room and she is supposed to be doing an after-school press event with Secretary [Richard W.] Riley and others. Again, it's part of the childcare initiative, protecting children, keeping them safe after school. The President is now going to join this press event. That's where he makes the statement, "I have had no relations with .?.?." That happened, I think, within those 24 hours before our doing it.

She does the event, and then we go and get on a plane to New York. She's got an event scheduled in Harlem at a school, again to amplify the after-school childcare, and I have never seen so many cameras in a classroom. As many as they had, they obviously had to create a pool because they couldn't deal with the level of interest. She gets up to the podium to talk about the importance of the after-school initiative and it's carried live on CNN as if breaking news is going to be forthcoming about the tempest that everyone is following. She's talking about the provisions of the after-school program, and CNN closes down and we move on.

That night she had agreed to do a benefit for UNICEF, which has never been covered by the press. The most they ever get for the event is a camera that the organization hires. There was, against a wall three times as long as this wall, nothing but cameras. They were there to catch her in her moment of despair, clearly. This was the watch for the Hillary Clinton breakdown. Was the breakdown going to occur here, earlier? Where was it going to occur?

Being in New York was even worse than being in Washington in some ways, because you've got all the media center of the world descending on her and these events. We went to the Waldorf that night. She had to get up about four or five o'clock in the morning, whatever it was, for the Today Show. She was on the phone--I don't know with whom she spoke. We tried to tell her what the press was reporting. We really had no idea what she was going to say to Matt Lauer. She kept her counsel very close, as she often did in these kinds of difficulties.

When we went over to the studio--It's history now what she said. Afterward, we got into the car and her press secretary said, "Well, you made news." She said, "How's that?" And she said, "Vast right-wing conspiracy?" We talked about that a little bit. Clearly there was a lot of discussion about this so-called "vast right-wing conspiracy." There were some reporters who I knew at NBC [National Broadcasting Company] who showed up watching with me and they thought that she had been extraordinarily--"stoical" is not the right word but--

Riley

Together?

Verveer

Very together, very--

Riley

Composed.

Verveer

And very much saying, "Look, we've been up against all of this. How do we know it's not more of the same?" She did not know the truth of the reality that enveloped her. At the same time, she knew, as she had learned in the '92 campaign and she learned in other circumstances, much was required of her to keep her husband's Presidency together. Prior to leaving, it was obvious, no matter how one tried to hide it from her, she knew people were taking it hard. She'd say, "How's everybody doing?" And you'd say, "People are trying the best they can." But I think she felt, without articulating it, that she had some responsibility to keep the White House staff up.

By the time we got back, the President is now in the last moments of his practice for the State of the Union and he's in the family theater at this point. So many of the President's people say to me, "Boy, she's made a difference." They're telling her, "You've made us feel so much better." It's as though she had given the team fortitude to go on and fight the fight for another day. Again, nobody knows what the truth is, but it's as though, if she can hold up, and she is bearing the brunt of this more than anybody--This is really her public humiliation, in addition to everything else it represented. If she can go and say that, the message was, you all should be able to do at least that much. It was one of those team-building, confidence-restoring, spine-straightening settings or reactions that she was able to imbue in the White House staff.

Riley

How about yourself? How are you managing to get through these days?

Verveer

I'm more concerned about her at this point than anything else, and feeling mad at the President if this is true.

Riley

Did you have a gut feeling one way or another?

Verveer

You don't know. We were all in the same place. Nobody had any special information. We were all seeing it the same way.

Jones

In a way you didn't want any.

Verveer

People are calling me saying, "If this is true"--I mean people very close to him. It's that sort of thing. Nobody really knows and yet you've got all this stuff coming out. I've got the person that I work for--the First Lady--in the middle of this in probably the most painful, personal way imaginable, and the most we can do is say, "We just want you to know we're with you," and try to make her feel--She's not a person who wants sympathy. Even women around the world told me subsequently--We talk about her first foreign trip right after that--They said, "The one thing we did not want to do is make her feel that we were giving her sympathy. She's a proud woman and she had reason to continue to be a proud woman, and we felt about her the way we'd always felt about her." You didn't want to cross that line of making her feel like a victim.

Riley

Sure. Melanne, was there anybody that she could talk to at this stage? I don't know if she had personal friends--

Verveer

Her closest friend was Diane Blair and Diane and I talked. Hillary just really keeps her counsel deep inside of her and that's where it was. If she had any doubts, she didn't manifest those doubts and she clearly didn't know the truth. She soldiered on and it was "You soldier on, too. We're all going to soldier on here." What was clearly paramount was, "These are the very same people who have perpetrated so much against us and we cannot now let them prevail." This was not articulated this way, but you could feel the message and you could feel what was driving her, which was "His detractors are not going to destroy this Presidency."

Shogan

No matter whether it was true or untrue.

Verveer

At that point she was able to compose herself to believe it wasn't true. She had no indication. He told her it wasn't true. I don't know this from her, but I know this from what he said and I believe that this was the case. Others in the counsel's office would attest that he told her that she was going to read about this and it's not true.

Shogan

In this time period, almost January to January, the way that she handles herself in this year actually gets her a lot of accolades. People recognize that she handles herself with composure and poise and, I don't know if it's necessarily sympathy, but it's more respect for the way she is able to weather through this. Do you think this is a turning point in how the American people view her?

Verveer

I think you've made an understatement. This was a transformative moment for her in the eyes of the American people. The press spin on this is she had to become a victim to get the people's support and admiration. But there are other interpretations. This is the woman most humiliated. She didn't air her dirty laundry outside and make all of us part of the soap opera. She maintained her dignity. She carried herself with respect. She carried on. We saw her in a way that we didn't see her previously.

Again, this is going to take years to understand, but there is no doubt. She finds herself at the end of that year in her velvet gown on the cover of Vogue magazine, looking absolutely resplendent, thinking about running for the Senate as the first First Lady in history ever to run for elective office, having saved her husband from the impeachment, having saved him from the worst off-year election that everybody was predicting, according to the historical expectations. It was an extraordinary year and that year starts in the way that we've all just been discussing.

So '98 is the transformative year for Hillary Clinton. Whether or not it was because she could do, as a victim, what she couldn't do otherwise--If that's a fair statement; I'm not the judge and that is going to take history. But in that year, the things that she managed to do clearly changed America's view of her. A Time magazine executive was telling me that she was inches away from becoming the "Person of the Year" on the cover of Time magazine for New Year's 1999. It was a completely transformative year for her.

Riley

Let me dial back and ask you a question about the State of the Union message. To your knowledge, was there ever any serious consideration to addressing this?

Verveer

I wouldn't know if it was, but I don't think it was ever raised. If it had been raised, clearly the answer was no. Why would we talk about that? These were more charges against him. Why would we raise them to that level? We're in January; we're not in August.

