This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," June 19, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: It's the book that Hillary Clinton does not want you to read, "Her Way" by Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta. Now, the authors conducted interviews with Hillary's closest friends and colleagues to show the truth behind the Clintons' carefully cultivated image. Now, the book debunks many Clinton myths, such as Hillary's decision to run for the Senate, her record on Iraq, her status as the victim of a philandering husband.
Joining us now are the authors of "Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton," Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta, Jr.
Good to see you guys. Thank you for being with us.
JEFF GERTH, "HER WAY" AUTHOR: Thanks for having us.
DON VAN NATTA, JR., "HER WAY" AUTHOR: Thanks for having us.
HANNITY: I'm really enjoying the book. I'm not finished yet, but I've been reading a lot of it. And one of the things, starting right out of the box here, you tell the readers of your book that you work diligently to get her to support it and go on record. She refused. Also, many of her supporters, you point out, they would only do it if you would not quote them, because there was fear of retribution. Did a lot of people tell you that?
GERTH: They did. In fact, we went originally to Senator Clinton's communications director, had lunch with her early on before we ever wrote the first word about the book. And she said to us, “Hillary is having heartburn about you doing this book, and she doesn't like the idea of two investigative reporters looking into her background.”
HANNITY: Well, I wouldn't cooperate with you either, but for far different reasons.
VAN NATTA: Sean, it's literally the book that she didn't want us to write and now it's the book she doesn't want anybody to read.
HANNITY: Yes. Why, though? Why do you say that?
VAN NATTA: She had problems with Jeff and me. She doesn't want investigative reporters looking into her. She's getting ready to run for president. And she actually had her people go out of their way to tell people in the Senate, including Harry Reid, not to cooperate with us. And despite that, we got a lot of people to cooperate with us.
HANNITY: I guess what I'm trying to get at here is, how many people said they were afraid to talk to you on the record for fear of retribution? Those are the words you use. And you did eventually speak to some 500 people. You went through all her speeches over, what, a 31-year period of time? What was the fear of retribution about?
VAN NATTA: Well, the people that said that are just worried that there were going to be consequences. They were worried that, you know, if Hillary is elected president that they weren't going to have a job in a Clinton administration. I mean, these are people in Washington, and she's their bread and butter. And yet despite that, we were able to get dozens of people — some people who were offended by the fact that they were being shut down — to cooperate with us.
HANNITY: There's so much that I want to get to, including their 20- year plan or strategy, as you call it here. But a lot of the press has come up to page 93 in this book, where there were these recorded phone conversations that she had listened to about the potential of another Clinton woman being exposed. More importantly, the fact that she may have been listening to conversations that were recorded illegally caught my attention.
GERTH: We don't say that they were illegal.
HANNITY: You don't say that, but I'm assuming they may have been.
GERTH: This was part of an effort in 1992, where she headed up something called the defense team, which was really designed to manage the liabilities of both her and her husband. He had his draft record issues, and we uncovered new documents that they withheld from the press. He, of course, had womanizing issues, and she had her own issues with her law practice and her finances.
And the idea in 1992 was, do whatever it takes, cover it up, suppress it, keep it out of the press. And we, in fact, when you talked about retribution in 1992, Hillary told someone on the campaign, "If you let out these records," they were tax returns which they later made public, "you will never work in Democratic politics again."
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: By the way, a lot of this unsourced. You don't mention names.
GERTH: That is not unsourced. That is on the record.
COLMES: Let me ask you this. This is presented as a balanced portrait of Hillary Clinton. And then you go on to accuse her of a 20-year plan, flip-flopping on Iraq and energy, violating Senate rules. Where's the balance in this book?
VAN NATTA: There's plenty of balance in it. It's a sympathetic portrait.
COLMES: This is sympathetic?
VAN NATTA: Well, in the early part of the book, there's a lot of sympathy that we have for her. We portray her — this is a balanced, down- the-middle portrait.
COLMES: You're kidding me.
VAN NATTA: We went where the facts took us. It absolutely is.
COLMES: On the press blurb, by the way, everything is negative about Hillary Clinton, in terms of how you're selling this book.
VAN NATTA: Well, that's also not true. That's not true. What we did is we set out to write the most balanced book that we could. No reporters in a book, no authors have looked at her Senate career. Half of the book deals with that.
COLMES: You're marketing this as the book Hillary doesn't want to you see. How can that be a balanced look at Hillary Clinton?
VAN NATTA: Well, because there are certain things in the book that she doesn't want anybody to focus on, including...
COLMES: Let me talk about this 20-year plan. Let me show you what the Washington Post said about this: "The authors report that the Clintons updated their plan after their 1992 election, determining that Hillary would run when Bill left office." They cite two people, Ann Crittenden and John Henry. You said Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and close Clinton friend, told them the Clintons still plan two terms in the White House for Bill and later two for Hillary. Contacted, Branch said the story is preposterous: "I never heard either Clinton ever talk about such a plan of both of them to become president."
And, in fact, it contradicts something in the Bernstein book, another book out at the same time.
GERTH: Let me take that on.
COLMES: The person you name says it's not true.
GERTH: Well, there's some confusion here, and you made a mistake yourself on June 4th when you talked about the 20-year project being in dispute. That's not in dispute. That comes from the words of Leon Panetta, and he heard them from President Bill Clinton.
COLMES: It's contradicted by Taylor Branch...
VAN NATTA: You're confusing the issues.
COLMES: The 20-year plan for them...
GERTH: The 20-year project came from the mouth of Bill Clinton in 1996 on Air Force One. It was heard by Leon Panetta, who told it to us. It's not been disputed by anybody.
