Clinton-watchers have an abundance of bedtime reading options this Sunday with not one, but two long profiles aimed at a possible 2016 run for Hillary Clinton. In New York magazine, Clinton herself breaks a mini "press hiatus" to spend some time with Joe Hagan, who then digs into the extensive support system for the family dynasty. But it's The New Republic's profile of Doug Band, longtime advisor to Bill Clinton, that hints at one of the challenges Hillary will face in a 2016 campaign: the ghosts waiting in the wings from the Clintons' long public life.
Band, writer Alec MacGillis explains, is "rarely written about, almost never quoted, and many Clinton associates are loath to discuss him on the record." But lately, he's emerged from under the Clinton umbrella to strike out on his own, leaving him more vulnerable to scrutiny. In the past few months, his name has popped up as something of an antagonist in stories of troubles at the family foundation. Even though Band declined to speak to MacGillis for his expansive profile, the piece connects some dots that could be unwelcome for Team Clinton: "the unease with Band reflects an unease with the phenomenon of post-presidential Clintonism itself," he writes. That Clintonism angst, TNR's piece posits, could extend to Hillary, albeit with few to no direct ties. Band's role in the Clinton administration was as the body man, a presidential version of a personal assistant. When Clinton became an ex-president, Band stayed on. Here's MacGillis's description of the eventual post-White House Band and Bill:
Band and Clinton were so inseparable that Band sometimes framed requests to colleagues using the royal “us” or “we.” Naturally, people assumed he was referring to his boss. “In some part of his mind, he melded them into being one person,” says a longtime Clinton associate. “You thought that, if he said something, it was coming from the top. ... If he called and said, ‘We need tulips for the apartment,’ you assumed it was the president who needed tulips for his apartment.” However, the associate believes that, at least in some cases, Band was presenting his own preferences as those of Clinton.
For those trying to get access to Clinton, Band became the man who decided if, and how much, and for how much, and when. But his connection to the family doesn't stop at Bill. That's, in part, thanks to his close friendship with Huma Abedin. Abedin works for Band's private firm, Teneo, something that made news when Congress decided to investigate whether her work there conflicted with her role at the State Department. New York also addresses the Abedin question, noting that the entire Weiner affair is another "ghost of Clintonworld past," speculating that Anthony Weiner's wife may have to choose between two loyalties.
Band's firm has caused problems in the past for both Clintons, according to MacGillis, including questions raised by Hillary Clinton over potential conflicts of interest between Band's work and her role as Secretary of State. Bill Clinton's office stopped accepting payments from Teneo in 2012. The Clintons were further irritated, he reports, by the fallout from Band's habit of pitching to major donors of Clinton's charitable work in a way that left donors with "the distinct impression that Clinton had encouraged the donors to avail themselves of Band’s services." When Chelsea Clinton became more involved in her family's foundation, she too "came to worry that the overlap between the foundation and Band’s business interests could backfire on the Clintons." New York writes that "Chelsea’s arrival [at the family foundation] was a clear if unspoken critique of Doug Band," noting that the daughter has now taken over Band's role as gatekeeper to Bill. The changing of the guard coincided with Hillary Clinton's adoption of the Clinton Foundation as something of an unofficial base of operations for a future 2016 run.
Both profiles are worth a read, though gossipmongers will find more to savor in MacGillis's piece — including, but not limited to, the details of how Band apparently bumped Joe Biden from a golf game with President Obama. MacGillis's thesis connects Band into the very strategy of the Clinton Foundation. And even if that tie doesn't hold up as time passes, the look inside of "Clintonworld," which is almost a sovereign nation among American politics, demonstrates just how deep of an infrastructure the all-but-official candidate has at her disposal, and the possible remnants of the past that could end up as roadblocks along the way. Adding to the Clinton machine mythology is a telling quote from New York's Clinton profile, which provides and interesting answer to "will she or won't she?"
Clintonworld, however, speaks with many voices—albeit many of them not for attribution. Some of her close confidants, including many people with whom her own staff put me in touch, are far less circumspect than she is. “She’s running, but she doesn’t know it yet,” one such person put it to me. “It’s just like a force of history. It’s inexorable, it’s gravitational. I think she actually believes she has more say in it than she actually does.”