A new biography’s unflattering portrayal of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton as someone who “camouflages” her real self for political gain is starting to attract attention — and not for the salacious stories most books recount about the Clintons.
“A Woman in Charge,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carl Bernstein, gives scant attention to the tense days the former First Lady spent in the White House when Bill Clinton was sneaking around with his intern, Monica Lewinsky. Instead, the former Washington Post reporter, who helped blow the lid off Watergate, attempts to portray Hillary Clinton as someone who is willing to rewrite her own history to advance the political career she put on hold when she moved to Arkansas with her college sweetheart who would later become president.
“This is a woman who led a camouflaged life and continues to,” Bernstein told TODAY host Matt Lauer on Friday in an exclusive interview. “This book takes away that camouflage.” The book, which he called the first “real biography” of Hillary Clinton, will be available on June 5.
To tell the story of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s journey from a humble childhood marked by abuse at home to the White House, and later the U.S. Senate, Bernstein talked to about 200 close friends and advisers to the Clintons. Bernstein said he learned a lot about Hillary Clinton, including steps she took to try to silence the various women linked to her husband throughout his political career.
Bernstein mentions the women and the relationships in the book, but avoids the steamy, sensational details about Bill Clinton’s dalliances other books cover. If a reader wants those details, he told Lauer, they should “go to another book.”
“There’s not a sex act mentioned in this book,” he added. “What is important is Hillary savaging the women he was with, forgiving Bill repeatedly throughout their married life, but not forgiving the women he was with.”
Hillary’s 'protective shell’
Bernstein’s book also explores Clinton’s strained relationship with her disciplinarian father, the development of her religious convictions, and her political ideals that took shape during her studies at Wellesley and Yale Law School. The author goes on to disclose, among other things, that Bill Clinton fell in love with another woman while becoming a rising political star in Arkansas, and quotes insiders who say Hillary Clinton wouldn’t give him a divorce.
Philippe Reines, Hillary Clinton’s spokesman, dismissed the relevance of Bernstein’s work, saying the book is intended to make the Clintons look bad for profit, yet again. Lauer said Reines told TODAY: “Is it possible to be quoted yawning? This is an author’s agenda to take an old story and rehash for cash.”
Bernstein countered that the book is really meant to let people see what drives Hillary Clinton, who could become the nation’s next president. As for being “rehash,” Bernstein said “A Woman in Charge” offers readers numerous revelations, including the fact that Hillary Rodham shocked her friends when she failed the Washington, D.C., bar exam. That subsequently played into her decision, he said, to move to Arkansas with Bill Clinton. “They know better than that. There are 25 front-page stories in this book,” Bernstein said. “I think we wanted to find out who this person is. That’s what this book is intended to do. A whole picture, finally.”
A major theme throughout the book is Bernstein’s belief that in order to be elected president, Hillary Clinton needs to emerge from the “protective shell” she has created for herself and overcome his and her critics’ perception that she’s not genuine. “I think she has developed an inauthenticity, which is perhaps her greatest political problem,” he said. “If she can overcome that, she might be able to lead more effectively.”
The book concludes with Clinton’s announcement that she is running for the Democratic Party nomination. Bernstein does not go into her time in the Senate in any great detail. Although he criticizes Clinton’s rhetoric about her voting record on the war in Iraq, Bernstein generally gives her high marks as senator.