Jones

After the State of the Union--Well, my interpretation of that situation was that this was one of the best-crafted State of the Union messages ever, in identifying what the agenda was and in the work that had been done. If you look at the press coverage in December of '97 when Congress was out of town and they were developing this, the President traveled a lot, building support for all of the initiatives. But the test came to be will he show up, and not how good this State of the Union message was or how well it was developed. That's my interpretation, but there's a lot of media support for that notion. What about after? Was there any sense that there was more than that--that there was more than gee, he did show up--that you felt with the initiatives that you had that you could go ahead, or was it so overwhelming?

Verveer

It was not just will he show up? It was will he say anything about it? He was clearly going to give that State of the Union. That seemed fairly certain. Afterward, the Democrats were standing and hooting and applauding. The Republicans were kind of shocked that he was so untouched, seemingly, by the swirling of events around him. It had this way of lifting--but how many of the initiatives didn't reach fruition, ultimately? All of that needs to be carefully looked at, and the reasons why. He was certainly in his ascendancy--you're right--going into that '98 speech and all of those battles with Congress. He had the Republican leadership on the run more than the other way around. I think impeachment was a way to try to put an end to the fact that he was making this comeback, in some ways, with respect to his own agenda.

[BREAK]

Riley

You mentioned something about the first foreign trip that the First Lady had taken after all of this had broken. Maybe I could ask you about that.

Verveer

She was scheduled to go in early January to the World Economic Forum in Davos. It's the first trip within a week or so of the world wondering if all of this is true and watching the clamor at home and the calls for impeachment, et cetera.

Riley

Resignation at that point.

Verveer

Yes. Should he resign? Obviously, she's taking this enormous burden with her and she's going to Switzerland, which under the normal scheme of things would seem like no heavy lifting. Switzerland at the time is dealing with this whole issue of Nazi gold and she's the highest-ranking person in the United States coming to give a big speech, particularly at a time when they're going through this crucible themselves, examining their own behavior, a lot of it at the prodding of the United States. It's a tense situation over there with her. She gets through that. She's not herself.

Riley

Did you go with her?

Verveer

Yes. She gets through all of her activities and she is engaged and, from the view of the people with whom she was meeting, she's what everybody thinks she is. That night it's a little bit harder for her. She thinks about going ice-skating at the hotel. She just is having a rough time and she's preoccupied, basically. We then journey on our way to Davos, which is a very remote, small Swiss town in the mountains. It's not particularly easy to get there. On the way, we make a couple of stops and we stop at a monastery in St. Gallen where we're changing to a train, I think.

Riley

There's a library there.

Verveer

There's the most exquisite library imaginable there. In many ways they claim to have saved civilization by virtue of the books that are there.

Riley

The Salzburg Library is modeled on that.

Verveer

I didn't realize that.

Riley

Yes, [Max] Reinhardt did a miniature of the St. Gallen.

Verveer

There are all these references by the monks. "Just know, Mrs. Clinton, we're praying for you." Not a whole lot more is said, but it's clear: everybody has on their minds the woes that she is carrying with her. We get to Davos and it's the mega-world leaders, and particularly the economic leaders of the world, corporate-sector types as well as governmental. There are all kinds of opportunities for her to pick and choose from things that she might want to go and listen to, discussions on health care and other kinds of world challenges. She doesn't go to any.

That night she goes to a dinner that Klaus Schwab, the head of the WEF [World Economic Forum], has in her honor. Newt Gingrich is there. There are many people there, like William Safire, who has called her a "liar." She is holding her own, going through a cocktail party and then going through this dinner and just basically doing everything she has to do, which she does very well. Then she goes back to her room. The speech is the following evening.

We took one of our speechwriters with us and I prepared as much as I thought we could in terms of the broad outlines of what we thought she would talk about, which is the importance of civil society. She just didn't want anything on paper drafted for her. I'd go in and check on her and she was just either watching the proceedings of the conference on TV, or on the phone, or just being by herself, reading or thinking or jotting things down. She really had no help from the small staff that we had with us.

We go over to the conference center for her speech. It's a plenary session. People are standing on the sidelines. The balcony is full. I've subsequently had people I didn't know, corporate types from all over the world, tell me that they may not have thought much of her but felt they might as well go and catch this speech if they could, and what an effect she had on them.

She is on the stage, introduced by Klaus Schwab. She has no paper in her hands, and this is viewed as one of the toughest audiences, certainly, for a First Lady of the United States to address. She makes a very coherent case for why it is in the interest of the people in front of her to care about the social development of the people in their societies and to care about civil society. It's about her three legs of the stool--one being government, one being economics, and the third being civil society--and how critical all three are for any functioning country. It is in their interests to invest in civil society. This is not altruism she's talking about. She's talking about their self-interest--about stable governments and economies.

The audience is impressed. Afterward, it is the custom to allow the audience to ask questions. She answers with an ease and an aplomb that, again, has everybody talking for days after. After that, she just felt so much better. Elie Wiesel was there, Mayor [Richard] Daley was there, and other corporate friends of hers were there, and she went off to dinner with some of them. She was feeling much more relaxed; she laughed a lot.

She had to feel awfully good, because the hosannas were on everybody's lips and it wasn't just the obvious pander. She was impressive. She could get up there--particularly given what she was going through, but even if she weren't--and give the kind of coherent presentation she did and with no aid in front of her to guide her through. That was the first coming-out in a place other than the United States in early '98.

Riley

Your sense was that this trip had the effect of sort of stabilizing and recentering her after the--

Verveer

I think she was never far from dwelling on the threats to her husband's Presidency, whether it was the cause for resignation or what would evolve into the impeachment process. That was never far from her mind. This was a time of extreme threat to and testing of whether or not the Clinton administration would survive. I think she had a test. Probably at this point she might not have wanted to be across the ocean, having an obligation to make this trip. I don't know. She didn't say that. In many ways it was a release. It was an opportunity to get away. But on the other hand, you don't really get away.

Riley

If you're in a convent someplace on the other side of the world, people know about your marital problems.

Verveer

She was clearly very preoccupied with what was going on back home. In her there was an anger. It was not a spoken anger, but you could feel this deep sense of What else is going to hit us?

Riley

Chelsea did not go on this trip?

Verveer

No, she was in school. But '98 was also a year, despite all of the difficulties at home, in which she would have--I haven't done this calculation, but I think it's true--more foreign travel on her own than any of the previous years and subsequent years. So it was a time when she was reaching her own peak as a world spokesperson for women's rights and at the same time working in ways to save her husband's Presidency.

Riley

We'll track through the year. My recollection is fuzzy about the sequence of events, but obviously you get to the end of the year, in August--

Verveer

One of the things that was happening, and this was even before the certitude of what August represented, there was the prospect of the November elections. It was an off-year election, and historically the President's party loses seats in the Congress. There was the threat of what this represented in terms of a Presidency even more besieged because his party is losing more of its power in the Congress.

