“…the great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.”
Those lines, famously spoken by then First Lady Hillary Clinton have been touted by critics of the political family and blasted by their opponents. Most often, the story recounts the years when Bill and Hillary Clinton ran the White House months before the House voted to impeach the president for the second time in history. Today, however, these lines are popping up again, in a different way, to remind voters of the lengths the Clintons have gone through to get to the second run for the White House by the power couple.
Despite the efforts by the former president and former secretary of state, the theory that their opponents have been targeting the Arkansas family since Bill Clinton first ran announced his candidacy in 1991, has no real leg to stand on.
The story has been told countless times, often with some of the timeline shifting or the words revised. But the main crux typically goes like this: In 1991, Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas and mulling a supposedly long-shot run for the White House when he received a phone call from a Republican operative in the George H.W. Bush administration telling him that he better not run because the GOP will go after him.
“We’ve looked at the field. You’re the only one who can win,” the caller said, according to Clinton on a recent interview with CNN. “The press has to have someone every elections. We’re going to give them you. You better not run.”
Throughout the Clinton years, and in the time since, both Bill and Hillary Clinton have identified Roger Porter, a Harvard professor and one-time economic adviser for the White House under the Bush. Porter, has sworn that he never made such a call.
“There is no shred of truth to it whatsoever,” Porter told The Washington Post. Investigative journalist Bob Woodward, famous for exposing the criminal activities that brought down President Richard Nixon, also sought credibility for such a conspiracy but came up empty. He said there were several versions of the story, but is convinced “there is nothing to it.”
The story did not pop up with much vigor during Hillary Clinton’s first run for the White House in 2008, mostly because Bill Clinton stayed away from the campaign while his wife butted heads with then Sen. Barack Obama. Now, though, he is much more involved. He has been seen in Chicago, Kansas City, CNN and has plans to travel to Detroit later this month. All on behalf of his wife’s efforts to return to the White House.
Despite these efforts, her standing among Democrats have fallen drastically. This has come as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has mounted a strong campaign based on his socialist-democracy policies and Clinton struggles to overcome controversy over the sending of potentially-classified materials through a private server while she was Obama’s Secretary of State. These latest actions have forced Bill Clinton to pull out the familiar “right-wing conspiracy” theory.
“It always happens…You’re seeing history repeat itself,” Clinton said on CNN.
“All of a sudden something nobody thought was an issue, Whitewater, that never turned out to be an issue, winds up being a $70 million investigation,” Clinton said. While Clinton did not mention Porter’s name specifically this time, he has on a number of occasions in the past, most notably in his autobiography My Life.
“I’ll never forget the first words of the message he had been designated to deliver: ‘Cut the crap, Governor,'” Clinton wrote in his book, saying the GOP would destroy the then-governor.
‘I don’t use language like he uses in the book,” Porter told the Washington Post. “His association with the truth is often a really tenuous one.”
The Harvard professor confirmed he asked other White House officials from that time if they knew who would’ve made that call. None of them knew of it, nor did they think Porter would have been the one they would have tasked.
This, plus other investigations debunking the conspiracy, has not stopped Clinton from promoting the theory. In an article in the Harvard Crimson from 2004, Porter flat out denied the interaction ever took place, something Clinton objected to, saying Porter was the one changing the story multiple times.
“When they first assked Roger Proter about it, he didn’t say it didn’t happen,” Clinton told the Crimson. “He just said, ‘It didn’t happen that way.'”
The popular professor then responded that Clinton’s accusations were beneath the office he once held.
“I think he diminishes the office of the president, which I treasure, when he repeatedly lies,” the professor said. “And I think he ought to be ashamed of himself.”
Hillary Clinton, who hasn’t delved into the conspiracy for quite some time, did not refute her husband’s beliefs during an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press.
“You know, I love my husband, and you know, he does get upset when I am attacked. I totally get that,” she said. “But we also get the fact that look, this is a contest. And it’s fair game for people to raise whatever they choose to raise.”