CBS Focuses Carl Bernstein on Personal Side of Hillary's 'Great American Life'

Carl Bernstein's new biography of Hillary Clinton has been attacked for being too "nasty" (according to Barbara Walters), but in an interview in the second half-hour of Tuesday's Early Show, he sounded more like a Hillary supporter, defending her "great love affair" with Bill and describing his book as the first whole portrait of "this epic life, this great American life," the story of "a huge persona." Early Show host Harry Smith had no interest in Hillary's role in policy-making, focusing Bernstein only on the messy Clinton marriage and why she stayed with the president.

Smith began: "The top three Democratic presidential candidates met last night at a forum on religion, a very familiar subject to Senator Hillary Clinton. Faith has always been a huge part of her life."

Smith didn't note the event was a liberal event, thrown by the group Sojourners, to insist that Democrats are just as religious as Republicans, or note how Hillary's strong faith matched what Bernstein found was her "F--- 'em" attitude toward people who stood in the way of her ambitions.

He continued:

SMITH: Carl Bernstein reveals that and much more in his new biography of Hillary Clinton, 'A Woman In Charge.' And Carl Bernstein is with us this morning. I want to get to the faith aspect of her life in just a moment. [He never did.] But few people have lived as public a life as she has. You've spent seven years assembling this book. What is the most important thing you've been able to take away from this research?

BERNSTEIN: That she is a whole person, a fascinating person whose never really been seen in the whole, until I was able to do this book, and once you see the picture of this epic life, this great American life, you say oh, this is the best-known woman in the world and I knew nothying really about who she was, and there are all these facets and there's all this drama and there's all this internal warring going on, and you find out about her religion and you find out about her family and growing up with a father who abused her mother, humiliated her mother, verbally, ini a marriage where a lot of people thought her mother ought to walk out on the marriage. You find a life totally in struggle not to be known. That's the real thing. Well, that is partly the story of her life, is camouflage. So what we've tried to do in this book, I've succeeded, I think, from what the reviewers seem to think, is to remove the camouflage and what you get is a huge persona."

At this point, you can think the superlatives might not be so much praise for Hillary Clinton (although it certainly sounds positive) as sales language for why this book and its subject are worth dropping some cash on. But anyone who spins the Clinton marriage as a great love affair that we can never truly understand from outside it is reading from the Clinton talking-points manual:

SMITH: Let me ask you this. This woman is smart. She's clearly so ambitious. I think the thing that so many people in the country wonder about, when they look at her, is why she's stayed with the president?

BERNSTEIN: First, it's a great love affair, in its way, however dysfunctional you or I might judge it. Second of all, these are two people who believe in a commitment to public service and they've followed it as a unit, as it were.

SMITH: That trumps personal relationship?

BERNSTEIN: Look, I think that, first of all, nobody can be inside a marriage except the two people themselves, but more important than that is the fact that they have a purpose in life together, a family, and more than that. She has been, since her childhood, told by her mother, told by others, you do not get divorced in this family. And a big part of this saga is a family saga, and both of these people come from rather unusual families, so there's a kind of epic sweep to this tale.

If Smith were a trouble-maker, he could easily point out that Hillary's brother Tony divorced his wife Nicole, the daughter of Sen. Barbara Boxer, so apparently the Rodham family isn't completely dead-set against divorce. Bernstein and Smith did then turn into the author's findings that the Clintons almost divorced on the cusp of the 1990s over his affair with Marilyn Jo Jenkins. But it didn't happen, and sadly, Bernstein even forwards the patently unbelievable claim that Hillary didn't believe Bill had an affair with Monica Lewinsky:

SMITH: I guess if she wasn't going to leave then [after the Jenkins affair], and when he wanted out, she probably wasn't going to leave later, I mean, once that commitment is made.

BERNSTEIN: Again, I think that's speculative and also I think in the White House, leaving the marriage in the midst of the Lewinsky denouement would have been, I think, kind of unthinkable. Moreover, remember, she believed, one of things that's in here, is how she alone, in her family even, believed that Bill Clinton had not had a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. But it's not a book about sex. There's only two or three women mentioned in it. No sexual acts are mentioned. It's a biography.

As Brent Bozell wrote yesterday, Bernstein appearing at 7:40 on a Tuesday morning isn't as impressive as Bob Woodward's big, splashy "60 Minutes" interviews. But Smith didn't criticize Bernstein for an anti-Hillary animus or for nosing around in their personal affairs, so it could have been worse.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis