A book review in Tuesday's Times by author-professor Robert Dallek trashed "Her Way," a new autobiography of Hillary Clinton by two of the paper's long-time reporters, investigative reporter Don Van Natta Jr., and Jeff Gerth, who worked at the paper for over 25 years.
Dallek's is a common name in the Rolodex of Times political reporters looking for a critic of Republican presidents past and present, and as shown by his negative review of "Her Way," he can also be relied on to defend Democrats. That'ssomething Times' book editors surely suspected when they approached Dallek with the assignment in the first place, suggesting that in this case ideological loyalty to the liberal Hillary trumped corporate loyalty to its long-time reporters.
"In 'Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton,' Jeff Gerth, a former reporter for The New York Times, and Don Van Natta Jr., an investigative reporter at the paper, have written what will become mandatory reading for Mrs. Clinton's opponents.
"Mr. Gerth and Mr. Van Natta see themselves as relating the unvarnished truth about Senator Clinton. 'Never before has such a high-profile candidate occupied the spotlight for so long without the public's learning the facts about so much that is crucial to finally understanding her,' they write. Mrs. Clinton; her husband, Bill; and their supporters have told a flattering story about the couple. 'Now it is time for another,' less laudatory version.
"Mr. Gerth and Mr. Van Natta describe Mrs. Clinton's undeniable flaws. They see her as unable to acknowledge misjudgments on health care reform or her vote in support of President Bush's war in Iraq: she believes that it would 'arm her enemies and undermine her carefully cultivated image as an extremely bright person who yearns only to do good for her fellow citizens.'
"The book is almost uniformly negative and overly focused on what they consider the Clintons' scandalous past and the darker aspects of Mrs. Clinton's personality. Her ambition, for example, is seen as an unattractive compulsion that, at times, has led her into untoward behavior. They assert that the Clintons had a longstanding deal to win the presidency, first for Bill and then for Hillary, a secret pact of ambition.
"The evidence of such a pact - interviews that have already been challenged in the press - is less than convincing. Moreover, that the Clintons are ambitious and hunger for the public spotlight is obvious. But does this make them different from anyone else in politics, including two of our most notable presidents, Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt?"
"The book's greatest flaw is its flogging of all the Clinton scandals, not simply because they are so familiar and ultimately came to so little, but also because they give us insufficient clues to what sort of president Mrs. Clinton might be. It would have been more instructive to learn something new about why her health reform initiative failed or to explain in some detail why she was overwhelmingly re-elected by New York voters and has been, as even some Republican senators acknowledge, an effective senator."
Dallek preferred Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein's less-negative Hillary bio, "A Woman inCharge,"because at least in Bernsteins' view, "[Hillary Clinton] has almost always 'stood for good things.' She is 'special,' and if she consults her better angels, she has the wherewithal 'to change the world, if only a little.'
"Mr. Gerth and Mr. Van Natta seem to detect no angels in Mrs. Clinton's nature whatsoever, much less better ones, and the result is a one-sided figure who never quite springs to life or feels truly authentic."