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Bill Steigerwald Bill Steigerwald, 7/14/2005 [Archive]

Ed Klein throws the book at Hillary

Edward Klein's "The Truth About Hillary," a short, biting biography of Hillary Clinton that dwells on her radical politics and worst character traits, has rocketed to the top of best-sellers lists. But Klein has been blasted by liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, Clinton allies and his fellow journalists for everything from committing factual errors to being a tool of the vast right-wing conspiracy. I talked to Klein -- a political independent -- by telephone from Washington.

Q: Tina Brown, your old boss at Vanity Fair, called your book "bio-porn." You've been accused of recycling old, unsubstantiated rumors. How do you defend yourself?

A: I don't feel I need to defend myself. My career and my record speak for themselves. I was the foreign editor of Newsweek magazine and the editor in chief of The New York Times Magazine. I've been a journalist for more than 40 years. I've written four New York Times best-sellers (including "The Kennedy Curse").... I'm a very experienced journalist who's dealt with people on the Left and people on the Right, people on the record, people off the record. I know how to be a journalist.

Q: What about charges your footnotes lead back to people who were quoting unnamed or uncorroborated sources?

A: Well, that's simply in most cases not true. And in cases where it is true, I double-checked by searching the source out myself. But many of my footnotes refer to books by first-class journalists like Gail Sheehy, Roger Morris, David Maraniss, all of whom are highly regarded in their field.

Q: You make no pretense of objectivity. You are pretty tough on Hillary and her friends and the Clintons in general. You're obviously coming at this with a point of view.

A: I'm a biographer. I'm a biographer who assembles his facts and then draws conclusions from those facts. I'm not writing a newspaper story that pretends to be balanced. This is my view of a life, of a character, of a person who wants to be president of the United States. Somebody said to me, "This isn't beanbag. This is serious business." This is a woman who has a serious intention of running for president. And if so, we need to take her very seriously and look at her very long and hard and treat her the way we would treat any candidate, male or female, who's running for president.

Q: Why is it that conservatives like John Podhoretz and Bill O'Reilly are treating you like you're radioactive and dismissing you and your book?

A: First of all, I'm not a member of the conservative inner circle. I'm a journalist who is considered a mainstream journalist, not a right-wing journalist, so, as such, I'm an outsider and they are treating me as such ....

I think there is a good deal of resentment and jealousy on the part of my friend John Podhoretz, who never revealed the fact when he criticized me that he is under contract to write a book about Hillary Clinton (laughs). And so is Dick Morris writing a book about Hillary. Everybody is writing a book about Hillary. There's jealousy that I got out first but the book is doing very well.

Q: We already knew that Hillary is ambitious, cold, leftist, ruthless, wily and hangs around with lesbians. We knew her husband is a philanderer - so what's new in your book?

A: There are a lot of things. One is that I talk about Hillary and Bill doing drugs at Yale Law School, which never has been discussed before.

I talk about the fact that Hillary knew about Monica Lewinsky two years before the country learned of it and then pretended that she didn't know.

I talk about Hillary's falling out with Daniel Patrick Moynihan and how Pat Moynihan and his wife Elizabeth did not like Hillary -- in fact, despised her.

I compare Hillary to Richard Nixon in many ways, which I find very interesting -- paranoid, enemies lists, using FBI files against her enemies.

So there's a good deal that's new. There's certainly a new insight into Hillary and how her politics were shaped by her experience of radical feminism and political lesbianism at Wellesley College, something that has caused a lot of people consternation, but is demonstrably true.

Q: You don't think, as Tina Brown does, that you dwelled too much on the lesbian angle?

A: The rumors about Hillary's sexuality have been around for more than 30 years. It is impossible to do a biography of Hillary Clinton without addressing that issue and addressing why the issue has come up, how it's come up and to what degree it's either true or points to some other truths. And that's what I've tried to do.

Q: Describe the Hillary we think we know and the real Hillary.

A: The Hillary that we think we know in 2005 is the new, new Hillary -- moderate on the domestic front; a hawk on foreign affairs; a woman who plays well with her colleagues in the Senate; who works hard for the welfare of the people of New York, etc., etc. That's the Hillary that she's been working very hard to project in the public arena because that's the only Hillary who could win in 2008, because she needs to capture the moderate swing vote.

The real Hillary is the Hillary who has been a woman of the ultra-left ever since she left for Wellesley College 40 years ago this year. She's been consistently anti-military, despite her recent votes. She's pro-national health care. She's pro-abortion without parental consent. You know, you can take the girl out of Wellesley but you can't take the Wellesley out of the girl.

Q: What does all this junky, sleazy Hillary and Bill personal stuff add up to, in terms of what matters to the country?

A: Hillary's life is a sham. Her life, the essential core of her life, is a sham. That marriage is a sham. Do we want a president who we vote for to protect us from terrorism and other foreign enemies who is a sham, who is a liar, who is not to be trusted? And I answer in my book that the answer is no.

Bill Steigerwald is a columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. E-mail Bill at bsteigerwald@tribweb.com. ©Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, All Rights Reserved.

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