Updated: Sunday, 16 February 2014 11:58 | By Agence France-Presse

Time capsule from 1990s reignites Clinton wars

America is getting a new look at an old version of Hillary Clinton, with a time capsule from the political maelstrom that tore through her life in the 1990s.


Time capsule from 1990s reignites Clinton wars

Hillary Clinton attends a roundtable discussion in New York, on February 4, 2014 - by Andrew Burton

The revelations are contained in notes of communications with Clinton when she was first lady, taken by her confidant Diane Blair, an Arkansas professor who died in 2000.

The unflattering character sketch of Clinton is a far cry from the poised and popular operator she has since become and it is already fueling a pseudo political war as she deliberates over another White House run in 2016.

The papers reveal Clinton to be "baffled and angry" at the ways of Washington, mystified by people out to "destroy" her husband's administration, and furious at him for a chaotic first two years in office.

Since losing the Democratic Party's presidential nominating race to Barack Obama in 2008, Clinton has refashioned her image, serving him loyally as secretary of state and is again a big favorite to lead the Democratic ticket.

But the Blair archive includes polling by Democrats in 1992 which found voters admired Clinton's intelligence but saw her as "ruthless," highlighting how divisive a figure she was in her White House years when she attracted fire by carving out a policy role as first lady.

- Marriage rocked -

The papers, first reported by the Washington Free Beacon website, offer a glimpse inside the Clinton marriage, rocked by president Bill Clinton's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Blair reveals that the first lady faulted her husband for a "huge personal lapse" but also branded Lewinsky a "narcissistic loony toon."

Some Republicans have made a tactical decision not to let the 1990s rest.

Senator Rand Paul, a possible 2016 hopeful, has brought up Bill Clinton's indiscretions in several recent interviews, lashing his "predatory" behavior. 

Paul appeared to be making a play for the Clinton-hating Republican Party base and evangelical voters which he would need in a nominating race.

However, should he convert a long-shot chance into the Republican nomination, he may find women voters -- already a tough demographic for Republicans -- blanch at him for reviving Clinton's public embarrassment.

Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus meanwhile said "everything is on the table" should Clinton win the Democratic nomination.

"We're going to have a truckload of opposition research," he told MSNBC.

"Some things may be old and some things may be new."

But does raking up the scandals of the 1990s -- which seem a lifetime ago in today's Twitter-driven political game -- make sense?

"Clearly Republicans think it is a viable strategy," said Costas Panagopoulos, who teaches the next generation of American campaign managers at Fordham University in New York, who was skeptical.

- Does record outpoint past reputation? - 

"I am not convinced it will work. Hillary Clinton has been around long enough for people to know what they like about her, and what they do not like."

Complicating the Republican bid to negatively define Clinton's character ahead of 2016 is her four-year tenure at the State Department, in which she built executive skills she lacked when losing to Obama in 2008.

Though her resume is thin on big picture achievements, she was credited with key roles in the operation to kill Osama bin Laden, the Libya war and in the Iran sanctions program that is widely hailed for bringing Tehran to the negotiating table over its disputed nuclear program.

"Nothing was better for the political career of Hillary Clinton than being secretary of state," said Professor Bonnie Dow, a specialist in gender and politics at Vanderbilt University, Tennessee.

With that in mind, Republicans are trying to turn the advantage of her State Department career into a liability -- blaming her for the raid by extremists on the US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi on September 11, 2012 in which four Americans were killed.

So far, despite a political furor, there is no smoking gun to prove her guilt.

Unless Republicans manage to undermine Clinton's image early on, her 2016 prospects, if she runs, may rest in more fundamental questions.

Can the former first lady, now 66,  frame a compelling rationale for a 21st Century Clinton restoration in the White House?

Can she avoid the pitfalls of a 2008 campaign team beset by backbiting and internal infighting?

Will the wave of popularity Clinton has built survive her return to the vicious political arena?

Can she recreate the winning public persona that only emerged when she was losing the 2008 clash with Obama?

Can she master new technological tools targeting voters and splicing and dicing the electorate that Obama pioneered?

And more fundamentally, will the Democratic nomination even be worth having, should Obama's stumbling second term and a sluggish recovery boost Republican prospects?

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