By Jeff Gerth & Don Van Natta Jr.
June 2007 by Back Nine Books, LLC – Little, Brown & Company
Available at all major books stores- Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Walden, Schuster, etc.
Type of Book:
This book is an unauthorized biography of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Per Back Nine Books LLC, Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta, Jr. were both investigative reporters for The New York Times for many years. Both have been awarded either group or individual Pulitzer Prices for their investigative journalism and written works. Between the two, they have written a number of books and have taught at renowned universities such as Princeton. One lives in Washington D.C. and the other in New Jersey. Further information can be found on Wickepedia.
General Book Overview:
As she makes her historic run for the top job of first female President of The United States, this book lays out a complete portrait of the woman we know as Hillary Rodham Clinton. The authors of this book take you on a journey from her youngest years, through her undergraduate education, law school, years as a professional lawyer, first lady to Arkansas and the nation and finally, to current times. She is a commanding force in the world of politics, both in her early days and well into the early 21st century. Whether you approve of her or not, whether you like her or not, she remains a leading candidate for the 2008 Presidency. This book draws upon many sources, both disclosed and undisclosed, to paint a picture of a woman few truly know. Fortunately, this book provides a glimpse into who she really is, what she stands for and what she is willing to do to win the nomination and obtain the ultimate job – leader of the free world.
The authors noted early on in this book the following important items:
1) They approached Mrs. Clinton along with current and past aides, supporters, associates, friends and even fellow senators for input and research into this project. Most declined to speak on the record – some due to possible fear of retribution, others out of pure loyalty and yet others who had been advised not to cooperate per instructions from Mrs. Clinton herself.
2) Even without direct cooperation, the authors were able to conduct more than 500 interviews with current and former aides, confidants and other senators.
3) The authors were able to examine thousands of pages of documents – some previously undisclosed by government archives via FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) and the Library of Congress.
4) The authors examined more than a thousand of Mrs. Clintons own speeches, interviews and public statements. The authors also tie into Mrs. Clinton’s own biography Living History for reference. Mrs. Clinton may not have spoken to the authors direct, but her voice remains loud and clear through documented mediums such as mainstream t.v/cable (interviews, sound bites, commercials and campaign speeches), books/transcripts (her written word) and audio clips.
5) The authors attended a number of Mrs. Clintons’ conferences and campaign events for a first hand experience with the Senator.
6) Last, but not least, most of the information in this book is derived from named sources cited in the end notes. Dozens of people spoke to the authors but only under the cover of anonymity for fear of retribution if they got directly named. The authors honored anyone who was not willing to be identified as long as the source checked out and had credibility.
The authors are well aware that Hillary Rodham Clinton is many things to many people. To some, she is a pioneer and hero. To others, the sum of all fears. She is said to be forthright and open at times. She can be evasive and downright dishonest at other times. She pats herself on the back when she wants to take credit for something done right. She denies any wrong doing when dangerous mistakes are made as she does not want to empower her adversaries. She often commands great loyalty and admiration in her direct core of supporters. On the contrary, she often triggers dislike and mistrust in those she uses and tosses aside once they are no longer valuable or are no longer considered her most trusted insiders. Ultimately, she is complex and hard to understand, even to some of her closest friends and advisors. She is unique in that such a high profile candidate has occupied the spotlight for so long with so few knowing who she really is.
The book takes you on a full journey from Hillary growing up in Illinois to a middle class family, to her college years at Wellesley & Yale, her early involvement in political campaigns for Republicans (yes, the other guys), helping the Black Panthers during a turbulent time, speaking out against the Vietnam war and finally becoming an advocate for children (once she moved toward being a liberal Democrat). We see further development and changes once she marries Bill Clinton and they move to Arkansas, as she becomes an active lawyer and partner at The Rose Law firm, becoming First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the White House and finally, the current Senator to New York. The book ends with details regarding her current campaign to be President of The United States in 2008.
In between all of these major life events you will discover hundreds of facts about her public and private life, many not disclosed or analyzed by the mainstream media to date. Many issues are clarified in greater detail, as is deserving of a Presidential candidate.
For instance, the book sheds additional light on some of the following topics:
Her status as one of America’s most influential female lawyers (she failed the DC bar and only passed the Arkansas bar). She pumped up her resume to look a little better than it really did, saying she was voted top or best – she was not per the organizations who nominated her.
The 20 year plan Bill and Hillary discussed in 1973 to reform the Democratic Party and take over the White House. Eight years for him and then eight years for her. Half of which has come to pass so far.
Her questionable legal work for the troubled savings and loan, Madison Guaranty in Arkansas.
Her preventing disclosure of evidence that she padded her legal bills and had frequent business/legal dealings with state regulators who worked for Bill when he was governor of Arkansas in apparent conflict of interests. She either denied or stated inaccurately the work she did do. Records show differently.
