Authors of New Hillary Book Speak Out

Russert love some Hillary news

Did you think the slew of anti-Hillary books was over? Not at all. As the election season continues its slow steady burn through the summer months, the gossip surrounding these new publications continues to move apace.

On Sunday, the authors of “Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton” spoke out on NBC’s “Meet The Press” with Tim Russert. Jeff Gerth, a former investigative reporter for The New York Times, and Don Van Natta Jr., a current investigative reporter for the Times, defended their disclosures critical of Senator Clinton. Their goal in writing the book, according to Gerth: “She’s now running for president, and we felt that people needed to understand how she acts in the political arena and, and use that as a basis for deciding whether she’s qualified to be president or not.”

Russert asked Gerth and Van Natta about their assertion that the Clintons had planned a “grand design” to each serve two terms in the Oval Office. Gerth described his interviews with two close associates of the Clintons, who recall hearing that Bill was going to serve eight years and then, at some point, Hillary was going to do eight years in the White House. Mrs. Clinton’s Senate spokesman, Philippe Reines, in turn, responded, “I have an on-the-record, named source extremely familiar with the facts of her life—and I’m telling you [their claims are] absurd, bogus, nonsensical, conjured. Take your pick.” He further commented that Gerth’s and Natta’s book “[is] nothing more than cash for rehash.” A witty line that Clinton aides hope will discredit the books and dismiss them as unworthy of the American public’s attention.

In a second revelation intensely critical of Clinton, the authors write that she never read the national intelligence estimate on the Iraq war. When asked about this accusation during the most recent Democratic Presidential candidate debate, Clinton acknowledged not reading the lengthy document, but indicated that she was “thoroughly briefed” on the subject and interviewed key national security personnel. Former Senator John Edwards, for his part, also didn’t lose sleep over not reading the report.

The authors also write that Clinton’s June 21, 2006, official Senate statement was the “first time in her public speeches” in which “she offered a new interpretation of her own actions in 2002.” Media Matters took issue with the authors’ claim on Meet the Press, citing Mrs. Clinton’s interview with the Poughkeepsie Journal on February 9, 2004, in which she offered such a “new interpretation:”

Clinton said, “I think when you are asked by a president to give him authority to proceed in one manner with the ultimate decision to use force, granted, assuming the following steps would be taken, that doesn’t seem to me to be unreasonable. What happened here is that we gave authority to a president who in my view misused the authority.”

The authors also told Russert that Clinton was unwilling to cooperate for the book, despite their attempts to approach her “from the very beginning.” According to the New York Times book review, “Gerth and Van Natta see themselves as relating the unvarnished truth about Senator Clinton.”

This is the second consecutive “Meet the Press” broadcast in which Russert has referenced the new Clinton books, asking his roundtable of political analysts how they will affect the Clinton camp and her demeanor on the campaign trail—and stressing their significance. James Carville, a former Clinton strategist, felt that the new Clinton books (the other, “A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton” by The Washington Post’s Carl Bernstein) “are not going to be particularly damaging to her,” noting that she has survived the much negative press already. “By a factor of more than five—and I think we can all agree with this—Hillary Clinton’s been subjected to more anti-Hillary books and investigations, Ken Starr, $70 million.” We’ll see if Mr. Russert raises the Clinton book (or books) a third time next Sunday.

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Alexander Heffner is an intern at CJR.