Clinton Book Fatigue


By: Wall Street Journal

Despite Slow Sales, New Bio Joins the Lot
By JACKIE CALMES
October 22, 2007

WASHINGTON — Whether or not “Clinton fatigue” plays any role in complicating Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency, one thing seems clear: Americans are suffering from Clinton book fatigue.

This week, Random House releases “For Love of Politics” by best-selling biographer Sally Bedell Smith, which covers the Clintons’ White House years. The policies on which they collaborated — including budget-balancing, rewriting welfare, the failed push for universal health care and even foreign policies — are background noise in a re-telling of the financial and sexual scandals that followed them from Arkansas to Washington.

“For Love of Politics,” which The Wall Street Journal obtained in a Washington bookstore ahead of its release, follows two major biographies released this summer. “A Woman in Charge,” by Carl Bernstein, has sold about 57,000 of the 275,000 copies Alfred A. Knopf Inc. reportedly printed, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 75% of the book market. “Her Way,” by New York Times reporters Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta, has sold about 19,000 of 175,000 copies that Little, Brown & Co. reportedly printed.

An Internet search found more than 40 books about or by the Clintons, more than half by critics. The Clinton campaign was braced for these latest offerings, given the authors’ credibility and their timing in the heat of a presidential race. Its war-room was on alert to discredit them. Clintonites feared bombshells, but even re-hashing the past could upset Sen. Clinton’s effort to re-introduce herself as the experienced candidate of change.

“Americans long ago turned the page on the thoroughly written-about past and are now focused on writing our country’s next chapter and hearing about Sen. Clinton’s plans for improving our health care, lowering gas prices, and bringing our troops home from Iraq,” says press secretary Philippe Reines.

Ms. Smith’s book, like the summer’s earlier biographies, reveals little that is new. She did gain access to late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s private papers. Although the New York Democrat endorsed Mrs. Clinton as his successor in 2000, the memoranda confirm he had frosty relations with both Clintons in the early 1990s, when he was chairman of the Senate Finance Committee that handled much of the Clinton agenda.

Moynihan wrote that former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey confided that he called Bill Clinton after the release of the 1998 Starr Report on the president’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, and told the president he should resign. “Wow,” Mr. Kerrey emailed after learning of the account. “This is lost from my memory bank. Whatever conversation I had (and I won’t second guess the content of the Moynihan memo) it had to be more of a discussion of options than a recommendation. I would remember if I recommended he do this.”

Ms. Smith casts doubt on the Clintons’ claim that Roger Porter, an adviser to the first President Bush, told Bill Clinton in 1991 that Republicans would “do everything we can to destroy you personally.” Mr. Porter told her the conversation didn’t happen.

Amid curiosity now about how much Mrs. Clinton relies on her husband’s counsel, Ms. Smith writes that in Bill Clinton’s first campaign, he called his wife nightly about strategy and the day’s events. As president, “Whenever Bill said, ‘Let me think about it,’ aides knew he intended to call Hillary.”

Write to Jackie Calmes at jackie.calmes@wsj.com

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