Despite the enormous hype surrounding Edward Klein's scathing and hearsay-filled book about Hillary Rodham Clinton, the author has been ignored by all but two television talk shows.
This collective cold shoulder hasn't stopped "The Truth About Hillary" from hitting No. 2 yesterday on the coveted New York Times list. "It's the biggest example to date of how major media censorship doesn't stop a book anymore from being a bestseller," Klein declares.
Censorship is clearly the wrong word, since networks have no obligation to interview any author. The refusal to book Klein could just as easily be viewed as the drawing of a line by news organizations over a highly personal attack that has drawn fire from several conservative columnists as well as those on the left.
"It's just been a total blackout," says Klein, adding that talk radio and some Web sites, including the Drudge Report, have driven sales of the book. "I definitely think there's something organized going on here."
Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines says Klein "didn't even rate a full 15 minutes of fame on national television" because the book is "full of blatant and vicious fabrications."
"There's been an effort to make sure people know about the inaccuracies," Reines says. "Anyone who has called, we've made the case: 'Why would you even give him any airtime at all?' People have editorially made the decision it doesn't warrant airtime. It's beyond the pale."
The book's tone is clear from the second page of Chapter 1: "Was it true they slept in separate beds? Were there any telltale signs on the presidential sheets that they ever had sex with each other? For that matter, did the Big Girl have any interest in sex with a man? Or, as was widely rumored, was she a lesbian?"
Klein did not get a warm reception in his two cable interviews. Fox's Sean Hannity asked whether, in questioning the former first lady's sexuality, Klein was being "too personal" and had crossed "a boundary that ought not to be crossed in political dialogue." CNN's Lou Dobbs told Klein it was "extraordinary" that the author was "suggesting that she is a lesbian" and noted that Maura Moynihan, daughter of the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "said you were lying when you said that he despised Hillary Clinton."
Klein says that MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Chris Matthews, CNN's Paula Zahn, Fox's John Gibson and ABC's "Good Morning America" were among those who had tentatively booked or expressed strong interest in him, only to drop him like a hot potato. "I can't prove this," he says, but "the Hillary people" have told the networks "she would be mightily displeased if I got on."
"The book is uninteresting to Fox News," says spokesman Paul Schur. "We've moved on." Klein "has kind of just fallen off everybody's radar screen."
Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, said his staff "thought I'd be excited about it because it was obviously a hot booking." But when he looked at the book, "the deciding factor" was a tale in which "an unnamed guy who happened to be on vacation" at the same time as the Clintons was quoted as saying that Bill Clinton boasted he was going to "rape" his wife, and that is how Chelsea was conceived. Scarborough says he also called Reines, Clinton's spokesman, and said: "Send me everything you've got."
"I just applied the Kitty Kelley test," Scarborough says, referring to the celebrity author who published a harsh biography of George W. Bush last fall. "If it was inappropriate to have Kitty Kelley on because of unsubstantiated charges, it would be improper to have Ed Klein on." Fox's Bill O'Reilly made a similar point.
Kelley's book "The Family" also relied on numerous unnamed sources. Bush's former sister-in-law, Sharon Bush, disputed allegations of past drug use by the president that were attributed to her, and the White House communications director dismissed the book as "garbage." Yet Kelley was granted a three-part interview on NBC's "Today" and appeared on a spate of other television shows.
Klein, whose book has a major first printing of 350,000, is a man with solid journalistic credentials. He is a former editor of the New York Times Magazine and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, which excerpted "The Truth About Hillary," and has written four previous bestsellers on such topics as the Kennedys, which he promoted on a wide range of shows. He calls himself "a non-ideological person" and not "part of the vast right-wing conspiracy."
But the publisher, Penguin's Sentinel imprint, described the book in its catalogue as one that would do to Clinton's 2008 presidential chances what the Swift Boat Veterans did to John Kerry. ("A bit of marketing hyperbole that probably went too far," says Klein.) And while the right has embraced a steady stream of anti-Clinton books, some conservatives have denounced Klein's assault.
