UPDATE: Van Natta of 'NYT' Responds to His Paper Panning His Hillary Book

By: Joe Strupp Negative reviews for new books are not exactly a rarity in The New York Times but one today may raise a few eyebrows -- the authors are reporters long associated with the newspaper.

The book is ?Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton,? by Jeff Gerth, a former investigative reporter for The Times, and Don Van Natta Jr., who still has that post at the paper. As is customary when a Times staffer is involved, the review was assigned to an outsider, in this case, Robert Dallek, the well-known historian.

Of the Gerth/Van Natta book, Dallek concludes: "The book is almost uniformly negative and overly focused on what they consider the Clintons? scandalous past and the darker aspects of Mrs. Clinton?s personality....The book?s greatest flaw is its flogging of all the Clinton scandals, not simply because they are so familiar and ultimately came to so little, but also because they give us insufficient clues to what sort of president Mrs. Clinton might be."

Van Natta tells E&P today that he respects Dallek, but feels he misunderstood the concept.

"I think he applied a faulty standard to our book," Van Natta said of
Dallek, whom he called "a renowned academic and historian." He added that "It is not a classic biography. We went out and tried to say new things about our protagonist's life and I think we succeeded. We set out to find new things about Sen. Clinton's life, from Arkansas to Washington.

"I don't think Professor Dallek understands the concept of an investigative biography," Van Natta added.

Van Natta said The New York Times Magazine's decision to publish a lengthy excerpt of the book in this past Sunday's issue, and make it the cover story, indicates editors felt it was worthwhile. "I trust the editors of The New York Times' news judgment more than the judgment of Robert Dallek," Van Natta said. "I would be interested in what people who read the magazine piece and then read the review would think. I think they will see a disconnect there."

He also pointed out that the book delves into areas of Clinton's Senate career that have not been well-examined in the past. "I don?t think
mainstream media has done a very good job of covering Hillary Clinton in the Senate," he said.

Also today, the Times presents a review of Carl Bernstein's competing biography of Hillary Clinton, penned by regular critic Michiko Kakutani, and also fairly critical. Dallek, in his review of the other book, praises the Bernstein volume for offering "a more balanced and copnvincing" picture.

Both reviews are posted at www.nytimes.com today.


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