From Bernstein Book: Hillary vs. the ‘Wash Post’

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By: E&P Staff

The long-awaited biography of Hillary Clinton by Carl Bernstein, to be published next week, covers 628 pages and hundreds of topics, big and small. E&P received an advance copy today. One fascinating, if minor episode, involves Clinton?s mid-1990s plan to ?systematically attack the Washington Post? because of its Whitewater coverage.

Bernstein quotes legal aide Mark Fabiani as revealing the idea of a campaign against the Post ?went fairly far down the road before some of us succeeded in stopping it.? Bernstein claims that Hillary told her aides: ?We have to figure out all the mistakes that the Post has made. We?re going to document it, and then publicizie it somehow or get a journalism review to write an article about it, or go to the Post editors and complain about [reporter] Sue Schmidt with this evidence, this dramatic evidence in hand.”

She called five aides to the White House, including Fabiani and George Stephanopoulos, and she allegedly then said: ?You can take it over and meet with [executive editor] Len Downie and?.go through this, and then we can publicize it.?

Fabriani cautioned that she was overreacting — the Post?s shortcoming were probably more a matter of tone or placement — but she replied: “No, if you look at it, I’m sure it?s going to be true. Go ahead.?

Bernstein, who became famous for his Watergate reporting at the Post, writes that for the next 10 days or so a team compiled a ?dossier? on the newspaper. Finally, ?the virtually unanimous opposition of the lawyers and Stephanopolous prevailed.?

One of the aides said that this was an example of Clinton’s ability to organize people for a big fight, but in terms of how to respond ?her instincts are just awful.?

Earlier in the book, Bernstein reviews the famous welcome-to-Washington pieces penned by columnist (and wife of his former editor Ben Bradlee) Sally Quinn for the Post and Newsweek just before Clinton became First Lady in January 2003. Bernstein calls the Post column “prescient, presumptuous, nasty” and “uncharitable.”

Hillary hated the pieces and Quinn came to represent for her the Washington journalism establishment. “That was ironic,” Bernstein observes, “because Quinn herself was ridiculed by some of the town’s best reporters, though she could write a singular kind of Washington piece which arrived at certain truths that eluded more conventional journalists.”

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