New Books Ask: Who Is Candidate Clinton? Two upcoming books focus on the leading Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Hilary Rodham Clinton. One book is by Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein and the other by New York Times reporters Jeff Greth and Don Van Natta Jr.
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New Books Ask: Who Is Candidate Clinton?

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New Books Ask: Who Is Candidate Clinton?

New Books Ask: Who Is Candidate Clinton?

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Go to and search for Hillary Clinton and you'll find in addition to her own books such works as "The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy's Dossier on Hillary Clinton" by Amanda Carpenter and Edward Klein's, "The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She'll Go To Become President." And there's "The Case against Hillary Clinton," by Peggy Noonan and soon to come "The Many Faces of Hillary Clinton," by Dick Morris.

There could probably be an anti-Hillary Clinton book-of-the-month club. So the news of two more books about the New York senator and would-be Democratic candidate for president isn't all that earth-shaking, but these books are not written by partisans, they're by respected mainstream journalists. And Peter Baker of the Washington Post has read them and he joins us now.

Welcome to the program.

Mr. PETER BAKER (Correspondent, Washington Post): Thanks for having me today.

SIEGEL: First, Carl Bernstein's soon to be published, "A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton." You mined it and you found a couple of news-ready bits. And what are likely to be the ones that are tossed most around the political columns coming out of the book?

Mr. BAKER: Well, there are a number of fresh insights, quotes, anecdotes and so forth, including some from some former aides who speak critically of her. One who worked on her health task force, for instance, who blamed her for the collapse of the initiative in the early Clinton presidency says she was the most self-righteous person he'd ever met. Another from one of the lawyers who worked on the many, many, many investigations that were launched into the White House during that era who described her as being very controlling of the defense, very hands-on and very unwilling to be forthcoming with investigators because she was convinced that they were out to get her. Therefore, she says, I have reason not to be forthcoming.

SIEGEL: Get her as an indicter.

Mr. BAKER: Well, that's right. I mean, she was, according to this book, you know, afraid of indictment. She thought that she might be charged with obstruction of justice or perjury in connection with - under the Whitewater or billing records episodes. So it was a very real fear that gripped the White House at that time.

SIEGEL: Another book on the way is by former New York Times reporter Jeff Gerth and Times reporter Don Van Natta Jr. We should say here that the Clintons would point out that Jeff Gerth is one of the early Whitewater reporters, and one who, as far as they're concerned, hugely magnified a non-story in their view.

Mr. BAKER: Yes, they definitely have a beef with Jeff Gerth. They are more than happy to go chapter and verse with the overall ways they think that he has not been fair to them. But this is, you know, a reported book. It's a journalistic effort as well. And it pays more attention, I think, to the last seven years when she's been in the Senate and gives us some insights into that period as well.

SIEGEL: This - the day after Senator Clinton voted against funding the Iraq war makes it relevant that they found that at least as far as they can tell, she did not go and read the National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq?

Mr. BAKER: That's right. That's right. She's not the only senator who didn't, by the way. That was an issue at the time but, you know, this is obviously the most important vote that she casts as a senator. It's the most important issue arguably in the presidential campaign that she's currently running and it has come up on the campaign trail. She has been asked about it and she's given, sort of, this answer that her spokesman gave. She was briefed about the National Intelligence Estimate. There seems to be a, you know, pretty obvious concession that she didn't actually read it herself.

SIEGEL: After looking at these two books, what picture of the Clinton marriage do you come away with, and is it so much more detailed than what people already know that it's likely to turn up in lots of news coverage in the coming months?

Mr. BAKER: Well, you know, it's a picture of a very turbulent, tormented marriage, moments of great pain, obviously, and moments of compromise; moments when Hillary, in particular, decides to accept rather horrific conditions in effect for the marriage to continue, because she's determined to make it succeed. You know, we know this broadly obviously about the Clinton marriage. This is not, in that sense, new. But what is interesting and what's new is that these books are coming out at this particular moment.

SIEGEL: And the Clinton campaign's reaction to these books when you called them up?

Mr. BAKER: They would like you to think that this is nothing new and that you've heard all of it before, and therefore, move on. Nothing to see here. Please, move on. And you know, on some level, their point is that you know a lot of this about Hillary Clinton and that's the case, but they would just assume you would think about the last six years more or less when she's been a senator relatively free of the sort of scandals that were so prominent during the 1990s and that you think of her in terms of her positions on issues that she thinks are going to help her win the nomination.

SIEGEL: Peter Baker, thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. BAKER: Thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: It's Peter Baker of the Washington Post talking with us about two new books on Hillary Clinton.

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