Wall Street Journal contributor Peggy Noonan, the author of a Hillary book, called Klein's volume "poorly written, poorly thought, poorly sourced and full of the kind of loaded language that is appropriate to a polemic but not an investigative work." New York Post columnist John Podhoretz branded it "one of the most sordid volumes I've ever waded through. Thirty pages into it, I wanted to take a shower. Sixty pages into it, I wanted to be decontaminated."
Asked about such criticism, Klein defends the use of unnamed sources as necessary. "Did I go too far on a personal level? I've asked myself that. I've come to the conclusion that no, I didn't go too far. The question of Hillary's sexuality, which seems to have bothered a lot of people, I didn't invent that question. . . . If I did anything wrong, I violated the politically correct standard by talking about lesbianism."
With the book in bestseller land, why does Klein sound so perturbed? With more television exposure, he says, maybe it could be No. 1. Next week it slips to No. 4 on the Times list.
C. Boyden Gray, who was White House counsel under President Bush's father, recently signed on as a Fox News consultant to hold forth on the coming battle to fill Sandra Day O'Connor's Supreme Court seat.
Gray is also chairman of Committee for Justice, an advocacy group he founded that is playing an increasingly visible role in trying to get the president's eventual nominees confirmed.
Is the dual role for Gray, who in one case was interviewed on Fox without a liberal counterpart and mistakenly labeled a network "analyst," a problem? "He's a contributor," says Fox News spokesman Brian Lewis. "We pay contributors for strong opinions."
Sean Rushton, the committee's executive director, says Gray's "exclusivity arrangement" with Fox "basically means he gets a lot of time on their network." Fox erred by initially mislabeling Gray, Rushton says, but "as long as he's identified as an advocate, I don't see what is the big deal."
President Bush got better network news coverage of the first 100 days of his second term than the first time around -- but only by a hair.
The Center for Media and Public Affairs says that 33 percent of the comments about Bush on the CBS, NBC and ABC evening news were positive earlier this year, compared with 29 percent during his first 100 days. ("NBC Nightly News" was kinder and gentler this year, with 43 percent positive evaluations.) In neither period, the center says, did the president approach the positive coverage accorded Bill Clinton (43 percent) or Bush's father (63 percent).
Moving right along...Thanks to Newsweek's Mike Isikoff | http://msnbc.msn.com/id/8525978/site/newsweek/, we now know that Karl Rove told Matt Cooper in the Plame case back in 2003:
"It was 11:07 on a Friday morning, July 11, 2003, and Time magazine correspondent Matt Cooper was tapping out an e-mail to his bureau chief, Michael Duffy. 'Subject: Rove/P&C,' (for personal and confidential), Cooper began. 'Spoke to Rove on double super secret background for about two mins before he went on vacation. . . . ' Cooper proceeded to spell out some guidance on a story that was beginning to roil Washington. He finished, 'please don't source this to rove or even WH [White House]" and suggested another reporter check with the CIA.'
Double super secret background! I wasn't familiar with that category.
"Cooper wrote that Rove offered him a 'big warning' not to 'get too far out on Wilson.' Rove told Cooper that Wilson's trip had not been authorized by 'DCIA' -- CIA Director George Tenet -- or Vice President Dick Cheney. Rather, 'it was, KR said, wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip.' Wilson's wife is Plame, then an undercover agent working as an analyst in the CIA's Directorate of Operations counterproliferation division. (Cooper later included the essence of what Rove told him in an online story.) The e-mail characterizing the conversation continues: 'not only the genesis of the trip is flawed an[d] suspect but so is the report. he [Rove] implied strongly there's still plenty to implicate iraqi interest in acquiring uranium fro[m] Niger. . . . ' "
Um, except there wasn't.
So, does that amount to Rove illegally outing Valerie Plame? "Nothing in the Cooper e-mail suggests that Rove used Plame's name or knew she was a covert operative." Rove's lawyer still denied he outed Plame, says this Post | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/10/AR2005071001000.html article.
