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Hillary Clinton Book Attracts Huge Interest

Aired June 9, 2003 - 19:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR: We begin tonight with the written word and a wife's effort to put her sometimes stormy life into context.
New York Senator Hillary Clinton's new memoir, "Living History," went on sale today. Boy, did it ever.

Even before there has been a lot of interest in her story, her interview on ABC last night was seen by about 10 million views. And people began lining up as early as 9 p.m. last night outside the New York book store where the senator was to sign copies of her book today.

Jonathan Karl picks up the story.


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The $8 million smile. With the kind of fanfare politicians, even some presidential candidates, only dream about, Hillary Clinton unveiled her new book in midtown Manhattan.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: These were obviously personal and private moments that unfortunately were made public for partisan, political purposes.

KARL: Exhibit A, White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Thanks to books on CD, you can hear Mrs. Clinton's reaction to learning the truth from the president after his months of lies.

CLINTON: Up until now, I only thought that he'd been foolish for paying attention to the young woman and was convinced he was being railroaded. I couldn't believe he would do anything to endanger our marriage and our family. I was dumbfounded, heartbroken and outraged that I'd believe him at all.

KARL: But apparently, Mrs. Clinton still believes her husband's denials when it comes to the Gennifer Flowers scandal, which nearly derailed Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. She calls Flowers' story of a 12-year affair with Mr. Clinton a, quote, "whale of a tale" but does not tell her reaction when her husband later acknowledged having a sexual relationship with Flowers.

Regarding Lewinsky, Mrs. Clinton says she wanted to, quote, "wring Bill's neck," but one can only imagine what she'd want to do to independent counsel Ken Starr, who she blames for her husband's impeachment. CLINTON: No matter what he had done, I did not think any person deserved the abusive treatment he had received. His privacy, my privacy, Monica Lewinsky's privacy and the privacy of our families had been invaded in a cruel and gratuitous manner.

KARL: Aside from the vivid description of her side of the Lewinsky scandal, Mrs. Clinton's book is not a tell-all. There is no mention of the controversy involving the last minute pardons granted by President Clinton, for example, a controversy that included accusations against her own brother.

The Hillary media blitz includes interviews with ABC's Barbara Walters, NBC's Katie Couric and CNN's Larry King and a "TIME" magazine cover story. With all the attention, Clinton's friends and her foes alike say that she has laid the groundwork for a possible future run for the White House.

SIDNEY BLUMENTHAL, FORMER CLINTON ADVISOR: Democrats like her she's very popular within the Democratic Party. They also remember the Clinton years and the Clinton legacy and she stands for that and represents that.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: I think they'll looking long-term and they're saying that if she's going win nationally, they have to start now to repair her public image. And this, I think, is a part of that.


KARL: Senator Clinton categorically rules out a run for president in 2004. As for 2008, she says that she has no intention of running, but she does not rule it out and she also adds that she thinks it may be time for a woman president -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jonathan Karl, thanks very much.

Now at one point during the Clintons' years in the White House, the former first lady spoke of a vast right wing conspiracy targeting the couple.

A columnist who became an assistant to the president and a self- described loyalist joins me with his perspective on Senator Clinton's new book and his own dealing with some of the same topics. Sidney Blumenthal, author of "The Clinton wars."

Sidney, thanks for being with us.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

COOPER: First of all, let's get something cleared up. There has been a lot of attention on what people said is a slight discrepancy between something you wrote in your book and Senator Clinton wrote.

She wrote that after the Monica Lewinsky affair became known to her, she wasn't speaking to the president. In your book you talk about a phone call you received, you were overseas. President Clinton called you and in the background you heard Hillary talking -- Senator Clinton talking to the president. No discrepancy?

BLUMENTHAL: I don't believe there is any discrepancy. I heard them bantering is the word that I use. They were talking back and forth. I didn't know what her emotional state was. That's up to her. I talked to her throughout the day but we didn't discuss her feelings about her husband. That belonged to her, belonged in her marriage. No one knows what anyone else's marriage is like. And I didn't believe their marriage ought to have been invaded by Ken Starr.

COOPER: You have now read the full book, experiments on the book, I know. The portrait that comes out, is it the Hillary Clinton you know?

BLUMENTHAL: Absolutely. This is an authentic, frank memoir. It's a contribution to history. It's her point of view. I believe our books are complementary. My book is more the political history. It's a memoir seen through a different set of eyes. And having different perspectives really helps see these same events in three dimensions.

COOPER: Do you think Senator Clinton's new book is going to change anyone's mind? I mean, as you well know, she is sort of a polarizing figure. People see her one way or the other. There is very little middle ground. Do you think it's going to sway anyone?

BLUMENTHAL: I think there are people who are open to hearing her and reading her and knowing what kind of person she is.

You know, she's a strong person. And she's a strong woman. And women, when they're strong women and they're on the public stage, get called all sorts of names. They get called either overly emotional or they're cold. One or the other. And both of these things have been attributed to her.

All sorts of right wing pundits have attributed all sorts of mind reading and soul reading to Hillary. And no one really knows how she feels except her. And that's what this book conveys.

COOPER: Do you see this as part of a ultimate campaign 2008?

BLUMENTHAL: You know, I think that's a long ways away. She's not running this time. She'll run for re-election from New York. She's working very hard for the citizens of New York. 2008, I would have to say she's going to endorse the incumbent Democratic president for re-election.

COOPER: All right. Final question, are you personally surprised at all the attention this has gotten? I mean, the amount of not only media coverage, but just people talking about it? Does it surprise you?

BLUMENTHAL: Well, you know, I was a little bit surprised when my book hit "The New York Times" best-seller list this week. And now Hillary's book received tremendous attention.

It turns out that people are very interested, not only in the Clintons personally, but in the Clinton legacy and the kind of period of prosperity, internationalism, the ideals of one America, that we enjoyed in the past. So I think that people are want progress again in our country and that's what this is really about.

COOPER: All right. Sidney Blumenthal, thank you very much. The book is "The Clinton Wars." Appreciate you joining us.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

COOPER: Thanks.


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