Ever since Bernie Sanders’s angry challenge to Hillary Clinton last week over her high regard for Henry Kissinger as a foreign policy adviser, the press has been filled with accounts of the closeness between Clinton and Kissinger. “Clinton’s Kissinger praise goes back years,” Politico reported. As Clinton gushed to Kissinger’s face in Newsweek in 2009: “Henry’s the expert on theory and doctrine.” The Clintons and Kissingers regularly spend time together at a beachfront villa in the Dominican Republic, David Corn reported, while I picked up Clinton’s praise for “Henry” in her last book. “Henry Kissinger checked in with me regularly, sharing astute observations about foreign leaders and sending me written reports on his travels.”
But if Clinton’s praise for Kissinger goes back years, it doesn’t go back that many years. When she was 46, Hillary Clinton confessed that in a dream she had taken “revenge” on Kissinger for the carnage of Vietnam by taunting him with the phrase, “light at the end of the tunnel.”
The 1994 dream is related in a State Department email from 2009, describing a passage from a new book, The Clinton Tapes, by Taylor Branch, which was based on conversations with Bill and Hillary Clinton when they were in the White House. Clinton’s aide Caitlin Klevorick summarizes and quotes:
There is a passage in which HRC describes an exchange she had with Kissinger at a dinner where he complained that if the health care bill passed he wouldn’t be able to see his own doctor. She continued to say “it was interesting, in fact, that she had dreamed about Kissinger only a few nights before. His visage turned suddenly effervescent at a banquet, announcing gladly that his worries were over because the Clinton health care bill was dying. ‘Oh, no, Dr. Kissinger,’ she replied coolly. ‘Don’t be sure that it’s dead. We’ll keep fighting, and there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.’ She said Kissinger blanched, speechless at her deft reminder of the Vietnam War…Now at last, in Hillary’s dream, it registered that his strategic designs had spewed carnage and venom for seven needless years…’That’s what I dreamed,’ Hillary repeated, lost in thought. ‘You know, I always get my revenge in dreams, but never in real life.”
Light at the end of the tunnel was a famous phrase during the Nixon years, by which Nixon aides tried to rationalize the hateful and endless war in southeast Asia.
As Klevorick observed shrewdly, it was a good thing there was no index in Branch’s book, otherwise stories like this might get out and “be fodder for people who want to string along the notion of channeling Eleanor Roosevelt [referring to this Clinton story in the 1990s].” The Kissinger revenge dream only seems to have been picked up in the Times of London in 2009.
By that time, Clinton was already good friends with Kissinger. In fact, her big concern about that interview Newsweek was doing with her and Kissinger was that it would expose the fact that she wasn’t that close to President Obama. From another 2009 email:
The only issue I think might be raised is that I see POTUS at least once a week while K saw Nixon everyday. Of course if I was dealing with that POTUS I’d probably camp in his office to prevent him from doing something problematic.
Fifteen years before, Clinton had far greater concerns about Henry Kissinger: that he was a war criminal. Back then, she was still in touch with the youthful self who was enraged by the Vietnam War. Over the White House years and the Senate years that followed, Hillary Clinton overcame her own idealism. She became a tougher person. In 2002, she voted for the Iraq War that also spewed carnage and venom; and by the time she became secretary of State in 2009, she was Henry Kissinger’s good friend.
Of course, smart people get tougher as they get older (take it from me). We cut deals between our ideals and reality. But do we go against our youthful dreams?