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Good Hillary, Bad Hillary


If Clinton could be flummoxed by NPR, it only followed that her camp would hyperventilate about Ed Klein. Blood Feud is patently ridiculous, but despite the Clinton statement chastising “legitimate media” for spreading its “lies,” the “legitimate media” is doing no such thing. Neither has the “illegitimate media” (the pro forma Drudge headlines aside) or conservative media. It’s not just that the Times, the Washington Post, and Slate either ignored or ridiculed Blood Feud. The Weekly Standard and National Review didn’t bother to review it either; the Murdoch imprint that originally bought the book dropped it. (The boutique right-wing house Regnery stepped in.) On his radio show, no less a Hillary hater than Rush Limbaugh said he found “some of the quotes” in Klein’s book “odd in the sense I don’t know people who speak this way.” He also questioned the credibility of the book’s two pivotal confrontations between the Clintons and the Obamas: a couples dinner in the Obama White House’s private residence that could be an outtake from Meet the Fockers, and a fateful golf game where Obama supposedly assented to a deal to support Hillary in 2016 in exchange for Bill’s supporting him in 2012.

Limbaugh was just the latest to join the many on the right who have bailed on Klein. When Klein’s first Clinton hit job, The Truth About Hillary, was published in 2005, John Podhoretz famously wrote: “Thirty pages into it, I wanted to take a shower. Sixty pages into it, I wanted to be decontaminated.” In that book, Klein had claimed that Chelsea Clinton had been conceived in an incident of marital rape and that Hillary was a (nonpracticing) lesbian, or in any case had lesbian friends, or closeted lesbian friends, or whatever, as an undergraduate at Wellesley College. Bill O’Reilly refused to book Klein on his Fox News show then, a snub he repeated for the new book. Even a host on the rigidly party-line Fox News morning show Fox & Friends was skeptical about Blood Feud, joking that the only possible source for one of the book’s Bill-Hillary exchanges would have had to be Chelsea.

That Blood Feud has sold so well can’t be attributed to the salaciousness of its breathless “revelations.” No rape this time, and none of Klein’s weirdly self-­revealing sapphic fantasies. We must settle instead for the news that Hillary may have had some “work” done, and that she may have some routine health concerns that require monitoring, a condition she shares with basically every other 66-year-old in America. There’s a moment where Hillary jabs Obama with her finger to argue a point and Obama later tells Michelle that “it hurt.” But Klein himself doesn’t lay a finger on Hillary. Indeed, he absolves her of the biggest crime the right holds against her—an alleged Benghazi cover-up. In contrast to Hillary’s lengthy and defensive rehash of that incident in Hard Choices, Klein just blames the supposed subterfuge on Obama. The president, it turns out, had concocted a cover story and ordered his secretary of State to disseminate it. When Hillary recounts her plight to Bill, he replies, “Those bullshit talking points manufactured in the White House sausage factory aren’t going to hold up … Eventually, the lie is going to be exposed, and you’ll take the fall for it. Then, believe me, Obama will dump you.” Say what you will about Limbaugh, he knows bogus dialogue when he hears it.

Blood Feud is padded with recyclings from Klein’s previous anti-Obama book, The Amateur, and citations from ­mainstream-media Obama reporting by writers like Jodi Kantor and Ryan Lizza. What makes the book enjoyable is the self-­parodistic overkill of Klein’s writing (a Rahm Emanuel anecdote ends with him hitting “his forehead with the heel of his hand” and saying, “Oy vey!”); the sheer absurdity of his conspiracy theories; and, against all odds, the unexpected, perhaps even unintentional, emergence of a likable Hillary.

Unlike The Truth About Hillary, which mustered the fig leaf of footnotes, Klein doesn’t bother with that pretense this time around and instead cloaks all in “what journalists call ‘deep background.’ ” And so, delightfully, anything goes. We learn that Valerie Jarrett runs the White House with an iron fist and is plotting an Illinois Senate bid by Michelle Obama against the stroke-impaired Republican incumbent, Mark Kirk. Bill commissions a “secret poll” in 2012 showing that Hillary is more popular than Barack Obama and urges her to lead an intraparty insurrection against the sitting president. The Obamas hate the Clintons so much that the president wants to renege on his promise to back Hillary in 2016 and support Joe Biden or possibly John Kerry or an unspecified Obama “mini-me” instead. (Lately, Klein has been identifying the mini-me in New York Post “exclusives” as Elizabeth Warren; she’s not even mentioned in his book.) Klein’s blood-feud thesis, culminating in a chapter titled “ ‘There Will Be Blood,’ ” is so nonsensical that he is compelled to write: “At this point, some readers might raise an objection: How was it possible for Bill Clinton to campaign all-out for Barack Obama [in 2012] while wishing to see him lose? How does that make sense? It only makes sense if we stop to remember that politicians are different from you and me.” Got it!


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