I suggested last week that despite all the wailing from advocates, the Supreme Court shakeup might not threaten the Roe ruling. Now comes the Boston Globe | http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2005/07/10/abortion_rulings_difficult_to_gauge/:
"Advocates on both sides of the abortion divide are discovering that the once-bright line between supporters and opponents of Roe v. Wade has become harder to read, reducing the chances that the upcoming Supreme Court battle will be the open referendum on abortion rights that some are demanding."
As well as the New York Times | http://nytimes.com/2005/07/10/politics/politicsspecial1/10abort.html?hp&ex=1121054400&en=2639283084ef56fc&ei=5094&partner=homepage:
"The basic right to abortion, declared in Roe v. Wade in 1973, will survive regardless of who replaces Justice O'Connor, given that the current majority for Roe is 6 to 3, many experts agree."
In the continuing fallout from the British terror, Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times | http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-assess10jul10,0,3926775.story?coll=la-home-headlines has these observations:
"The bombs exploded in London, but the repercussions are still rippling across Washington. A surge in public concern about terrorism means a probable boost in support for President Bush and the war in Iraq.
"Renewed fear of terrorist sleeper cells will probably spur increased support for tough law enforcement measures such as the Patriot Act, which is up for renewal. And there's new enthusiasm in Congress for increased spending on domestic security, especially mass transit -- an area in which legislators were cutting budgets three weeks ago.
"There's no telling how long the wave of concern will last. If the London attack gives way to months of calm, the increased fear -- and any gain in popularity for Bush -- may well be short-lived. But for the moment, Washington is back in 9/11 mode."
The New Republic's Spencer Ackerman | http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=w050704&s=ackerman070805 says things may only get worse:
"We also don't know what relationship these terrorists have to what remains of the pre-9/11 Al Qaeda command apparatus; but chances are that the murderers responsible didn't take any orders from Osama bin Laden. Much more likely is the possibility that, as is believed about the culprits of the Madrid attacks last year, the London murderers planned, recruited for, and executed the bombings independently. If such 'self-activation' is, as terrorism experts believe, the next step of jihadist progress, it raises the disturbing prospect that future attacks against the West will be carried out by those who have gained a wealth of experience fighting U.S. forces in Iraq's western, Sunni-dominated Anbar province--the premier location for on-the-job terrorist training on the planet. The CIA calls this the 'class of '05 problem.' Such future attacks may very well make yesterday's carnage seem amateurish in scale."
Rich Lowry | http://corner.nationalreview.com/05_07_03_corner-archive.asp#068818, on National Review's blog, sees little hope:
"Was talking earlier to a homeland security expert. He said, unsurprisingly, that securing mass transit is basically impossible. There are too many access points and too many fast-moving passengers, carrying too much stuff. It doesn't have the natural choke-points of commercial aviation. He said that DHS has done some pilot programs 1) screening passengers; 2) screening carry-on bags and passengers; 3) screening checked bags (the bags under a train). It all worked, but once you move beyond one train or one station it begins to get prohibitively expensive and complex. So there is not a lot that can be done, but he also thinks that we are 'over-leveraged' on aviation (for understandable reasons) and there should be more focus on other vulnerabilities."
Slate's Tim Naftali | http://slate.msn.com/id/2122213/ faults homeland security chief Michael Chertoff:
"In the wake of Wednesday's coordinated morning rush-hour bombings in London, Chertoff did precisely the wrong thing. Without receiving any new credible intelligence, he raised DHS's already discredited color alert to orange, saying he wanted to wake up mass transit authorities. In the process, he gave ever-jittery TV anchors one more reason to prattle on about danger in the United States, even though today's bombings occurred in a different country thousands of miles away and were, comparatively speaking, not an operational success for the jihadists who seem likely to have been behind them.
