The Rose firm was a source of pain and controversy for the Clinton administration. One partner, Vince Foster, the deputy chief White House counsel, committed suicide. Another, associate attorney general Webb Hubbell, went to prison for mail fraud and tax evasion in a case involving the bilking of Rose and its clients. Hillary Clinton faced a grand jury in 1996, after Rose billing records sought by prosecutors for two years surfaced in her White House quarters.
Not surprisingly, that long chapter of Clinton's life is missing from her campaign narrative. "There's nothing at the Rose law firm that helps her. Nothing and no one," says Susan Estrich, a Democratic strategist and law professor at the University of Southern California.
The CEO lawyers
Giuliani was associate attorney general of the United States and a U.S. attorney in New York before he became New York City mayor in 1993. As a prosecutor, he went after organized crime, drugs and white-collar crime.
His pre-mayoral career meshes with his image as a hard-nosed enemy of crime and terrorism. As liberal lawyer-blogger Glenn Greenwald has written, Giuliani has a "talent for expressing prosecutor-like righteous anger toward 'bad people.' "
Giuliani decided on law school when he was a senior at Manhattan College. At first the idea of being a prosecutor seemed "harsh," he told the Academy of Achievement, an education group, in 2003, but he came to see it as a way to protect people, deter crime and "create more respect for the law."
Being a prosecutor is a good fit for a Republican candidate because it signals you are tough on crime, says Michael Dorf, author of No Litmus Test, a book on law and politics. Even better, Dorf says, is not to be a lawyer, because many Republicans think a lawyer's job is to "make it hard to do business."
"If you're a Republican who's a lawyer, you want to be Romney," says Dorf, a constitutional law professor at Columbia Law School.
That's Romney's view, too. He says there's a perception that some lawyers are "enriched by suing people, suing doctors. That doesn't sit well with a lot of people, myself included." He never planned to be a lawyer; he says his father convinced him that a law degree would help his business career.
Romney hammers at his man-in-charge credentials on the trail: CEO of an investment firm, governor of Massachusetts and — in one of his ads — "rescuer" of the scandal-plagued, financially struggling 2002 Winter Olympics.
However, his legal training emerges when he discusses how he'd make White House decisions.
In law school, Romney says in the interview, you learn to analyze opposing views. "I like that kind of a decision-making process," he says. "You look for people who disagree with you. The best way to get to the bottom of an issue is to have people … bring their strongest arguments together and do battle."
You can't make decisions, he adds, "by listening to only … your friends or listening to your gut. Your gut … is often wrong."
That seems to echo criticisms of the Bush administration. So does Romney think Bush has soured voters on the idea of an MBA president? He declines to comment.
How lawyer skills would help
Critiques of Bush's administration have focused on mismanagement and flawed policymaking, such as a lack of openness to varied views. Lawyers say legal training might have helped Bush.