THE ENTERTAINMENT CRITIC BOOK REVIEW, BY JAMES MYERS
THE TRUTH ABOUT HILLARY: WHAT SHE KNEW, WHEN SHE KNEW IT, AND HOW FAR SHE’LL GO TO BECOME PRESIDENT
By Edward Klein
Published by Sentinel, an Imprint of Penguin Group (USA)
Publication Date: May, 2006
Four Star Rating ****
A BESTSELLING NONFICTION AUTHOR WHO HAS WRITTEN ABOUT THE KENNEDYS AND HILLARY CLINTON.
FORMER FOREIGN EDITOR OF NEWSWEEK
FORMER EDITOR IN CHIEF OF THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE
FREQUENTLY CONTRIBUTES TO VANITY FAIR AND PARADE
HE HAS A WEEKLY COLUMN IN PARADE CALLED "PERSONALITY PARADE" UNDER THE PSEUDONYM "WALTER SCOTT".
MANY OF HIS BOOKS HAVE BEEN ON THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER LIST.
“‘[Hillary] kept her eye on the real ball,” wrote historian Paul Johnson. “Each presidential peccadillo let her to demand and get more political say, with her own political future in mind…’”
That was true of course. But it still did not explain what made Hillary tick. After all this time, and all the effort that had been devoted to understanding her, the essential Hillary remained one of the great mysteries of our time.
What made her so difficult to understand was the fact that she was motivated not by one, but by many different feelings, ideas, and impulses-some conscious, others repressed-and that these feelings, ideas, and impulses were frequently at odds with each other.
She was a mother, but she wasn’t maternal.
She was a wife, but she had no wifely instincts.
She said she was passionately in love with her husband, but many of her closest friends and aides were lesbians.
She inspired fierce loyalty among her followers, but she frequently stabbed them in the back.
She professed to be a devout Christian, but she cheated and lied at the drop of a hat.
She was a liberal who promised to use her power to help the weak and disenfranchised, but she acted more like a misanthrope who distrusted people and avoided their company
For years, she denied she had any plans to run for president, yet she had always harbored the grandiose dream of succeeding her husband in the White House, and creating an empire of her own.
In short, everything about Hillary was ambiguous, everything she stood for, she stood for the opposite. She seemed to lack the innate knowledge of good and evil, right and wrong, and the obligation to tell the truth.”
When Edward Klein first released his book, The Truth about Hillary in 2005, the book was universally panned. Criticized by almost every critic that reviewed the controversial book, it was felt that statements made about her sexuality, the sex life of the Clintons, and his sources that were documents as “anonymous” made the book less than credible. The author himself notes that after the book was published, “…after scouring the text all they (Hillary and her aides) could find were two misspelled names, a missing ellipse, a slight chronological error-all of which have been corrected in this paperback edition.” (Forward xiii).
A reading of this recently released paperback version of The Truth makes Klein almost seem like a prophet. In the Forward to his book, he states that in order for Hillary to be elected in 2008 quoting from William A. Galston and Elaine C Kamarck’s book The Politics of Polarization, “Democrats have to capture far more moderates to win 50 percent plus one of the electorate than Republicans”… [In order to accomplish that Hillary must] “establish a bond of trust with the electorate that is based as much on character and integrity as policy agendas and issue papers. . . . Is the candidate a person of strength, with core convictions and the ability to act on them through challenges and criticism? Is the candidate a person of integrity, who displays consistency over time, who tells the truth, and whose words and deeds coincide? And: is the candidate a person of empathy, who understands and cares about people like us? In American national politics, candidates who appear cold, calculating, vacillating or elitist rarely succeed. (Italics are Klein’s)
But trust, character, and integrity are the very qualities that are sorely missing in Hillary Clinton. She has tried to compensate for her personal and political shortcomings by repositioning herself as a God-fearing, church going, flag loving, hawkish senator. The Truth about Hillary does not let her get away with that. It exposes “the new Hillary” as inauthentic.”
In my opinion, there are things that are going on in the current presidential campaign, that make some of the remarks in the Klein book ring true. What I want to do in this piece is to isolate some of Klein’s remarks in light of current events.
As a child, Klein describes Hillary as an intimidating overachiever and one of the toughest kids in Park Ridge, IL. Her parents taught her that if someone hits you, you hit them back. You stand up for yourself. Cowardice will not be tolerated. She was taught to be mentally and physically tough, and to fear no one. Hillary was described by her classmates not only as a teacher’s pet, but as a fighter, who could loose her temper at the drop of a hat, flaring into violence. The fact that she was a girl got her no special consideration from her parents. Her parents made her feel that she was special, slated to become a champion. Klein describes 3 lessons she learned from her parents:
Never allow yourself to be a victim;
If somebody hits you, hit him or her back harder;
Stay in control of your own destiny.
