Why does she stay with him? Where does she go from here? The author who revealed a generation's Passages now answers all the questions about the most talked-about First Lady in American history. In Hillary's Choice, Hillary Clinton is rendered fully human for the first time. Here is the life of a woman that is also the story of a marriage--and the drama of a presidency.
From her childhood with a demanding father and frustrated mother to her life as a professional wife determined to elect her husband president . . . from the sexual betrayals that nearly broke her to the national scandal that remade her . . . this is the epic journey of a modern American woman, a saga that begins in passivity, moves through self-punishment, and ends in power.
Who was the one "other woman" who posed a serious threat to their marriage? What was the real reason for the health care failure? How did Hillary escape the snare of Kenneth Starr? How has she managed, through it all, to be a good mother? No matter what her future, the mysteries about Hillary Clinton's past have been fully resolved by Hillary's Choice, a stunning achievement from a master chronicler of our times.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||751 KB|
About the Author
From the Hardcover edition.
Hometown:New York City and Berkeley, California
Date of Birth:November 27, 1937
Education:B.A., University of Vermont; M.A., Columbia School of Journalism
Read an Excerpt
From Chapter 1
Anyone who has known Hillary Clinton, née Rodham, since her budding days remarks on her iron willpower, her desperate ambition to get the best grades, take on the boys, win the competition whatever it may be. What is the source of this inner core of steel?
Hillary was born an adult, according to her mother, Dorothy Rodham. While that is surely an exaggeration, Dorothy's daughter never seemed to lack discipline or drive. Once she settled on a track, she stuck to it like the wheels of an express train. Her favorite lines from the Dr. Seuss books, she has said, read like an internalized motto: "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose."
It was the best of times, 1950, in the best of countries, America victorious, when two offspring of Welsh immigrants moved their little family out of the city of Chicago to the suburb where the white people lived, Park Ridge. It was the right place to bring up their daughter, their pride, their Hillary. She was three years old, and the first of her two brothers was on the way. Hugh Rodham, her driven father, wanted the finest house he could afford, although he was too scarred by the Depression to take out a mortgage. Even if he had to work fourteen hours a day--and he did--he was determined to live on Elm Street in a fine two-story stone house and keep a Cadillac parked conspicuously in his driveway. His daughter would have her own bedroom with a sundeck.
Hillary did not want to grow up.
In her shoes, who would? Her world was as rarefied and protective as the elm trees that canopied the streets of her neighborhood. It was nice to look out in spring at those good gray guardians: solid, old stock, rising straight up before spreading their fanlike leaves. By summer, a million of those little green fans lapped at the warm air up and down streets of staid English Tudor-style homes. Only gentle shafts of sunlight were admitted to dapple the grass.
Hillary would spend hours dancing and spinning in the sun. She saw herself as the only person in the whole world and imagined that if she whirled around, everyone else would vanish. But the best part was pretending that the sunlight was intended for her, beamed down by God, and that there were "heavenly movie cameras watching my every move."
She always saw herself as a star.
The Rodhams' world was a suburban incubator of upward mobility, flush with GI Bill checks that bought up the land and paid the taxes for first-class public schools. The original buildings of this English-style village were 150 years old, and some still stood proudly, their white stucco fronts top-hatted with stiffly pointed gables. This quaint base was carefully overlaid by the neat, conformist homes of a middle-class community that would serve as a bedroom for workadaddies who commuted the forty-five minutes to Chicago.
"Back then, moms stayed home" is the wistful recollection of Hillary's old history teacher Paul Carlson, who was born and bred and remains insulated in Park Ridge. "Dads could make enough money to support the family. Mothers did what mothers are supposed to do, provide a gentle climate for the children and the husbands." The mothers shopped and gave coffee klatches and had lunch ready when their kids biked home from school and waited for the crunch of gravel to signal the homecoming of the head of household. The mothers of Park Ridge were always waiting for life to happen.
It was a dry town, literally as well as symbolically: no liquor and no dissenting views to heat things up. All white, almost all white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, its mostly English and German population belonged to the New Class of postwar Americans who invented the suburban dream. Republicanism was as solidly planted in Park Ridge as the American elms. When someone wanted to vote Democrat, there would be a flurry of activity trying to find a ballot for the oddball.
