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New Book
Living History

Hillary Reveals Herself

Her private life has been put in front of her by political opponents, feminists, conservatives and many others. This time she took command and told her own story in 528 page.


Hillary Rodham Clinton took command
and told her own story in "Living History

As soon as you enter bookstores, it's right in front of you: Living History
by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Now, New York Senator Rodham Clinton, she candidly talks about her upbringing in middle-class America in the 1950s and her transformation from Republican to student activist to controversial First Lady. Living History is her memoir of life through the White House years. And her book proves that she is at her best when she is least guarded about herself.

On the shelves in June, the book immediately started breaking records. It sold 250 thousand copies on the first day that it was out in the stores. 1 million copies have been printed and more copies are on the way.

She has made headlines again. After 11 years, Time noted in a cover story that "She was a lightening rod almost from the start." From local to the national media, Hillary is in demand. Some publish excerpts from the book, some have psychologists to analyze Hillary's marriage with Bill, and some talk about what she is going to do with the 8 million dollar advance from the publisher for the book. In 1995, she wrote It Takes a Village, which explored the responsibility of raising children, and she donated the one million dollar that she got from the book sales to children's foundations.

Hillary  does not seem bothered by the attention she receives. On the contrary, that’s probably what she wanted. There are more than 20 books about her out there. Rarely has the spouse of a president been so closely scrutinized. Her private life has been put in front of her by political opponents, feminists, conservatives and many others. This time she took command and told her own story in 528 pages.

Why is she still with Bill?

From local to the national news media, this is the question everybody has in mind. Her own answer is in the book, on page 75:

"It's not a question that I welcome, but given the public nature of our lives, it's one I know will be asked again and again. What can I say to explain a love that has persisted for decades and has grown through our shared experiences of parenting a daughter, burying our parents and tending our extended families, a lifetime's worth of friends, a common faith and an abiding commitment to our country? All I know is that no one understands me better and no one can make me laugh the way Bill does. Even after all these years, he is still the most interesting, energizing and fully alive person I have ever met. Bill Clinton and I started a conversation in the spring of 1971, and more than thirty years later we're still talking."

This may not be the answer feminists would like. But Hillary has been always controversial. When she said she won't be baking cookies, at the beginning of her White House years as a First Lady, she angered homemakers and had pleased feminists. When she became a public figure, her foremost supporters were university educated women. After she was "cheated" by her husband, she received lots of support from men and from  not so educated women.

Later on, feminists found new answers for the puzzle of Hillary-Bill relationship. They said, women should be able to do whatever they want, the important thing is that women  should be free to choose. And Hillary fit that formula. After all, she had chosen to stay with Bill by her own free will.

Does she really love him?

Hillary wanted to "wring Bill's neck" after finding out about the Monica Lewinsky scandal. That's what she wrote in her book. She also wrote that nobody has been able to impress her so far, as much as Bill Clinton.

Has her love been politically motivated? Does she really love him? Hillary has her own answers:

"My personal feelings and political beliefs were on a collision course. As his wife, I wanted to wring Bill's neck. But he was also my President, and I thought that, in spite of everything, Bill led America and the world in a way that I continued to support. No matter what he had done, I did not think that any person deserved the abusive treatment he had received. His privacy, my privacy, Monica Lewinsky's privacy and the privacy of our families had been invaded in a cruel and gratuitous manner. I believe what my husband did was morally wrong. So was lying to me and misleading the American people about it. I also knew his failing was not a betrayal of his country."

We may never know the real answer to the question of her love for her husband. And maybe we don't need to know. But reading some passages from the book, one thinks that these words cannot be coming out of a woman who does not love:

"To this day, he can astonish me with the connections he weaves between ideas and words and how he makes it all sound like music. I still love the way he thinks and the way he looks. One of the first things I noticed about Bill was the shape of his hands. His wrists are narrow and his fingers tapered and deft, like those of a pianist or a surgeon. When we first met as students, I loved watching him turn the pages of a book. Now his hands are showing signs of age after thousands of handshakes and golf swings and miles of signatures. They are, like their owner, weathered but still expressive, attractive and resilient."

Indeed, after reading their life story from Hillary's book, it is not so difficult to understand why Hillary and Bill are such a good fit. They are coming from a similar social class, they share similar values. A lot has been written about Bill Clinton's abusive step father and struggling mother who was a nurse, but Hillary's past has not been explored that much except that her father was a staunch Republican.

Hillary tells in her book that she is coming from a middle class family. Her mother had been abandoned when she was a small child. Hillary's father had been in the Navy and started a small drapery fabric business after the war. Hillary recalls that her father was a thrifty man and had always lessons for his children. For example, if he saw a toothpaste left in the bathroom without a lid, he would throw it away from the window and have the children find it out among the bushes no matter it's winter or rainy. To this day, Hillary writes, she packs away the smallest pieces of leftovers and cannot waste even a crumbled piece of cheese.

Hillary has been working since she was thirteen. The most challenging of her jobs maybe the one in Alaska where she slimed fish in Valdez in a temporary salmon factory on a pier.

From Eleanor to Hillary

Hillary is an admirer of Eleanor Roosevelt, the controversial First Lady of her own time in 1930s and 1940s. There is a chapter in Hillary's book called "Conversations With Eleanor."

"I often joked in my speeches that I had imaginary conversations with Mrs. Roosevelt to solicit her advice on a range of subjects. It's actually a useful mental exercise to help analyze problems, provided you choose the right person to visualize. Eleanor Roosevelt was ideal," wrote Hillary.

And a memorable saying from Eleanor for Hillary was:

"A woman is like a teabag. You never know how strong she is until she's in hot water."

When Hillary decided to move to Arkansas to be with Bill Clinton despite of her own promising career, she recalled another Eleanor Roosevelt phrase:

"Do what you're most afraid to do."

Hillary writes that she was afraid to go to Arkansas because she didn’t know the place and didn’t have any friends there. She was also in Washington to work for the House Judiciary Committee on its Nixon impeachment inquiry.

In her own words, she followed her heart instead of her head and moved to Arkansas. Hillary also accepted a teaching job at the University of Arkansas law school.

Run Hillary run

At Wellesley, there had never been before a student speaker at graduation. Hillary, from the class of 1969, delivered a memorable one.

The only time Hillary wasn't employed since she was thirteen was the eight years she spent in the White House. Meanwhile, she became the first woman partner at Little Rock's Rose Law Firm.

She was also the first First Lady to have a public office in the White House. Hillary became the first First Lady to be elected for a public office and became a senator.

Now, everybody wonders: Is she going to run for President? She says no but predictions are that she might change her mind until 2008.

_ . _

E-mail to Yonca Poyraz Dogan: poyrazdogan@yahoo.com

(Yonca Poyraz Dogan is an international broadcaster at the Voice of America www.voanews.com/turkish A Turkish version of this article was published in Radikal 2 on June 22)

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