Sally Bedell Smith’s Grace and Power, a tell-all biography of John and Jackie Kennedy’s private life, was one of the hottest books of 2004. Her new book on Bill and Hillary Clinton is a disappointing follow-up. There are no jaw-dropping revelations in For Love of Politics, and those well-versed in Clinton gossip may recognize quite a few anecdotes from George Stephanopoulos’ All Too Human or Dick Morris’ Behind the Oval Office. But fear not— Slate’s reading guide will save you the effort and take you straight to the good parts.
Bill’s Wandering Eye
Page 224: A source told Smith that, at a 1993 Clinton fund-raiser in New York, Hillary didn’t want actress Sharon Stone sitting next to her husband. Bill’s senior staff designated another woman for the seat, “but Bill arranged to have Stone take her place.”
Page 225: Laura Tyson, one-time director of the National Economic Council, told Smith that then-Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Çiller caused a stir when she came to the White House back in April 1995. Çiller was “a huge flirt” who “would hang onto a man’s every word.” Bill went a bit gaga, telling his advisers: “Clearly if she asks for something, we are going to have to give it to her.” The unnamed advisers then “chimed in their own versions of how they would ‘give it to her.’ “
Page 262: At a farewell party for Laura Tyson, who was stepping down as director of the National Economic Council, Bill made a casual pass. Tyson shared the following snippet of conversation with Smith:
“Laura, you’re the kind of girl back when I was in college I would have tried to get drunk.””In college, I might have let you.”
How Hillary Dealt With Bill’s Wandering Eye
Page 136: When the American Spectator reported that Arkansas state troopers had helped Bill hook up on the sly, Hillary formulated the defense strategy. Former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers told Smith that Hillary would “go after specific things about the story—dates and times. Attack the motives and the details.”
Page 226: Smith alleges that Evelyn Lieberman, one-time deputy chief of staff, “functioned as ‘the enforcer’ of West Wing decorum.” According to another former press secretary, Mike McCurry, Lieberman “would send interns home if their skirts were too short.” Alas, it seems that one intern escaped her attention.
Page 45: Tommy Caplan, Bill’s Georgetown roommate, told Smith that Virginia Clinton Kelley was pretty pushy at the Arkansas Ball shortly after her son’s inauguration. She ordered a Chivas Regal on the rocks, but the waiter told her there was no hard liquor. She replied, “Let me get this straight. My son was inaugurated President of the United States, and I can’t have a drink?” A couple aides obligingly “arranged for a bottle of Chivas to be purchased at a nearby liquor store.”
Page 71: If Bill treated the White House like a singles club, Hillary’s brother Hughie treated it like a dorm. A longtime friend of Hillary’s told Smith: “Hughie [Rodham] would show up in the worst outfits. … He weighs three hundred pounds, and he would be wearing shorts with golf balls on them and a T-shirt. He would sit in the Solarium, and Hillary wouldn’t bat an eyelash. People would come all dressed up for dinner, and Hughie would waddle up in his shorts and fall asleep.”
Behind Every Successful Man …
Page 166: During a 1994 National Governors Association address, Bill wavered on universal health care, but he retracted his comments just one day later. What happened? Former Secretary of Health Donna Shalala told Smith that Hillary gave Bill a dressing-down. “What the fuck are you doing up there?” she screamed over the phone. “I want to see you as soon as you get back.”
Page 253: Bubba considered vetoing the 1996 welfare bill, but Hillary pushed him into acquiescing. Shalala told Smith that “Bill was anguished, but Hillary was not torn. … She was flat. She saw the political reality without the human dimension. If Hillary had opposed the bill, we would have gotten another veto.”
Page 300: A former classmate of Chelsea’s told Smith that Chelsea first heard about the Lewinsky story on the Washington Post Web site. Then Hillary called to say, “You need to push through this. These people are telling lies. You have heard this all your life.” Shortly thereafter, Jesse Jackson gave the first daughter a buzz and delivered a similar message “about a right-wing conspiracy, and her father being victimized.”
Page 303: A senior White House official told Smith that Bill had been “seriously considering leveling with the American people” right after the Lewinsky scandal broke. So, what happened? Sidney Blumenthal, convinced of the president’s innocence, advised him to hang tough.
The 2000 Election
Page 422: In September 2000, when Al was running for president and Hillary was making her first Senate bid, the two bickered over who would announce the results of a juicy Federal Trade Commission report on violence in the media. Former domestic-policy adviser Bruce Reed (who’s now a Slateblogger) told Smith that the FTC was supposed to release the report first and then each campaign would comment separately. But Al betrayed Hillary by gabbing about the report to the New York Times ahead of schedule.
Page 385: Investment banker Sandy Robertson told Smith that Bill didn’t have much confidence in Al’s 2000 prospects. When Robertson spent the night in the Lincoln Bedroom, Bill gossiped about his VP’s political deficiencies and then said, “I’ve been working with him to get him to loosen up.”