In other words, her perfectionist parents taught her that she was better than everyone else, and that she should achieve position in life. That she was entitled to it. They gave her the go-ahead to come unglued when anyone would dare to criticize or disagree with her. When she was 16, she complained to her church’s youth minister, Reverend Don Jones that she had lost the election for president of the Maine South High School as a result of “dirty campaigning” by opponents who were “slinging mud” at her. She is still bitter about that loss today. Her opponent, Timothy Sheldon, now an Illinois Circuit Court Judge called the election a popularity contest, and that he won because he was a football star. A former classmate of Hillary’s stated that she had then and she had now “a sense of infallibility” and that the alleged wrongdoing resulted from her convincing herself in her own mind that without wrongdoing, she could not have lost.
Senator Clinton’s behavior during this campaign has been compared to that of Tracy Flick in the movie “Election.” I think this “you owe me” feeling to her campaign was best summed up by Edward Klein in his book, The Truth About Hillary. When speaking of her senatorial campaign in New York, he said,
“Hillary, on the other hand, behaved as though she was entitled to power. She had been brought up by parents who taught her to believe that she was stronger, smarter, and better than everyone else. Her Methodist youth minister, Don Jones, reinforced her grandiose self-image by convincing her that she was doing God’s work. It was Hillary’s exaggerated sense of her own importance and her feelings of superiority-not her gender-that turned people off. People hesitated to vote for a woman like Hillary not because she was a woman, but because she acted as though she had a divine right to rule.” (Pp. 193).
Is this the reason that she has attacked Barack Obama with such ferocity, what has been referred to as “the kitchen sink”? The argument seems to go that Obama had better get used it because he’ll just get the same from the Republicans later. A plethora of issues have arisen from this entitlement theory.
How many times have we heard her say during this campaign that she has worked hard to get to where she is, and has experience dealing with difficult issues? Obama has been treated as if he is some “Johnny-come-lately” who is intruding on her space. Sometimes the criticism of Senator Obama reminds me of college hazing; it’s not rational; it is just demeaning. How else would you explain the kitchen sink strategy?
The sudden need to have the Florida and Michigan primary results honored only after she began to loose in the delegate, state, and popular vote count. This occurred after both candidates agreed in the beginning not to campaign in those states due to primary irregularities, and penalties from the Democratic National Committee. Part of what has been suggested is a mail in campaign, which just seems fraught with the potential for fraud. Pendants has theorized that if a re-do were permitted, that the vote may come out half and half for each candidate, and Senator Clinton would make not real gain in seated or super delegates.
It is a strategy (what I call the Dream Ticket Option) that has given us the #2 candidate, stating that she would accept the #1 candidate as her Vice President. This is despite the fact that she claims to have all of this experience, coupled with readiness on Day 1, and her 3 am telephone call ad (which by the way is stock footage; one of the little girls in the ad is all grown up and not only is an Obama supporter, but a precinct captain) in a blatant attempt to make voters fearful. Just like both Democratic candidates have criticized the Bush administration for doing the last 8 years? If Mr. Obama is so inexperienced, why would you want him to be one heartbeat away from the Presidency?
How do you explain one of her supporters making a statement that Senator Obama would not be running so well if not for the advantage he has of being black, and a man, and if you criticize her, then you are a racist? Why try to divide the party on the basis of race or sex?
How do you explain her staff leaking an African looking picture of Senator Obama roughly at the same time one of her supporters makes statements that if he is elected, terrorists will be dancing in the streets, and the continual references to his middle name Husain? Was this done to stir anti-Muslim sentiment against Mr. Obama?
Or the exploiting of supposed contradictory statements by one of Mr. Obama’s staff to Canadian officials concerning NAFTA, made on the heels of the Obama campaign pointing out inconsistent positions that Mrs. Clinton has taken on that subject while campaigning for Senator out of New York?
Or stating one day what an honor it is to be an opponent of Barack Obama and almost literally the next day, shouting Shame on you Barack Obama?
