If you have a taste for trash biographies of controversial people, you’ll probably like “The Truth About Hillary,” by Edward Klein. If you think controversial people — especially women who don’t fit your cliched idea of womanhood — should be slimed by anonymous gossip you never bother to verify, you probably are Edward Klein.
Not for nothing have hardcore conservatives like Peggy Noonan been pushing this nasty piece of work away with a 10-foot pole. Pretending to be a principled takedown of a treacherous woman, “The Truth About Hillary” traffics in so much sleaze — almost all previously reported, most long-ago debunked — that any self-respecting critic of Hillary Rodham Clinton would be rightly embarrassed to be associated with it.
According to Klein, the former first lady and now junior senator from New York is a soulless, lying machine who forged a marriage of convenience, knowing full well the horndog Bill Clinton was, because it would help fulfill her childhood dream of one day ruling the free world.
A “perfectionist and a control freak,” as the author asserts in a representative sample of his liveliest prose and most penetrating character insight, nothing happens in Hillary’s world — including her husband’s tacky romp with Monica Lewinsky — without her knowing in advance and approving. Except, of course, for the time Bill raped her — as Klein asserts — producing the one child she has had. Why did he rape her? Because, obviously, Hillary is a lesbian, hence Bill’s constant chasing of other women.
As proof of all this, Klein quotes anyone willing to whisper poison in his ear, identifying them only as “an expert” or “someone close to” what happened. Invariably, a single anonymous source is relied on, as in the allegation of marital sexual assault. Supposedly a group of men heard Bill announce beforehand his intention to do the deed, but only one is quoted. Don’t bother looking in the footnotes to see if Klein spoke with anyone else, or if he even tries to explain how something so explosive could have remained a secret for more than two decades.
Klein’s handful of named sources all have personal or professional grudges against Hillary. Then there’s his rummaging in the landfill of old press reports, supporting his thesis that both Bill and Hill are narcissistically debauched with anything he can find, even if it’s not true. “The president once held up air traffic at Los Angeles airport while he got a $200 haircut … aboard Air Force One,” writes Klein, failing to mention this little factoid was long ago discredited. Of course, that may be too much to ask of an author who also writes that Hillary, on the day the Lewinsky scandal broke, was on a train making “its way south” from Washington to Baltimore.
As if all that weren’t enough, consider the breathtaking incompetence of Klein’s argument. A calculating perfectionist and control freak who’s bent on succeeding her husband as president and who’s acutely aware of public image … allows him to repeatedly make a fool of her by letting him screw around with countless women, including a big-mouthed 22-year-old intern in the White House.
Want more? In one section, Klein skewers Hillary for not dumping Bill as proof she is a faux feminist, noting she would get tons more respect and sympathy — and eventually votes — if she did. In another, he says she stays with the philanderer not because she loves him but because she’ll get more votes with him by her side.
The only thing consistent in Klein’s narrative is his unhealthy obsession with lesbians and lesbian imagery, an obsession Tina Brown recently said “epitomizes the pouting of all the guys (Hillary) has ever defeated in a contest of intellect.” Too true.
Ultimately, Klein’s biography is actually autobiography, an unintended chronicle of one man’s fear and loathing of enigmatic women.
As a possible presidential candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton deserves a sharp, critical evaluation — but also an honest one. “The Truth About Hillary” is anything but.