Back in the autumn of 2002, as pundits were portraying Hillary Clinton as a surprisingly moderate U.S. Senator, Carl Limbacher got an unexpected call.
It was from an editor at a division of Crown Publishing. He wanted a book about Hillary Clinton from Mr. Limbacher, an Oyster Bay printer who moonlights as a writer for the fiercely right-wing Web site NewsMax.
“Crown came to me—it wasn’t my idea to write a book,” Mr. Limbacher said.
The following spring, Hillary’s Scheme appeared under Random House–owned Crown Publishing’s new conservative imprint, Crown Forum. Addressed to conservatives, the book’s central argument was: Be very afraid. Its sourcing was drawn from a rich field of existing anti-Hillary literature, stretching back to the early 1990’s, and whose Boswell is Clinton apostate Dick Morris. Like the growing stack of biographies and polemics on Mrs. Clinton, the book’s driving force was the fact that attacks on New York’s junior Senator sell—regardless of reviews.
“There’s an endless fascination with Hillary,” said Jed Donahue, Mr. Limbacher’s editor at Crown Forum. Mr. Donahue was lured to New York’s corporate publishing world from the conservative Regnery Publishing. “She is someone who people on the right take very seriously.”
Mrs. Clinton is the subject of about 30 volumes already. About a dozen more will be written, researched or set in type between now and the fall of 2007—when the 2008 Presidential race will be in full swing. This year’s crop is slender and unabashedly conservative: Crown Forum has two more, John Podhoretz’s Can She Be Stopped: Hillary Clinton Will Be the Next President of the United States Unless … (due out in May), and conservative media critic Brent Bozell’s Whitewash (out this fall) on the media’s coverage of Mrs. Clinton.
A book by David Horowitz and Richard Poe, The Shadow Party: How Hillary Clinton, George Soros, and the Sixties Left Took Over the Democratic Party, is set for release in August by the Christian publishing house Thomas Nelson. And Dick Morris—fresh off Regan Books’ release of Condi vs. Hillary (Mr. Morris likes Condi; Mr. Podhoretz’s Hillary-killer is Rudy Giuliani)—has contributed his name and a short introduction to “I’ve Always Been a Yankees Fan”: Hillary Clinton in Her Own Words, which World Ahead Publishing, a California company, will publish next month.
The quote book, like many of the more recent volumes, builds on the growing body of Hillary lit: Many of its quotes are questionably sourced lines from, among others, Ed Klein’s widely criticized The Truth About Hillary. For relatively solid grounding, this universe has critical but reality-based tomes like Dick Morris’ earlier book, Behind the Oval Office; Gail Sheehy’s psychobiography, Hillary’s Choice; and Peggy Noonan’s best-selling essay, The Case Against Hillary. At the other end are the questionably researched attacks, like David Brock’s The Seduction of Hillary Rodham, since disowned by its author but still frequently footnoted, and Mr. Klein’s, with its prurient speculation about Mrs. Clinton’s sexuality.
It’s a universe in which Vince Foster’s death remains an open question, and Mrs. Clinton’s true, liberal core is taken for granted. It has its own stars, like Mr. Limbacher (whose NewsMax is its newspaper of record), and even its own Joe Klein.
Across the cover of “I’ve Always Been a Yankees Fan” is the following blurb: “A great collection—this could be Hillary’s Unfit for Command. — Joe Klein.”
“Joe Klein is the FrontPage Magazine contributor and author of Global Deception,” says World Ahead Publishing marketing director Judy Abarbanel.
Oh, that Joe Klein!
On the horizon is a second, thicker batch of Hillary books: New York Times investigative reporter Don Van Natta and his former colleague Jeff Gerth—chronicler of the Clintons’ Arkansas business dealings— have a biography due out from Little, Brown in the fall of 2007, for which they reportedly received a $1 million advance.
Washington biographer Sally Bedell Smith, author of the Kennedy chronicle Grace and Power, is writing a book about Bill and Hillary as President and First Lady— “a portrait of them in those years,” she told The Observer.
