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Hillary, Our Favorite Author?

The Clintons may be moving out of the White House, but that doesn't mean the media will stop being their loving courtiers, assisting them in whatever political or financial endeavors they pursue, while sympathizing with them through every unfortunate bout of "Clinton hater" scandalmongering.

Hillary Clinton took advantage of her waning days in the White House by releasing a new book casting herself as a combination Martha Washington and Martha Stewart. One reporter who can't get over it is Ann McFeatters, a White House correspondent for Scripps-Howard Newspapers during the Clinton years. Rarely has a journalist slobbered more profusely.

McFeatters announces "the publisher, Simon & Schuster, promises to make a donation to the National Park Service. So it seemed like a civic duty to buy this book. And am I glad I did!" While she jokes that all the pictures of the Clintons "hugging, kissing, dancing, laughing, joking, caressing" do not include "pictures of anyone throwing anything," she writes: "The dictionary just doesn't have enough superlatives for this book."

You can look up the word "fawning" in the dictionary, and there perhaps find McFeatters' picture.

This "objective" reporter doesn't just love the book, she's awestruck by its author: "The first lady's energy level is superhuman," and she details a day full of book-related activities.

McFeatters concludes by looking forward to Hillary's next book, her White House memoirs, "where she will explain the lessons she has learned. No recipes for food, just life."

Personally, I want to hear about Vince Foster.

Simon and Schuster will pay Mrs. Clinton an amazing $8 million advance for this book, which is not scheduled for release until 2003. A huge gamble? Or a shameless bribe? You could argue we won't know for a while. If the book sells two million copies and makes the publisher eight million dollars, it's worth the fee. But if it tanks, doesn't it look like another episode of people taking a dive on cattle futures, except the payoff is $8 million, not just $100,000?

Newt Gingrich is out there smashing furniture right now, I bet. Nobody waited to see sales figures when incoming Speaker Gingrich accepted a $4.5 million advance from Rupert Murdoch's Harper Collins almost exactly six years ago. That was national news within seconds. "We'll hear more about this one," CBS reporter Bob Schieffer promised. Schieffer was still hammering Gingrich about it six months later. Pundits like Al Hunt on CNN quickly called for Gingrich to dump the advance or donate it to an orphanage, and media pressure ultimately caused Gingrich to give up the advance within a few days. A lot of good that did: In the first six weeks of the controversy, the network evening news shows aired 27 news stories - seven each on ABC, CBS, and NBC, and six on CNN.

Dan Rather suggested straight out that Gingrich was being bribed by a businessman with interests before Congress: "More tonight about whether Australian-born-and -centered communications billionaire Rupert Murdoch is trying to buy influence with politically connected authors."

But now the shoe's on Rather's foot. Simon & Schuster is an arm of Viacom, which also owns ... Rather's CBS. Will Dan have the guts to repeat his sentence about "buying influence"? Will Eric Engberg fulminate endlessly on this arrogant, unethical power broker?

So far, only CBS has touched the story (on a Saturday). ABC and NBC have ignored it. CNN featured one prime-time debate moderated by Greta Van Susteren, who suggested conservative Keith Appell was somehow a sexist for objecting to the Gingrich double standard: "Some of the women in this country may think you have a huge double standard, because, you know, here's a woman who has obviously been able to go out in the marketplace and command a huge amount of money, and a lot of people are squawking."

Ultimately, the Gingrich imbroglio led to the House banning book advances, while in the Senate, advances are not improper income as long as the arrangement is "usual and customary." There is nothing usual or customary about this deal, so will the Senate Ethics Committee investigate? Senate GOP leader Trent Lott quickly - predictably - promised to do nothing about it.

Some may be wondering why Queen Hillary doesn't have the ethical sense to prevent another Clinton scandal before her term in the Senate even begins. But why should she? The media are even less enthusiastic to investigate than wimpy Trent Lott.

Remember this book deal the next time you hear one of those pious media sermons about the critical need for "campaign finance reform."