The Arcadian portrait of her girlhood invariably offered by Hillary and her designated friends glosses over important social realities. In status-conscious Park Ridge, most of the fathers wore business suits and were considered professionals. Hugh Rodham commuted to Chicago, the same as his neighbors, and drove home at dusk, the same as his neighbors, but he was not a professional. None of Hillary's playmates or classmates knew exactly what Mr. Rodham did for a living. "I just assumed he was a professional," most will tell you. In fact, Mr. Rodham was a tradesman. His wife had barely finished high school. Their desperate ambition to better themselves was injected repeatedly into their children. It had been ever thus with the Rodhams, a scrappy clan of Welshmen and their long-suffering wives.
Hugh's grandmother Isabella, alone with her eight children, had endured the horrors of a steerage-class crossing from Wales in 1882, to begin life anew in Scranton, Pennsylvania, joining a husband who worked in the blackened pits of the "anthracite capital of the world." The immigrant coal miner had told his sons, "It doesn't always have to be like this. You can be whatever you want to be." Their son Hugh went to work in a Scranton lace mill at the age of thirteen and stayed for the next half century, becoming a pillar of Republican respectability and the father of three sons. His namesake, Hillary's father, Hugh Ellsworth Rodham, managed to go through Penn State University on a football scholarship, studying physical education. But he graduated in the Depression and went to work in the mines, later joining his father at the Scranton Lace Company. Big and burly and bursting with ambition, Hugh Jr. escaped the dreary mining town and literally rode the rails, jumping on and off passing freight trains until he got himself to Chicago and found a better job selling curtains at the Columbia Lace Company.
Hillary tellingly describes her father as "a self-sufficient, tough-minded, small businessman." Indeed, he did eventually become his own boss and the sole employee of a little business. He made draperies for hotels and banks and offices. He took the orders, bought the material, cut and stenciled and sewed the curtains, delivered and hung them. Hugh Rodham was a one-man band. (Except when he put his sons to work helping him on a Saturday.)
The Rodhams emphasized self-reliance: no hands, no help, except perhaps from God or Goldwater. Pop-Pop, as the children called the authoritarian drillmaster at the head of the family, neither offered nor asked for nurturing. Matters of the heart were a fickle distraction in the Rodham household. Life was seen as combat. Hillary's father prided himself on having trained young recruits for combat during World War II. Mr. Rodham did serve as a chief petty officer in the navy, although he himself never saw combat or left the States. Notwithstanding, he gave a good imitation of General Patton in raising his children.
"Well, Hillary," he would demand, "how are you going to dig yourself out of this one?"
In her first book Hillary depicts a deeply religious family: "We talked with God, walked with God, ate, studied and argued with God. Each night we knelt by our beds to pray." Her father did come from a long line of Methodists, but he let his wife and daughter do most of the churchgoing to the First United Methodist Church of Park Ridge. The patrician manners and mores of the New Class were not something to which Hugh Rodham aspired. He swore. He chewed tobacco. He was gruff and intolerant and also famously tightfisted: he shut off the heat in the house every night and turned a deaf ear to his children's complaints that they woke up freezing in the morning. Toughen up was the message. In the Rodham code any emotional display signaled weakness.
"Maybe that's why she's such an accepting person," Dorothy has said of her daughter. "She had to put up with him."
[From Chapter 14]
One of Hillary's favorite homilies seemed to her more applicable than ever that year:
As I was standing in the street as quiet as could be,
A great big ugly man came up and tied his horse to me.
The man was, of course, Kenneth Starr. The "I" was the way Hillary saw herself: working behind the scenes on issues and principles and selflessly helping her husband to regain the reins of a presidency run amok. Why, then, was this zealot chasing her down and trying to tie his subpoena to her? It was an infuriating distraction from her efforts to use the power of her husband's office to change things for the better for Americans and for women and children around the world.