It seems like almost everyday, some new controversy arises from the Clinton camp, that on it face just doesn’t make sense, and that Mr. Obama usually handles with ease. It’s not the argument that makes sense, it is the entitlement. The feeling that “I have wanted this for so long, that the ends justify the means”. The feeling that you get is that Mr. Obama is in her way; an unwelcome, uninvited intruder; an interruption of the dream. It is not the race. It is not the issue. It just belongs to me and me only. Is this just signal jamming so Senator Obama’s message of change and reaching across the aisle cannot be heard for all of that noise? Or has Senator Obama has said, is this just the old “bamboozle”, a “hoodwink”, or “the old oki-doke”?
In that book, Klein characterizes her as cold and calculating, planning a run for the Presidency before she first met Bill Clinton. A childhood dream that she saw as coming true through Bill Clinton. Klein characterizes their alliance as more political, then a marriage.
“She’s the most unbelievable actress I have ever met,” said a woman who worked on Hillary’s Senate campaign. ‘I remember one time at a Woman’s Leadership Forum event in New York, thirty of us sat around Hillary, talking about politics. And she said, ‘You know I love this organization, not just because we sit around and talk about politics, but because of the bonds of friendship forming around us.’ The way she said it, people were riveted by her performance. But I had gotten to know her, and I could tell she didn’t mean it. She has this unbelievable ability to be a liar. She is soulless.”(Pp 185)
The most disturbing analogy that Klein makes in his book is that Hillary reminds him of another politician---Richard Nixon. Like Nixon, Hillary re-invented herself to make her run for the Presidency in 2008. Forgoing or choosing to ignore her older positions and statements, her record, she emerges as the “the new, new Hillary.”
She takes positions and behaves in a way that best suits her position for that particular race or for that particular day.
What kind of President would she make? She characterizes herself as the experienced, tested candidate. Quoted in Klein’s book, is Stanley Renshon, the author of The Psychological Assessment of Presidential Candidates :
“Ambition is a form of ‘healthy narcissism’ and the key to achievement. Some children however retain their sense that they are different, special, entitled and ultimately not to be limited by conventional boundaries.
These are people whose…ends therefore justify any means. Often this leads to a tendency to cut corners, to be less than forthcoming, to portray things always in the best light (in keeping with their own high views of themselves and their motives) and ready to bend the rules when it comes to their convenience. Such persons are vulnerable to getting into legal trouble.”
Bradford DeLong, a deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury during the first Clinton Administration may have put it best, “My two cents worth-and I think it is the two cents worth of everybody that worked for the Clinton Administration health care reform effort of 1993-1994-is that Hillary Rodman Clinton needs to be kept very far away from the White House for the rest of her life. Heading up health-care reform was the only major administration job she ever tried to do. And she was a complete flop at it. She has neither the grasp of policy substance, the managerial skills, nor the political smarts to do the job she was given….
Hillary Rodman Clinton has already flopped as a senior administrative official of the executive branch-the equivalent of an Undersecretary. Perhaps she will make a good senator. But there is no reason to think she would be anything but an abysmal President.”
One other point that Klein does make in this book, is that we have inherited Hillary based on public sympathy, not on her merits. First, he states that Monica Lewinski made Hillary Clinton’s political career. Despite the fact the Klein alleges she know about Bill’s womanizing all the way back to when they met at Yale Law School, and she took extraordinary steps to make sure he was watched both as Governor and as President, she convinced the country that she did not know about Monica and that she could kill Bill for his actions. Others in Klein’s book state that not only did she know, but she played a role in having Lewinsky transferred out of the White House staff to the Pentagon.
Political consultant Dick Morris is quoted in the book as saying:
“The estrangement was vital for it helped substantiate the idea that they had a real marriage [to begin with]. And a rapprochement was essential, allowing [Hillary] to attract the money and political support she would need to attract the money and political support she would need to run [for public office in the future].”
Klein states that Hillary had been interested in political power and the presidency all of her life. That this is the reason she married Bill Clinton, and that is the reason she stayed with him. He makes a big point of their separate living arrangements while Hillary was acting as a Senator from New York, and his book contains statements where she is quoted as telling other that “Bill owes me.” Klein theorizes that without Monica, Hillary would have remained a “scandal-scarred, unpopular First lady without a promising political future.” Monica transformed Hillary into an overnight “sympathetic figure and national martyr.” Monica in effect “paved the way for Hillary to become a U.S. Senator.”
“The great irony of [Hillary’s] life [was] that she achieved her highest stature, reached her apogee as a public person, not because of widespread admiration for something she had done, but because of public sympathy over something that was done to her”, remarked political observer Michael Tomasky.
