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A Look at Hillary Clinton's Power, Influence

Aired June 5, 2003 - 20:01   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It's been a big week for the alpha female. Women of power and influence, women like Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as well, of course, for Martha Stewart. One made headlines speaking out on the infidelities of her husband, the other by getting into trouble with the law.
As for the former, tongues are still wagging about some of Senator Clinton's revelations, as well as their timing. CNN's Whitney Casey now reports.


WHITNEY CASEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some of the 411 about Hillary Clinton's vast right-wring conspiracy seems to be coming sooner than later. Juicy extracts from her autobiography "Living History" have been leaked fraying tempers, namely her publishers. Simon and Schuster planned a media blitz for the book's release on June 9.

The Associated Press had a different deadline, releasing a slew of quotes from the book early. Like this one: "I was dumbfounded, heart broken and out raged that I'd believed him at all. As a wife I want to ring Bill's neck."

Now reports that Hillary's publisher may be considering legal reprisals, copyright infringement. Is that just more book-selling hype? "New York Observer" publishing columnist Joe Hagan.

JOE HAGAN, "NEW YORK OBSERVER": I would never suggest that they leaked in on purpose. And I don't know what the legal ramifications are and if they actually have a case. But certainly saying that we're going to sue the AP over this is creating more news. It's wall-to- wall Hillary in the last 24 hours, so that can't be a bad thing for the book.

CASEY: "The Observer"'s article this week on how they, too, tried to get an early copy of the book. The AP tells CNN it obtained the book through good old-fashioned reporting. Saying, quote, "Representatives of Simon and Schuster have been in touch with us. We disagree completely with their legal conclusions concerning our story."

So what's the scuttlebutt on the street? Well, 37-year-old Michael Dunham (ph) a die-hard Democrat says, enough already.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think, too, that's a ploy because that brings more attention to the book and nothing is really leaked.

CASEY: Dunham says he won't read a Hillary memoir until she does something more interesting, like run for president.

What does the former first lady say?

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: This is a story about an extraordinary time of my life and the life of our country. I've tried to write an account of those years. And both in the book and in an interview that I've given to Barbara Walters, I touch on the good times, the not-so good times and try to explain what that experience was like for me.

CASEY: Hillary supporters like 74-year-old Ingred Frank (ph) and her friend Karen (ph) eagerly anticipate if book's release.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel terribly sorry for what she had to go through, but I give her a lot of courage for her guts, for sticking it out and doing what she's doing now.

CASEY (on camera): So you're going to read her book?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I'm definitely going to read it.


CASEY: Well apparently those two women are a part of a small cadre of book readers. This, as a CNN/"USA"/Gallup poll says that only 5 percent of the public plan on reading Hillary's book, eagerly reading Hillary's book, that is.

And as for those legal ramblings around here, well, we spoke with Simon and Shuster today. When we asked them about possible litigation, they said no comment -- Anderson.

COOPER: Whitney Casey, thanks very much.

So, what are some of the people closest to Senator Clinton think about all of the hubbub? Political consultant Mark Penn might have an idea. He's a friend of the former first lady and he joins us live from Washington.

Mark, things very much. Let me start off by asking what do you think is the biggest misconception of Hillary Clinton?

MARK PENN, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Well, I think that there's a huge misconception of Hillary Clinton in terms of the way she relates and connects to people. I think we saw that in New York throughout her campaign, that she is very humorous, very warm hearted, really touches people. I think that will come through in this book as you really learn her story from growing up in a Goldwater (ph) household through being first lady to President William Jefferson Clinton.

COOPER: So much of the focus from what's come out of the book so far has looked at the way she has responded to the affair that her husband had. You were in the White House at the time. In fact, you were in the room the day President Clinton, then-President Clinton, denied having the affair with Monica Lewinsky.

What was it like being in the room at that time? What did you see?

PENN: Actually, I was in the room the night he acknowledged that, after he gave the August 17 speech to the nation. And I can tell you it was a very chilling night in the White House.

I was there with Harry Thomason and Linda Thomason and Hillary and President Clinton. And frankly, the men were on one side of the room and the women were on the another. It was very quite clear they were going to go through a very tough period...

COOPER: Let me read you, apparently, an excerpt from her book. Mrs. Clinton says, "Gulping for air I started crying and yelling at him, `What do you mean? What are you saying? Why did you lie to me?'"

Does that surprise you that -- maybe that's not that the way she felt but that's the way she would write it? That she would come out and say that?

PENN: Well, I think that in the context of telling the whole story, I think she felt it was important to say something of what happened. I think that this largely remains, appropriately so, a private matter. But I think that she's explained I think, to many people who wanted to know exactly how she felt and when he learned this and what her emotions were like.


