Release the Hillary files

Nearly 2 million documents pertaining to Sen. Hillary Clinton’s years as first lady — phone logs, schedules, memoranda — are locked up in Little Rock, Ark. It would be completely legal for them to remain under wraps. But voters looking to 2008 can reasonably demand to know what they paid for the last time they sent Mrs. Clinton to the White House. It would very convenient for the junior senator from New York, and a serious disservice to voters, if such a large gap in her public record were to continue through November 2008.

The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.”
—Gen 6:11

It should be noted at the outset that this is an unprecedented situation and that the chief present obstacle is not of Mrs. Clinton’s making. The protector in this instance is the National Archives, whose own caretakers claim understaffing. Only a portion of First Lady Rosalynn Carter’s papers are available, as is true for Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush. But the circumstances are so different in the present case that we think Mrs. Clinton has a duty to disclose more — and former President Clinton, who can simply claim “privilege” to stop all disclosure, should help, but probably won’t. He was, after all, the great “declassifier.” This is more than a garden-variety Freedom of Information request.

Mrs. Clinton is running for the presidency in considerable part by projecting an image of “experience.” Her White House years, not just her Senate term, figure prominently in whatever regard American taxpayers hold her. Voters are right to figure that they should have access to information beyond the grasp of Mrs. Clinton’s professional handlers as it accumulated, via their trust, at 1600 Pennsylvania. It would be indispensable in the effort to distinguish facts from fiction as mentions of her record of “experience” continue to accumulate. Surely there are far more sides to the story than what Clinton campaigners say.

At present, there are intriguing insights in memos here and there, such as one the Los Angeles Times cites on details of Mrs. Clinton’s health-care “war room” and the effort to make the process of designing HillaryCare “the most open in the history of the federal government.” Funny to hear that phrase again.

The National Archives says it will not get to the recent Freedom of Information requests until after the 2008 election. How convenient for the Clintons.

It is time for Mrs. Clinton to set the standard. Even a candidate with nothing to hide would not seek this electoral wild card. But if “my record” and “Clinton’s experience” are to be the watchwords of this particular campaigner, then the public has a clear and compelling right to compare the records against the rhetoric.

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