The questionable land deal called White Water and their relationship with Jim and Susan McDougal (one convicted of fraud, the other did time in jail in order to not speak out on the full truth of events).
Hillary ignoring established rules in trading commodities and gaining large revenues in a short amount of time. Typical margins were not covered and standard trading practices seemed to be ignored. She didn’t disclose all gains on financial records.
Hillary sitting on Wal Mart’s board of directors and gaining sizable profits from her investments with them and also with big oil companies.
The secret war room (the “defense team”) set up to manage the first 1992 election for Bill Clinton. This special team had been organized to handle any and all charges that they would have to fend off to get the golden prize – the Presidency and what they did to get past the firing line.
The concealment of Bill Clinton’s true draft record.
The support she gave Bill during his numerous infidelities and his impeachment trial. In the end, their shared decision that the goal of power, wealth and position outweighed marital rifts of infidelity, mistrust and lies.
How Hillary’s poll ratings increased when she was “a victim” of Bill’s adulterous affairs. How her ratings went down when she tried to be the one in charge of everything and wore the family pants.
The death of Law Rose Firm lawyer, Vince Foster, one of Hillary’s earliest confidents and closest friends. A man who stated at the end, “The Whitewater tax matter is a can of worms you shouldn’t open”. He then committed suicide.
Webb Hubbell, Hillary’s second buddy at The Rose Law firm, eventually convicted of defrauding his clients, his partners and imprisoned after intensive investigations. The original three musketeers – Foster, Hubbell and Hillary – were down to one. She was the last ‘man’ standing so to speak.
The Travel-gate firings and incident at the White House while she was first lady.
The attempts to nationalize health care and its disastrous demise.
Failure to provide proper documents for the hiring of staff members and consultants per Senate rules, whether paid or voluntary, full time or part–time. Hillary chose not to file documents on many occasions. Her team appeared to operate “unlike any other senator” according to a well known Senate ethics expert. She did as she wanted, not as she was supposed to do.
Hillary muscling her way into meetings and onto bill’s that she had no direct part of, but needed for her growing status and Senate leverage.
This is the power of Hillaryland and so much more.
In the end, the authors confirm what most analytical and thoughtful people think. Hillary Clinton is far from the only politician to exaggerate her past accomplishments (she was one of America’s supposed “top” female lawyers), to stuff the unpleasantness of the past into corners where few look (Bill’s dirty, dirty lady laundry), to make mistakes and pretend not to have done so (the Rose Law Firm padded bills and denials of work done for the state of Arkansas), as a politician to have said one thing and done another (the support of taking out Saddam Hussein and his WMDs and then changing the tune when the outcome was not perfect), to have left former friends and allies on the side of the road as she’s moved on (Vince Foster of the Rose Law Firm and Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund), and finally in the end, she is not the only politician in America with tremendous ambition and an affection for both power and money. She is like many politicians on today’s public stage.
The difference is that Hillary wants us to think SHE is the smartest.
She wants us to believe that SHE is the most qualified of the pack.
She wants to be a first for us. The first female President of the United States.
Sadly, the star that her team makes her out to be does not shine quite so bright once the light of the sun illuminates her history and her record.
Previous books told of positive, charming and inspiring stories of Bill and Hillary as relayed by their friends, supporters and best allies. Two of the many books are by Bill and Hillary themselves. The spin was required to go their way and to date, when it comes to books, articles, interviews, speeches and how the main stream media covers them, it has been all THEIR way. There has also been released a number of other books that have told hair-raising stories about the dubious characters, the shenanigans, and even criminality of the Clintons. Those books often focused on the Clintons as a couple and the path their lives took together. These books got much less press coverage in the hope of keeping negatives away from public viewing.
This book, Her Way, tells another portion of the story. Hillary’s story. Hillary’s rise from a middle class American girl to the halls of the most power buildings and people in the world. A look into her goal to be the first woman to hold the oval office in the history of the United States. What concessions she has made to get there so far and the additional lengths she will go to in order to obtain the final prize.
It’s not too late to get the full picture before you pull the lever in November of 2008.
I feel the authors did a solid job of trying to present facts about Hillary in this book based upon numerous reference sources. Their personal comments about her were few and far between. They never seemed to kick in side comments that could be deemed nasty, mean or cruel. They did not try to make you form an opinion based upon their opinions. I give them much credit as so much more could have been said in response to specific events, articles, or evidence that was less than flattering to Hillary. Many issues bordered on unethical and immoral and above all, was certainly nothing a person with honor and integrity would be proud to say they had done, yet Hillary does. They present the evidence, it’s up to each one of us to determine her innocence or guilt. The authors tried to show all sides to her – the young and the middle aged, the innocent and the intentional, the good, the bad, the deliberate and the questionable and so on. I believe the authors held back intentionally from stating exactly how they each felt so, Hillary’s own living history in written words, media events and interviews could stand alone for serious consideration by each one of us. That’s a tribute to their restraint in this book.