She is the recipient of visitations from different groups of Congresspeople: the women Members asked for a meeting. They're very concerned about their own reelections and what this set of affairs representing the Clinton administration is going to represent for Democratic prospects. The big worry for them is Are we going to get reelected? Is everything going to come down? Is he going to come down and we're going to come down with him in this reelection campaign?

At the same time, they were curious about her. How is she holding up? This is the big question. How is she holding up in the midst of all this stuff? I think the women came to check her out, but also to persuade her that she had to become a very forward leader at this time when her husband could not do it. He was not the messenger for this. He could go out and he could fundraise and he could do other kinds of things, but he would not be the compelling figure to save the Democratic seats in the Congress.

They said to her, "Look at these issues. Whether or not we're going to hire teachers, whether or not we're going to safeguard Medicare and Social Security, and the environment--You can make a case on these issues. Only you, Mrs. Clinton, can move this agenda from a focus on the perils of the Clinton Presidency to the real issues that people care about. If the people are not focused on the issues, we are all going to lose." So that was the message to her.

She also, much later, before the election but later than this meeting, has a meeting with freshman Members of Congress--Democrats. They, being freshmen, are even more vulnerable because they haven't been in Congress that long. Once you're an incumbent of some duration you obviously have an easier time. They say to her, "We just want you to know, some of us may not be able to vote against impeachment." She knows. She's seen the list of where the various Democrats are expected to be on the upcoming vote, which is scheduled to happen in December in the full House. She can feel from them what their own personal difficulties are. "I'm from this very conservative district. I just may not be able to vote against the grounds for impeachment that we're going to have to vote on."

She has several things to say to them. She's sort of getting out on the floor that there are no grounds for impeachment. This is a woman who worked on the Watergate Committee; she knows what the standards are. She believes the standards have not been met in this case, regardless of what the opposition is saying. She is trying, in a way that doesn't look like she's lecturing them but by getting it in to responses to the questions that they're asking her, to make that point. She's also getting out the message to them that "The most important thing is for you to be reelected. Neither the President nor I, nor anybody, wants to jeopardize your reelection. Do what you have to do." But in the back of her mind she doesn't want to see any of them voting against her husband. So that's going on.

She also makes a trip to inspect hurricane damage in Puerto Rico before she moves on to a solo trip to South America. This was happening somewhere in the middle of all of that. On the way to Puerto Rico, there are several members of Congress, ten or so, maybe a few more, on the plane with her. She knows the positions of all of them on the impending impeachment vote. One of them is undecided. There they are on the plane, in a kind of conference room with a table and some couches. She is aggressively speaking out about the unfairness of this process all the while. "The grounds aren't there." Without stating it, without directing anything to the undecided Democrat, she is getting her message out and trying to educate the rest of them.

While she is not out there as a spokesperson specifically against the impeachment vote, she is working internally and working in ways that are appropriate to how she believes she should be conducting herself right now, not in a frontal way, not in an in-your-face way, but doing what she can behind the scenes. And then aggressively campaigning on behalf of the Democrats. She was everywhere. [Charles] Chuck Schumer had her in New York four times, including the day before the election, for his Senate race. Of course he was running against D'Amato, so, after what D'Amato had done over all those years, she kept going back for Schumer.

She was in Pennsylvania; she was in Illinois; she was out west. She was out there as much as she could humanly have campaigned, always on the message. Always, it was Social Security, Medicare, teachers, education. It was what you, the American people, care about. "We're on the right path. Let us not, in this very important election, be turned away from what is important." The line that she used over and over was, "This is not about my family; this is about your family." That was a message only she could give.

Of course, the fact was that if anybody had grounds to want to do Bill Clinton in, it was she. I think people understood that if she could kind of muster her strength and come out and conduct herself in a dignified way, with all the stuff that was surrounding her, and keep putting the focus on what matters--"This is why these things matter for your family, and you should think about your family and not let others turn us from the issues that we should be caring about, not move us from the focus that we should have."

Election night she's holed up in the family theater watching a movie, because she can never stand to watch returns on election night. It makes her too nervous. The President is in his Chief of Staff's office. He's not computer literate, but he's getting a lesson on how quickly one is able to get election returns over the Internet. He's got a lot of friends and party activists gathering for election night, coming in through the East Wing, to watch the returns, and to have some food and some refreshments. As the returns are coming in, they're waiting in the East Wing for the President. He's not moving from his Chief of Staff's office and the computer. The message goes out, "Just send everybody down toward the Oval Office." Between the Roosevelt Room and that room, everybody just sort of gathered, and watched the returns with him.

At one point, one of the commentators--He's intent on what he's seeing and people are telling him, "this one's in" and "that one's in." He knows every single one of these races. He knows everything about them and what they represent. He hears a commentator say something about, "If this victory for the Democratic Party and Bill Clinton tonight is owed to anybody, it's owed to Hillary Clinton." We think he's watching the computer. He always multitasks. He says, "That's right, that's right. Hillary made the most incredible difference."

That's going on at the same time that she's carrying out her own work and campaigning and knowing the impeachment vote is going to come down within a month. It's already working its way in the Judiciary Committee, but it's going to come down because they won't postpone it for the holidays. Right before Christmas is the vote in the full House.

Riley

They went ahead with it. Did that come as a surprise?

Verveer

That they went ahead with the vote?

Riley

That they went ahead with the vote.

Verveer

We had no control over what the Republican leadership was going to do. I presume that they were always afraid that the tide could shift or something. They actually wanted to do it before the new Congress came in, because remember, the Democrats didn't lose seats; they gained a seat. So they felt that they would be in a less strong position if they took the vote after the new Congress was convened.

Riley

But having had the election run the way it did--I don't remember that much about the press coverage at the time--surely there must have been some sense that maybe they won't go through with this. I was just wondering if there was any sense about that in the White House at the time, or were you just absolutely convinced, based on--

Verveer

I just wasn't close enough to the impeachment process. There was a group of people who were working on where the votes were, where the arguments are, what we need to do. Whether or not they thought there was any chance of postponement, I don't know.

Shogan

The only thing I was going to ask was about the--I'm sure you're going to cover the Senate campaign.

Riley

Yes, we'll get to that.

Shogan

The other thing I was going to ask about is what this effect of working at the White House had on your own personal life, at home. How many hours were you--It seems like you're working an awful lot. I can sort of assess that from what you're saying, and what kind of impact that had. In other interviews we've done, we've talked about that. Of course there's the [George] Stephanopoulos book--He's breaking out in hives and all these horrible things are happening to him. I just wondered.

