The contraction of Clinton’s inner circle over the past decade has magnified the role of Reines, the longest-serving protector of her image. The self-promoting 41-year-old bachelor and the press-scarred senior stateswoman share a bond forged by political civil wars, distrust of the media and an absolute reliance on allegiance. Reines (pronounced RYE-ness), a master practitioner of self-preservation and the beneficiary of Clinton’s almost maternal protection, is Hillaryland’s ultimate survivor.
As the impromptu prep session moved into Clinton’s private chamber, Reines reminded Clinton, who has said she will leave her post in 2012, to expect a question about her plans for the future.
Under the boom mikes, the question materialized as Reines predicted. “What are you going to do?” Couric asked. “Well, I don’t know,” said Clinton, smiling. “I was thinking maybe take your job.”
After the interview, Clinton let loose with her trademark burst of stalling laughter when asked to describe her sometimes rocky relationship with Reines.
“Oh, you know,” she said. “I only do what Philippe tells me, so if I’m not supposed to talk, I won’t talk. How’s that?”
Reines, as is often the case, spoke for her.
Part of the ‘family’
By his own account, Reines has been “hired, fired, forgiven, benched, promoted and promoted again.” He is currently Clinton’s deputy assistant secretary for strategic communications and has been the caretaker of her public image through her iterations as rookie senator, front-runner presidential candidate, sore loser and resurgent secretary of state.
He is, he says, part of the “family” of Clinton lifers. But the famously boyish native New Yorker also belongs to a more extended and, if possible, more dysfunctional family of politicos, operatives, staffers, reporters, TV bookers, media types, government officials and frosted society scenesters. And he bears some of their less appealing traits: an addiction to background dish, media recognition and proximity to power.
The counterweight to Reines’s reputation for disinformation and dining out on the Clinton name is his profound loyalty to his adoptive clans. For that, he is Clinton’s favorite son and the life of his perpetual D.C. party.
Now, as Reines issues public — and often disregarded — denials that Clinton will either leave office to lead the World Bank or take another shot at the White House in 2016, the operatives who make Washington work have a more pressing question: Will the Peter Pan of Hillaryland move on?
“I need to start thinking about it,” Reines said, sitting in a courtyard at the State Department. His self-deprecating wit and youthful charm remain intact, but he no longer looks younger than his years. Reines filled out his pinstriped suit. The darkness under his eyes suggested years of internecine turf battles and hundreds of thousands of Clinton air miles.