COLMES: Why's Taylor Branch disputing what you're saying?
GERTH: Because Taylor Branch — it's a separate conversation.
VAN NATTA: It's a separate conversation.
GERTH: Two people told us.
HANNITY: See what I have to deal with?
COLMES: But they're saying there's no plan, there is no plan.
VAN NATTA: You are confusing it, unfortunately.
HANNITY: You're missing the two issues. Leon Panetta has confirmed it for you guys. Hang on, we'll pick this up. I want to go through the war vote and the second vote that very few people paid attention to regarding the October 2002 authorization. We'll have more with the authors of "Her Way" when we return.
COLMES: And we continue now with the authors of "Her Way," Jeff Girth and Don Van Natta. You say you might actually vote for her?
VAN NATTA: Oh, I haven't made up my mind. Like Hillary, I don't deal in hypotheticals.
COLMES: I see. So you haven't made up your mind. You might actually vote for Hillary Clinton?
VAN NATTA: I might.
COLMES: Philip Reines, who was the spokesperson for Hillary Clinton, had this to say about your book. We're going to put it up on the screen. He says, "Given the torrent of eviscerating reviews — including one by your own paper — Jeff Gerth has only himself to blame for his book being dead on arrival." Do you want to respond to that?
GERTH: That's one of the stale one-liners that the Clintons...
COLMES: Stale one-liners?
GERTH: ... yes, that they rely on, instead of dealing with the thousands of facts in the book which have gone unchallenged.
COLMES: But the book is not doing great. It's like in the fourth or seventh — what is it? How is it doing on Amazon right now?
VAN NATTA: The book is doing fine. The book is selling well.
COLMES: Your own paper basically says — the review in The New York Times says the book is almost uniformly negative, overly focused on what they consider the scandalous past of Hillary Clinton. That's your own New York Times review.
VAN NATTA: Well, Alan, the person who did that review, Professor Dallek, is a biographer of dead presidents. We did an investigative biography of somebody running for president. And we set out to find new things to say about her, and we found out quite a bit. And, you know, Professor Dallek has his opinion. It's unfortunate he feels that way. But our book is down the middle.
GERTH: We'd also like to say that The New York Times collectively, as an institution, chose to put 8,000 words of our book on the cover of the magazine a couple weeks ago, and it was about Iraq.
COLMES: On Iraq, in fact, you go after her on Iraq because you claim she's not being consistent. The fact is, new information has come to light. We now know things that we didn't know then. And isn't the idea of leadership to be able to say, "I have new information. Had I known then what I know now, I would have acted differently?” What's wrong with that?
VAN NATTA: There's nothing wrong with that, but what we point out is this Iraq vote was Hillary's most important vote. It was her most important decision of her career, and she didn't do her homework prior to making that vote. She didn't read the national intelligence estimate.
COLMES: Most senators didn't. Only six did.
VAN NATTA: Only six did, but she's running for president. She didn't read it but, more importantly, if she had read it, she would have found out there were major questions in the intelligence community about a link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. She went on the Senate floor and said there was a direct link between the two of them, and that was just false. And since then, she's played fast and loose with the facts in retreating from her Iraq war vote.
HANNITY: I want to stay on this, because I read this part and I gave a lot of attention to it. We've actually put together, both on this program and on "Hannity's America," a show I do on Sunday night, her back and forth and all over the place on Iraq. "I cast this vote with conviction." She made the case for the connection to Al Qaeda. She similarly made the case about weapons of mass destruction. She bragged the day after we captured Saddam Hussein, "I was a part of that vote authorization." And now she's done everything she can do to distance herself from that.
GERTH: And she has. She's tried to politically rehabilitate herself. She's even now trying to claim that she was sort of against the war before she was for the war. And in doing that, she's distorted the legislative record and played fast and loose with her own votes.
HANNITY: But there's even one more little piece to the puzzle that you guys discuss. There was a second vote, because now she is making the claim that, "I really wasn't authorizing the president to use force, but I was hoping he would use that authorization for diplomatic purposes," when, in fact, the Levin amendment — you may want to explain.
VAN NATTA: The Levin amendment was an opportunity for her to vote for diplomacy, to hold the president's feet to the fire on diplomacy, and she chose not to do it. She didn't even go on the Senate floor and say anything about it. She voted against the Levin amendment, yet she keeps saying that she wanted diplomacy.
HANNITY: So she's lying.
VAN NATTA: Well, when she had a chance to vote for it in real time, she passed up that opportunity.
HANNITY: If I had the opportunity to make these campaign ads for whoever the ultimate Republican candidate is for president, I would show her in 2002, I would show her today, I would show her — she's a bigger flip-flopper on this issue than John Kerry was on, you know, "I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it."
GERTH: Well, she's got her own set of flip-flops. I mean, she hasn't apologized for the war like Kerry and others...
GERTH: ... and Edwards has, but she has her own set of flip-flops. And the diplomacy one is front and center, where she's maintained all along she was for diplomacy, but didn't vote for it.
HANNITY: All right, last question. Has your opinion of her changed having done this extensive background investigative book on her?
VAN NATTA: Well, I actually thought that she was smarter than Bill Clinton, but after doing this, I think Bill Clinton is the smarter of the two.
COLMES: We've got to run. By the way, the Levin amendment...
COLMES: We've only got a moment left. The Levin amendment would have had them going back to the U.N., which she realized she could not do based on what happened in Bosnia.
HANNITY: Has your opinion changed, Jeff? Has your opinion changed?
GERTH: I thought Bill Clinton was not as smart as Hillary, and I came away with...
COLMES: Coming up, the violence in the U.S....
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