Hillary’s Sense Of Humor

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Lanny Davis
Former Special Counsel to President Clinton
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      Lanny Davis

      Lanny J. Davis counsels individuals, corporations and government contractors, and those under congressional scrutiny, on crisis management and legal issues by developing legal, media and legislative strategies that are designed to best produce a successful result for the client. He has experience in securities fraud and SEC investigations as well, and has found that utilizing such an integrated legal/media/lobbying approach can lead to quicker and less expensive settlements or even successfully litigated outcomes. Senior officials of public companies have also hired Lanny and his crisis group to defend themselves successfully against "short and distort" attacks and other market manipulations. For 25 years prior to 1996, before his tenure as special counsel to President Clinton, Lanny was a commercial, antitrust, government contracts and False Claims Act litigator (both in defense as well as plaintiff). He has argued numerous appellate cases in the U.S. courts of appeals.

      In June 2005, President Bush appointed Lanny to serve on the five-member Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created by the U.S. Congress as part of the 2005 Intelligence Reform Act. In that capacity, he received the highest level security clearances so that he could be fully briefed and "read in" to the various anti-terrorist surveillance and financial tracking programs at the highest classified level. From 1996 to 1998, Lanny served as special counsel to the president in the White House and was a spokesperson for the president and the White House on matters concerning campaign finance investigations and other legal issues. Lanny has participated in national, state and local politics for almost 30 years. He has served three terms (1980 to 1992) on the Democratic National Committee representing the state of Maryland, and during that period he served on the DNC Executive Committee and as chairman of the Eastern Region Caucus. In Montgomery County, Maryland, he served as chairman of the Washington Suburban Transit Commission.

      Lanny has authored several books and lectured throughout the United States and Europe on various political issues. Between 1990 and 1996, Lanny was a bimonthly commentator on Maryland politics for WAMU-88.5/FM, a Washington, D.C. local affiliate of National Public Radio. He has been a regular television commentator and has been a political and legal analyst for MSNBC, CNN, Fox Cable, CNBC and network TV news programs. He has published numerous op-ed/analysis pieces in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, he Washington Post and other national publications.

      Lanny graduated from Yale Law School, where he won the prestigious Thurman Arnold Moot Court prize and served on the Yale Law Journal. A graduate of Yale University, Lanny served as chairman of the Yale Daily News.

      Lanny is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Connecticut and before the Supreme Court of the United States and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

I can remember the first time I heard Hillary Rodham (her name back then, in 1969, when we first met at Yale Law School) laugh. A bunch of guys and Hillary in the law school lounge. I forget the joke, but all of a sudden we heard this great laugh — you only describe it by using the expression “belly laugh” — and we all started laughing harder, realizing that we were egged on by Hillary’s deep and utterly joyful laughter.

One of the most telling moments during the 2008 presidential campaign was when Hillary laughed with the same hearty laugh during one of the presidential debates, evoking my fond memories of law school days. Yet the next day, I saw — in disbelief — nasty journalists actually calling her laugh a “cackle.” I was so angry. It was obvious to me and probably most women that no male candidate would be said to “cackle” when he laughed.

Hillary wasn’t just funny when she laughed — she had a great sense of humor, usually based on not taking herself too seriously and sharing in the joke about herself without taking offense.

I was reminded of all this when I saw some excerpts from the ABC Diane Sawyer interview posted over the weekend, just before the first exclusive interview on ABC on Monday night, on the eve of the June 10 roll-out of the publication of her memoir, “Hard Choices.”  (I haven’t read the book yet but have read some excerpts published in the last week or so).

Ms. Sawyer asked Hillary about a comment from Republican Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who she quoted as recently stating that the Democratic “presidential ticket for 2016 is shaping up to look like a rerun of the Golden Girls.”

Some politicians would take umbrage at this cheap shot and slash back.  I was thinking she might have said, “Wait a minute, Mitch McConnell is one to talk — he’s not exactly a spring chicken!” Or that she would have reminded Ms. Sawyer that if she were elected in 2016, she will be younger than Ronald Reagan, whose two terms as president Republicans still revere.

Instead of my snarky or argumentative response,  Hillary burst into a big smile and laugh and told Ms. Sawyer about the Golden Girls TV series:  “That was a very popular, long-running TV series.”  Classic.

Just as characteristic for me was her response to the comment by Karl Rove, who speculated, without any evidence and inaccurately that Hillary may have suffered brain “damage” as a result of a concussion and blood clot at the end of 2012.

Again, if it were I, I would have described Rove’s comment as not only false, but as the worst form of political sleaze.

Instead, Hillary Clinton broke into a big smile, and said:  “I know he was called [George W.] ‘Bush’s brain’ in one of the books written about him, and I wish him well.”

“I wish him well.” (!)

Again, I thought, classic Hillary.