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Interview with Ronald Brownstein, Dante Chinni

Aired June 11, 2003 - 19:30   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR: Well, we now know the revelations of Senator Hillary Clinton's book, such as her fury when her husband admitted he had lied to her about a certain intern.
And we know that hundreds of people wanted to wait on line in New York to get their books signed by the author herself.

But now it's time to consider the book, "Living History," not as news but as an actual book, which it is. Is it a recursive metareferential epic a la Thomas Pinchon (ph) or post-modern feminist romp, a Brigitte Jones for the political set?

Joining with us their to answers to such burning questions, two people who have actually read the book and in I think all of the days we've covered this, these are the first two people I've talked to is that have read the book.

Donte Chinni, the Christian Science Monitor Columnist, whose review of "Living History" is in tomorrow's paper. And national political correspondent Ron Brownstein who review said the book for the "L.A. Times."

Gentleman, I appreciate you joining us.

Ron, I want to start out with you. I think it was you who said there are a lot of people who thought this book was going to be a tell all. And I think it was your who said, it's not really a tell all, it just tells enough to justify the $8 million advance.

RONALD BROWNSTEIN, NATL. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Think that's right, Anderson. Look, the mid-career memoir from a public official is inherently flawed genre. By definition, it's as much a political as a literary document. Every word in this book, I'm sure, you get the feeling has been looked over for how it might play for a future campaign. So, as a result, there's not going to be an excess of candor on every front. These are people she'll have to deal with in her political career and you're not going to be slamming every door, that you might want to if you were at the end of your career.

Having said that. Once the book gets going, at least once the couple gets to the White House, I found that it did provide enough of a peek behind the curtain to keep the pages turning and it got interesting from that point on within the fundamental limitations.

I want to bring Dante here.

Dante, I want to show you a recent CNN/"USA TODAY" poll. I am going to put this on the screen. As survey of other a thousand Americans, 16 percent consider Clinton's memoir work a history, 22 percent consider it fiction, and 50 percent politics. I frankly doubt any of these people have read the book.

Do you agree with anyone on this poll, what do you think it is?

DANTE CHINNI, COLUMNIST, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: I think Ron's right that it's almost necessarily -- there's a lot of politics going to here. There's no question about it. "History," honestly there is a lot of straightforward history. We kind of marched through especially once we get out of Hillary's early years and out of Yale and move into the White House. It is almost like a day by day recounting of month by month recounting of what's going on.

COOPER: I see your eyes glazing over as you say that, is it boring in that way?

CHINNI: To me, I didn't have the same reaction Ron did. To me, I wanted her -- she was marching through, I went here, I met this person, I did this, I met that person. And I wanted her to reflect and talk a little bit about Washington. Talk a little bit about how the political culture has changed. They were here when the culture did get a lot nastier and to talk a little bit about that and maybe give some of her point of view. I know it is a mid career memoir so she can't say a whole heck of a lot, but give us something. A little bit more.

COOPER: Well, Ron, did you want to see more on sort of explaining a, how this couple have stayed together through all their ups and downs and a little bit more on some of the scandals that occurred during -- while they were in the White House?

BROWNSTEIN: I largely agree with the point that she does substitute emotion for thought often in the book. She sort of buries the reader on a lot of detail of her world travel, some of which is interesting and some of it which is wearing after awhile. You have this kind of if it's Tuesday, this must be (UNINTELLIGIBLE), when you are two-thirds of the way through the book. I actually do think that she does give a fairly, convincing explanation of why the couple stayed together and without ever really doing so in one place. I mean, she basically betrays a couple that like many has real problems, but also has lot of things that draw them together. Their daughter, their shared interests, she respects him enormously -- what he does, and she finds him very interesting. In that sense, it is revealing and my only disagreement is whenever she does try sort of pull back into analysis, it gets pretty pedestrian. She is actually better in describing what she's doing in thinking the sort of larger meeting.

COOPER: Well, Dante, you have seen the media coverage of this book over the last couple of days and weeks really at this point.

Do you think people who have watched that coverage and who want to buy the book based on what they've seen thus far in the media, do you think they'll be disappointed or pleased?

CHINNI: I honestly think if you're going by what you've seen in the media, if you want -- if you're buying this book to learn more about Monica Lewinsky and how Hillary reacted to that and what was going on in the White House at that time, what was going through her head, you're going to be disappointed. There's not a lot of that in this. I think there are two main groups that will be interested in the book, the people that really like Hillary and the people who really dislike Hillary. I think the vast majority of people that kind of reside somewhere in the middle, there's not enough in here to pull them in. And also, maybe also what Ron was talking about before me, political writers.

COOPER: As we know there are a lot of people in both those groups like and dislike, so I guess a lot of people will be reading this book.

Ron Brownstein, Dante Chinni, I appreciate you joining us. Thanks.

CHINNI: Thanks.



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