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The Hillary I knew



When I saw Bernie Sanders’ supporters chanting “She’s a liar!” about Hillary Clinton, I felt compelled to write about the Hillary I knew and worked with for five years. In all of my dealings, she was always straightforward and dependable.

Our first meeting occurred in the spring of 1995 at the White House. We sat in a basement office that had old-fashioned metal chairs like you’d find on a Navy ship. It was early morning, and she was drinking coffee out of a paper cup and was as friendly and gracious as you could imagine. I liked her instantly.

We both had researched Eleanor Roosevelt’s daily newspaper column, called “My Day,” which she wrote from 1935 to 1962. Hillary was interested in becoming the second first lady in history to write a syndicated column.

Her initial sample columns reflected her training as a lawyer, and she wanted feedback. We told her that a newspaper column usually touches on current events and is very different from a 700- word legal brief. She took notes and was really paying attention. She revised the columns, and it was amazing what a quick study she was.

Her column, “Talking It Over,” was a runaway success for five years, appearing in more than 600 newspapers and magazines worldwide. She gave it up in 2000 after she decided to run for the U.S. Senate in New York.

But during those five years, she sent in a column every week and never once missed a deadline, even when she was in India attending and writing about Mother Teresa’s funeral. Several times, she even hand wrote her column and had it faxed to our Los Angeles office.

She once came to our office for lunch, and we served food from a local deli. She had proposed a “working lunch,” and the only working lunches I knew involved deli sandwiches and coleslaw.

I remember getting cold feet a week before her visit and telling Melanne Verveer, her chief of staff at the time, that we probably should get something fancier — maybe hire someone like Wolfgang Puck to prepare a special and elegant meal for the first lady.

“Absolutely not,” Melanne said. “I can’t tell you how much Hillary loved the idea of delicatessen food and a working lunch.”

Sure enough, we had a relaxed and fun lunch discussing her column. She had just visited a classroom in Brazil, and the teacher had posted newspaper clippings of her recent columns on the bulletin board in class as a way of teaching the students English.

One of the things that impressed me most about Hillary Clinton was the caliber of people she was surrounded by — competent and friendly straight shooters.

She also was very relaxed and personable, quite different from the person I see portrayed as stiff and unfriendly.

About a month after we launched the column, my family and I went on vacation to a dude ranch near the mountains that surrounded Ronald Reagan’s ranch in California. We were riding horses one afternoon, and when we returned to the cabin, there was a note on the door saying Hillary Clinton had called from the White House.

She said she and the president were enjoying a rare quiet evening in the residential quarters and she just wanted to see how the column was doing. We talked about the column for a while, but then she was suddenly interested in the idea of going to a ranch on vacation. “Bill, doesn’t that sound great?”

A few weeks later, the White House announced that the Clintons were headed to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to enjoy the beauty of Grand Teton National Park.

White House spokesman Michael D. McCurry said at the time that President Clinton needed some well deserved rest: “He plans to hike and camp and raft. He’s looking forward to horseback riding.”

Now, maybe this was a long-planned vacation, in which case Hillary naturally would have been interested in our stay at a horse ranch, but possibly, it was a last minute decision sparked by the thought of having fun at a ranch. Either way, the friendly conversation stuck with me.

Creators Syndicate does not take political sides. We look for columnists and cartoonists who have talent, strong beliefs and an ability to communicate their views so they will attract readers. Over the years, this list has included the legendary cartoonist Herblock, Bill O’Reilly, Hunter S. Thompson,

Dr. Ben Carson and hundreds of other household names.

I am writing this column not as a political endorsement but rather as a statement about Hillary Clinton’s character when we worked together. Though my own political views might differ from hers, the Hillary Clinton I knew was dependable, conscientious and, above all else, trustworthy, not a “liar” as those Sanders supporters were chanting after their close contest in Iowa.

Rick Newcombe is founder/ CEO of Creators Syndicate.



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