I think people who read this later on will want to know what it was like to work as a high-level staffer in the Clinton White House. I think you mentioned at one point that you were working seven days a week. How were you able to keep up with that for eight years? That would have been another sort of a summary question.

Abraham

Also, can we talk a little bit about your transition from Deputy Chief of Staff to Chief of Staff?

Riley

Yes, I've got a roster of things to do.

Shogan

I have an idea about the development of the First Lady's office vis-a-vis the development of the Office of the Vice President.

Abraham

Yes, I was looking into that. You can trace the two along. There are a lot of parallels.

Shogan

I was going to say this at dinner and I never got a chance. When you said that Clinton was the Kennedy of another generation, it's so true. I was 17 when I watched when he won in '92 and I stayed up all night to see him give the speech in Little Rock.

Verveer

I saw it with my own kids.

Shogan

It had such an effect on me about politics and everything. It was just a wild ride. I would lose confidence in Clinton and only now I'm starting to get back into the Bill Clinton, never with Hillary, Bill Clinton, reading the book and sort of getting back into it and his career as an ex-President or as a former President. It was very galvanizing for me. I skipped school. The only time I ever skipped school in high school was to go see Bill Clinton in 1992 come through Pittsburgh.

Verveer

I remember skipping school, too, for another President.

[BREAK]

Riley

We sort of moved straight through to impeachment, but there was that crucial period when, ultimately, the rumors turn out to be true. Do you remember when you finally concluded that?

Verveer

Well, we had the testimony he had to make, and it was clear in that testimony that there was going to be a discussion of all of this, in fact, that they would try to find that he was not being candid in that testimony. As all of this was coming together, it was clear that the story was a different story. I'm trying to remember exactly when I found out. I took my vacation that very week. I was on Martha's Vineyard before they came, because I knew I had to come back early to plan for the trip to Russia and Northern Ireland. We left for Russia and Northern Ireland right after their vacation and I knew if I didn't go early that week in August, I wouldn't go at all. So I was there with my family when all of this is evolving back in Washington. I'm on the phone with the staff, clearly concerned about Hillary's situation in all of this.

It was during that time that she released her own statement on that day, which Marsha Berry worked with her on. Prior to that, I know from Marsha, the White House reporter from the New York Times called and said, "We have some information." This is when the breaking news was coming about the President's testimony. "We have some information that Mrs. Clinton should know, and we don't want to catch her up short just reading about it. We also would be interested in talking to her about it." Marsha, of course, is feeling the most important thing is for her to take care of Hillary in all of this.

She is out of the office. She races in to meet with the reporter. He tells her about this and she doesn't know what to do with the information, so she calls the President's press person, her counterpart. I guess it was [Joseph] Lockhart, and he says to call Chuck Ruff, who is the White House counsel. At this point she had never met with Chuck Ruff and didn't know him and she's saying, "Perhaps I need to tell Mrs. Clinton about this," And Chuck says, "I wouldn't do that just yet," or something to that effect. She goes back to her office and, in the meantime, learns from [David] Kendall, the President's lawyer in this, that the President will be talking to the First Lady.

So I'm not there. I'm on Martha's Vineyard, where they are scheduled to arrive shortly.

Riley

Probably having a wonderful vacation.

Verveer

It was not a vacation at all. It was all breaking within those days. The picture that everybody will have seared in their memory is the three Clintons walking across the White House grounds to board the helicopter to take them to the plane to Massachusetts. It was one of those pictures of utter familial pain, and anybody can just imagine how tough it was. We were at the airport. My family and I were there when they arrived. All of us--It was mostly the friends gathering; there were quite a lot of people there. He gets off the plane and goes to one side of the crowd to start shaking hands, and she gets off the plane and goes to the other side of the crowd to shake hands. Chelsea is the first one off. I can't remember exactly how this happened, but Chelsea is the one who is trying to be extremely stoical under the circumstances.

You didn't have to know anything specific. You could just see the pain and the awkwardness and the fact that this terrible, private thing was going on, is being played out in front of the world, in front of the cameras, even in front of people who were close to them and knew them as well as only a few people did. It was just so painful to see that kind of anguish.

Riley

At some point in that time the President makes a public--goes on TV.

Verveer

He does the speech from the White House. I'm in Martha's Vineyard at the time and he makes the speech the night before the departure. Of course the speech is interpreted in varying ways. I guess the vast majority of people in the end believe that he wasn't repentant enough and wasn't sensitive enough in his remarks, that they were too legal. But the bottom line is that several weeks later he's feeling that he has to do more, which he does do then at the religious leaders' breakfast.

Riley

Did you have that same reaction, listening? I take it you were not involved in the crafting of the--

Verveer

I was not involved in the crafting of it. I was watching it with my kids. My daughters were, particularly, not feeling that it was enough. Generally there was disappointment. The Clintons arrive shortly after that. We're sitting there on Martha's Vineyard getting the play-by-play from CNN and the networks about their impending arrival. It was another surreal time.

Riley

How old were your daughters at that time?

Verveer

This was '98, so late 20s.

Riley

So they're grownups at that point. Did she do much work on the impeachment postelection?

Verveer

There were calls coming in. At one point--I think this was even reported--her friend Congressman [James] Moran from northern Virginia said something about voting against Bill Clinton. She was quite put out with Jim and she let his assistant know that she'd like to talk to him. He did call her and she said, "You know, Jim, if anybody should be the one--" and he said, "I'm doing this because I'm upset for you." And she said, "I'm saying, 'Let's save the thing we really care about, this Presidency, what the Democratic Party stands for, the issues you and I care about. Let's not let it fall into the hands of the people who disagree with everything you and I care about.'" They had this extended conversation.

She also was asked by the Democratic caucus, on the morning of the vote, that Saturday morning before Christmas, to come up and say a few words to all of the House Democrats before they would go in and cast their vote. Her car makes its way up to the House, goes into the garage. It's a very private affair. She walks into the room to thunderous applause--People are feeling very deeply for her--and she is about as personal as I've ever heard her in public remarks. There were several hundred people. She talks about how she loves her husband and how she cares deeply about this country and how he and she committed themselves to public service and the things that we mutually care about. There was just palpable emotion in the room.

After she speaks, Charlie Rangel, who had originally asked the Whip, [Jonas Martin] Frost from Texas, whether he could make some remarks after her and I guess Frost says no, and Charlie, being Charlie, then makes his remarks from the floor and says something like, "I think we should all go down to the White House after this vote and stand by this President," or something to that effect. That was the general thrust. Hillary chimes in, "Charlie, I think that is just a terrific idea." That's why you saw that tableau several hours later of all of these House Democrats standing with the President in the Rose Garden after the vote.

Riley

Was the First Lady also there?

Verveer

Yes, she was there and his staff was quite surprised, because she really hadn't done much of anything with him in much of a public way. Things were strained, particularly after the revelation, the honesty of the true situation. They were quite surprised to have her come into the Oval and to walk out with the President and Gore and join the House Members for his remarks after the vote.

