Clinton advisers sought to soften her image

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Clinton advisers sought to soften her image
CORAL GABLES, FL - FEBRUARY 26: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Former Secretary of State speaks during an event at the University of Miamis BankUnited Center on February 26, 2014 in Coral Gables, Florida. Clinton is reported to be mulling a second presidential run. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
IN this May 6, 2014, photo, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington. Two of President Barack Obama’s closest first-term advisers will soon spill insider details on the administration’s handling of the early days of the Great Recession, the White House’s cautious response to the Syrian civil war and the genesis of clandestine talks with Iran. The memoirs from Clinton and ex-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will be the latest installments in an often awkward Washington ritual: one-time confidants signing big book contracts to examine a presidency that is ongoing and policy decisions that still are being implemented. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton answers a question at the 2014 National Council for Behavioral Health Conference at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor, Md., Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Clinton spoke about mental health, political, and social issues during her talk. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
CORAL GABLES, FL - FEBRUARY 26: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Former Secretary of State speaks during an event at the University of Miamis BankUnited Center on February 26, 2014 in Coral Gables, Florida. Clinton is reported to be mulling a second presidential run. on February 26, 2014 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 25: Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during the presentation of the Hillary Rodham Clinton Awards for Advancing Women in Peace and Security at Georgetown University February 25, 2014 in Washington, DC. The award was presented to British Foreign Secretary William Hague and to Dr. Denis Mukwege, founder of Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 13: Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton joins Melinda Gates in a discussion at New York University and moderated by Chelsea Clinton concerning the use of data to advance the global progress for women and girls on February 13, 2014 in New York City. The discussion, in front of an audience of NYU faculty and students, touched on ways to get more women in positions of power in both business and government. The event also marked the launch of a new partnership between the Clinton Foundation and the Gates Foundation. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 04: Former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attends a roundtable discussion held by Univision between parents of elementary school children and politicians regarding language learning and preschool on February 4, 2014 in New York City. Many states, New York included, are on the path to creating preschool education for children under the age of five. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 04: Former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attends a roundtable discussion held by Univision between parents of elementary school children and politicians regarding language learning and preschool on February 4, 2014 in New York City. Many states, New York included, are on the path to creating preschool education for children under the age of five. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 27: Former U.S. Seceratary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the 10th National Automobile Dealers Association Convention on January 27, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. According to reports, Clinton said during a question and answer session at the convention that he biggest regret was the attack on Americans in Benghazi. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 27: Former U.S. Seceratary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the 10th National Automobile Dealers Association Convention on January 27, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. According to reports, Clinton said during a question and answer session at the convention that he biggest regret was the attack on Americans in Benghazi. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 06: Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) embraces former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (L) before Clinton was presented the 2013 Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize December 6, 2013 in Washington, DC. Clinton received the award for her work in the areas of women's rights and internet freedom. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 06: Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers remarks after being presented the 2013 Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize December 6, 2013 in Washington, DC. Clinton received the award for her work in the areas of women's rights and internet freedom. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 06: While delivering remarks, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton receives a standing ovation after being presented the 2013 Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize December 6, 2013 in Washington, DC. Clinton received the award for her work in the areas of women's rights and internet freedom. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks after receiving the 2013 Lantos Human Rights Prize during a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington on December 6, 2013. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 03: Global Impact Award Recipient Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation's Global Impact Award Gala Dinner Honoring Hillary Clinton at Best Buy Theater on December 3, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation)
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WASHINGTON (AP) - Hillary Rodham Clinton's advisers sought to "humanize" what they saw as her stern, defensive public image during her husband's White House days and as she embarked on her groundbreaking Senate campaign in New York.

"Be real," wrote adviser Mandy Grunwald in a July 1999 memo as Clinton prepared for a Senate campaign. In the memo, the adviser urged the first lady to "look for opportunities for humor. It's important that people see more sides of you, and they often see you only in very stern situations."

Thousands of pages of documents released Friday by the Clinton Presidential Library reveal the first lady's struggles with the health care plan during the 1990s, "an aversion" to the Washington press corps and her transition into a political candidate in her own right as the Clinton administration ended.

Clinton is the leading Democratic contender to succeed President Barack Obama, though she has not said whether she will run. The nearly 4,000 pages of records, the first of more than 25,000 expected to be released in the next two weeks, underscore her attempts to appeal to average Americans and her aides' advice that she show a more human side, reminiscent of problems that surfaced in her 2008 primary loss against Obama.

Clinton's public image has been a hotly debated topic throughout her career and could linger into any presidential campaign in 2016. She generated headlines during her husband's 1992 campaign when she defended her work as an attorney instead of being someone who "could have stayed home and baked cookies." Her role in the health care reform effort was criticized as Democrats were routed in the 1994 elections. Establishing herself in the Senate, Clinton lost to Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary but has become one of the most admired women in the world, watching her popularity grow as Obama's secretary of state.

The documents provide more details about the concerns in her own camp about how she was perceived by the public.

As the first lady began her bid for the Senate seat, Grunwald coached her to keep her tone conversational and "don't be defensive" when handling "annoying questions" from the media. Grunwald said Clinton was sure to be asked about her husband's Senate impeachment trial earlier that year and encouraged her to acknowledge "that of course last year was rough."

At the White House, Clinton's press secretary, Lisa Caputo, encouraged the first couple to capitalize on their 20th wedding anniversary as "a wonderful opportunity for Hillary" and also suggested she spend more time doing White House events celebrating first ladies of the past.

In a lengthy August 1995 memo to Clinton adviser Maggie Williams, Caputo wrote that the first lady had an "aversion to the national Washington media" and suggested staffers in "Hillaryland" socialize more with members of the press corps as a way to help the first lady, saying it would "humanize her and show the press the good person that she is."

"I believe if we were all out there consistently, we would erode the notion in the press that sometimes exists of Hillary being in a bunker mentality."

The memo even proposed the "wild idea" of having Clinton do a guest appearance on a popular sitcom of the day, "Home Improvement," which might "present Hillary in a very likable light."

As she prepared for a 1995 trip to China and Mongolia - Mrs. Clinton famously declared at a United Nations conference in Beijing that "human rights are women's rights, and women's rights are human rights" - her staff advised her on the press corps who would be traveling with her, noting who was fair or "fans" of Clinton.

The documents also speak to Clinton's failure to pass a sweeping health care law, an early blow to her standing and perhaps a liability should she seek the presidency in 2016. The ill-fated proposals in 1993 and 1994 became a Republican rallying cry in midterm elections that gave the GOP control of the House and Senate.

As obstacles mounted in September 1993, Clinton told House and Senate Democrats that "unfortunately, in the glare of the public political process, we may not have as much time as we need for that kind of thoughtful reflection and research."

The meetings also showed that Clinton was doubtful that a health care law with a universal mandate - requiring people to carry health insurance - would be approved. In 2007, when she ran for president, Clinton made the "individual mandate" a centerpiece of her health care plan.

But it was Obama who shepherded into law a health care proposal in 2010 that has many similarities to the Clintons' efforts, including a requirement for all individuals to carry insurance. Republicans have signaled their intention to make it an issue if Clinton runs.
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