The last time she lived in the White House, Hillary Clinton was in charge of a health-care task force that met in secret under a veil of lies. That episode highlighted the haughtiness, deceit and disdain for transparency that continue to cause trouble for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, as illustrated by the recent inspector general’s report on her e-mail practices as secretary of state.
When President Bill Clinton picked his wife to chair the Task Force on National Health Care Reform in 1993, critics sued the first lady, arguing that her participation made the task force subject to the public-meeting and open-record requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The administration successfully argued that Clinton, who was not a government employee, nevertheless should be counted as one in this context, making the transparency requirements inapplicable.
There remained the issue of the working groups advising the task force, which supposedly consisted entirely of government employees. That turned out to be a lie.
In 1997 — three years after the Clinton health-care plan was defeated, in no small part because of the perception that it had been written behind closed doors without public input and debate — US District Judge Royce Lamberth rebuked the administration for its “outrageous” and “reprehensible” deception concerning participants in the working groups, many of whom were private parties with a stake in the outcome.
“The executive branch of the Government, working in tandem, was dishonest with this court,’’ he wrote. “It is clear that the decisions here were made at the highest levels of Government.”
Lamberth had previously criticized Clinton et al’s “preposterous,” “incomplete” and “inadequate” responses to the plaintiffs’ requests for relevant information, which had made the discovery process “difficult, drawn-out, and contentious.” He ruled the defendants had “improperly thwarted plaintiffs’ legitimate discovery requests” by raising “meritless” objections.
Two decades later, Clinton’s old habits of entitlement and obfuscation are coming to the fore again. “Voters just don’t trust her,” The New York Times notes, citing a recent survey in which 64 percent of respondents said Clinton is not “honest and trustworthy.” Her response to the e-mail controversy shows why.