Riley

Melanne, can I ask you, after the truth became known did you have conversations with Mrs. Clinton about her reactions?

Verveer

I told her when she got on the plane--En route to Europe, we were off talking in the President's little office on the plane and I told her how hard I knew this was. It wasn't an extensive conversation about how she felt, but you know, you didn't have to say much. It was one of those things where you really didn't want somebody you cared about to have to talk about it. It was just enough to know that people were caring. That's what she kept hearing from everybody close by, sort of hugs, not to make her feel that she was the victim.

Riley

Did you ever see her vent this anger that she had?

Verveer

I never heard her vent anger against him. The only anger I heard her vent was against the "people who have done all of these terrible things to us over the years," but not about him, specifically. He was very worried about her and what he had done. At one point he and I crossed paths someplace and he said to me, "How are people treating Hillary? How is it for her?" Clearly, you had two people estranged over something that was deeply personal in their relationship, and many of us felt like we were intermediaries in some way.

Riley

And Chelsea throughout all of this?

Verveer

You know, she was around and she wasn't around, because she went back to school. She was on the vacation with them, but then she went back to school.

Riley

Did you see them on the vacation?

Verveer

I did. I was at the dinner for the President, who had his birthday that week, the first week of their vacation. We were at Vernon Jordan's house and there were not very many people, just as many people as could sit at the table. It was a perfectly civil evening. To say that it was a normal evening would be an overstatement. We were all trying to chat as best we could chat and talk about things that were unrelated to the evolving story.

What I didn't know that night was that the President was about to have to deal with Osama bin Laden and the strikes. Hillary did know and she was trying not in any way to make things worse for him, knowing what he was up against. There were those who were saying this was "wagging the dog," that this was just a diversion. But it was very real, and within 24 hours he was making public all of that and going back to Washington.

None of us at the dinner, with the exception of him and her, knew what he was going through additionally. Do I use the word "surreal" again? It was in some ways an out-of-person experience.

Riley

Is there anything else about that interlude that you have specific recollections of that you'd like to talk about--the impeachment and the Lewinsky business?

Verveer

That Saturday at the House vote, I was sitting in my office and Hillary is in the White House Residence. Now and again she would call me, saying, "What are you hearing?" It was one of those preposterous things. We needed to talk to each other, and, "What are you hearing?" "We're hearing that Congressman [Craig] Livingstone is now resigning." It was one crazy thing after another. We're basically reporting to each other what we're hearing on CNN and we're both hearing the same thing. That's kind of how the time was spent, between going up to the caucus that morning and the vote, and then their gathering on the South Lawn in the Rose Garden.

Riley

One thing that I haven't asked you about--It reaches closure with the Senate vote. Was she working Members of the Senate or dealing with them?

Verveer

"Working Members" is probably not the right way to describe it. As there were opportunities for her to convey how she felt, whether it was on a phone call with a Member who calls, or in meetings with Members specifically to tell her they might have a tough time--It was those opportunities when the issue was raised. It wasn't something that she took the initiative to do frontally. She really was trying to be above all of that, which I think was extremely important as one looks back. How she conducted herself was his saving grace. I don't think she was making specific calls. I don't know for a fact, but that's not how she was really conducting herself.

By the time the Senate vote came--That was obviously another threshold that had to be crossed, but the expectations were that the votes weren't there in the Senate. Prior to that Senate vote, we were in Russia and Northern Island. The Clintons came back from Martha's Vineyard only with enough time to get on Air Force One to make the flight overseas. That was really the first time anybody was going to see them publicly, they having been on vacation after that stroll across the South Lawn to the helicopter. Now they're both going to be together on this foreign trip, at least for some events.

We arrive in Russia. All of us are together for the first time, really, and Russia is on the verge of economic collapse. The sky is truly falling, economically. The weather was absolutely miserable. Gray was a metaphor for how we were feeling, both in terms of the country and in terms of our own problems, and it was a very difficult journey. People were talking past each other, not to each other. There were clearly strains.

It's always tough on Presidential trips for us because the President doesn't travel with a handful of people; he travels with armies of people. It's just so much different for her and for us to have a cast of hundreds around us and to see how many people he deals with in a meeting. We deal with very few and it's very small-scale. In many ways, that just added to all of the tension.

They have a joint visit. It's the first day of school in Russia when they're there and they have a public event at a school. It's the first time that the press is seeing the two of them together in any event that is an event, as opposed to getting on an airplane. Of course, the whole story is, how are they going to be toward each other? Are they going to seemed strained? Everyone is reading into it. Does she call him "Mr. President"? Does she call him "my husband"? Does she call him "the President"? What does all of this mean? There was this layer of meaning put on their appearance together.

We stayed not very long. Hillary did an event with small-business women and Mrs. Yeltsin--actually, she did several events. She did that event, when Mrs. Yeltsin again showed where she was coming from and talked about, "Yes, we need to be changing these regulations," much to the angst of the people who were minding her.

Then together they did an appearance with Russia's Good Housekeeping magazine. The head of Good Housekeeping in Russia, a Russian woman, was asking inane questions in kind of an Oprah [Winfrey]-like setting on the stage with an audience. Hillary is going through this ordeal that everybody is conscious of, and the banter is about, "What's your favorite recipe for your husband?" and all this kind of domestic talk. She's having to suffer through this and roll her eyes. There are other women on the stage who are dealing with issues like domestic violence and the trafficking of women and children, or advocates for the disabled. They were supposed to be part of this substantive conversation and the moderator keeps wanting to talk about domestic issues, and not domestic policy issues, but things in one's household with one's spouse. That was awkward, to be sure.

We were quite relieved when we finished her schedule in Russia. The President and his team stayed on another day and she went to address the Vital Voices conference in Belfast. That had come out of the President's extraordinary work to try to contribute in a positive way to a settlement of the decades-old hostilities springing from the sectarian strife in Northern Ireland. As part of America's contribution to helping implement the peace accord, Vital Voices was one of the elements of that assistance.

Hillary was now going to Northern Island and it was again premised on the principle that if peace is going to come to this place in a permanent way--We have made great steps. The peace accord has been adopted. The country voted. It's moving in the right direction--But if peace is truly going to come and be deeply planted, then the economy has to move forward. Women have to be part of that economy. Women have to participate politically in the life of this place, et cetera. There were literally hundreds of women who, over a period of days, had gathered in Belfast from all around Northern Island. They had workshops for all kinds of skills development that were going to help them improve their leadership effectiveness.

