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The most interesting tidbits from the Clinton document dump

We're still combing through the thousands of pages of previously withheld documents released Friday by the Clinton Library.

Below are some of the most interesting things we have found. It will continue to be updated.

1) Hillary Clinton said an individual mandate would be too risky

Clinton said in a 1993 meeting with Democratic lawmakers that an individual health insurance mandate would send "shock waves" through the American public.

Clinton later advocated an individual mandate during the 2008 presidential campaign, and the mandate is now part of President Obama's embattled health-care law.

"That is politically and substantively a much harder sell than the one we've got -- a much harder sell," Clinton said. "Because not only will you be saying that the individual bears the full responsibility; you will be sending shock waves through the currently insured population that if there is no requirement that employers continue to insure, then they, too, may bear the individual responsibility."

2) If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor?

Another moment that harkens to the current controversy over Obamacare: An adviser ("Todd") in January 1994 worried in a memo that the administration was over-promising on the health-care plan that Hillary Clinton was spear-heading.

This, of course, sounds a lot like the whole controversy over "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it" -- an Obama administration and Democratic talking point that Politifact recently named its 2013 "Lie of the Year."

3) Clinton's staff thought reporters were in the tank for her

A list of the media member traveling with Clinton to China and Mongolia in 1995 described each reporter traveling with her and the degree to which they were favorable to the first lady. (Page 132 here)

Of AP's Terry Hunt, the memo said: "He is a fan of yours and therefore he will'have high expectations."

And of ABC's Ann Compton: "I believe we made her a Hillary fan on the South Asia trip."

And of NBC's Andrea Mitchell: "She is very aggressive and a very good reporter."

Here's the rest:

4) Adviser told her not to answer questions

Adviser Mandy Grunwald in 1999 urged the first lady, in a memo, to not directly answer questions from the media. This was from when Clinton was running for Senate in New York.

"You have a tendency to answer just the question asked," Grunwald said. "That's good manners, but bad politics."

Grunwald also told Clinton: "Be careful to 'be real'" -- i.e. ceding the interviewer a little ground on a small topic in a gesture of good faith.

5) The making of "the first black president"

Toni Morrison in 1998 famously called Bill Clinton "the first black president."

Clinton speechwriter David Shipley was probably overjoyed to hear this, because he envisioned much the same thing in a 1995 memo (shortly after the O.J. Simpson verdict) urging Clinton to address the issue of race head-on.

"This is a defining moment," Shipley wrote. "The country is waiting for the President to talk. He is one of the few American leaders with the credibility to address both blacks and whites -- more than the G.O.P.; almost as much as Powell. In fact, if he demonstrates that he can bring people together now, he could preempt the vision of Powell as the only leader who can erase division and bring us together."

The other notable aspect about this, of course, is how formidably people inside Clinton-world viewed Colin Powell in the 1996 presidential race. (He didn't run, of course.)

6) The power of harnessing a thing called "Internet"

One memo in the early days of the Internet's popularity suggested Clinton could "speak to young women through Internet."

The memo also noted "Internet" -- again, no "the" -- "has become a very popular mode of communication."

6) Susan Rice before Susan Rice

In some cases, the documents provide early glimpses of promising minor players in the Clinton administration who would resurface in much higher-ranking roles in the Obama White House more than a decade later.

In drafts of a 2000 speech, then-National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said he wanted to nix a section lauding high-tech, young entrepreneurs who had altered the computer industry, including Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Dell and Jeff Bezos (who now owns the Washington Post). Instead, Berger scribbled in the margins that it would be better to recognize young people working in public service, and singled out Susan Rice, who was then handling Africa-related issues at the State Department.

“I don’t want to glorify young whiz kids of Silicon Valley as only models of youthful achievement,” Berger wrote. “Stick with public service. How old is Susan Rice?”

Last year, Rice took Berger’s old job as national security adviser, after Obama had considered nominating her for the secretary of state. (Rice, of course, withdrew from consideration for that post after using faulty Benghazi talking points on the Sunday shows.)

8) Hillary the sitcom star?

The most popular sitcom at the time, "Home Improvement," had a plan to feature the first lady in a cameo role, and the show offered to craft its storyline around her wishes.

Clinton's advisers were actually quite open to the idea.


9) Somebody on the Clintons' staff was quite the doodler


Greg Miller, Philip Rucker, Dan Eggen and Wesley Lowery contributed to this report. Updated at 3:53 p.m.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.

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