"Perhaps it bears repeating that terrorists seek to alter the way in which we lead our lives, to close open societies, and to turn liberals into authoritarians. Instead of ratcheting up the threat level and along with it public fears, Chertoff should have told Americans what he most certainly knows: that national security officials and local police have been worried about a subway or train attack since last year's bombings in the Madrid transit system, and that they have little reason to be more worried now. Then quietly -- rather than with a fuss -- he should have increased the police presence in major metropolitan subways so that commuters returning from work tonight would see the effect of the government's concern."
We're way late in getting the message, says Craig Crawford | http://crawfordslist.blogspot.com/ of MSNBC and CQ:
"The Madrid train bombings last year killed 191 people and injured thousands. Some in Congress reacted by proposing several new rail security bills. NONE WERE ENACTED.The London tragedy is our SECOND WAKE-UP CALL. Will we sleep again?
"The 2006 budget that the White House sent to Congress proposed $4.7 billion for aviation security and just $32 million for passenger rail, buses and other modes of surface transportation, according to Congressional Quarterly.The Republican chairman of the subcommittee handling this was so upset about the disparity in funding that he publicly admonished the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in a March hearing."
Josh Marshall | http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/index-old.php rips the following quote from a Fox anchor:
"My first thought when I heard - just on a personal basis, when I heard there had been this attack [i.e., yesterday's terrorist attack in London] and I saw the futures this morning, which were really in the tank, I thought, 'Hmmm, time to buy.'"
"Name me the major network news anchor who could survive having made such a comment as his first reaction to a major terrorist attack.
"That is, one beside Brit Hume, who said it."
Media critic Tim Porter | http://www.timporter.com/firstdraft/archives/000468.html, writing on Wednesday, grumbles about the futility of print:
"Three newspapers lie unopened and unread on my kitchen table.
"The fact that I subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle tells you much about the trust I place in newspapers as an institution. The fact that I didn't give them more than a fleeting glance this morning speaks just as strongly to their uselessness on a day of major news.
"Stories, photos, audio and video reporting on the horrific bombings in London fill the airwaves, top the web sites of news organizations and occupy the attention of the blogosphere. The front page of the Times is dominated by a photo showing a throng of Londoners cheering for the city's successful Olympic bid. How sadly outdated it is today."
Yes, it's true, newspapers do not possess the ability to cover news before it happens. Some have pretty good Web sites, however.
Greg Gutfeld | http://www.huffingtonpost.com/theblog/archive/greg-gutfeld/online-news-triumph_3804.html, also on Wednesday, uses the Huffington Post to criticize its proprietor:
"Regarding the recent tragedy in London, Arianna states in her post that, 'If one needed more proof of the ascendancy of online news, this morning put the Internet vs. print battle into stark relief -- and foretold the Net's inevitable victory.'
"And she holds up TODAY'S New York Times as proof, which was printed, um, before the disaster took place.
"I was thinking - wow - now we can finally view today's tragedy correctly.This was not about terrorism or plain old evil. It was about the Internet kicking the potatoes out of print!
"I think she's right. But then, I turned on the TV, and saw real, moving images of the tragedy - along with voices coming straight from the television speaker! these voices were telling me what was going on! IT was done with actual reporters! they were holding microphones!
"Surely, If anything, the tragedy was a victory for television - and its ascendancy over print and online!"
Well, this could change by the time you read this--I have no idea--but Robert Novak wrote in last Thursday's column about "word from court sources that ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist also will announce his retirement before the week is over."
Red State | http://redstate.org/story/2005/7/7/224455/0680 was even more definitive on Thursday:
"Chief Justice William Rehnquist is set to retire tomorrow morning.
"That, my friends, is what I've been hearing all day. No one, however, can actually confirm it."
On Friday afternoon, Novak was at it again, saying on CNN: "My source tells me that he is going to retire, and the time of retiring will be as soon as the president is back in the country as soon as air force one lands in the country, which I guess is about ten minutes till 5:00 eastern time today today."
Any moment now, Bob.
Finally, Steve Lovelady | http://www.cjrdaily.org/archives/001662.asp in Columbia Journalism Review kicks dirt on a Robin Givhan review | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/07/AR2005070702103.html in the Washington Post of Judith Miller's sentencing-day attire.