Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Hillary Clinton Email on Closed Adoption Center: 'Why Does Stuff Like This Stalk Us?'

    In the 1990s, Hillary Clinton famously accused a "vast right-wing conspiracy" of trying to bring down her husband, President Bill Clinton. Emails from Mrs. Clinton's tenure as secretary of state demonstrate that the specter of a conspiracy of some sort continued to haunt her years later.
    One such email originated with Phillipe Reines, a long-time Clinton aide and spokesperson who joined Mrs. Clinton at the State Department and was eventually promoted to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. In February 2010, Mrs. Clinton gave the keynote address at the 58th National Prayer Breakfast. During her remarks, Mrs. Clinton related how at the 1994 Prayer Breakfast, Mother Teresa had goaded the then-First Lady into using her influence to help open an adoption facility for unwanted babies in Washington, DC, to provide an abortion alternative. The plan came to fruition in 1995, and Mrs. Clinton and Mother Teresa both attended the opening of the facility, an event Mrs. Clinton fondly recalled. What Mrs. Clinton did not mention in her 2010 prayer breakfast speech, and indeed was not aware of, was that the adoption facility closed in 2002, seven years after opening. (Authors Kathryn Joyce and Jeff Sharlet confirmed the closing in a 2007 article for Mother Jones and filled in more details in a 2010 article at Religion Dispatches.)
     Reines's concern in his email to Mrs. Clinton was not the 2007 Mother Jones story, however, but an article that appeared in, in Reines's words, "one of those crazy right 'magazines'", World Magazine. Writer Emily Belz reported on Mrs. Clinton's anecdote at the prayer breakfast and her apparent obliviousness to the closing of the facility some eight years earlier. Reines did not dispute the accuracy of the article, but merely sent it to Mrs. Clinton as an "FYI". The text of his email reads as follows:
Just FYI on the below, from one of those crazy right "magazines" - notes that the home you referenced in your Prayer Breakfast remarks has since closed.
I checked in with Lissa & Melanne, they didn't know it closed, which makes sense since it happened in 2002 after you left the White House.
I made it clear that your longtime commitment to this issue - throughout your public career - is well known, and you remain very proud of your work with Mother Teresa in opening this home in 1995. And that your partnership is a success story to be emulated.
Again, this is just FYI
    Although Reines notes that Mrs. Clinton and her aides may have been unaware of the closing "since it happened in 2002 after you left the White House," Mrs. Clinton of course remained in Washington as a senator and then secretary of state during the intervening years. Reines reassured Mrs. Clinton that "your longtime commitment to this issue [adoption] - throughout your public career - is well known," but it is unclear how Reines reconciled Mrs. Clinton's "longtime commitment" to adoption and pride in the adoption center with her lack of follow up for at least eight years. The house that the Clintons purchased in Washington in 2000 was about three miles from the adoption center.
    In the 2010 email, Mrs. Clinton herself confirms she was unaware that the adoption facility had closed and asked Reines "can we find out why." After finding some consolation in that "[a]t least we had it open for 7 years," Mrs. Clinton goes on to voice her frustration with how the issue had come back to bite her, saying, "but why does stuff like this stalk us?"
I didn't know that--can we find out why. At least we had it open for 7 years but why does stuff like this stalk us? 
    In a second reply to Reines's email by Mrs. Clinton just a minute after the first, she recalls that she wrote about the adoption center and Mother Teresa in her book, Living History:
Also, I wrote about it in Living History and no one said a word. Was it still open in some form in 2004?
      Reines replied to Mrs. Clinton almost immediately:
I will look into what happened to it after 2002 (LH [Living History] was released 6/03, so better than 04) 
    At this point, however, the email thread ends and a search of the emails released by the State Department so far does not reveal any further follow up.
    However, in November 2011, Mrs. Clinton addressed some remarks to the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute's (CCAI) The Way Forward Project Summit. Mrs. Clinton recounted how she had "worked on behalf of children’s issues for my entire adult life" including "working to improve ... the adoption system." She even recalled visiting "one of Mother Teresa’s orphanages in India – actually, I went to two, one in Delhi, one in Calcutta – and saw beautiful children reaching out their arms to be lifted up." Mrs. Clinton was silent, however, about the then-defunct adoption center she and Mother Teresa had helped open in 1995.
    In an ironic footnote to this story, in her November 2011 remarks, Mrs. Clinton thanked someone who had helped her decide "we needed to raise the emphasis on children worldwide," none other than then-Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Janice Jacobs. Just this week, Secretary of State John Kerry named Ms. Jacobs as the State Department's new Transparency Coordinator who will, among other duties, oversee the review and release of the remaining 75% of Mrs. Clinton's emails from her time at the State Department.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

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