Another release of Clinton-era presidential papers

Ahead of President Bill Clinton’s first meeting with newly elected Russian President Vladimir Putin in June 2000, Clinton aides suggested he dress to impress for his face-to-face with Putin.

“The pictures of your first encounter will be important, and we recommend business attire,” they wrote in a memo. “We want to convey ‘getting down to business’ and avoid the inaccurate charge that we’re embracing Putin without question.”

That was just one of the tidbits in the fifth batch of previously unseen documents from the Clinton White House released by the National Archives on Friday. The latest 2,000 pages includes transcripts, e-mails and internal memos.

Here are a few of the more interesting insights into the Clinton years:

● In 1995, Clinton decided to make the New York Yankees a front on the war on drugs. When Yankees owner George Steinbrenner decided to sign Darryl Strawberry to a short-term contract, despite Strawberry’s suspension for testing positive for cocaine a few months earlier, Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel got involved. He announced that the administration opposed “a two-time drug user being admitted back onto the field,” and set down a list of demands: that Strawberry do community service with young people, the Yankees set up a franchise-wide standard and the team contribute to a drug program. Steinbrenner doesn’t appear to have actually done these things.

●As Clinton went over his 1996 State of the Union speech with Vice President Al Gore, senior aide George Stephanopoulos and other top advisers, the team debated whether to throw Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) a shout-out. Clinton was hesitant to give his future opponent the prime-time attention, asking, “Why should I single him out?”

Gore finally agreed, later saying, “When I presided over the Congress’s 50th commemoration, I really larded it on and said, ‘Anybody who knows the story of Bob Dole knows something about the meaning of true courage, and blah, blah, blah.’ ”

●White House vetters delivered elaborate comparisons between then-appeals court judges Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer as Clinton considered which should be his first nominee to the Supreme Court. Obviously, Ginsburg won that 1993 contest.

“Judge Ginsburg’s work has more of the humanity that the President highly values and fewer of the negative aspects that will cause concern among some constituencies,” Joel Klein wrote to Clinton’s counsel Bernard Nussbaum a week before Clinton nominated Ginsburg in a Rose Garden ceremony.

Klein thought Breyer was “brilliant,” but others were not as impressed. “Nothing in Judge Breyer’s opinions suggests that he would be a great Supreme Court justice,” wrote Tom Perrilli and Ian Gershengorn, who called him a “rather cold fish.”

Both men said they regretted the memo written when they were young lawyers. “Everyone has regrets from his 20s,” Gershengorn said. “Suffice to say, I have the highest respect for Justice Breyer and believe he has proven to be a terrific justice.”

Breyer was nominated to the court in 1994.

Philip Rucker, Katie Zezima and Robert Barnes contributed to this report.

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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