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Book to ‘wipe smile off Hillary’s face’

November 04, 2001

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LONDON: For an accurate gauge of America’s mood, log on to Amazon.com’s list of best-selling books. In the days after Sept 11, Amazon’s top 10 provided a snapshot of how strong the public’s sudden thirst was for reason amid the madness. People scrambled for books about the Taliban, the Holy Quran, Osama bin Laden, Afghanistan’s history - even Nostradamus. Echoing shifting events, these were soon joined by books on anthrax and military strategy, but in the last week a new book - not even published yet - has shot to number one on advance orders alone.

On first glance, an insider’s account about the last days of Clinton’s White House may not seem to connect with America’s current search for heroes and answers, but the identity of the author soon provides a clue to the book’s looming success. The Final Days: A Behind the Scenes Look at the Last, Desperate Abuses of Power by the Clinton White House is by Barbara Olson, a sharp-tongued rightwing regular of the US network’s political talkshows and former federal prosecutor who spearheaded a range of investigations into the dog-end of Clinton’s administration. Olson also died when American Airlines Flight 77 smashed into the Pentagon on Sept 11.

As the most high-profile victim of the Sept 11 attacks, the tale of Olson’s last phone call to her husband - Ted Olson, the US solicitor-general - as hijackers overpowered the plane’s pilots was replayed repeatedly across the world’s media outlets in the following days. But it appears there is more to the book’s appeal than simply the spotlight of tragedy. The surge of interest in Barbara Olson’s book is symbolic of a partial return to partisan bickering and cat calling following a period of polite and respectful truce.

After its Sept 13 printing run was cancelled (Olson was on her way to Los Angeles to publicize the book on the TV show Politically Incorrect when she died), there were rumours that Hillary Clinton and her operatives, seeking to escape the book’s damaging revelations, were trying to permanently block the book’s publication. Regnery, its conservative publisher that promises to ”confront the status quo of political correctness”, promptly issued a statement: “Everyone we talked to, including her husband, Ted, agreed that Barbara would have wanted this book published.”

Regnery added that each book would carry an envelope inviting readers to contribute to the newly formed Barbara K Olson Memorial Scholarship Fund. How could the Clintons possibly be seen to counter such a sentiment? In the New York Post’s gossip pages, Cindy Adams noted that “insiders” were “whispering they wish someone could stop the book” due to its “vicious” anti-Clinton tone, and given that Hillary Clinton was engaged in a very visible healing role for New Yorkers as one of their senators.

In contrast, with the open sore of the Clinton years still irritating many Republicans, the publishing of Barbara Olson’s book seems to have become their latest cause celebrity. Last weekend, Lowell Ponte, a popular rightwing US national radio talk show host, emotionally defended the book’s publication, going as far to say that it could be as significant in stopping Hillary Clinton reaching the White House as the Chappaquiddick incident was to Ted Kennedy. “Buy and read this book, and you will be helping to wipe that smug, arrogant smile off Hillary’s face.”

Hillary Clinton’s problem is that she cannot now adequately defend herself against the book’s accusations because the author is presently untouchable. Olson’s book looks set to be a further woe for the Clintons. —Dawn/The Guardian News Service.

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