Should she win the presidency, Hillary Clinton would quickly try to find common ground with Republicans on an immigration overhaul and infrastructure spending, risking the wrath of liberals who would like nothing more than to twist the knife in a wounded opposition party.
In her first 100 days, she would also tap women to make up half her Cabinet in hopes of bringing a new tone and collaborative sensibility to Washington, while also looking past Wall Street to places like Silicon Valley for talent — perhaps wooing Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook and maybe asking Tim Cook from Apple to become the first openly gay Cabinet secretary.
Former President Bill Clinton would keep a low public profile, granting few interviews and avoiding any moves that could create headaches for his wife.
Hillary Clinton would even schmooze differently than the past few presidents have. Not one to do business over golf or basketball, she would bring back the intimate style of former presidents Ronald Reagan and Lyndon B. Johnson, negotiating over drinks. Picture a steady stream of senators, congressmen and other leaders raising a glass and talking policy in the Oval Office with her and her likely chief of staff, John D. Podesta, as her husband pops in with a quick thought or a disarming compliment.
Deeply confident that she would perform better as the president than as a political candidate, Clinton wants to pursue an entirely new approach at the White House to try to break through years of partisan gridlock, according to a dozen campaign advisers and allies who described her goals and outlook. From policy goals and personnel to her instinct for patiently cultivating the enemy, Clinton thinks she would be a better dealmaker than President Barack Obama if she finds willing partners on the other side.
Her opening might be a narrow one. She faces skepticism on the right about her willingness to compromise and her potential use of executive actions, and there is outright suspicion on the left that she might sell out progressive goals for the sake of bipartisan action with Republicans.
Still, Democrats close to her say she has a real touch with power brokers in both parties that could yield surprising results.
"Her greatest strength is that she really listens to people, she understands what their political and policy needs are, and she tries to find that space where you can compromise," said Neera Tanden, a former top domestic policy adviser to Hillary Clinton who is now the president of the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning policy institute.
"To be crystal clear: She has led many battles where you can't compromise on principle," Tanden added. "But she also loves socializing, loves having people and spouses over, and really loves talking over drinks."
Working with the GOP
Trump's plans for his first 100 days include a focus on divisive campaign promises like building a border wall with Mexico. By contrast, the New York Times found in its reporting on plans for Clinton's 100 days that she would look to push issues that might be broadly popular, like infrastructure jobs and a breakthrough on immigration.
Her calculation is that she will be dealing with a Republican Party that is deeply fractured and demoralized after the defeat of Trump, whose leaders will be searching for ways to show they can govern and to court Hispanics if Trump loses badly with them. Clinton also thinks a huge Democratic turnout this fall would put the Senate back in her party's hands, while Speaker Paul Ryan and the Republicans would have a reduced majority in the House.
What Hillary and Bill Clinton do not know — but regularly explore in conversations, according to friends — is whether Republican leaders, even if their power is diminished, would be in a mood to cooperate.
Hillary Clinton has been a lightning rod for their base for two decades. Much of her budget plan — about $1.4 trillion in new spending over the next decade and $1.2 trillion in tax increases aimed mostly at the wealthy, according to a recent independent report — is noxious to House and Senate Republicans.
Yet some of them are open to her two early priorities: $275 billion in infrastructure spending, and an immigration bill with a path to citizenship like the one already passed by the Senate. Given how deeply immigration has divided the Republican Party, no other issue would probably reveal more about the ability of a President Hillary Clinton and a Republican-led House to work together.
"Pro-amnesty Republicans may use Hillary's election as a pretext to do a deal," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates a tough stance on illegal immigration. "Or maybe Republicans will grow a spine because she is so repellent, and they'll want to show that the Republican Party is still alive and willing to be a line of defense against Hillary."
Allies of Clinton say they could imagine her, as president-elect, going to Ryan's office this year to start talking about immigration. She believes in gestures: When Hillary Clinton was working on the health care overhaul bill during President Bill Clinton's first term, John Kasich, then a ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, asked one of her aides if she would ever consider coming to Capitol Hill to talk to Republicans about her ideas.
"I said I'd ask her, and she was eager to go, which I think shows a willingness to get things done," said the aide, Melanne Verveer, who became Hillary Clinton's White House chief of staff.
But many Republicans are not sure how she would use power, given that they think she abused her authority and was overly secretive by using a private email server as secretary of state. Clinton has already indicated that she is willing to take executive action on issues if Republicans do not work with her, like expanding background checks for gun sales and ending corporate inversions aimed at avoiding taxes. Executive actions were a flash point between Obama and Republicans; several said Clinton would have a hard time getting them over for cocktails if she shoved executive actions down their throats.
