The Washington Post

Politico puts a name to an unnamed Clinton insider: Patti Solis Doyle

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last September at a session of the Clinton Global Initiative. (Craig Ruttle/Associated Press)

In August 2008, Politico columnist Roger Simon published a penetrating look-back at the unsuccessful Democratic presidential primary campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Titled “Part Three: Lost in Hillaryland,” it exploded with insiderish tidbits and quotes, including this one about how the Hillary Clinton people approached Bill Clinton:

“As the campaign kicked off, there was a conscious effort to not have him out there,” a high-ranking Hillary staffer said. “We used him strategically to raise money. I called the question of Bill the ‘Circus Factor.’ People would ask: ‘How do you deal with Bill?’ We didn’t have a good answer, because we didn’t know. The Clintons didn’t have to decide, and they hadn’t discussed it and they didn’t want to. They decided it was not a decision they had to deal with.”

Just who could that “high-ranking Hillary staffer” have been?

Extremely well-read political junkies with extra-long memories found the answer to that question just last week. Simon wrote a June 5 column titled “Bill Clinton out of control on 2012” — a look at how the former president is messing up the reelection message of the Obama campaign. Here are the ante-ante-penultimate, the ante-penultimate and the penultimate paragraphs of that column:

Some think Bill is trying to undermine Obama’s campaign today because he wants to boost Hillary in 2016. I don’t see that. If Obama loses this time, the Democratic nominee will face an incumbent Mitt Romney in 2016. If Obama wins this time, the nominee will run for an open seat. It’s not certain which would be tougher to win.

Bill Clinton is a genuine political genius. But only when it comes to his own campaigns.

“As the campaign kicked off, there was a conscious effort to not have Bill out there,” Hillary’s campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, told me. “We used him strategically to raise money.”

From a distance, the sequence looks like the payoff of reportorial stick-to-it-ivness. Simon got a background quote in 2008, that is, and worked on Solis Doyle to place the remarks on the record for his 2012 column. Alternatively, Solis Doyle decided she felt strongly about those sentiments and told Simon, “Put me on the record, damnit!”

That’s not the way it happened, though, according to Solis Doyle. She didn’t have any further interactions with Simon over this quote and doesn’t fully remember the basis on which she issued the remarks back in 2008. Could have been on the record, she says. Could have been on background. “That was a quote I gave four years ago. I probably said it on background but cannot be sure,” says Solis Doyle, who professes to being “perplexed” by the quote’s sudden and unexpected appearance. Nor does she appreciate seeing it in the Bill-Clinton-out-of-control piece, because she doesn’t agree with the premise.

Another consideration: That conscious effort “to not have Bill out there”? It wasn’t because Bill Clinton had a tendency to get out of control, but rather to signal to the public that this was Hillary Clinton’s campaign, not a third Bill Clinton presidential campaign.

Simon has this to say about the quote: “According to my copy, it always had a name attached. Don’t know if it got changed in editing in some final version, but it was always on the record.” When asked about Solis Doyle’s claims about context and the like, Simon responded, “She spoke on the record and was quoted accurately.”

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.


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