One day in April, Hillary was the headliner at the Mother of the Year awards. A few days later, a paternal Bill Clinton had to reassure a shocked nation after a homegrown act of terrorism--the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in which 158 people were killed. Only a few days after that, the father figure of the country and the mother of the year faced their first deposition with Kenneth Starr. An eight-foot table had been moved into the President's study for the unique occasion. Clinton went first. He took a seat at the south end of the table. Already in place was a lineup of three prosecutors and a court reporter. At the opposite end Kenneth Starr faced the President. He wanted to take this deposition himself. Overeager to the point of carelessness, he was three or four questions into the deposition when he noticed the President's attorneys, Jane Sherburne and Abner Mikva, smirking. One of Starr's deputies passed him a note. The top prosecutor had forgotten to swear in the witness.
The contrast between Bill and Hillary's personalities was strikingly on display. The President, who believes that if he can connect with somebody he can always persuade him, couldn't have been more polite and helpful. He tried to put Starr at ease. After the formalities, he chatted with Starr and his deputies about the Oklahoma City bombing and then guided them around his office, showing off his favorite artifacts. "He's voluble, lighthearted, he's covering them with charm," describes Sherburne.
After Abner Mikva left, the President turned to Sherburne and said, "Will you show them the Lincoln Bedroom?" Jane followed the President's orders. Steeling herself, she toured Starr and his entourage around the Oval Office and the historic bedrooms.
Next, Hillary walked in. Sat down. No chitchat. No "Can I get you a glass of water?" Just "Let's go." She didn't try to treat Starr like a friend or win him over. "She was just furious this man was in her house," recalls Sherburne. "She gave direct answers, said no more than she had to, got up, and left."
When Hillary later learned that the Starr party had been given a tour of her house, she made it abundantly clear that she would have preferred they had left and been done with it. The next time Starr turned up for another interrogation session in the White House, this time with a different set of deputies, he asked Sherburne, "Would you mind giving them the same tour?"
"Not on your life," said Sherburne. "No way. I'm taking you to the door, and you're getting out. We won't be doing any tours today."
Starr said, "You're making me feel like a skunk at the garden party."
Sherburne said, "That's a pretty good description," and ushered him out.
Continuing to follow in Eleanor's footsteps, Hillary decided to write a book and to launch a weekly newspaper column, presenting a warmer, more personal side of the woman perceived at best as a policy wonk, if not as the "yuppie wife from Hell" or the "Wicked Witch of the West Wing." But the week before her print debut, the conservative Republican senator from New York, Alfonse D'Amato, launched his own Banking Committee hearings on Whitewater. With yet another "great big ugly man" in her life, Hillary's first columns carried an edge of anger and frustration: "The truth is, it is hard for me to recognize the Hillary Clinton that other people see." Her column seldom took up the important political or policy issues of the day, as had those of her model, Eleanor Roosevelt, whose "My Day" column had evolved from a campaign-year diary in 1936 into a sounding board for Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. Eleanor wrote her column not only to ease the sting of criticism but sometimes to openly oppose her husband's policies.
In July, Hillary had to turn her attention away from her column and from writing a book, which was about caring for children of the world, and fend off the latest Republican assault. D'Amato's committee was hammering her chief of staff, Maggie Williams, subjecting her to lie detector tests and saddling her with huge legal bills, which she, as a private citizen, would have to shoulder herself. On her first day of testimony, the tough young African-American aide broke down in tears.
Hillary trusted very few people by now, and she didn't trust Sherburne yet; it was only six months into their association. With the brio that astounds most people and shuts them up, Hillary stated her view on how to handle the D'Amato hearings. She wanted to take D'Amato on. He was a perfect target on which to vent some of her pent-up anger. She seemed to be almost salivating over the prospect of a spitting contest. Somebody had to take the risk. Few dared. Finally Sherburne took a deep breath and came back at Hillary--firmly.
"You can't show your face before D'Amato's committee," she insisted. "Your appearance would be a sensation. Why give D'Amato that much attention? His hearings are going to fail, eventually. We'll be successful at showing it's all part of a political exercise, and he'll be the one who ends up looking bad."
The formidable First Lady looked startled.