One of the things we learned--I was with her--but that my colleagues learned before we arrived in Belfast, was how low the confidence of the women was, so that the early part of the gathering had to focus on self-esteem. Mrs. Clinton had had significant experience in Northern Ireland up to this point. She had come with the President on that first unprecedented visit in 1995, when close to Christmas there were hundreds and hundreds of people gathered in Belfast from both sides of the sectarian strife, clearly hoping for a new day. That just accelerated her interest in the place and her wanting to try to contribute in some way.

As part of her activities in '95, she met with a group of women led by Joyce McCarten, who is now deceased, but was an extraordinary heroine. She was a low-income person who had lost members of her family in the strife. She was Catholic, but she and others in these low-economic neighborhoods, from both sides--It was the women who came together. They had lost husbands and sons and brothers, and they said, "Enough already. We have got to come together." They indeed did come together and they created a community, a neighborhood infrastructure that is vital to this day.

They told her how they came together over the price of milk, and education opportunities; they came together over common ground. She took that story of the role the women had been playing in Northern Ireland and lifted it up and said, "Look what you have done. Look what more you can do." That's how Vital Voices became the vehicle. She returned two times before '98 to work with the women there. At the '98 meeting it was a very big moment for the women of Northern Island, which they still talk about, and which they are still actively engaged in the work that Vital Voices stimulated.

They also knew what she was up against. They knew that this person whom they extremely valued was coming and she was coming with her own hurt, as they've told me, coming with her own pain. "We were not about to make her feel like that victim. She was too proud a woman to give her sympathy, and so we welcomed her for the woman she is."

She got a reception beyond imagination and it was a moment of great uplift for her, because she had come off of that strained vacation, if you can call it a vacation, and we had been in the doldrums in Russia because of the collapse of the economy and the problems swirling around us. To come and to be with these people, who in many ways she had inspired so much, was just an extraordinary moment. There were banner headlines about her coming and her speech. It was really one of the biggest things that happened in Northern Ireland.

In fact, the Vital Voices initiative that was Northern Ireland-specific happened because, over the years, after '95, the President would regularly welcome on St. Patrick's Day the leaders of the various political parties at the White House, and in March of that year the representatives again came to the White House. They all had their White House meetings and the Women's Party representatives came and they didn't meet with the President. At the last moment, the NSC official for Northern Ireland sheepishly came to my office and said, "Do you think the First Lady can meet with the representatives of the Northern Irish Women's Party?" So we quickly arranged it.

The expectation on their part, and her part, was that there would be a very brief meeting and they could feel that they had gotten a decent reception. The meeting lasted for about an hour and a half. The women told her what it was like to be part of the peace negotiations, to be struggling there, to be catcalled and hooted down and told to sit down when they spoke, and while they were able to make a real contribution to the process, it wasn't easy. They said to her, "You know, you have so many assists for women in the political process of the United States. You have all kinds of organizations. You can provide all kinds of training. We don't have any of that. We are now on the cusp of really trying to create this new day."

Before they left, she said, "Are you going to be at the White House tonight?" They said yes, they were coming to the East Room for this gala St. Patrick's Day reception, where there'd be Irish music and speaking and the President would say some words. They said, "Mrs. Clinton, are you going to speak?" She said, "I don't have any plans to speak." They said, "It would mean so much if you did." She said, "Well, all right, perhaps I'll say something."

Within the hour I'm back in my office--this meeting took place in her office--and she said, "You know what? We really need to do Vital Voices in Belfast. That's what they need. They need to come together. They need to network among themselves. They need to have all these training opportunities. We need to get resources in there." I said, "But it's March." "Yes, but we're going in September." Literally, there was not a whole lot of time for the women's office in the State Department and us to begin to put together this convening in Northern Ireland that we've just talked about.

She did speak that evening. She was in the East Room with the President. He speaks and she talks about "how proud you must all be about the great contribution your women have made to all of this, in the peace process and in what they will do in the weeks and months ahead." After that the two women who had come to see her from the Women's Party said their lives had changed dramatically. They were in a completely different place when they returned home. They were treated differently. Also, I remember vividly, so many women--American women and Irish women and Northern Irish women--all coming up to her saying, "Thank you for saying that. It will make a difference."

Riley

The trajectory continued upward for her after that trough, with the decision to run for the Senate, which is something we need to talk a little bit about. Do you know when she started thinking about this seriously?

Verveer

She had told me on the phone one day in '98. Right after Moynihan announced he wasn't going to run again, she got a call from Congressman Charlie Rangel telling her she ought to consider running for the Senate. She at that point says, "Charlie, I have enough things that are on my front burner right now than to think about this, thank you very much." If it was lodged in the back of her mind more actively, only she knows that. But she did tell me that Charlie thought she should consider running for the Senate. She really didn't say anything about that. We were going through everything we've been talking about here and more.

We were in the Dominican Republic some time later. It was in November '98. It was part of a bigger trip that included--Guatemala and El Salvador were significant by themselves when you consider the posture the United States had to those countries not that many years earlier. In the Dominican Republic, Charlie Rangel shows up. He spends a lot of time there. There's a huge Dominican population in New York. He whispers to me, "You know, I think she should be running for the Senate from New York." I said, "Yes Charlie, I heard." It was lodged there, again. But he's making his views known.

She goes on to several other countries, but it's particularly striking. Remember, we still haven't had the Senate vote. She's still not at the end of this impeachment process and going through everything she's been through. Here she is meeting with women who have been on both sides of the political struggle, the guerrillas and the military juntas, going through their own civil wars in some ways, hearing what it was like, the price they bore, the pain they had, and how they were burying their hatchet and trying to come together, if not in total trust and if not yet in total agreement, at least for the sake of their families.

All of this is having such an impression on her--how much people have been through and what they've suffered to try to get to the other side of a better life. All of that continues to play out and it's not until the vote in February of '99 that she is clearly thinking about a New York race. She had made some trips to New York. She is meeting with people from the state. She's more intensively engaged in the latter half of '98 in quiet meetings, taking the pulse of people, trying to figure out, what do people think of this? What am I up against? Is this realistic? Is it unrealistic? She is clearly interested. Then, on the same day that the Senate is voting not to impeach her husband, she is meeting with Harold Ickes in an intensive, lengthy meeting--she and he--to walk through everything she will be up against if she decides to make this race.

Riley

Are you in the meeting?

Verveer

No. In many ways that meeting was symbolic of what '98 represented for her. What started in that horrible January and what continued to be the reality for her in that terrible August, really had a transformative effect on her, particularly her standing vis-a-vis the American people. In the process of her own humiliation, in many ways, she rose up from the ashes and soared above it all and had a dignity and a presence and made a contribution. She was viewed by many as having saved her husband's Presidency and was now embarking on possibly starting a political career of her own.

I think that moment of having that impeachment vote go the right way for her husband, and having her meeting with a person whose political judgment she valued enormously and who is brutally honest, who would tell her exactly what she was up against, and knew New York politics like the back of his hand--there she was in that discussion as this chapter is ending in some ways.

