After more than two years of keeping her head studiously low over her Senate desk, Hillary Rodham Clinton is about to do what her ardent admirers and dedicated detractors have long expected: She's launching a national campaign.
Not to win higher office, though. It's just to sell books. Or is it?
The June 9 publication of Clinton's memoirs,Living History, is shaping up to be one of the biggest literary and political events of the year. Publisher Simon & Schuster thinks it has a blockbuster in the story of the former first lady who became New York's junior Democratic senator. The first printing is 1 million �� an almost unheard of number for a non-fiction book, especially one that is 576 pages long and costs $28. It puts Clinton, as an author, in the same league as Pope John Paul II and Billy Graham �� though industry skeptics say the publisher's sales projections are wildly optimistic.
Political and industry insiders say the book is surprisingly revealing. Clinton tackles tough topics like her failed health proposal, the independent counsels who investigated her and her husband for six years, and yes, White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
That would give the public a rare glimpse into the carefully guarded feelings of one of the most powerful women in American politics �� and one of the most polarizing. Clinton was the first working mom to live in the White House and the first presidential spouse ever to win elective office. She was also the first to be called before a grand jury and the first to have her marital difficulties aired in Congress. Former president Bill Clinton's affair with Lewinsky triggered an impeachment trial.
A USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup poll taken last week shows the public is split evenly about Clinton: 43% say they have a favorable opinion of her, 43% an unfavorable one. Of the 1,019 adults who responded, 87% said they'd vote for a woman for president, but only 39% said they'd vote for Clinton.
Clinton's memoirs about her White House years are bound to intensify speculation about whether she aims to live there again. Until now, her top priority has been building her credentials as a senator and a transplanted New Yorker.
But the book tour -- which will be stretched out over the summer to accommodate Clinton's Senate schedule -- will have her criss-crossing the country and giving interviews just as the 2004 presidential campaign heats up. And while Clinton insists she's not in the race, she's being viewed as a strong contender for 2008, should her party fail to oust President Bush next year.
"I think this is a very important book for her," says Democratic strategist Donna Brazile. "It's an important launching pad."