But while [author Nigel] Hamilton is generally sympathetic to Bill Clinton as a well-meaning big thinker battered by manufactured scandals in “America’s infotainment coliseum,” he has far less sympathy for Hillary Clinton, whose hidden hand he identifies in most of the administration’s early failures. It was Hillary who fired the travel office staff, pushed Bill to choose Baird and Guinier, and, he writes, “unwittingly destroyed her husband’s chances of an easy launch as 42nd president” by meddling with his White House transition team. He casts her as domineering and volatile; the White House staff was “intimidated into servility by an activist first lady” determined to be a co-president. Her political tone-deafness would lead to a health care fiasco that nearly sank her husband’s administration.
Although it’s true that Hillary did the president few favors in his first term, Hamilton’s portrait deteriorates into the sort of cheap caricature one might find on Fox News, while offering virtually no testimony in her defense. Instead, he provides dubious anecdotes from sources of suspect credibility, like gossip-laden books by Gail Sheehy and the former F.B.I. agent Gary Aldrich. Only by consulting the endnotes will a reader know that a story about Hillary furiously berating Bill on the morning of his inauguration is drawn from an anonymously sourced account in Sheehy’s “Hillary’s Choice.” ...(Hillary Clinton, it’s worth noting, virtually disappears from the book once her husband’s fortunes turn, leaving readers to wonder whether she played any role in his recovery — or, if she did, whether Hamilton simply had no interest in complicating his dragon-lady portrait.)
Saturday, August 4, 2007
New York Times Book Review: By Michael Crowley