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LED ASTRAY?

THE SEDUCTION OF HILLARY RODHAM
By David Brock
Free Press -- 452pp -- $26


Hillary Rodham Clinton must hate this book. And not just because author David Brock, as an investigative reporter for right-wing journal American Spectator, was the first to print stories about then-Governor Bill Clinton's female dalliances, based on allegations by Arkansas state troopers. For that transgression, Hillary denied Brock access to herself and her close-knit circle of friends, forcing him to rely on the public record for this biography.

But Hillary's real disdain is probably reserved for Brock's main theme: that she is a principled woman gone astray, seduced by Bill Clinton the womanizer, overpowered by the good ol' boys behind Whitewater and other seedy ventures, and wowed by the Washington power elite. Whatever ethical problems haunt the White House, Brock asserts, are the fault of an unscrupulous Bill Clinton and his Arkansas mafia, not of Hillary.

While Brock probably thinks this is sympathetic treatment for the controversial First Lady, it's very unflattering and probably untrue. Can this strong-willed woman really be some kind of innocent victim? True, Clinton swept her off her feet while they were students at Yale Law School. But everything else about her--her organizing skills in his many campaigns, her shaping of the cutting-edge issues that won him votes, her molding of his public policies--belie the notion that she has gone through the past 25 years in a lovesick trance, or that she was naive in the presence of powerful people.

Nonetheless, Seduction is a good read, especially if you're fascinated by Hillary's many contradictions. One chapter details her early dabbles in radical politics, such as a Chicago internship with Saul Alinsky, the left-wing granddaddy of community organizing, to her support of the Black Panthers at Yale and her days as a House Watergate Committee staffer intent on impeaching Richard Nixon. Interesting, too, is the chapter explaining how she took over then-boyfriend Bill's unsuccessful first campaign, for a seat in Congress, in 1974. According to Brock, Clinton did not ask her to come to Arkansas, and she was not welcomed by his family and friends. Even then, he had groupies and a girlfriend in every county.

Brock probably thought he would shed his image as a woman-basher with this book, his second. He previously wrote The Real Anita Hill and has been reviled by professional women ever since for making into a harlot the law professor who charged then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas with sexual harassment.

Instead, he offers a comprehensive cut-and-paste biography of the most fascinating woman in America today. But he shortchanges Hillary intellectually and fails to explain the Big Picture. The world still doesn't know whether she is the embodiment of liberalism or the Rasputin behind the throne. And the biggest question of all--why she hasn't dumped Bill for his alleged late-night wanderings--goes unanswered. No doubt Hillary is an ambitious person who early on recognized that a divorce would derail her drive to get to the White House on Bill's coattails. The real question, then, is who's seducing whom?

By Paula Dwyer


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Updated June 14, 1997 by bwwebmaster
Copyright 1996, Bloomberg L.P.
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