"Hillary wasn't accustomed to having people push back; it takes one to know one--people don't feel like they can come back and challenge me either," acknowledges the blunt lady litigator. "Hillary lacks self-awareness of this trait and how it affects people. When she says, 'Fix it!' or 'If there's a problem, fire 'em!,' she doesn't appreciate how she can make people jump. (Her impact) is a combination of her own personal style and the fact she's First Lady of the United States."
Hillary responded quickly to Sherburne's argument. "That makes sense, fine," she said.
"That's how I learned how forceful she can be and how people respond to that force," says Sherburne. "They don't realize she is open to listening to another point of view."
But soon afterward, the decision blew up in Hillary's face. Breaking her habit, she read Newsweek the first week of August and found herself characterized in a column by Joe Klein as the "Daisy Buchanan of the Baby Boom Political Elite." Klein invoked the Roaring Twenties femme fatale from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby to make the point that Hillary was throwing her chief of staff to the wolves. He wrote, "Why hasn't she come forward and said, 'Stop torturing my staff. This isn't about them. I'll testify. I'll make all documents available. I'll sit there and answer your stupid, salacious questions until Inauguration Day, if need be.' "
Hillary was shaken by the column. When she called Sherburne, it was not to castigate her, it was to find an escape from the hideous mirror that was distorting her. How could anybody see in her a resemblance to that woman in the white dresses who sipped mint juleps while displaying a lethal indifference to the lives being smashed on her account? Hillary insisted she would have to testify: "Every bone in my body tells me that's what I should do."
"We're not at a point yet where it makes sense for you to do that," Sherburne said. The Clintons' personal lawyer, David Kendall, was also very much against it.
"How's Maggie?" Hillary inquired softly.
"We both know Maggie is tough. Maggie is not looking to you to come and save her."
Hillary returned to the depiction of herself as an insouciant Daisy Buchanan. She wasn't crying but was close to it. She said it was worse than a perception problem; it was about living with herself. If she stood by nonchalantly while one of her most loyal comrades in arms went down, she would be--she couldn't even spell it out. It sounded to Sherburne as if sobs were being throttled in her throat before they could escape.
"I'm not someone who just lets people suffer without offering any help," Hillary blurted out. "I help people."
What stuck in her throat was perhaps the deep contradiction she had first noticed in college: Was she really the catcher in the rye who saved children before they went over the cliff, or was she secretly a hater of mankind? She had always felt an obligation to help people--people in the aggregate, people with their millions of particular stories collected and bundled into a depersonalized mass, where they could be treated with a policy. But she didn't warm to many people personally. The streak of misanthropy was still in her. Now she was being accused of abandoning even those she loved, like Maggie.
"I'm not just someone who uses up people!" she wailed.
Sherburne tried to be as clear as the boundless summer sky. "Hard as this is, it is political, it isn't personal," she said. "Look at the attacks on you as a nasty game. That's the only way to insulate the center of your soul."
Hillary quieted down. She always felt more comfortable residing outside the privacy zone.
Sherburne reassured her, "We're going to stay close to this situation. Don't worry. We're on it."
If Hillary wished that Bill Clinton would do more to defend her, she never expressed it to Sherburne. "It's inconceivable she would have wanted the President to turn his attention away from running America," says Sherburne. "She was a lightning rod, to get at him. She understood that all along, intellectually. There came a point where she recognized that emotionally as well."
Meanwhile, Clinton was dealing with the whole Whitewater mess by ignoring it and distracting himself. On August 9, only a week after the Newsweek piece that had laid Hillary low, the President was moving perfunctorily down the rope line of White House guests, enduring introductions forgotten on the spot before escaping on his helicopter, when a dark-haired beauty thrust herself into his sight line. She was wearing a light green suit that looked deliciously shrunk over her ample curves. The President gave the girl "the full Bill Clinton," undressing her with his eyes. It's the way he flirts with women--and not only with her, as the intern was to discover. But that day, on their first encounter, she was completely taken in: "When it came time to shake my hand, the smile disappeared, the rest of the crowd disappeared and we shared an intense but brief sexual exchange."
