Low Concept

Slate Exclusive: Edward Klein Lunches With His Blood Feud Editor!

Or how we imagine such a meeting would go.

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) speaks as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listens at a cabinet meeting at the White House on November 28, 2012 in Washington, DC.
Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listens to President Barack Obama during a cabinet meeting on Nov. 28, 2012.

Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

It was a bright and muggy day in Washington, D.C., with temperatures hovering around 92 degrees and humidity at 73 percent. None of that could dampen the mood of Edward Klein’s editor. His client’s book, the explosive and well-crafted Blood Feud, had soared to the top of the Amazon and New York Times best-seller lists. The D.C. literati were fuming about how a scrappy conservative publisher had turned the book around, so soon after Klein and New York publisher had parted ways.

On this afternoon, in a celebratory mood, the editor had settled into a private booth at Charlie Palmer’s, a steakhouse close to Regnery’s offices. At 12:34, Edward Klein arrived. The tails of his bespoke suit jacket flapped as he traded the air outside for the potent air-conditioning of the steakhouse.

“I’m Edward Klein,” said the author, according to a source close to the maître d’.

“I know who you are,” said one waitress, who bore a striking resemblance to the popular actress Shailene Woodley. “Congratulations on the book. You may be in the den of thieves”—the steakhouse is also close to the gleaming dome of the Capitol, constructed in 1868—“but I want you to know, people here are pulling for you. Those Obamas are trying to destroy everything that’s exceptional about the United States of America. Let me show you to your table.”

Klein followed the waitress to the booth. His editor extended a handshake that multiple sources described as “firm.” They exchanged pleasantries while the waitress popped open a bottle of 2002 Ruinart Champagne. They clinked glasses, and then got down to brass tacks.

“Let’s get down to brass tacks,” said the editor, a source later confirmed. “The book is flying off the shelves. We can’t print new copies fast enough. And we’re getting requests for excerpts every day.”

“That’s good to hear,” said Klein, according to a fellow diner who happened to be returning from the restroom and overheard part of the conversation.

“In fact,” said the editor, leaning forward in his chair, “we’re practically drowning in requests to excerpt the juiciest parts of the book. Frankly, even I was a little surprised, as Democrats seem to have stopped responding to your reporting.” As the editor said this, his back was arched at a 65-degree angle, which one body language analyst I talked to described as an indication that he was emphasizing his point with body language.

“Ha ha,” Klein laughed, at a volume nearly 15 decibels louder than the 62 decibels he usually spoke at. “I’m used to that. It drove the leftists nuts when Fox News published my scoop about Hillary’s depression over her low book sales. It drove them downright batty when the New York Post ran my story about Obama pledging his support to Elizabeth Warren if she runs against Hillary.”

The editor nodded three times in quick succession. “Classic Ed Klein!” he said. “It was amazing that you got an ‘Obama administration source’ to say that Warren ‘is a committed progressive who, like Obama, wants to transform America into a European-style democratic-socialist state.’ That struck me as an odd thing to say, but it did get picked up by the Daily Caller and National Review to advance the somewhat threadbare theory that liberals want a challenge to Clinton.”

Klein cracked a wry, knowing smile. “Well, that’s what I do. I’m just glad that the loose-to-nonexistent fact-checking standards of the book industry allow me to protect my sources. As I write in the book, the authors of Game Change and even liberal National Public Radio have used anonymous sources to get important stories.”

The editor nodded again. He was there to go over some facts in the book, because other newspapers wanted a little more vetting before they ran their own excerpts. He started to name the specific newspapers and websites that were interested, but at this moment a sous chef dropped something on his toe and emitted a short but audible yelp, which made the conversation hard to hear. When the din died down, the editor read back anecdotes that were ripe for new articles.

“So, ‘a member of the Clinton inner circle’ tells you that ‘the Clinton’s spies tell them Joe Biden has also been sending Oprah notes,’ ” said the editor, reading from a Kindle, a popular e-reader device. “That seems a little strange. The Clinton’s friends refer to themselves as spies?”

Klein, a legendarily well-sourced reporter who once edited the New York Times Magazine—something his critics can hardly say—was more than ready with an answer.

“Yes,” he said.

“I guess that makes sense,” said the editor, furrowing his brow. The waitress arrived again, carrying two of the restaurants’ famous 18-ounce “cowboy cut” steaks. “On the house,” she chirruped.

“Thanks,” said the editor. “Ed, at another point, you describe the details of a dinner between the Obamas and the Clintons. You report that Obama had his wine glass filled every time the bottle came around, and you have him telling Valerie Jarrett ‘that’s why I never invite that guy over,’ referring to Clinton. It’s just not clear who could have possibly witnessed this conversation or that quote.”

Klein chuckled. “Throughout the dinner, a maid was sweeping up a room across the lawn. She could see the first families through a window—and she is an accomplished lip-reader.”

The editor breathed a sigh of relief. “Good to know,” he said. “Just don’t tell anyone else. Now, there’s apparently a contradiction in the Elizabeth Warren story. In the book, you write that Bill Clinton told his daughter, Chelsea, of a worry that that Obama preferred to elect a ‘mini-me’ over Hillary. But in your weekend New York Post story, you say Clinton’s been telling ‘close friends’ the same story.”

Klein tucked a fork into his steak. “That’s very sensitive,” he said. “As I report in the book, Clinton’s health is worse than let on, though not so bad that he has to give up a penthouse in Little Rock where I intimate but do not say that he’s having extramarital trysts. He even told his wife that she’d gain votes if he died and she put on her ‘widow’s weeds.’ One effect of his heart medication is that he constantly repeats the same stories, usually in alien-sounding ways that are unlike the speech patterns he uses in public.”

“That makes a lot of sense,” said the editor. “One more thing. At one point, you write that ‘Bill felt it would obviously be better for Hillary to run in 2016 against a incumbent Republican president than run after eight years of a tired and blooded democrat like Obama.’ But a few pages earlier, you write that he wanted his wife on the 2012 ticket, and that ‘if Hillary ran with Obama as his Vice President that would immediately put her ahead if the Democratic pack.’ And later, you quote one of his ‘oldest friends’ saying that Bill Clinton is ‘very into being the last Democratic president since FDR to be elected twice,’ which seems to indicate that he neither wanted Obama to win in 2012 nor wants his wife to get re-elected in 2020 if she wins this upcoming election.”

Klein took a sip of the expensive champagne. “Bill Clinton’s instincts aren’t what they used to be. That’s what I’m able to report exclusively, based on my conversations with everyone from ‘a member of the Clinton inner circle’ to ‘a member of Bill Clinton’s brain trust’ to ‘one of Hillary’s confidants’ to former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, whom I spend a surprising amount of time writing about, as if I had trouble getting more relevant Democrats to talk to me.”

The editor chuckled, and raised his glass. “The Democrats might not believe you,” he said. “But the people—the American people—they do. You’re confirming what a lot of conservatives want to believe about the Clintons and the Obamas. The natural mistrust that these people have in the media has led them to buy into sketchy and sometimes laughable stories.”

Klein shook his head knowingly, according to a source in his inner circle. “I’m just glad they’re reading my book,” he said, “and not something that’s entirely made up.”

This article is almost entirely fake, except for the fact that the steakhouse, Washington, and Edward Klein all exist, and that Blood Feud contains these quotes and artfully disguised sources.