Hillary is a polarizing figure anyway you look at it. Many love her, yet really don’t know her. Many can’t stand her, yet really don’t know her. Many in the middle haven’t a clue about where they stand. If you are woman, a feminist, should you vote for her – a fellow woman? If you are a mother and wife, should you vote for her – a fellow mother and wife? If you are a man, do you vote for her and allow women to break the ultimate glass ceiling in the world of business, economics, politics and power? Do you vote for her based upon her historical record in law and business? Do you vote for her based upon her congressional record alone? Do you vote for her because you liked Bill Clinton and need some more Billie time? Do you vote for her because you won’t vote for a Republican? Do you vote against her because of all the above? Questions, questions, questions….
My guess is that liberal and democratic supporters will instantly assume this is a book meant to smear Mrs. Clinton and avoid it like the plague. I certainly saw the sharp knives come out on all the major shows (CNN, MSNBC, PBS, ABC, NBC, etc.) as this book made its early arrival to book stores around the country. Even though almost none of the commentators confirmed they had read the book themselves or even spoken to the authors direct, the vast majority of the main stream media played down the importance of the book and assumed the very worst.
I chose to buy the book and read it just for those reasons.
Was the MSM right in their early analysis that this unauthorized biography was just to make Hillary look bad? Was it a book meant to discredit all she had done to date? Was it meant to take away the steam of her candidacy? Or, was it a critical look at who she is, what she is and the legacy she has built to date? Was it a true reflection of what we can expect if she becomes the next President?
After 346 pages of information from birth to current times, and an additional 77 pages of end notes, I can say this book hit the right note.
To quote a major previous Bill Clinton donor and supporter, California multi-millionaire David Geffen in February of 2007, he said, “Everybody in politics lies, but the Clintons do it with such ease, it’s troubling”. He said this once he jumped ship and chose to support the Obama 2008 campaign and not Hillary’s. This statement made headlines and was splashed along every cable t.v. news ticker and 15 minute news update around the country for days. It made the Clintons and their die hard supporters very unhappy and they cried foul. To those who know the Clintons well and aren’t afraid of them, or those of us who are standing on the outside looking in, the truth of his words rang out loud and clear. Many shook their heads in complete understanding.
Important marks against Hillary come in the form of issues like: The Rose Law Firm, Madison Guaranty S & L, White Water, Travel-gate, Bill’s true draft record, Bill’s constant infidelities and Hillary’s desire for more power and prestige which eventually trumped their earlier marriage vows. These things were covered in the media at the time, but many of us have forgotten the fine details and the outcome. Prior to the next election, it’s critical the population revisit these cases so we remember who this woman was and how she made decisions on things. Of utmost importance is how she covered up possible truths so that her hopes and dreams could be realized. Nothing was to get in the way of the ultimate goal. One of the most glaring questions we must ask is this…if we as a people and a nation value truth and honesty, many of her life choices beg us to question, should she really be applying for such an important job where truth and value are the cornerstones of the position and the nation she would over-see? Her history is very clouded at best when it comes to truth and honesty.
I think the reason this book will upset supporters is that they don’t want to see the negatives in their candidate and their chosen party. They want to see, focus and promote only the positive. The rest is disregarded, denied altogether or attributed to the right wing conspiracy. Human nature downplays the bad and acknowledges the good. That’s understandable whether you are conservative, moderate or liberal. On the other hand, it’s not rational to refuse to read, understand and admit the dark side of a candidate that is as much a part of her as her favorable side just because you don’t want to.
Most of what is secretive, evasive and disturbing in Hillary’s past is well documented in written reports, interviews, articles, legal proceedings and even her own words. Democrats and liberals can choose to ignore these issues of concern, that is their choice. Republicans, conservatives, moderates and independents have an equally important decision to decide if they want to see the real Hillary and find out the truth the best we can before we make a decision for her or against her. But, to ignore all sides to her - both past decisions, currents decisions and possible future decisions - is a major error.
As a well known psychologist always says,”past behavior is an indication of future behavior”. Meaning, what we did before, we probably will do again unless we make very conscious work and effort to avoid repeating the past. In Hillary’s case and her most ardent supporters, change won’t happen as they refuse to acknowledge or discuss past mistakes. Therefore, it is up to the rest of us to see the big picture and decide on what to do with her ambitions and decision making abilities (or lack thereof ).
On a final note, this review is being written by me, a woman, who for her first 33 years of life was born and raised into a very Democratic household and family unit. When I was able to start using the power of my vote, sometime in my early 20’s, I always pulled the lever for Democrats across the board. I wasn’t about to vote for those scoundrel Republicans, people I had heard about but never met (after all, they visit fancy restaurants, have stocks & bond portfolios, attend fancy schools, live in big, expensive houses and drive cars we could never afford). Things my family and friends never experienced. I voted with pride and made sure not to empower the “bad guys” – those for big business and never the little guy. I voted for Bill Clinton 2x and Al Gore 1x.
