A new book by best-selling author Ronald Kessler – “Laura Bush: An Intimate Portrait” – has Hillary Clinton supporters hopping mad as it strips off the veneer of Sen. Clinton’s image as first lady.
Kessler’s book hadn’t even hit bookstores – it’s released Tuesday – when the pro-Clinton magazine Vanity Fair did a pre-emptive strike on the book – attacking it as a “valentine” to Mrs. Bush with what VF claimed were “fluffball quotes” and “dubious factoids.”
Clinton allies have reason to be angry with Kessler. His White House tell-all paints an extremely unflattering portrait of the Clintons.
Having spoken to dozens of White House employees who worked under both administrations, Kessler reports that when George and Laura Bush moved into the White House in 2001, staffers were relieved.
The book reveals that the Clintons had treated Secret Service agents and household help with disdain and made few attempts to engage them in friendly conversation.
“Bush and his wife treated you normally, decently,” said one former agent. “They had conversations with us.”
George Bush was “the complete opposite of Clinton.”
And Laura was apparently the opposite of Hillary – at least that’s how the White House staff saw it.
White House elevator operator Harold W. Hancock once told a visitor about the Bushes: “I love these people. They’re so courteous. The previous inhabitants never knew my name.”
When Hancock passed away in 2002, the Bushes attended his funeral.
Hillary Clinton was quoted in The New York Times, “[Hancock] always cheered me up, because he was always so upbeat and positive and nice.” But other White House staff members were shocked by Hillary’s statement, knowing that Hancock said Hillary would barely recognize him though she met him almost every day she was in the White House.
The Bushes and the Clintons also differed in how they treated the White House itself.
The Clintons had used the White House to court fund-raisers, putting up political supporters in the Lincoln Bedroom. The Bushes, on the other hand, have given overnight privileges only to dignitaries, family members and longtime friends.
When Hillary gave Laura a tour of the Executive Mansion, Laura – who had previously stayed at the White House when her father-in-law was president – was “quietly dismayed” at the condition of the residence, author Kessler revealed.
The residence décorations appeared gaudy. Carpets and furniture had been allowed to fray and there were exposed electrical conduits in several areas. But the Clintons’ real irreverence for the White House came to light after Bill left office, when stories broke that the Clinton staff had “trashed” the mansion before leaving.
Clinton supporters called the report an “urban legend.” In response, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer detailed some of the damage in the White House and the adjacent Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
The Washington Post quoted Fleischer as saying that the damage included the removal of the letter “W” from 100 computer keyboards, 75 telephones with cover plates missing or plugged into the wrong wall outlets, 10 cut phone lines, two historic doorknobs missing, obscene graffiti in six offices, overturned desks, usable office supplies in the trash, and a White House photocopy machine with pictures of naked people in the paper tray.
Clinton supporters said they didn’t believe the report, although some staffers confirmed that they had removed the “W” from several keyboards.
The final, official report from the Government Accounting Office, released on June 11, 2002, did not confirm all of Fleischer’s allegations, but did state that the damage included the loss of 62 computer keyboards, 26 cell phones, two cameras, 10 antique doorknobs and several presidential medallions.