"She can be extremely charming, and she can be the opposite," said Tom Davis, a former senior House Republican from Virginia. "But I think she'll want to build some bridges right away and get back some of the trust that's been missing between the parties for the last 15 years."
Allies of House and Senate Republican leaders said they would be more inclined to work with a President Hillary Clinton if she showed a willingness to compromise on priorities for many fiscal conservatives like overhauling Social Security. Yet Clinton, like many in her party, opposes Republican proposals to cut benefits and raise the retirement age, and she has said she is open to raising the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes. Should she deviate from those positions, leaders of liberal groups would pounce on her.
Some liberals think Trump will be so destructive to the Republican Party that it will be severely weakened after the November election — and that Clinton, as the Democratic leader, should keep her boot on its neck rather than try to play nice and find compromises. Clinton has spoken intensely about progressive policies, but she has long wanted to erase the caricature of herself as a partisan warrior — a "feminazi," as one 1990s phrase went.
She hopes to reassure progressives with her executive actions, which would also include new protections for unauthorized immigrant parents, as well as her personnel appointments. Having women make up half her Cabinet would be historic (in recent years, a quarter to a third of cabinet positions have been held by women), and Democrats close to Clinton say she may decide to retain Loretta Lynch, the nation's first black woman to be attorney general, who took office in April 2015.
These Democrats, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential conversations with Clinton and her advisers, said that Podesta, her campaign chairman, would have the right of first refusal on becoming her chief of staff, a job he held under Bill Clinton. If he turns it down, Clinton would look at appointing a woman to that job, which has been held only by men.
"There's that old saying, 'Nothing about us without us,' " said Jennifer Granholm, a former Democratic governor of Michigan. "I mean, a woman as chief of staff, Treasury secretary, a woman at Defense — it would be incredible." (Granholm is often mentioned as a possible Cabinet pick for the Energy Department or another post, but she waved off a question about her interest.)
Clinton has assigned three top aides —Ann O'Leary, Ed Meier and Sara Latham — to oversee transition planning, reporting to Podesta. Clinton advisers say they do not expect Bill Clinton to be constantly visible in the early months beyond whatever duties Hillary Clinton gives him on economic policy and foreign affairs. The Clintons' priority is that he does not do anything that distracts from her agenda or overshadows her as the country gets used to having a former president (and a man) in the role of first spouse.
One role he will be welcome to play is as an icebreaker at the Oval Office happy hour.
Hillary Clinton's ability to use alcohol as a political lubricant came up repeatedly when allies and advisers were asked how she might work with Republicans. Her tale about a drinking contest with Sen. John McCain of Arizona is now a Washington legend. (She said they called it quits before things got out of hand.) She believes that a relaxed, frank discussion is more authentic than trying to bond awkwardly with adversaries over sports — and more productive than keeping them at arm's length, as Obama has often done.
"She likes to cajole, she likes to make deals, and she likes to make friends," said Richard Socarides, a former policy adviser to Bill Clinton and a longtime supporter of Hillary Clinton. "And she knows it's much harder to go after someone who you basically like, who you've had a drink with."
© 2016 New York Times
Editor's note: Labor Day traditionally is the serious start of the presidential campaign. With just two months to go before Election Day, it's time to start thinking about what the first 100 days of a Trump or Clinton administration might look like.
Donald J. Trump is keenly aware that many in his own party — and many Americans, frankly — are scared and anxious about the idea of him in the Oval Office. Even he is not sure how a deeply divided nation would adjust to the first 100 days of a Trump presidency.
What he does know, however, is what he wants to do in those early months. In a series of interviews, he sketched out plans that include showdowns with business leaders over jobs and key roles for military generals, executives and possibly even family members in advising him about running the country.
Shortly after the Nov. 8 election, President-elect Trump and his vice president Mike Pence would begin interviewing candidates for the open Supreme Court seat and quickly settle on a nominee in the mold of Justice Antonin Scalia.
He would start "building a government based on relationships," perhaps inviting the Republican leaders Paul D. Ryan and Mitch McConnell to escape the chilly Washington fall and schmooze at Mar-a-Lago over golf and two-pound lobsters.
On Inauguration Day, he would go to a "beautiful" gala ball or two, but focus mostly on rescinding Obama executive orders on immigration and calling up corporate executives to threaten punitive measures if they shift jobs out of the United States.
And by the end of his first 100 days as the nation's 45th leader, the wall with Mexico would be designed, the immigration ban on Muslims would be in place, the audit of the Federal Reserve would be under way and plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act would be in motion.
"I know people aren't sure right now what a President Trump will be like," he said. "But things will be fine. I'm not running for president to make things unstable for the country."
The New York Times interviewed Trump several times in recent months, as well as several campaign advisers and Trump confidants.