Later on, when their sexual fantasies were being played out with abandon in his office, the President is supposed to have told Monica Lewinsky that he remembered that first moment vividly and said, "I knew that one day I would kiss you."30
From the Hardcover edition.
Table of Contents
|1.||Into the Flames||3|
|Cleaning Out Closets||9|
|The Dress Rehearsal||11|
|The Need to Know and the Fear of Knowing||13|
|Let the War Begin||15|
|The Family That Denies Together||16|
|2.||Sleeping Through the Revolution||19|
|Keeping the Bubble in the Center||23|
|Finding Ways to Be Noticed||25|
|Better Dead than Red in Park Ridge||30|
|A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall||32|
|The Budding Politician||37|
|3.||"I Wonder Who Is Me?"||39|
|What Is Happiness?||40|
|Fighting the Inner Dictator||43|
|The Wonk Group||45|
|Choosing an Identity||46|
|"My February Depression"||53|
|The "Radicalization" of Hillary Rodham||54|
|The Killing of the King||57|
|A Ring by Spring?||59|
|The Revolution Is Us!||65|
|Weekends in the Country||71|
|5.||Prude Meets Passion||75|
|Running with Bill||84|
|Moving In--With Doubts||85|
|A Coupie of Favors||88|
|6.||The Hot Springs Kid||92|
|Constructing an Airtight Box||98|
|The Invention of Bill Clinton||100|
|Hillary's Leap of Faith||109|
|The College Girleriend||110|
|7.||Arkansas Diamonds and Denim||117|
|How Hillary Won Bill and Bill Won Hillary||119|
|The Hill Woman||125|
|Taking Care of "Baby"||134|
|8.||The Rodham Regency in Arkansas||139|
|Teaching Bill to Fight Back||142|
|A Calculated Metamorphosis||144|
|Something in Common||147|
|Retaliation in the Bushes||149|
|Hillary Goes Arkansas||151|
|Runnin' and Gunnin'||154|
|Hillary's Blind Spot||157|
|Calling E. F. Hutton||161|
|The Odd Couple||162|
|A Thorn at the Rose||164|
|King of the Mountain||170|
|Betsey's Black Book||174|
|10.||Divorce or Rededication?||180|
|A Woman Different from All the Others||182|
|The Re-seduction of Bill Clinton||189|
|Back in the Game||191|
|Hillary's Brilliant Choice||193|
|11.||Two for the Price of One||197|
|Insulating Herself from Hurt||200|
|Just My Bill||203|
|Fighting Gennifer with Jennifer||204|
|The Real Honeymoon||214|
|12.||Things Fall Apart||220|
|The First Six Hundred Days||226|
|With Friends Like These ...||230|
|Losing the Last Protector||236|
|God, Why Me?||247|
|Bottom of the Hill||251|
|14.||Tuning In to Eleanor||254|
|The Eleanor Channel||261|
|Skunk at the Garden Party||266|
|Going Flat Out||271|
|15.||First Woman of the World||275|
|"That Lovely Memo"||278|
|Keeping the Closet Locked||281|
|All Alone at the Top||283|
|Gliding Across Country||287|
|Ignoring Middle Age||291|
|16.||Everything There Is to Know||294|
|The Summer of Her Discontent||307|
|How Could He?||312|
|Holiday from Hell||313|
|The Deep Freeze||318|
|Now Is the Time for Turning||322|
|17.||The Rebirth of Hillary Rodham||327|
|Why Not New York?||333|
|Let Him Wait||335|
|The Race for Redemption||340|
|Out of the Gate||342|
|Hillary's Hidden Hand in Kosovo||344|
|The Couple Crossover||346|
|Queen Hillary Hits the Streets||350|
|The Road Not Yet Traveled||352|
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Gail Sheely should be very proud of her work. This is a beautifully-written book which is a result of tons of researches and interviews with people who knew Hillary best (not just people who liked her). The more you know about Hillary, the more you admire her. She is truly an intelligent, diligent and intrigued woman leader of our nation and the whole world.
