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Conservatives Push Negative Book on Sen. Clinton

Conservative groups are promoting a Hillary Rodham Clinton (search) biography that hits bookstores Tuesday as a work so damning it could destroy any possible bid for the presidency in 2008.

The 305-page book, "The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She'll Go to Become President," by Edward Klein, portrays the New York senator as a ruthless and ambitious woman who would stop at nothing to protect her husband's presidency and promote a Clinton II administration headed by her.

While promotional material from Sentinel books, a conservative imprint launched by the Penguin Group, promises a work that "contains shocking new accounts of key moments in Hillary Clinton's private and political life," the book relies heavily on earlier works about the former first lady.

"She's been written about so frequently that it's impossible not to cover some of the same ground," Klein told The Associated Press in an interview Monday. He said, however, that the book contains plenty of new material and insights.

There are 30 pages of end notes, many of which cite those previous works as grist for Klein's coverage of President Clinton's womanizing, his wife's efforts to save him from the Monica Lewinsky (search) scandal and the prominent role the first lady played during her husband's White House years. Other sources cited by Klein are often anonymous.

The Clinton camp lashed out at the work Monday.

"We don't comment on works of fiction, let alone a book full of blatant and vicious fabrications contrived by someone who writes trash for cash," said Philippe Reines, a spokesman for the senator.

Jim Kennedy, a spokesman for former President Clinton, also called the book "trash."

Will Weisser, Sentinel's associate publisher, said 350,000 copies have been printed.

Such works, according to former Clinton adviser-turned critic Dick Morris (search), can backfire.

"Personal attacks on Hillary Clinton and her marriage only tend to invigorate her and permit her to characterize all criticism as extreme and personal," wrote Morris in an e-mail exchange with the AP. He added: "These personal shots obscure the more serious questions about her lack of qualifications to be a good president."

To Klein, a former editor of The New York Times Sunday Magazine and author of "The Kennedy Curse," Clinton is a sort of latter-day Richard Nixon, constantly reinventing herself.

"The comparison between Hillary Clinton and Richard Nixon can be pushed only so far," Klein writes, however. "Whereas Nixon sought power in large part to overcome his low self-esteem, Hillary seeks power because she has unrealistically high self-esteem."

But Klein does give her credit, of a sort, for her work in the Senate.

"To the surprise of many, Hillary turned out to be more than equal to the task of winning friends on both sides of the aisle," he writes, before adding: "No one saw the other side of Hillary Clinton's face, which she kept carefully hidden behind a mask of collegiality."

"If you are a fair-minded, balanced journalist, you have to say Hillary has performed brilliantly in the last five years, and that's what makes her such a formidable politician," Klein told the AP.

The author said he expects Clinton to win easy re-election to the Senate next year, to capture the Democratic nomination for president in 2008 and to have "a real shot at winning red states" in the election.

"I think she would be, in the White House, a Nixonian president and a danger to the republic," Klein said.

The work is being touted by, among others, the Conservative Book Club, which is owned by the parent company of Regnery Publishing. Regnery produced "Unfit for Command," the book that attacked Sen. John Kerry's Vietnam War service and was written by a leader of the anti-Kerry Swift Boat Veterans.

NewsMax.com, a conservative Web site backed by Clinton critic Richard Mellon Scaife (search), is offering free copies of the Hillary Rodham Clinton book to those who subscribe to its NewsMax Magazine. NewsMax says "publishing insiders say the book and its revelations could destroy her bid for the presidency in 2008."

An excerpt earlier this month in the July issue of Vanity Fair drew criticism from the liberal-leaning Media Matters group, which said Klein's work contained numerous errors.

Readers will learn from the book, thanks to an interview with fifth-grade boyfriend Jim Yrigoyen, that Clinton can be one tough cookie. The old sweetheart recalled how the young Hillary Rodham had entrusted him with watching over some baby rabbits. He made the mistake of giving one to a neighbor.

"She hauled off and punched me in the nose," Yrigoyen said.

As of Monday, the book was ranked No. 18 in sales on Amazon.com.