A new book about the Clintons scheduled to be released next Tuesday was leaked to the press earlier this week. Written by the Daniel Halper, a reporter at the conservative Weekly Standard magazine, "Clinton Inc." chronicles the post-presidency life of Bill, Hillary and Chelsea -- how they mended relationships, broke other ones and prepared for Hillary's all-but-certain 2016 presidential run.
It's the third book by or about the Clintons this summer. Welcome to the next two years.
The book, which Halper begins by saying was always meant to be an unflattering portrait of the family in question, starts with the premise that the best way to describe the Clintons' relationship -- what he calls "the most talked-about, gossiped-about, history-making marriage since Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon" -- is as a business partnership.
Like most of the many, many, many books published about or by the Clintons recently, "Clinton Inc." mostly consists of packaging a series of mini-revelations unearthed by journalists in the last few years into a user-friendly narrative -- all while spicing things up with some new interviews and a dollop of gossip. Halper gets plenty of angry former Clintonites to offer quotes -- de rigeur for Clinton books, where everyone in terrified of saying anything on the record -- but he also has a bunch of familiar faces on the record, some unsurprising -- like Arizona Sen. John McCain and Newt Gingrich -- and some Democrats as well, like Howard Dean, and several other Clinton friends.
Here are some highlights.
Hillary Clinton doesn't hate Republicans. Some of her friends are Republicans!
Halper discussed Hillary Clinton's "masterful" job at winning Republican friends -- Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Indiana Rep. Dan Burton, former RNC chair Jim Nicholson, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and McCain -- while in the Senate.
Their love affair with Hillary -- at least in their private conversations -- probably says more about their susceptibility to flattery and praise than it does about her personality. But it also demonstrates the difficulty her likely 2016 Republican challengers will face in trying to build a coalition against her. Hillary Clinton has built a virtual dossier of praise and support from Republican colleagues who might publicly denounced her for political purposes but in private seem to downright like her.
Bill Clinton has also been trying to get his old enemies on his side before 2016. When Richard Mellon Scaife, who provided the funding for many of the investigations into the Clinton administration in the '90s, fell ill, Clinton sent him a letter telling him to "Hang in there."
Gingrich told Halper that Hillary might even be a good president. "Who knows? Compared to what? She would be a methodical, an intelligent, an extraordinarily experienced, very tough-minded liberal. She would be marginally more conservative than Obama. And dramatically more liberal than any Republican. That's who she is. That's who she's been for her whole life."
Bill + H.W. = BFFs
The two former presidents went to the Super Bowl together. They went golfing. Clinton once spent part of his summer vacation at the Bush family homestead in Kennebunkport, Maine. They raised Hurricane Katrina relief money together. They even exchanged letters.
Ever the ribald, Clinton sent Bush a cartoon depicting the younger Bush making a statement opposing gay marriage. The next frame showed Clinton and Bush 41 sitting on a couch holding hands. In the cartoon, Clinton says, 'George, maybe we'd better cool it."
Halper spends an entire chapter detailing the cordial, symbiotic relationship between Clintonworld and Bushworld -- and even notes that Karl Rove can do a passable Bill Clinton impression.
At the end of Bush's presidency, Clinton apparently visited the White House for lunch dates quite a bit. "It was far more often than has previously been reported," Halper writes, "and indeed so few people know of the frequent lunches between Bush and Clinton that getting an exact number is hard to do."
On the other hand, it might just be a PR stunt. "I'm not sure that they're that close," McCain says.
That time they were broke after leaving the White House and needed to buy a house so Hillary could run for Senate.
Terry McAuliffe, now Virginia governor, offered to loan the Clintons $1.3 million to buy a $1.8 million house in Chappaqua, New York. The press started looking into the loan, so they decided to go with your standard mortgage. The housing search also proved a reminder of the fact that the Clintons hadn't had to worry about furnishing a house since the '70s.
"We went to look at these houses, and the houses that they liked had shag rugs and gold walls," the aide tells me. Everything Bill and Hillary favored seemed like it had come from the 1970s, the last time they were ordinary citizens. "It was horrible and I just remember being with the press pool and thinking, 'Oh God. Do not say out loud how much you like this house," the aide says. "I think it just says a lot. Can you imagine living in this bubble for so long and then all of a sudden being let out of it?"
"She was an enthusiastic pot user," according to a law school friend cited by Halper
When asked by Halper how often Clinton used marijuana, the source replied, "I don't know, I'm not in the position to say that. But it was just, she was known to be one of the people. And please don't cite me on this by name ... if you talk to other people who knew her reasonably well in law school they will tell you that most people at that time, an undergraduate or in law school, would have been pot users, ranging from the casual and social to the enthusiastic. I think she would have been more enthusiastic, certainly more than Bill."
Republican pollsters preparing for 2016 have found that her favorability numbers rise when she is seen as a victim or attacked unfairly.
Republican groups already planning for 2016 have started filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests about Clinton's time at the State Department -- and are definitely going to regurgitate the health-care reform flop in the '90s, as well as Benghazi. The chapter on Hillary's tenure as secretary of state sometimes feels like abridged Hard Choices, except Halper is damning where Clinton was self-deprecating.
And, of course, there's speculation on who might also run in 2016
One anonymous source calls Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley Clinton-like, and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean says he thinks O'Malley is "very serious" about running in 2016. Another Clinton aide says that O'Malley is a "logical pick" for VP.
Also mentioned are Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and California Gov. Jerry Brown.
There's a whole chapter on Chelsea Clinton
Halper says, "The truth about the once shy and awkward Chelsea Clinton is that as close as she is to Hillary, Chelsea is tip-to-tail her daddy's little girl. She's politically attuned and immensely influential in her parents' decision making -- more so, these days, than any other aide around the former president and secretary of state. Indeed, it's quite possible that there is no one more integral to Hillary Clinton's decision of whether to run for president than Chelsea herself."
Most of the underlings in Clinton Inc., according to Halper, don't like Chelsea too much, and call her "the royal child."
A former Clinton staffer bashed her stint on NBC. "It's just kind of gross. Think about all the real journalists out there who are struggling, who have been working for ages to do this, and she kind of steps in and is like, 'All right, who's going to pay me the most money?"
The end of the chapter focuses on Chelsea's increasing presence in the family business -- especially the "Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation." "She is going to be the new face of the Clinton Foundation from this point forward," one former Clinton aide told Halper.
Halper ends the chapter by saying that despite the constant chatter about Clinton loyalty, the only person the Clintons have been consistently loyal to was their daughter.
At the end of the book, Halper predicts that Chelsea will be the "de-facto campaign manager" if Clinton runs in 2016.
Conservative radio host Michael Medved says Hillary Clinton and Rush Limbaugh are very similar.
Medved, who went to law school with the Clintons, told Halper, "She is one of those people, the two people that I have been privileged to know where it's most striking that they are in person much, much nicer than their critics think, are Hillary Clinton and Rush Limbaugh. Rush is also an intensely nice guy and a good guy and somebody who is trustworthy and loyal to his friends."
The author received lots of advice on how to write his book.
The best advice coming from Gingrich. He had some ideas for what the title should be. "I think the title's already been used, but in a sense, "The Power Couple" almost begs to be the title of something about the two of them." He added later, "He wouldn't have survived without her. So maybe the title is "Mutual Survival, Mutual Prosperity."
Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson recommended another idea for a Clinton book. "If they ever write a book on charming initiatives, he ought to be on the book cover. He can charm anybody."