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New Book Reveals Hillary's Blind Ambition

Tuesday, 05 June 2007 12:00 AM

A new biography of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton takes such a sharply critical look at the presidential hopeful that even the liberal New York Times acknowledges that it "will become mandatory reading for Mrs. Clinton's opponents."

"Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton," among other things, chronicles the Democratic senator's shifting stance on the Iraq war. [

The authors – former Times investigative reporter Jeff Gerth and current Times investigative reporter Don Van Natta Jr. – also recount an incident in an earlier campaign that may have actually constituted a violation of the law.

During Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, the authors disclose, Hillary's "activities ranged from the inspirational to the microscopic to the down and dirty. She . . . listened to a secretly recorded audiotape of a phone conversation of Clinton critics plotting their next attack.

"The tape contained discussions of another woman who might surface with allegations about an affair with Bill. Bill's supporters monitored frequencies used by cell phones, and the tape was made during one of those monitoring sessions."

The authors go to great lengths to chart the course of Hillary's support for, then opposition to, the Iraq war – and disclose that it is highly unlikely that Clinton ever read the full intelligence report on the Iraqi threat before voting to authorize the invasion of Iraq.

Back in October 2002, when that vote was taken, Clinton "was among the Senate's most outspoken Democrats warning of Saddam Hussein's dangerous arsenal," Gerth and Van Natta observe.

"Unlike nearly all of her fellow Democrats, she even went so far as to argue that Saddam Hussein gave assistance to al-Qaida members." Explaining her vote on the Senate floor, Clinton declared: "Perhaps my decision is influenced by my eight years of experience on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, in the White House, watching my husband deal with serious challenges to our nation."

Bill Clinton, in fact, served as Hillary's main counsel on the Iraq war vote, longtime Clinton associates told the authors.

But Hillary has so far not explained publicly why, before casting her vote, she never read the complete classified version of the National Intelligence Estimate, the most comprehensive analysis of Iraq's WMD program.

The 90-page report was made available to all senators, and was delivered to Congress 10 days before the Senate vote.

That report "contained numerous caveats and dissents on Iraq's weapons and capacities," the authors note.

However, only six senators personally read the report, according to a 2005 TV interview with Sen. Jay Rockefeller cited by the authors. Earlier this year, while on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Hillary was asked by a woman if she had read the intelligence report. Clinton said she had been briefed on it.

"Did you read it?" the woman screamed at Hillary.

Clinton again stated that she had been briefed, "but she did not say by whom," said the authors, who point out:

"The question of whether Clinton took the time to read the N.I.E. report is critically important. Indeed, one of Clinton's Democratic colleagues, Bob Graham, the Florida senator who was then the chairman of the intelligence committee, said he voted against the resolution on the war, in part, because he had read the complete N.I.E. report. Graham said he found that it did not persuade him that Iraq possessed WMD"

Also, Clinton's linking of Saddam and al-Qaida was "unsupported by the conclusions of the N.I.E.," according to the biography, parts of which appeared in the New York Times Magazine.

On Oct. 11, 2002, the day before the Senate vote, Clinton spoke on the Senate floor and stressed the need for diplomacy with Iraq. But just hours after her speech, Hillary voted against an amendment, introduced by Carl Levin, that would have required the same emphasis on diplomacy that Clinton had demanded.

For one thing, the amendment called for the United Nations to pass a new resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq.

"Clinton has never publicly explained her vote against the Levin amendment," the authors state.

But as American fatalities continued to mount, Clinton shifted gears and in October 2005 supported a Democratic proposal calling for a timetable for troop withdrawal.

Still, several weeks later Clinton sent a letter to her supporters saying she accepted "responsibility" for her vote, but voiced no regret for it.

In the letter, Clinton said the prewar intelligence she had relied on involved "weapons of mass destruction and links to al-Qaida turned out to be false."

Gerth and Van Natta write: "Clinton was stuck in her own Iraq predicament: If she admitted she was wrong from the start, she would be admitting a mistake in the biggest vote of her career. But if she continued to describe her vote as a vote for diplomacy, she would have to explain why she voted against the amendment that explicitly called for diplomacy."

In June 2006, Clinton met with a group of Democratic senators and their aides and discussed Sen. John Kerry's proposal to withdraw U.S. troops by the end of the year. Clinton spoke against the proposal, saying "In case you haven't noticed, we don't control anything . . . Karl Rove and George Bush are no fools."

But by this past May, with Clinton's presidential campaign in full swing and opposition to the war continuing to mount, Hillary came full circle and voted against an emergency-funding bill for the Iraq war.

Also in May, Clinton spoke in the Senate and said the "authorization to use force has run its course, and it is time to reverse the failed policies of President Bush and to end this war as soon as possible." Gerth and Van Natta write: "This was Clinton's latest and boldest attempt to distance herself from her own vote for the Iraq war."

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A new biography of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton takes such a sharply critical look at the presidential hopeful that even the liberal New York Times acknowledges that it "will become mandatory reading for Mrs. Clinton's opponents." "Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of...
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