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Clinton records: Fight back hard after 1994 losses

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Stung by the GOP takeover of Congress in the 1994 elections, White House advisers urged President Bill Clinton not to take the blame and make light of it in public but instead to hit back hard by casting Republicans as defenders of "wealthy special interests," according to documents released Friday.

Preparing for Clinton's 1995 State of the Union speech, adviser Paul Begala said the president should change his tone regarding Democratic losses in the midterm elections.

"I really don't like the president making fun of our ass-whipping in November, or suggesting it was because of him we got creamed," Begala wrote in a memo to speechwriters.

He said that Clinton adviser James Carville disagreed with him. "He thinks it'll be effective self-deprecation; I'm concerned it could look like a white flag of surrender."

In a separate memo to Clinton adviser George Stephanopoulos, now an ABC News anchor, and to White House Counsel Jack Quinn, speechwriter Michael Waldman urged them to "portray the Republicans as advocates for wealthy special interests." He added, "The trick is how to do this without seeming to be an advocate of big government and red tape."

In another memo to Stephanopoulos, Waldman suggested the White House review how Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George Bush "dealt with an opposition Congress - what tricks they had up their sleeves."

The papers were included in 4,000 pages of records released Friday by the National Archives covering Clinton's two terms in office. The complete set of roughly 30,000 documents, which is being released in batches, is greatly anticipated, in part because Hillary Rodham Clinton, then first lady and later a senator and secretary of state, is considering her own bid for the presidency in 2016.

The documents include edited versions of the president's remarks to the nation after the 2000 election recount and Mrs. Clinton's speech to the Democratic National Convention that year.

Other records show how advisers to Vice President Al Gore tried to help him win the White House before losing to George W. Bush following a 36-day recount in Florida.

In one document, Gore adviser Ron Klain tells the vice president how they planned to respond to a January 1999 poll in USA Today that showed Bush leading.

"UNDERSPIN it and downplay its significance," Klain said he advised Gore spokesman Chris Lehane.

The documents were part of a second batch of Clinton records to be released in recent weeks.

Some of the papers show the challenges the White House faced after Republicans won control of both the House and Senate for the first time in 40 years.

In one undated memo, Clinton's counselors proposed "the elimination of one or more departments" to rebuild public trust. They suggested the Energy Department could be folded into the Defense Department, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development could be privatized, "in the name of ending public housing as we know it." The advisers suggested the Federal Aviation Administration could be privatized as well.

Clinton's advisers also suggested a 25 percent cut in congressional staff, a congressional and presidential pay freeze and a constitutional amendment that would allow states to limit members of Congress to 12 years in office.

The documents include an edited text of Hillary Rodham Clinton's convention speech in 2000 - a reference to her possibly winning the open New York Senate seat is crossed out. Clinton delivered the speech on Aug. 14, 2000, at the convention in Los Angeles.

A first wave of documents released in February provided insight into the Clinton administration's concern over the failed health care overhaul plan, which Hillary Clinton helped lead, and showed how advisers to the first lady tried to shape her public image.

The Clinton records were previously withheld by the National Archives because they were exempt from disclosure under restrictions related to appointments to federal office and confidential advice among the president and his advisers.

Once those restrictions expired in January 2013, the National Archives notified the current White House and Clinton's offices that they intended to release the records so both offices could decide whether to invoke executive privilege on some records. Both recently signed off on the release of the documents.

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