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"I would say those criticisms are unsophisticated and politically motivated," Klein says, when asked if the text is trying to tell us something about the sexual proclivities of New York's junior senator.
This comes from a man who, 12 pages into his 305-page tome, relays the "water-cooler gossip" among White House staff over the Clintons' sex life:
Sydney Schanberg on Edward Klein: "The dust jacket of the book describes Klein as a "distinguished journalist." It notes that he was once the foreign editor at Newsweek and the editor of The New York Times Magazine. It does not describe the job he has held for the last 14 years: gossip columnist for Parade, under a pseudonymóWalter Scott."
"Were there any telltale signs on the presidential sheets that they ever had sex with each other? For that matter, did the Big Girl have any interest in sex with a man? Or, as was widely rumored, was she a lesbian?"
Just one page later, Klein is setting up the many contradictions of Hillary. He writes:
"She was a mother, but she wasn't maternal. She was a wife, but she had no wifely instincts. She said she was passionately in love with her husband, but many of her closest friends and aides were lesbians."
Throughout the book, he seems to reach for every last bit of innuendo. On page 62, he describes the "long tradition of lesbianism" that had, uh, influenced Hillary during her Wellesley College days, making a point to note, "At least two women who were close to Hillary . . . would become out-of-the-closet lesbians."
He then quotes an unnamed someone identified as a former Clinton classmate, who claims "the notion of a woman being a lesbian was fascinating to Hillary." The source, according to Klein, continues:
"But she was much more interested in lesbianism as a political statement than a sexual practice. . . . Hillary talked about it a lot, read lesbian literature, and embraced it as a revolutionary concept."
True, Klein does not come out and claim Clinton is secretly gayif anything, he paints her as asexual. As he tells the Voice, "I came to the conclusion she never was that interested in sexwhether it be homosexual or heterosexual."
And he defends what he has done in his book by saying it wasn't he who invented the speculation that has swirled around Clinton and her sexuality. It was his job to address the underground suggestion that she's a closet dyke, and explain ithow it's been fueled by, say, Clinton's own "spinster" looks, the "mannish" appearance of her female friends, the presence of open lesbians on her staff.
"We're talking about a woman who was virtually called a lesbian by Dick Morris," he says, trotting out the name of the Clintons' onetime pollster and present enemy. "I had to discuss it."
Maybe so, but Klein's critics say he ends up rehashing unfounded junk. David Brock, of Media Matters for America, a nonprofit monitoring the conservative movement, says the dyke-Hillary prattle is "scurrilous, unsupported, and unsupportable tabloid-style gossip." Brock is no stranger to salacious allegations about Senator Clinton. Not only has he read every anti-Hillary book out there, but he penned his own before undergoing a conversion to the left a few years back. Of them all, he says, "I don't believe any crawled this low. The gay-baiting is blatant."
It becomes even more so when you consider the book's ties to the conservative apparatus. Right-wing organs like NewsMax are promoting it, sending e-mails hawking copies two, three, four times a day, while the Conservative Book Club has listed the title as a featured selection on its website.
In this context, Klein's book fits a larger pattern of rumor-mongering that has dogged Hillary Clinton for decadesand not just her, but female leaders generally. Paula Ettelbrick, of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, finds it "amazing" that the lesbian talk surrounding Clinton so exactly parallels what happens to powerful women everywhere. Last March, the commission issued a report, "Written Out: How Sexuality Is Used to Attack Women's Organizing," documenting the way womenfrom activists to politicians, from Malaysia to the United Statesget tagged as "lesbian" in an effort to bring them down. The report highlighted the New York senator, who, it states, "continues to be baited as a public leader" for being "strong, smart, and opinionated and therefore 'not a good traditional woman.' "
"There is a broad-based attack on women to keep them from leadership positions," Ettelbrick says. "We see it whether we're talking about a women's NGO in Malaysia or a potential president of the United States."
Gay-baiting has long been used as a weapon to drag Clinton down. In his book, Klein writes that the "rumors first began to fly through Arkansas that Hillary was a lesbian" back in 1974, when her husband, Bill, ran for U.S. Congress: "The rumors were founded on Hillary's tough, aggressive manner, her military barracks vocabulary, and her defiant refusal to do anything about her unkempt appearance."
Such speculation only worsened when she hit the campaign trail with husband Bill in 1992, on the road to the White House. She was maligned for being, in essence, a modern woman. Social conservatives whipped themselves into a frenzy, tarring her as a "radical feminist" over her infamous pledge not to "stay home, bake cookies, and have teas."