Then the 2000 election happened. Voters and pollsters went crazy and the courts had to intervene to get us a President because no one had the good sense to go back to basics. The crazies and the nuts on both sides were out in full force.
Then 2001 arrived.
Then 9/11 happened.
Then Islamic terrorism and Islamic extremism reached a crescendo both around the world and especially in the U.K, Israel and the U.S.
Then illegal immigration hit a major milestone – potentially 12-20 million here without legal authorization to do so.
Then courts began writing laws for the people instead of interpreting and enforcing those on the books already.
Then the precious nature of life started taking a back seat to medical milestones, life conveniences and the unwanted result of casual sex and the power of female reproductive rights.
Then marriage became the butt of all jokes or should we say the great 50% divorce rate equally opportunity program.
Then God started to be removed from all public life with a vengeance– a court approved challenge to the first Amendment of The Constitution of the U.S. “ Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”.
And, many more issues then time and space permit being listed here.
All the above items at one time I found a way to justify and support. After all, I was given all the “reasons” these things were to be embraced if you were deemed an able bodied and rational modern person. It’s all about human rights, it’s all about universal cultures and diversity, it’s all about the minority not the majority. Right? Right. Or is it? But, like all things times and people change. The last seven years have seen me morphing from a die hard Democrat to newly discovered conservative tendencies and beliefs. Like many in recent years, being a Democrat has been more out of out of habit and history than true convictions. From hearing other people speak at conferences and on shows, I know I am not alone in wanting more details, more information and more insight before making tough decisions when it comes to politics, national and world issues and above all, Islamic extremism. As a well known quote says, “if you are not liberal in your 20’s you have no heart…if you are not conservative by your 30’s, you have no mind”. Guess with this quote as reference, I realized I might have lost a little heart along the way, but I started gaining a brain in its place.
So, with my history in mind and my gradual growth, I tried very, very hard to read this book, Her Way and see the many positives to Hillary’s life and try to balance them against her darker side. I tried to put my old Democratic hat back on and see if it helped. I tried to focus on positive things such as:
Did Hillary have a fairly normal and enjoyable life growing up in a middle class American family? Definitely.
Did she have an interesting early life beginning with her years at an all girl college, law school and into her early work life as a minority female in a male dominated profession? Definitely.
Did she touch many people with her feminist ideas, thoughts and actions, especially for the good of children and the impoverished? Definitely.
Did Hillary have goals and dreams and work hard to obtain them – beginning with being a highly regarded female lawyer, a partner in a law firm, 1st lady of Arkansas, 1st lady of the White House and now Senator from New York? Definitely.
Was Hillary a good friend to a number of chosen people, a loving mother and supportive spouse? Definitely
Is Hillary to be admired for taking on the task of running for the position of The President of the United States – the first female to do so? Definitely.
Much like Hillary transitioned over the years from a young Republican to a liberal Democrat, the best thing this book showed is never be afraid to change who you are. You might have been one person in the past, but you can be someone altogether different later. Or you can continue on the same road as well. It is up to you. Go after what you want with all your energy and determination. The sky is the limit if you dream and plan and work to make it happen.
Only difference between Hillary and a large portion of the world is that most of us try to go after what we want with honesty, integrity and truth as part of the success package. Do onto others and all that. Somewhere along the way, Hillary tossed aside many important things and people for the good of her final plan. That’s where she deviated and went off course. It is up to each one of us to determine if the positives of Hillary outweigh the negatives or if the negatives are too alarming to over-look.
One way or another, we’ll all be dealing with Hillaryland now, the next 16 months and possibly years beyond that depending on which lever you pull in 2008. Hillary has a number of good points, but she also has a disturbing past and serious ethical issues that deserve further questioning and scrutiny. When she’s up for the top job, additional auditing is a must. She is unfortunately not alone on Capital Hill with negatives on their resume’. Many have lost their way in pursuit of money, power and position. That’s an unfortunate end result sometimes of success that goes awry. Bad behavior too often gets a pass in today’s world – especially in national politics. The important question for 08’ is will YOU be one that let’s bad behavior pass or will you stand up and put a stop to it (that goes for the House, Senate and Presidential candidates).
Just be sure you read up on everyone in detail, including the front runners like Hillary before you cast that all important vote in 2008. Know not only who they are and what they stand for, but how they will handle the most pressing issues of our day. When it comes to Hillary, remember there are many sides to this woman, make sure you know her before you choose to vote for her.
This book, Her Way, goes a long way to completing the picture of candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Four stars. *** Solid, dependable, and interesting , but not earth shattering.
The Local Area Watch