Trump talks of turning the Oval Office into a high-powered board room, empowering military leaders over foreign affairs specialists in national security debates, and continuing to speak harshly about adversaries. He may post on Twitter less, but everyone will still know what he thinks.
"As president, I'll be working from the first day with my vice president and staff to make clear that America will be changing in major ways for the better," Trump said in an interview. "We can't afford to waste time. ... The message will be clear to the nation and to people abroad that the American government will be using its power differently."
But he also acknowledged that he might face significant and incessant protests — even thousands of demonstrators massing on the National Mall as he takes the oath of office nearby at the Capitol.
"I know everyone won't like everything I do, but I'm not running to be everyone's favorite president," Trump said. "Things are seriously wrong in this country. People are hurting, business is hurting. I'm running to move quickly to make big changes."
Several friends and allies of Trump said that "negotiating" was the word he used the most to encapsulate his first 100 days in office. He wants to put strong-willed people — business executives and generals are mentioned most often — in charge of Cabinet agencies and throughout his senior staff, and direct them to negotiate deals and plans with congressional leaders and state officials, as well as insurance companies and others in the private sector. They say he will accomplish the things he has promised or else keep trying, well aware that his supporters will have his head if he does not.
Build a wall
"He's not going to depart from the agenda he's laid out, not a bit," said Roger Stone, a longtime adviser and confidant. Stone declined to describe details of his private conversations with Trump, except to say: "Having gone out a thousand times to say 'I'm going to build a wall,' he has to build a wall. He has said he would scrap trade deals; his voters will demand he scrap trade deals. He knows that."
Trump would be a president like no other. Yet historians suggest the country would adjust: He would quickly find himself consumed with the urgent and normalizing tasks of building a cabinet, assembling senior staff and reassuring Wall Street and the public that he was capable of governing America.
"Trump is predicting he'll be able to do all these things, but his workload will be pretty enormous and his power would be so limited by precedent, by the bureaucracy, by the Constitution," said Robert Dallek, a presidential historian. "Even in trade and immigration, where Trump says he will make revolutionary changes, Congress has a say on those things. A lot of people have a say. The president is not king."
On his first day in office, Trump said, he would meet with Homeland Security officials, generals, and others — he did not mention diplomats — to take steps to seal the southern border and assign more security agents along it. He would also call the heads of companies like Pfizer, the Carrier Corporation, Ford and Nabisco and warn them that their products face 35 percent tariffs because they are moving jobs out of the country. Democrats and some Republicans have warned that financial markets would react poorly and that Trump's protectionist stances might plunge the country into recession, but he insisted that trade is "killing the country" and "the markets would be fine."
"Bilateral talks with Mexico would start pretty quickly on the wall, and I would have chief executives into the Oval Office soon, too," he said. "The Oval Office would be an amazing place to negotiate. It would command immediate respect from the other side, immediate understanding about the nation's priorities."
As for which foreign leader he would call first as president, he said "they would not necessarily be a priority."
"We have to take a tougher stand with foreign countries," Trump said. "We're like the policemen of the world right now. So I wouldn't be calling them up right away and getting more entangled."
For good or ill, he would command the nation's attention unlike any modern president, and not simply because of his penchant for redecorating in gold and renaming planes and buildings after himself. (For the record, he said he had no ambitious renovation plans.)
"His first 100 days would be riveting," said Ari Fleischer, a former press secretary for President George W. Bush. "The question would be whether he is capable of downshifting from the hot rhetoric of his campaign to the serious business of building a presidency based on sound judgment and necessary coalition building."
Negotiator in chief
Fleischer said it was possible that Trump would make the adjustment, given his frequent comments about negotiating with Democrats and Republicans to reach compromises.
"That side of him intrigues me," Fleischer said. "He keeps alluding to how well he gets along with people. It's almost like Trump is playing a shrewd game. Tough campaigner today. Great dealmaker later." He added, "Of course, if he wins he'll have some level of strength and momentum akin to a mandate. That would help."
Trump did seem aware that his early months could be consumed with trying to win confirmation for his cabinet and perhaps a new Supreme Court justice and with making appointments throughout the bureaucracy.
He made it clear that he was not interested in delegating these tasks and that he wanted to make sure his appointees shared his governing philosophy. One of his closest advisers, his daughter Ivanka, would probably stay with his company, but he said he would seek counsel from her and her husband, the businessman Jared Kushner, and noted that family members had served in administrations before.
Even jobs that might seem incidental in a Trump universe, like a United States ambassador to the United Nations, have apparently crossed his mind.
"I think about a U.N. ambassador, about a secretary of defense and secretary of treasury, but I think more about winning first," Trump said. "Otherwise I'm wasting time. I want people in those jobs who care about winning. The U.N. isn't doing anything to end the big conflicts in the world, so you need an ambassador who would win by really shaking up the U.N."
© 2016 New York Times