The two advisors who taught Hillary Clinton to divide and conquer her political opponents, Kris Balderston and Adrienne Elford, have had their favorite game leaked. According to new tell-all book HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton, an extract of which hit Politico Monday, Balderston and Elford devised a "hit list" spreadsheet for Team Clinton back in 2008 after Hillary's failed run for president. But should we believe it?
Apparently, Democrats in Congress were each given a rating on the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, from 1 (best) to 7 (bad, very bad.) The list was based on who had endorsed candidate Barack Obama back in 2008; who had supported Hillary; and who had refused to take sides. Secretary of State John Kerry, then a senator, was one of the worst offenders, having supported Obama at a crucial time for both candidates.
So who are Balderston and Elford? Well, their history with the Clintons stretches back decades. Balderston has served as deputy chief of staff in Clinton's Senate office, and Elford is a long-serving member of the Clinton administration.
And in June of 2008, authors Allen and Parnes write, the heat was on as Clinton faced off against Obama for the Democratic nomination.
For months they had meticulously updated a wall-size dry-erase board with color-coded symbols, letters and arrows to track which lawmakers were leaning toward endorsing Hillary and which were headed in Obama’s direction. For example, the letters “LO” indicated that a lawmaker was “leaning Obama,” while “BD” in blue denoted that he or she was a member of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition on Capitol Hill.
But this is nothing unusual in politics. Most politicians have a "favor file" of people they can rely on for support, notes of people they owe, and of those who owe them. It basically puts into writing the knowledge any good political advisor brings to a campaign.
They remembered nearly every bit of assistance the Clintons had given and every slight made against them. Almost six years later, most Clinton aides can still rattle off the names of traitors and the favors that had been done for them, then provide details of just how each of the guilty had gone on to betray the Clintons—as if it all had happened just a few hours before. The data project ensured that the acts of the sinners and saints would never be forgotten.
Some even argue that coverage of this story itself is sexist.
But what does the file include today, as Team Clinton revs up for a potential bid for president? Well, the Excel spreadsheet now notes every member of Congress who has gone the extra mile for the D.C. power couple — and who hasn't.
There's apparently a "special circle of Clinton hell" for those for whom the couple did favors, and who then failed to come through with support. And then there's the ranking system...
On one early draft of the hit list, each Democratic member of Congress was assigned a numerical grade from 1 to 7, with the most helpful to Hillary earning 1s and the most treacherous drawing 7s. The set of 7s included Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), as well as Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Baron Hill (D-Ind.) and Rob Andrews (D-N.J.).
Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), for example, wound up on the worse end of the "hit list" after bringing three strong women in Congress to Obama's "team" during the first elections. Jim Moran (D-Va.) wound up there too, for switching teams after declaring he'd support Clinton.
The difference is the Clintons, because of their popularity and the positions they’ve held, retain more power to reward and punish than anyone else in modern politics. And while their aides have long and detailed memories, the sheer volume of the political figures they interact with makes a cheat sheet indispensable.
“I wouldn’t, of course, call it an enemies list,” said one Clintonworld source when asked about the spreadsheet put together by Balderston and Elrod. “I don’t want to make her sound like Nixon in a pantsuit.”
Dear Balderston and Elford: keep that Excel spreadsheet in a safe place. Hopefully, you're going to need it...
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