Riley

Did you think it was a good idea?

Verveer

I don't think anybody on her staff wanted her to run for the Senate. The great majority of people with whom she consulted told her they didn't want her to run. There were a lot of reasons for that. Mostly it was because--not that anybody didn't think that she would be a terrific Senator and had the capability--but she had been through so much. She was finally at a place in her First Ladyship where she could savor everything she had been through and all of the hard work. She was riding high. She had a year to go. Why did she want to go through the hell of a campaign when everything that had been buried would be dredged up again? When she would have to deal with the press, which she was never comfortable doing.

She had always talked about other people and put other people forward and never talked about herself and it was a difficult transition for her, or would prove to be, to say this is why you should support me all of a sudden and not him and not them. We just couldn't imagine, given all of that, that all of this would open up again and she would go through something that was going to be really tough.

It was expected that [Rudolph] Giuliani would be her opponent, certainly somebody who was going to be a challenge. It was also true that never had a woman been elected on her own to statewide office in New York. This was not going to be something that was easy. She would be a carpetbagger. She would be abdicating, in a way, her responsibilities as First Lady and nobody knew how that was going to play into it. Hillary, for her part, thought she could be First Lady and candidate. That proved not to be the case.

Riley

That was going to be my next question. My assumption is that the period from basically '99 into 2000 she's almost completely invested in the business of running for office.

Verveer

More in 2000 than in '99. But she's clearly trying to do both in '99 and there are lots of pitfalls. She starts a listening campaign sometime in--I don't remember the months exactly--In '99 she announces that she's testing the waters, and sets up a committee to that effect. She begins to go through New York to hear what New Yorkers have on their minds.

There's great skepticism about her running. First of all, she doesn't belong there. It's not that New York hasn't always welcomed foreigners. She said that New York was the only place she could imagine where everybody could tell her to go home in several languages, hundreds of languages potentially. But it wasn't going to be easy. That was very clear. And there was a lot of skepticism on the part of the political gurus that how could this woman, surrounded by the Secret Service, who travels in limousines, expect that she was going to win?

Well, she had no intention of traveling in limousines, and she worked very hard to get the Secret Service to give her the space that she needed. At any rate, as she got into this more, it was very clear that it would be hard to do two jobs. What was really happening was that the campaign wasn't going well. This exploratory period was beginning to send red flags to people who were not that many weeks earlier telling her she ought to run. There was an issue with Puerto Ricans that really Hillary had nothing to do with and the White House wasn't even thinking about her campaign, but somehow it became a huge campaign issue, obviously for understandable reasons when you think it through.

There were other issues that began to affect her campaign that were issues relating to the activities of her husband's administration and its policies. At some point she would have to separate herself. She could not go on doing two jobs. She was either the Clinton administration or she was Hillary Clinton, candidate for the Senate, who had independent views of her own. She continued in '99 to try to do both.

She had made a trip earlier to northern Africa. We've not talked at all about the African trip, but this is a trip to northern Africa, to the Muslim world, to Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt. Hillary was, in many ways, ahead of a lot of people, as we look back from the times that we find ourselves in now. She believed for a long time that we ought to have been doing more to embrace moderate Islam and to work with people to help them put the reforms in place that would help them to make lives better for their people, to send out the message that progress is not incompatible with your religion, and to really provide a face of the United States as caring about this part of the world. She also condemned extremism.

At any rate, the trip to this region was to have included Jordan and Israel, but Jordan and Israel were postponed until later because King Hussein [bin Talal] had died and Jordan was still mourning and in transition. In Israel they were in the process of forming a new government, which was coming a little slowly. So it was not an opportune time to go to either of those places. At the same time, she was getting more engaged in her New York campaign. This trip still remained to be done and she had also promised Leah Rabin that she would come to Israel and she would do the speech in honor of her late husband.

The long and short of it was that going to Israel as First Lady and representative of the administration was difficult when at the same time she was the candidate for Senate from New York, where Jewish politics was very complicated. There were bound to be problems. We had thought that we had dodged a bullet, in fact, and there was huge nervousness in her campaign about doing anything as First Lady, including making the trip to Israel, because, as problems were mounting on the campaign, it began to look like she was a candidate who couldn't do anything right.

Now you had the prospect of this trip. You had another First Lady activity and who knew how this was going to turn out. We had thought things turned out OK by the time we got on the plane to leave Israel, but in fact they had created--Her going to the West Bank, which was a bone of contention from the beginning, and she was counseled by the campaign not to go--In the end, she felt as First Lady on an official visit, given what her husband was trying to do for peace in the region, she could not not go to the Palestine area.

So she did go. In the process, she really didn't know what Suha Arafat was saying at one event she did with her in Ramallah. In Arabic, Suha Arafat was saying things that Hillary certainly didn't endorse with respect to accusations against Israel, in terms of putting poison gases in the waters. At least that was one interpretation. We really didn't know what Suha had said. Maybe she said that; maybe she said something else. Other people who were there, said, "No, she didn't say that. She talked about environmental damage."

At any rate, within hours Suha's remarks made it to New York and they were seized on by her opponent, probably working closely with some of their friends in Israel. It was a terrible, terrible, problem for Hillary. It was hellish, in fact. To some New Yorkers, she looked like somebody who sat by as these terrible accusations were being made against Israel and didn't get up and say, "Those are false. I don't associate myself with them." Then, in the custom of the place, kisses Suha Arafat on the cheeks with her wind-kiss, and that becomes the picture in New York. It was truly dreadful. It was dreadful for all of us who were involved in her work, and it was painful for her, and it was a problem for the campaign.

At that point I felt, and as I think about it more, that was probably the moment when she could not be First Lady anymore. She certainly could not continue her world travels. This was the very last trip overseas before she would be elected Senator. Outside of things that she could not not do, that she was doing in the White House--Now, she did some important things, but she did not come back all that frequently. At one point it was very clear in her campaign that the image of her continuing to return to the White House while she's a candidate for the Senate from New York was an image that sent out confusing messages. If she was moving to Chappaqua, New York, she had to stay in Chappaqua and make that her base, and not the White House her base.

Riley

Just a couple more questions, because we're about run through our allotted time. When do you feel like she finally got her sea legs as a candidate?

Verveer

It was clearly in the debate. One of the biggest problems Hillary had was with women voters. She had a terrible problem with the women, which should have been her natural constituency. The professional women could not understand why she didn't leave her husband, so she wasn't the feminist that they thought she should have been. She was a lapdog for him. She should have stood up for her herself and she should have walked out on him, in their view.

She also was viewed by many of them as having not accomplished the candidacy on her own, but was using her husband and the power of his Presidency to catapult herself into political office. So in their eyes she let them down. She was not the perfect feminist. That was a problem for her because all these people probably supported him because of her in his '92 primary race. Now they were moving away from her when she was a candidate on her own.

