Trove of Clinton White House papers released

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Secret papers documenting Bill Clinton's time in the White House were released on Friday, but it was the role of then-first lady Hillary, now a prospective 2016 presidential hopeful, that attracted most scrutiny.

The National Archives made public more than 3,500 pages of internal memos, notes and other documents were posted on the website of the Clinton presidential library.

Among the collection are records from Hillary's press office and documents related to her ill-fated attempt to reform health care in the early 1990s during her husband's first term.

Also included are national security documents and notes that address key foreign-policy challenges of the era including unrest in Haiti, the slow response to atrocities in Rwanda, and terror strikes that preceded the attacks of September 11, 2001.

But Hillary Clinton's friends and foes alike will search the files for insight on her role in her husband's presidency, and how the new information might impact her reputation as she mulls a second run for the White House.

A meeting 20 years ago between the first lady, who led the task force on health care reform, and Democratic congressional leaders laid bare difficulties similar to those seen today in selling such a controversial initiative.

The September 9, 1993 transcript echoed the current debate over President Barack Obama's health law known as "Obamacare," which requires most Americans to purchase health insurance and which he rammed through Congress in 2010 with no Republican support.

"It may be an unpleasant fact for some of us Democrats to face, but the argument is not going to be won on bringing in the uninsured," Mr Clinton told the lawmakers, according to the transcript.

Clinton critics quickly seized on the material, with the Republican National Committee highlighting a passage that eerily presaged what has become one of the biggest problems of Obamacare: the president's promise that all Americans would be able to keep their doctors under the new law.

"We have a line on p. 10 (of a draft of the president's January 1994 State of the Union address) that says 'You'll pick the health plan and the doctor of your choice,'" a White House aide wrote in a memo.

"I know that it's just what people want to hear. But can we get away with it?" he added. "I am very worried about getting skewered for over-promising here on something we know full well we won't deliver." The Clintons struggled to convince a skeptical Congress to sign on, and by late 1994 the plan was dead.

The documents, released 13 years after Mr Clinton left office, were withheld under legislation that allows presidents to prevent their disclosure for 12 years.

They are part of a batch of some 25,000 pages of documents cleared for release, according to Politico, which has pressed to obtain the material since January 2013, when the exclusion expired.

Such documents can be declassified through Freedom of Information Act requests.

More releases are expected in the coming weeks.

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