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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 June, 2003, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Hillary's $8m tale of love and lies
By Kathryn Westcott
BBC News Online

Hillary Rodham Clinton's ability to polarise the US people is almost unrivalled. Now, she is causing a stir with the revelations of life behind closed doors in the White House.

Despite the carefully orchestrated publicity campaign for the book, Living History, which is due out on Monday, sensational excerpts have been leaked to the media.

File picture of Clinton and Lewinsky
Mrs Clinton's memoirs reveal that her husband lied to her about the Lewinsky affair
In them, the former First Lady-turned-senator offers a blistering indictment of her husband's behaviour with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and his lies about the affair.

Publisher Simon and Schuster has made an $8m investment in the memoirs - a sum only topped by those of the Pope. The worldwide rights to the recollections of His Holiness Pope John Paul II commanded $8.5m.

Waiting in the wings to clinch the record sum paid for an autobiography is Hillary's husband Bill Clinton, who is reportedly being paid $12m for his memoirs.

But will the former president's reminiscences be quite as candid as those of his wife, who has taken the US by surprise with the intimacy of her revelations.

Walter Shapiro, a political columnist for USA Today, says he did not expect the former First Lady to be quite so frank.


"It's very interesting, but I wonder if [the Lewinsky revelations have] been included to justify the record payment that she is set to receive. I'm sure it would have gone through a number of drafts until the publisher got what it wanted," he told BBC News Online.

But many commentators wonder whether the rest of the 562-page tome will be quite so spectacular.

The Clinton marriage is one of the most talked about partnerships.

New York literary agent Morton L Janklow, who with his business partner has represented three presidents and three First Ladies, says that the fascination with the Clintons resides in the fact that they are in a different stratosphere to most ordinary couples - but their story is distinctly human.

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He told BBC News Online: "The Clintons have an aura about them. They are a very interesting couple, they are complex people who have an interwoven life both emotionally and politically and who are always trying to work things out. It's a human interest story.

"It was a very controversial presidency - there are people who will die for them and people who have always been opposed to them."

Mr Shapiro, however, says it is difficult to determine the market value of the Clintons.

"Will those who hate Hillary run out and buy the book just so they can underline bits in red and say 'I told you so'?"

After keeping silent for years while others characterised her, Mrs Clinton, it appears, wants a chance to speak for herself.

Commentators see this as a clear attempt to clear the decks and settle any controversy ahead of a run for the White House in 2008.

George W Bush used this tactic ahead of his presidential campaign by publishing his autobiography A Charge to Keep. It dealt with his alcohol addiction, while he largely refused to talk about it in public.

"Hillary will never have to talk about her problems again," says Mr Shapiro.

But, he says, there are two ways to look at the revelations. Firstly, they will definitely humanise her, but secondly, by doing so, will it reveal just a bit too much?

"Do we really want to know that a possible future president slept in a different room to her husband?

"I think she's committed a small political error. The revelations are not epic or surprising and I'm not sure she comes out any better than if they hadn't been written at all.

"She acknowledges that she was deceived by her husband. Is this the kind of judgement level you want in your president?"

Settling scores

But Mr Janklow believes the revelations will be beneficial.

"People won't be able to help admiring that she both stood by her husband and is able to express anger at what happened - that's just what most American women would be feeling at the time."

Gulping for air, I started crying and yelling at him. 'What do you mean? What are you saying? Why did you lie to me?
Extract from Living History

Responding to questions about the memoir's revelations on Wednesday, Mrs Clinton said her book was "in the tradition of former First Ladies writing about their time in the White House".

First Ladies tend to be much less inhibited and more inclined to settle personal scores with their memoirs, as Nancy Reagan did with her book My Turn.

It is rumoured that Barbara Bush has been asked to tone down her memoir Reflections, which, according to the Washington Post has caused the in-house lawyers "heartburn".

But, with a political career of her own, Mrs Clinton will be more circumspect than other former First Ladies. She will likely play down her previous charges that a "vast right-wing conspiracy" had worked to undermine her husband.

Taking on Harry Potter

"Hillary is at the point in her life when going on about the right-wing conspiracy will put her in the role of a victim and make her seem like a martyr - and that's not what we want to see in any future president," says Mr Shapiro.

Living History comes out just days before the latest Harry Potter book, The Order of the Phoenix. Mrs Clinton's autobiography will have an extraordinary first run of one million - Harry Potter will be about eight times that.

But commentators still believe Mrs Clinton will be able to counter Muggle mania.

"It will be a much more discussed book than Harry Potter," says Mr Janklow. "This will be be the topic of dinner table conversation."

But, one place where it may not be creating a storm is Mrs Clinton's home in Park Ridge, a suburb of Chicago.

George Bauch of bookshop A Swell Looking Book says he has not noticed too much interest in the forthcoming autobiography.

"We're still trying to sell her last book It Takes A Village," he told BBC News Online. "I was surprised that there wasn't much interest in it but that may be because it's a Republican area."

But, Mrs Clinton will be reassured that her former neighbour believes it's "high-time the country had a woman."

"I'll read the book and I'd vote for her. I think she's a pretty smart woman."

The BBC's Matt Frei
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