COOPER: As you well know there are a lot of people who say this is politically motivating. She wants to run for president, she wants to portray herself as a victim. Your response?

PENN: I think she would have written this book and written it exactly the way it's written whether she was a senator or not. I think that after her term as first lady she had a story to tell. And she wanted to tell it.

COOPER: We're going to leave it there with you. Mark Penn, appreciate you joining us, thanks so much.

No, some people view women like Senator Clinton and Martha Stewart as strong role models. Other say they're just pushy, conniving -- they are polarizing figures, no doubt about it. Why the difference of opinion?

Joining us for the debate Sandy Rios and Gail Sheehy. Rios is the president of Concerned Women for America, a conservative public policy organization. She joins us from Washington. And Sheehy the author of the book "Hillary's Choice" which has been optioned by A&E for a television movie. She joins us live in the studio.

Gail, let me start off with you. Why do you think they are such polarizing figures? Is it simply a matter of going across sort of traditional gender roles?

GAIL SHEEHY, AUTHOR: Well, they're powerful. They're brilliant. They are successful. They have, you know, they each have kind of an empire of their own. This is totally new, really, on our stage. The British have been ahead of us with queens and so on in the past. And I think that many people just don't know how to think about it.

And so they -- and then you have their political opponents or their business opponents. By the way, Martha Stewart is notably a Democrat, not just a woman and a powerful CEO, and a media personality. I think there's some aspect of that in terms of the Justice Department going after her and making an example of her and letting people from Enron and WorldCom walk.

COOPER: Sandy Rios, let me bring you in here. Your take, is it, in your opinion, sexism? Why such strong reaction to these very strong women?

SANDY RIOS, CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA: Well, I don't think there's any question that for men or women the higher you craw up the pole, the more criticism. So they both are powerful. They both are successful. I don't think really think it has much to do with gender.

You know I would like to that you know Martha Stewart, seems to me, has accomplished more than Hillary Clinton. I know that's very controversial, but she's a self-made woman, she's very accomplished. You know Hillary has come along through the advance of her husband.

So I don't see -- I see actually Martha Stewart getting a lot more negative treatment than Hillary. I think so Hillary gets a pass all of the time. You know you take just the example of Hillary's alleged investment way back when she invested something like $1,000 and they hinted she may have had inside information and she made something like $100,000 on an investment and that went nowhere. Poor Martha, she's in big trouble for her inside...

COOPER: Gail, your response?

SHEEHY: That when no where. It was dragged up over and over again. We went through, what, $40 million worth of investigation in Whitewater and...


COOPER: There was a CNN poll that according to 53 percent of Americans would describe Hillary Clinton as tough and 50 percent say she is power-hungry.

Let me toss that to you, Sandy. Do you think that's fair? Do the numbers surprise you?

RIOS: It surprises me, I guess happily. I'm glad people are not fooled because I agree. I think she is power-hungry. I don't think it's a healthy emotion until thing that Hillary brings it to the stage.

But now the tough thing, that doesn't bother me. I think she is tough. And I don't think that's a negative...

COOPER: OK, I want to hear Gail on this now.

SHEEHY: Are the other 99 senators in the U.S. Senate power- hungry? They just want to be senators. She wanted to be a senator. Is that a bad thing?


RIOS: ... I think the difference is, you know, one of the things, Sol Alinsky is one of her heroes. And you know he wrote "Rule for Radicals". And one of those rules is whatever it takes to achieve the end, that's what's moral. I see Hillary...


SHEEHY: I think it's wrong to hang one person with another person's you know, moral code.

RIOS: But she would tell you that that's her...


SHEEHY: ... you do anything to get power. And I don't think...


COOPER: Let me just sort of direct this a little bit better. Gail, do you think that women are held to a different standard that a powerful woman, successful woman is viewed as power-hungry...


COOPER: ... whereas a man would be viewed as accomplished?

SHEEHY: Not by everybody. Certainly not by her husband which is why they have been political partners all along. They absolutely have an equal political respect for one another which I find very refreshing. And I think a lot of people find upsetting because they don't have that kind of relationship.

I can tell you that Bill and Hillary Clinton still now talk to each other five times a day. Remember all of those people who said they will get divorced? For sure when he's out of the White House, she'll dump him. For sure when she runs for the Senate, there will be a split. They're still together. They're still a very potent, powerful, political couple.

COOPER: Sandy, your final thoughts?

RIOS: I think that it's true that sometimes women are allegedly power-hungry. But I also think it has to do where the way women exercise their power. I think sometimes women think they have to be like men in order to be powerful. I reject that as a person who has to run a very big organization. There is a feminine way to lead and be powerful. So I think women are partly responsible for that. COOPER: Let's leave it there. Sandy Rios, Gail Sheehy, appreciate you joining us, both of you. Thank you very much.


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