Despite all the heavy-breathing hype generated to promote the forthcoming “attack biography” of Hillary Clinton by Edward Klein, citizens hoping to discover anything new about the famous junior Senator from New York shouldn’t waste their time or money on his unoriginal and unreliable rant.
I know because a copy showed up in my office the other day ahead of the publisher’s embargo.
Only the latest in an ever-expanding catalog of bad books claiming to tell us the “truth” about the former First Lady and potential Presidential candidate, Mr. Klein’s poisonous invention reveals far more about its author-and its publisher-than about Mrs. Clinton.
Even the most fanatical Hillary-haters will be disappointed if they’re expecting to wallow in fresh sewage. Almost all of this crud floated through the pipeline long ago.
To anyone who, like me, has been required to read previous entries in this subliterary genre, The Truth About Hillary emits a strong smell of toxic mold. Its 250-plus pages are padded out with the same old tales and the same old innuendoes, recounted by the same old parade of discredited or unnamed sources. Even the cover bears a startling resemblance to Joyce Milton’s The First Partner, upon which Mr. Klein leans more heavily than that flimsy work can bear.
His clichéd writing soon achieves a predictable rhythm, with page upon page of rehashed material punctuated by a juicy quote or sensational allegation from someone unnamed. In the ultimate form of junk recycling, his footnotes cite books that relied upon anonymous sources. Among computer scientists, this method is called “garbage in, garbage out.”
No doubt aware of recent controversies in journalism, Mr. Klein realizes that skeptical readers may be wary of his reliance on so many sources that he won’t name. So he offers this peculiar reassurance: “I felt an extra obligation to the reader to redouble my efforts to verify the fairness and accuracy of all their statements.”
Just how he verified their statements he doesn’t explain, although he helpfully provides dates on which he claims to have spoken with an “anonymous medical authority” and a “Wellesley college classmate who requested anonymity” and a “Clinton biographer who requested anonymity.”
Whatever news Mr. Klein claims to report, he gleaned from such nameless whisperers. They told him that Mrs. Clinton knew all about her husband’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky months or years before he confessed it to her and the country. They told him that she is “soulless.” (His secret informants obviously include Beelzebub, who usually confides only in Peggy Noonan.)
And they allegedly told him that Mr. Clinton had to “rape” the frigid Mrs. Clinton during a Caribbean vacation to impregnate her with their daughter Chelsea.
Obsessed by his fantasies of Mrs. Clinton as a lesbian, he devotes some of his most embarrassing prose to developing such pornographic themes. In a typical passage, he defames not only his subject but also the White House staffers who supposedly gossiped about her over the West Wing “water cooler:”
“Were there any telltale signs on the presidential sheets that they ever had sex with each other? For that matter, did [Mrs. Clinton] have any interest in sex with a man? Or, as was widely rumored, was she a lesbian?”
According to Mr. Klein’s guilt-by-association theory, she must be a homosexual “gender feminist,” and couldn’t possibly love her husband, because “many of her closest friends and aides were lesbians.” But he repeats the old rumor that she had an affair with Vince Foster, the White House counsel who committed suicide, although my sources still insist that Foster was a man.
It is all so drearily familiar, and yet so uniquely nasty that even some conservatives with a hearty appetite for Clinton-bashing are appalled.
Indeed, the instant revulsion of publications and writers not necessarily known for elevated standards indicates just how terrible Mr. Klein’s book is-and how irresponsible Penguin Group was to publish it. The Drudge Report’s disclosure of the rape charge sent nauseous waves through the right-wing blogosphere.
“This is sick, people,” cried a blogger at Redstate.org. “I have had just about enough of these so-called ‘insider’ true stories that are really nothing more than smear jobs, regardless of the target,” said another Republican blogger, whose complaint echoed many more.
Even Page Six, the New York Post’s Clinton-bashing gossip column, derided the book as a “hatchet-job” and the author as “error-prone.” The tabloid mocked Mr. Klein for identifying a happily married former classmate as Mrs. Clinton’s rumored lesbian lover. He never spoke with this lady-who denied the smear to the Post-and he repeatedly misspells her surname, which he evidently copied from another book. The New York Times management must cringe whenever Mr. Klein’s former employment there is cited as his main journalistic credential.
As for the management of Penguin-a company once regarded with universal respect and admiration-they should be cringing for years to come.