“The point of it is to deepen people’s understanding—and that’s important to me, and readers have responded to my books,” Ms. Bedell Smith said. “I think there is a market for it.”
Finally, there’s the mysterious Carl Bernstein biography of Mrs. Clinton, which the Watergate icon reportedly sold to Knopf in 1999 and which, according to the biography posted on his speaking agency’s Web site, was supposed to appear in 2003. It is still unreleased, and a spokesman for Knopf, Nicholas Latimer, tersely declined to offer a timetable for publication.
“The book has not been delivered,” he said. Mr. Bernstein didn’t respond to a message left with him at Vanity Fair, where he is a contributing editor.
Another nonpartisan volume is due out this fall from Washington Post political editor John Harris, author of a recent biography of Bill Clinton, and the chief of ABC News’ political operation, Mark Halperin. Published by Random House, its subject is American politics and the two dominant political families, the Bushes and the Clintons, according to a person familiar with the book.
The power of Mrs. Clinton’s name at the moment—“She is the only star in American politics except for the President,” says Mr. Podhoretz—is such that publishers, when possible, jam her name into the subtitle of books only tangentially related to her. That’s apparently the case with Mr. Horowitz’s forthcoming dispatch from the culture wars, and it is also the case for a forthcoming volume by National Review’s Jonah Goldberg, scheduled to come out next March. Its title: Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton.
A press release from the publisher says that the book “reveals that the original fascists were really on the left” (though, come to think of it, they weren’t all that nice to the Communists); it does not, however, focus on Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Goldberg said.
“Hillary’s not a real big part of my book—part of it is a concession to my publisher, who wanted to make it clear that it’s not simply a historical book. She’s sort of there as an icon of contemporary liberalism,” Mr. Goldberg said. “I’m getting a lot grief for having her in the title. People think—understandably and reasonably—that it’s about selling books, and it’s this invidious slap at Hillary in order to sell books.”
While many Hillary writers, from Mr. Morris to Mr. Podhoretz, argue that their subject is underestimated and that conservatives should worry more (and buy more books), Mr. Goldberg takes the opposite line.
“Conservatives have convinced themselves, partly because of all that nonsense Dick Morris spews, that she is this superwoman with superpowers,” he said. (Mr. Morris didn’t respond to a request for comment.)
Since Regnery broke through with anti-Clinton literature in the 1990’s, publishers almost can’t lose. Forgotten volumes like Barbara Olson’s Hell to Pay: The Unfolding Story of Hillary Rodham Clinton spent weeks on The New York Times best-seller list, where Mr. Klein’s The Truth About Hillary reached second place. And Mrs. Clinton’s autobiography, Living History, astonished skeptics by selling more than a million copies within a month of its release.
Still, there is one way to lose with Hillary: You can publish a book that praises her. HarperCollins editor Judith Regan, who didn’t respond to messages, learned this when she published Susan Estrich’s The Case for Hillary, which was widely reviewed but sold roughly a tenth as many books as Mr. Klein’s, according to a publishing-industry insider.
Since Hillary’s Choice, Ms. Sheehy’s 1999 book, and the subject’s election to the Senate in 2000, Mrs. Clinton’s office has cooperated with none of the biographers.
“There are only two official books about the Clintons: My Life by Bill Clinton, and Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Both remain the definitive works on their lives and work, and both make great gifts and are still available in paperback,” said Mr. Clinton’s spokesman, Jay Carson, and Mrs. Clinton’s spokesman, Philippe Reines, in a joint e-mailed statement.
For the writers and publishers who regard her as a muse, Mrs. Clinton is a virtual cottage industry—and one that shows no sign of a slowdown any time soon.
“My argument was originally that 2004 was her best shot,” recalled Mr. Limbacher. “Then we revised it for the paperback edition after that clearly wasn’t going to happen, saying that 2008 was still a possibility.”
— additional reporting by Nicole Brydson
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