Hillary Clinton’s labored defense in Talk magazine of her husband’s philandering – that unspecified childhood trauma led him to a life of screwing around – couldn’t have come at a better time for veteran celebritologist Christopher Andersen. His disingenuous new book, Bill and Hillary: The Marriage, carves up ”one of history’s most remarkable couples” with the sharpened scalpel and pointy tweezers usually reserved for the dissection of frogs, while the author adopts the clinical tone of a surgeon wearing a sterile mask. It’s a cold, damning book, jammed with tattle. I assume much or all of it is true, unless it’s not; how are we to know?
Either way, it’s a miserable story of a marriage. Bill Clinton, the author reports, has cheated on the wife he nicknamed ”The Warden” regularly and copiously from the day they met nearly 30 years ago. Andersen names names. He proffers quotes, many from the women with whom Clinton dallied. He does that insidious, breezy thing of reconstructing extemporaneous conversations he couldn’t possibly have heard. And he lets the betrayed rattle on. One, and only one, vile example: ”At the time, (Clinton’s former longtime lover) Dolly (Kyle Browning) was unaware of Bill’s alleged sexual assault on Juanita Hickey Broaddrick. But she would later hear the story of his attack on her – and similar attacks on other women. ‘Do I believe Billy is capable of rape? Absolutely,’ she said. ‘There is a very cruel side to Billy.”’
Andersen would probably swear that his point is simply to describe an unusual union. Isn’t it interesting, he asks without inflection, that Mrs. Clinton – far from clueless about her husband’s behavior – sticks with Mr. Clinton because she loves him and because she enjoys being in the position to forgive, just as he enjoys being bad and risking getting caught?
But this obsessive project is of little lasting value beyond feeding those who disapprove of the Clintons with more fuel for their ire (when the woodshed’s already plenty full of kindling). Aside from a superficial thesis about how the two get off on one another, Andersen cares little for what glues these two tarnished emblems of the baby-boom generation together. And he cares even less for the lasting effect their private relationship has had on the commonweal in everything from health care to foreign policy.
Written to make big headlines and fast money, ”Bill and Hillary” is a prime example of a kind of opportunistic celebrity muckraking – sometimes known as selling people out – that has become the often junky big business of unauthorized biographies of the rich and famous.