Additionally, Klein points out that she only sealed the deal in her race for the Senate, when her opponent, Rick Lazio, during a debate, left his podium, walked across to Hillary and waived a piece of paper in her face. After the debate, women all over New York felt he had invaded her space and behaved in an overbearing manner. Again, Hillary was transformed from “a political troublemaker to a sympathetic victim.” (Shades of New Hampshire!) I’m old enough to remember Richard Nixon’s famous “Checkers Speech” so this is not the first time this has been done.
Has she succeeded up to this point based on her work and experience or has she managed to succeed by calculated political attacks and sympathy? The position that she has taken in this election about her experience has recently been called into question. From http://www.realclearpolitics.com/ comes the following:
“Senator Clinton's Claims of Foreign Policy Experience Are Exaggerated
By Greg Craig (a former Clinton Attorney, who did not represent them in court)
To: Interested Parties
From: Greg Craig, former director, Policy Planning Office, U.S. State Department
RE: Senator Clinton's claim to be experienced in foreign policy: Just words?
DA: March 11, 2008
When your entire campaign is based upon a claim of experience, it is important that you have evidence to support that claim. Hillary Clinton's argument that she has passed "the Commander- in-Chief test" is simply not supported by her record.
There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton played an important domestic policy role when she was First Lady. It is well known, for example, that she led the failed effort to pass universal health insurance. There is no reason to believe, however, that she was a key player in foreign policy at any time during the Clinton Administration. She did not sit in on National Security Council meetings. She did not have a security clearance. She did not attend meetings in the Situation Room. She did not manage any part of the national security bureaucracy, nor did she have her own national security staff. She did not do any heavy-lifting with foreign governments, whether they were friendly or not. She never managed a foreign policy crisis, and there is no evidence to suggest that she participated in the decision-making that occurred in connection with any such crisis. As far as the record shows, Senator Clinton never answered the phone either to make a decision on any pressing national security issue - not at 3 AM or at any other time of day.
When asked to describe her experience, Senator Clinton has cited a handful of international incidents where she says she played a central role. But any fair-minded and objective judge of these claims - i.e., by someone not affiliated with the Clinton campaign - would conclude that Senator Clinton's claims of foreign policy experience are exaggerated.
Senator Clinton has said, "I helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland." It is a gross overstatement of the facts for her to claim even partial credit for bringing peace to Northern Ireland. She did travel to Northern Ireland, it is true. First Ladies often travel to places that are a focus of U.S. foreign policy. But at no time did she play any role in the critical negotiations that ultimately produced the peace. As the Associated Press recently reported, "[S]he was not directly involved in negotiating the Good Friday peace accord." With regard to her main claim that she helped bring women together, she did participate in a meeting with women, but, according to those who know best, she did not play a pivotal role. The person in charge of the negotiations, former Senator George Mitchell, said that "[The First Lady] was one of many people who participated in encouraging women to get involved, not the only one."
News of Senator Clinton's claims has raised eyebrows across the ocean. Her reference to an important meeting at the Belfast town hall was debunked. Her only appearance at the Belfast City Hall was to see Christmas lights turned on. She also attended a 50-minute meeting which, according to the Belfast Daily Telegraph's report at the time, "[was] a little bit stilted, a little prepared at times." Brian Feeney, an Irish author and former politician, sums it up: "The road to peace was carefully documented, and she wasn’t on it."
Senator Clinton has pointed to a March 1996 trip to Bosnia as proof that her foreign travel involved a life-risking mission into a war zone. She has described dodging sniper fire. While she did travel to Bosnia in March 1996, the visit was not a high-stakes mission to a war zone. On March 26, 1996, the New York Times reported that "Hillary Rodham Clinton charmed American troops at a U.S.O. show here, but it didn't hurt that the singer Sheryl Crow and the comedian Sinbad were also on the stage."
Senator Clinton has said, "I negotiated open borders to let fleeing refugees into safety from Kosovo." It is true that, as First Lady, she traveled to Macedonia and visited a Kosovar refugee camp. It is also true that she met with government officials while she was there. First Ladies frequently meet with government officials. Her claim to have "negotiated open borders to let fleeing refugees into safety from Kosovo," however, is not true. Her trip to Macedonia took place on May 14, 1999. The borders were opened the day before, on May 13, 1999.
The negotiations that led to the opening of the borders were accomplished by the people who ordinarily conduct negotiations with foreign governments - U.S. diplomats. President Clinton's top envoy to the Balkans, former Ambassador Robert Gelbard, said, "I cannot recall any involvement by Senator Clinton in this issue." Ivo Daalder worked on the Clinton Administration's National Security Council and wrote a definitive history of the Kosovo conflict. He recalls that "she had absolutely no role in the dirty work of negotiations."