I believe most of my fellow Canadians would agree that American politics are far more interesting than our own. And being caught up in the overwhelming coverage of Clinton and his White House antics near the end of the millenium, I couldn't help but buy this book as I was browsing through biographies last year. Hilary Clinton truly is an exceptiuonal woman. Whether you are an admirer or a critic of Hilary's, Sheehy's book gives you insight into the true driving force behind Bill's success as a politician. Of course, we've heard the jokes about who really wears the pants in the Clinton family, and we all smirked when we we caught wind of the 'two-for-one' deal Americans would get when they elected Clinton as President. But while reading Hilary's Choice, you realize how close the jesting is to reality. I can't imagine how Bill would have done it if he had not had his wife at his side... Keeping that in mind, by applying the same energy, determination and cunning she displayed throughout her husband's political career to her own endeavors, Hilary will do just fine on her own. The book itself is a good solid read, and I couldn't put it down-- although the last quarter or so seemed to lag. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone, whether you like politics, Hilary, or a good book you can sink in to. (I'm usually a fiction buff, this book was a welcome break.)
I have always been intrigued by Hillary, but did not know much about her until reading this book. I think it is a balanced, well-written and insightful presentation of her and her relationship with Bill. After reading the book, I found I liked Gail Sheehy more and Hillary and Bill less.
Although I enjoyed the book, I must say that as an educated woman from the South, Texas, specifically, I was insulted and surprised by Ms. Sheehy's ignorant reference to a 'come to Jesus' meeting on more than one occasion in her book. This term has NEVER crossed my path and is not a part of the southern culture. Take it from a Baptist from the Bible Belt. This phrase is outdated at best and inaccurate in our present day culture. The book, in this regard, was very insulting to myself as a southerner and as an educated, voracious reader of most current literature and biographies. Ms. Sheehy should not throw around inaccurate phrases with such condescending aplomb. This is tantamount to northerners believing we are pistol packing, beer guzzling, redneck, uneducated people who ride horses and shout 'yeehaw'. Give me a break, Ms. Sheehy.
This was an insightful and provocative read, not to mention truly inspiring. After the first few chapters, one has the feeling that they should be doing something, ANYTHING. It is unfathomable to imagine even shouldering all of Hillary Clinton's successes, let alone her mistakes or outright failings. Of all the biographies I have read, never had I the impression more of an absolute constant flurry of activity and achievement. If you love her already, you will be astounded with this work. If you question her, this writing will shed light. If you dislike her, you may just have to reconsider. The problem with this work? It was just a sip of information. (The sign of a great work....we want more!!!!) To the deluge!
And I like her! I hope to see her break out of the quaqmire in which she has been mired with Slick Willy and have a life of her own. This was a fascinating read.
It is most unfortunate that Gail Sheehy did not interview Hillary for this book. Sheehy interviewed Clinton's college love, David Rupert, who stated: 'some of us were inhaling' ... and 'I don't have to go there, but you can read between the lines. Sheehy told Stone Phillips, ABC DATELINE that 'They partook of what everybody else in their age group did in 1968 and '69. They went to parties where people were smoking and they probably smoked.' How preposterous for Sheehy to conclude that Hillary 'probably' used marijuana during her college days. Gail Sheehy was much too old in the 60's to make an insightful conclusion about the happenings of that era. Gail Sheehy should stick to writing her psychological novels and leave serious writing to those who would seek the truth.
Well, the books on Hillary are coming too fast and furious to read all of them. Yet, better to learn more than less. What I cannot understand is why people just do not leave her alone and let the people decide when she runs for election. Speaking of elections, Hillary should switch from running for the Senate of New York to running for The Presidency of the United States. Why? Because she has a great opportunity to win based on her their power of incumbency. No one can manipulate people, votes and power better than these two political gurus in three way race. If she loses the Senate race and when he leaves the seat of power, like what is in the book, the choice for Americans will be to not recall the past. She is viable, willing and able to win the Presidency now not in 2004. The book discloses such insight between the lines. She has the right to put forth her agenda and have it accepted or rejected by the voters. Read it, it will not provide you with the greatest of stories but it is interesting.
She stays because of the power and name