At the same time, single moms and more blue-collar women and stay-at-home moms were not eager to support her because they felt she was a carpetbagger. Who does she think she is? What has she ever done? These were the kinds of things that focus groups would hear when they would bring women together. I think the feeling was that, really, there's no way that Hillary can address this head-on. She had to be herself. She had to work as hard as she could. She had to meet as many women as possible, talk about the things that she knew they cared about, that she cared about, and hope that she would win them over.

In time she did, but probably the most significant, transforming moment was when she was in her first debate, now with her second opponent, who was [Enrico] Rick Lazio, a very presentable, seemingly moderate Republican from Long Island. Lazio and she are going at it through some of the campaign, over soft money and the need for reforms in soft money as part of campaign finance reform.

He has pretty much made the campaign a referendum on her. In fact, he sent out a direct-mail piece saying, "The issue is Hillary," basically, this is a referendum on Hillary. That's all you needed to know and that's all you needed to hear. In the debate, after getting the first question from [Tim] Russert, which is kind of jarring, about, "Don't you believe that you deceived the American people, given what you said to Matt Lauer?" She has to reopen that and talk about how she didn't mislead anybody: she was misled, her daughter was misled, she didn't know the facts.

She goes into a question having to do with soft money and campaign finance reform, and Lazio leaves his place at the podium and marches over to her podium and has these papers in his hand, which he, towering over her, thrusts in her face. At that moment, while the pundits may not have known she won the debate--In fact they said he won the debate because he was aggressive and he was forward and he got his facts out--within 24 hours it was very clear who won the debate, and it was Hillary Clinton. She won the debate because at that moment many women all across New York had been so offended by what Lazio did to another woman that they were coming around and moving, not ever-so-slowly, but really beginning to move perceptively--and the polls were picking it up--into her court.

Riley

She went on and won.

Verveer

She went on and won. She won more handily than anybody expected. She won by a bigger margin. She carried huge segments of upstate. She did better than anybody ever expected. She carried the Jewish vote, not at quite the numbers that Democrats would typically get, but not badly, and she resoundingly got the women's vote.

Riley

One summary question--Jill, you may have something you want to ask in this regard when we're done. There's been a lot of talk or several questions about her transforming role as First Lady. What is your sense about the important contributions she made to the legacy of the First Lady's office?

Verveer

I think there are several things. She was a generational First Lady. We have to bear in mind that she was the first person to come to this position having had a career on her own, having had experiences on a lot of the issues that the administration would grapple with, and having been a full partner with her husband in the ways that many in this generation viewed their marital partnership, certainly in terms of taking each other more seriously in ways that the Clintons did politically. They really were a sounding board for each other--she, certainly for him.

As First Lady of Arkansas, and we talked about this, she demonstrated a lot of that. So she came to the White House as a different kind of First Lady, eager to make her mark, eager to make her contribution to her husband, more than how she was going to stand out, because she is first and foremost concerned about his success, this Clinton Presidency success story. In the process there are many ups and downs and the biggest thing is having, for the first time as a First Lady, the unprecedented responsibility for policy initiative that is an extremely significant policy initiative involving a huge part of not just the budget, but the concerns of many parts of the government. She conducts herself rather well in that position.

I haven't done this myself, but I think the polls will bear out that she was largely supported in that first year, but that later on, with all the difficulties that come with Whitewater and the attendant accusations and the full-court campaign against the initiative and all the other problems we've already discussed that were attendant to it, she doesn't succeed. Nevertheless, history will show that she had taken on at her husband's doing, this major undertaking.

She goes on, over the years that follow, to make a very significant contribution to domestic policy, not the exclusive contribution for families and children, but significant. Many of the President's initiatives, from adoption, foster care, childcare, et cetera, are being carried out at Hillary's initiative, with her staff, which is integrated into the White House operations of the President, into the West Wing, she having staff in the domestic policy office.

She also goes on and evolves as First Lady of the world. She has a standing for the United States around the world, particularly on the issues of women's rights, human rights, the whole social development investment, the people face of America. She becomes a picture of America that is the human side, not the military power, the great economic power, but the fact that America does care--whether you were in Africa, whether you were a village in India, whether you were in Siberia or whether you were in Egypt, whether you were in South America. She's been there. Many places she was there over and over. We have this image of Eleanor Roosevelt going to all of these places in the United States. Hillary Clinton was comparably going to many places around the world.

At first it was a liberation, but she would go on to make extraordinarily tangible contributions to international affairs in that role, which was different from, I believe, any of her predecessors, because it was her own agenda, not contrary to the administration's agenda in any way, but complementary to it. She put a focus and a lens on a part of what this administration cared about that was not a priority for anybody. She made it a priority and in the process there were policy changes.

Legislation was passed, for example, on human trafficking. AIDS was moved up higher in the priorities of the administration. Issues that would not have been on the table, from opposing recognition of the Taliban government in Afghanistan to other issues. The UN children's rights amendments [United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child], for which there were many arguments against, all of a sudden were signed by the President. She made a really tangible contribution, but she made it in a way she wasn't competing with other officials. She was actually embraced by the people in the field in international affairs because she was such an asset to the Clinton administration, and the face that we conveyed to the rest of the world. She wasn't a solo operation, unaccountable. She was very much integrated into the overall work of the West Wing, both on the domestic side and the foreign policy side.

Riley

Would you ever go back in?

Verveer

I don't know how I would ever replicate this experience. It would be very hard and I don't know that one does it more than once in their lives.

Riley

Jill, do you have any questions?

Abraham

I think we covered a lot.

Riley

I have to tell you, we really have. You've shed an enormous amount of light on areas that we haven't gotten to in any of our other interviews, so this really does make a singular contribution to our work.

Verveer

I would say that this area was not totally understood in the administration. In the West Wing, while I was at senior staff and I would say, "Mrs. Clinton is going here," and "Mrs. Clinton is doing that," there was never a full understanding except by the people in the National Security Council or in the State Department, who knew firsthand what she was doing and the difference it was making. But for the most part this was never really understood in terms of the impact it had. The White House is a big place and everybody is overwhelmed with their own set of activities and their own priorities. So I'm not surprised to hear that.

Riley

It is certainly the case that it has been instructive for us and I'm confident that people coming for the record in future years will find this enormously helpful. I'll take this opportunity again, as I did earlier, to encourage you on your own writing project. It's not possible for us, as you said, in a day and a half, to talk about all of the important things, even in one of these particular core samples that we might be doing. If there's any way that we can be of assistance to you in this enterprise--As a spokesperson for all those people who will come later trying to understand this administration, you do us an enormous favor by getting that out and published.

Verveer

I'll do my best and thanks, it was a great experience.

Riley

Thank you.