Last year, former President Clinton asserted that his wife pressed him to intervene with U.S. troops to stop the Rwandan genocide. When asked about this assertion, Hillary Clinton said it was true. There is no evidence, however, to suggest that this ever happened. Even those individuals who were advocating a much more robust U.S. effort to stop the genocide did not argue for the use of U.S. troops. No one recalls hearing that Hillary Clinton had any interest in this course of action. Based on a fair and thorough review of National Security Council deliberations during those tragic months, there is no evidence to suggest that U.S. military intervention was ever discussed. Prudence Bushnell, the Assistant Secretary of State with responsibility for Africa, has recalled that there was no consideration of U.S. military intervention.
At no time prior to her campaign for the presidency did Senator Clinton ever make the claim that she supported intervening militarily to stop the Rwandan genocide. It is noteworthy that she failed to mention this anecdote - urging President Clinton to intervene militarily in Rwanda - in her memoirs. President Clinton makes no mention of such a conversation with his wife in his memoirs. And Madeline Albright, who was Ambassador to the United Nations at the time, makes no mention of any such event in her memoirs.
Hillary Clinton did visit Rwanda in March 1998 and, during that visit, her husband apologized for America's failure to do more to prevent the genocide.
Senator Clinton also points to a speech that she delivered in Beijing in 1995 as proof of her ability to answer a 3 AM crisis phone call. It is strange that Senator Clinton would base her own foreign policy experience on a speech that she gave over a decade ago, since she so frequently belittles Barack Obama’s speeches opposing the Iraq War six years ago. Let there be no doubt: she gave a good speech in Beijing, and she stood up for women's rights. But Senator Obama's opposition to the War in Iraq in 2002 is relevant to the question of whether he, as Commander-in-Chief, will make wise judgments about the use of military force. Senator Clinton's speech in Beijing is not.
Senator Obama's speech opposing the war in Iraq shows independence and courage as well as good judgment. In the speech that Senator Clinton says does not qualify him to be Commander in Chief, Obama criticized what he called "a rash war . . . a war based not on reason, but on passion, not on principle, but on politics." In that speech, he said prophetically: "[E]ven a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences." He predicted that a U.S. invasion of Iraq would "fan the flames of the Middle East," and "strengthen the recruitment arm of al Qaeda." He urged the United States first to "finish the fight with Bin Laden and al Qaeda."
If the U.S. government had followed Barack Obama's advice in 2002, we would have avoided one of the greatest foreign policy catastrophes in our nation's history. Some of the most "experienced" men in national security affairs - Vice President Cheney and Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others - led this nation into that catastrophe. That lesson should teach us something about the value of judgment over experience. Longevity in Washington, D.C. does not guarantee either wisdom of judgment.
The Clinton campaign's argument is nothing more than mere assertion, dramatized in a scary television commercial with a telephone ringing in the middle of the night. There is no support for or substance in the claim that Senator Clinton has passed "the Commander-in-Chief test." That claim - as the TV ad - consists of nothing more than making the assertion, repeating it frequently to the voters and hoping that they will believe it.
On the most critical foreign policy judgment of our generation - the War in Iraq - Senator Clinton voted in support of a resolution entitled "The Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of U.S. Military Force Against Iraq." As she cast that vote, she said: "This is probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make - any vote that may lead to war should be hard - but I cast it with conviction." In this campaign, Senator Clinton has argued - remarkably - that she wasn't actually voting for war, she was voting for diplomacy. That claim is no more credible than her other claims of foreign policy experience. The real tragedy is that we are still living with the terrible consequences of her misjudgment. The Bush Administration continues to cite that resolution as its authorization - like a blank check - to fight on with no end in sight.
Barack Obama has a very simple case. On the most important commander in chief test of our generation, he got it right, and Senator Clinton got it wrong. In truth, Senator Obama has much more foreign policy experience than either Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan had when they were elected. Senator Obama has worked to confront 21st century challenges like proliferation and genocide on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He possesses the personal attributes of a great leader - an even temperament, an open-minded approach to even the most challenging problems, a willingness to listen to all views, clarity of vision, the ability to inspire, conviction and courage.
And Barack Obama does not use false charges and exaggerated claims to play politics with national security.”
Much of Klein’s book has been questioned, debated and slammed. Panned in its release, the book has remained an enigma. But in light of recent events, some of that book seems to serve as a reasonable explanation for some unreasonable behavior. Current history makes a re-reading of The Truth About Hillary interesting and oddly topical.