As it often does, Politico set tongues to wagging Sunday night when it revealed the existence of "Hillary's Hit List," a document compiled by staffers during her 2008 presidential run that kept track of who was for her, who was against her and who, in the judgment of campaign insiders, had betrayed her. Everyone wants to know who's on it and what it says, who rates highly and who's off the Christmas card list because, as most everyone knows, she's running for president again – or at least thinking about it, which makes just about everything she does newsworthy.
"As one of the last orders of business for a losing campaign," the article said, "they recorded in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet the names and deeds of members of Congress. They carefully noted who had endorsed Hillary, who had backed Obama, and who had stayed on the sidelines — standard operating procedure for any high-end political organization. But the data went into much more nuanced detail. 'We wanted to have a record of who endorsed us and who didn't,' a member of Hillary's campaign team said, 'and of those who endorsed us, who went the extra mile and who was just kind of there. And of those who didn't endorse us, those who understandably didn't endorse us because they are [Congressional Black Caucus] members or Illinois members. And then, of course, those who endorsed him but really should have been with her … that burned her.'"
It's quite normal in the course of a heated political campaign for such a thing to be pulled together. What's funny is the way some people are pretending to be shocked such a thing might exist. Every candidate for office has a mechanism to keep track of who wants what, who's on which side and who might justifiably find themselves on the receiving end of some political payback. To pretend otherwise is like Captain Renault feigning shock when told there was gambling going on in the backroom of Rick's Café American.
Both Clintons are known to have long memories and to be expert in the use of political intelligence gathered by others. It's how they built their machine in Arkansas and how they took over the Democratic Party and eked out two terms in the White House while failing to win a majority of the popular vote either time. Having Craig Livingstone go through stacks of unredacted FBI files, as the Washington Post and other newspapers reported he had done, probably didn't hurt matters very much either.
Politics, as they and others have proven time and again, is not for the faint of heart. It is perfectly normal, even necessary, for the Clinton campaign to have kept track of who might endorse them and who might be ready to endorse her principal opponent. That's the kind of information on which campaigns run, on which they are won or lost. As the Politico story reminds, Barack Obama's endorsement by seemingly the entire Kennedy family – led by the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in what may have been his last major political act – conveyed upon the young senator from Illinois the much-prized mantle of America's martyr president. As endorsements go, it just doesn't get any better than that – and the Clinton's were understandably none-to-happy about it, so some of the campaign staff made some notes which found their way into a file and, later, onto a spreadsheet.
There is nothing, at least as Politico tells it, illegal, unethical or immoral about the list. Of course, there are still people who foam at the mouth because they were left off Nixon's infamous enemies list so there may be some bragging rights involved.
There are plenty of reasons to be concerned that Hillary Clinton might become president. The fact that her political team had the good sense to put together a list of who she could count on and who she couldn't just isn't one of them.