When the Clintons sat in judgment, Claire McCaskill got the seat closest to the fire. Bill and Hillary had gone all out for her when she ran for Senate in Missouri in 2006. But McCaskill seemed to forget that favor when NBC’s Tim Russert asked her whether Bill had been a great president, during a “Meet the Press” debate against then-Sen. Jim Talent in October 2006.
“He’s been a great leader,” McCaskill said of Bill, “but I don’t want my daughter near him.”
Instantly, McCaskill regretted her remark; the anguish brought her “to the point of epic tears,” according to a friend. She knew the comment had sounded much more deliberate than a forgivable slip of the tongue. So did Hillary, who immediately canceled a planned fundraiser for McCaskill.
A few days later McCaskill called Bill Clinton to offer a tearful apology. Bill was gracious, which just made McCaskill feel worse. After winning the seat, she was terrified of running into Hillary Clinton in the Capitol. “I really don’t want to be in an elevator alone with her,” McCaskill confided to the friend.
But Hillary, who was just then embarking on her presidential campaign, still wanted something from McCaskill—the Missourian’s endorsement. Women’s groups, including EMILY’s List, pressured McCaskill to jump aboard the Clinton bandwagon, and Hillary courted her new colleague personally, setting up a one-on-one lunch in the Senate Dining Room in early 2007. Rather than ask for her support directly, Hillary took a softer approach, seeking common ground on the struggles of campaigning, including the physical toll. “There’s a much more human side to Hillary,” McCaskill thought.
Obama, meanwhile, was pursuing her too, in a string of conversations on the Senate floor. Clearly, Hillary thought she had a shot at McCaskill. But for McCaskill, the choice was always whether to endorse Obama or stay on the sidelines. In January 2008 she not only became the first female senator to endorse Obama but she also made the case to his team that her support would be amplified if Govs. Kathleen Sebelius and Janet Napolitano came out for him at roughly the same time.
McCaskill offered up a small courtesy, calling Hillary’s personal aide, Huma Abedin, ahead of the endorsement to make sure it didn’t blindside Hillary.
But the trifecta of women leaders giving Obama their public nod was a devastating blow. Hate is too weak a word to describe the feelings that Hillary’s core loyalists still have for McCaskill, who seemed to deliver a fresh endorsement of Obama—and a caustic jab at Hillary—every day during the primary.
And why did all these prominent women break early for Obama over HRC? Because…Reverse Queen Bee Syndrome aka Female Crabs in a Bucket Syndrome.
As someone who was on the other side of Claire McCaskill’s ledger in 2012, from my vantage point, she got absolutely no help from Clinton, Inc. that year.
Many of the other names on the traitor side of the ledger were easy to remember, from Ted Kennedy to John Lewis, the civil rights icon whose defection had been so painful that Bill Clinton seemed to be in a state of denial about it. In private conversations, he tried to explain away Lewis’s motivations for switching camps midstream, after Obama began ratcheting up pressure for black lawmakers to get on “the right side of history.”
Lewis, because of his own place in American history and the unique loyalty test he faced with the first viable black candidate running for president, is a perfect example of why Clinton aides had to keep track of more detailed information than the simple binary of for and against. Perhaps someday Lewis’s betrayal could be forgiven.
Ted Kennedy (another seven on the hit list) was a different story.
He had slashed Hillary worst of all, delivering a pivotal endorsement speech for Obama just before the Super Tuesday primaries that cast her as yesterday’s news and Obama as the rightful heir to Camelot. He did it in conjunction with a New York Times op-ed by Caroline Kennedy that said much the same thing in less thundering tones. Bill Clinton had pleaded with Kennedy to hold off, but to no avail.
John Lewis is easy to explain — Race race race race race. Ted Kennedy endorsing Obama over HRC is harder to figure, but I think I know the answer, though it might be an answer he took to his grave so we’ll never be able to confirm in this world — One hint to the answer is the use of the word “Camelot” here. The only Kennedy that was ever President was John, and only for 1,036 days. If HRC would have been elected President in 2008, it would have meant that the Clintons would have instantly become more of a credible Democrat Presidential dynasty than the Kennedys, by definition of two different Clintons winning the White House as opposed to just one Kennedy. If I’m right, look for either an above or below the surface jihad from the remaining living political Kennedys to bring down HRC when the Presidential campaign season begins in the second half of next year going into early 2016.