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Gary Younge
Payback time for Hillary: an $8m tale of infidelity

In remarkably candid quotes from her soon-to-be-published memoir, she reveals how a pale-faced president paced the White House bedroom before confessing "the situation was much more serious than he had previously acknowledged".

"I could hardly breathe," recounts Mrs Clinton, who is now Senator for New York. "Gulping for air, I started crying and yelling at him, 'What do you mean? What are you saying? Why did you lie to me?' I was furious. He just stood there saying over and over again, 'I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I was trying to protect you and Chelsea [their daughter]'.

"I was dumbfounded, heartbroken and outraged that I'd believed him at all," writes Hillary, who reduced Bill to tears when she told him he would have to tell all to Chelsea, who was 18 at the time. "As a wife, I wanted to wring Bill's neck... the most difficult decisions I have made in my life were to stay married to Bill and to run for the Senate," she says.

With an $8m deal and an initial print run of a million the 562-page book, Living History, which will be released on Monday, promises to be the publishing sensation of the year whether it sells well or not.

The publishers, Simon and Schuster, took a big risk in offering such a huge sum and many in the industry questioned whether the book would be sufficiently candid to satisfy the public's desire for lurid details about her relationship.

When Hillary first invited publishers to talk about the project she offered no synopsis and was vague about what would be in it, but none were brave enough to push her. "There is a certain reluctance to ask a first lady the question: What in this book is going to earn $8m?" one editor who chose not to bid for the book told the Washington Post. "Vince Foster's name came up, Monica Lewinsky's did not."


With Time magazine having bought rights to the first excerpt and Hillary having submitted herself to an in-depth interview with grande dame of television confessionals, Barbara Walters, the publishers clearly aim to exploit the book's publicity potential. Rights have already been sold in 16 countries and Hillary plans to tour the US next year to promote it.

Whether Tuesday's release of selected chunks to the Associated Press was a cynical attempt to stimulate interest early or a genuine leak remains a moot point.

It is not just a publishing gamble but a political gamble as well. Hillary, the first presidential spouse to win elective office, is a popular but divisive character. Even though she says she will not stand for the presidency in 2004 (she has not ruled out 2008) she remains more popular among Democrats than any of the nine hopefuls who have. But a weekend poll showed that while 43% of Americans have a favourable opinion of her, the same figure are unfavourable. Asked to name characteristics they believe apply to her most picked intelligent, tough and power hungry.

Such polarised opinions will undoubtedly have an effect on sales. In a Gallup poll taken before Tuesday night's revelations, only 5% said they were eager to read the $28 (£17) book, with 39% saying they might read it some day. By yesterday the book was a number two on the Amazon charts, just behind Harry Potter.

The handful of quotes that have been released so far are more revelatory than many imagined. It remains to be seen whether Bill's account will differ substantially from his wife's. He has a memoir in the offing for which he has received $12m, although it is far from completion.

Hillary insists that until he confessed the truth to her, Bill had told her what he'd told the rest of the country: that he had innocently befriended Ms Lewinsky, the 21-year old White House intern, after she asked him to help her get a job. He said he'd only "talked to her a few times", writes Hillary. "For me, the Lewinsky imbroglio seemed like just another vicious scandal manufactured by political opponents."

The Lewinsky affair was the most salacious detail to emerge from allegations that the Clintons were involved in a corrupt property deal in Bill's home state of Arkansas during the 80s which became known as the Whitewater scandal. After millions of dollars and years of intrusive probing, the rightwing prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove the former first family engaged in wrongdoing. "Whitewater never seemed real because it wasn't," says Hillary.

But her husband's infidelity was, and his initial denial led to charges of perjury which eventually resulted in his impeachment. At the height of the scandal Hillary went on television to defend her husband. Then, as Mr Starr's net drew in Bill realised he would have to testify before the grand jury and he knew he had to tell his wife before he told the nation. He woke her on August 15 and revealed all. "He now realised he would have to testify that there had been an inappropriate intimacy," writes Hillary.

Their relationship remained bitter for several months afterwards, reaching its depths during a holiday to Martha's Vineyard just after he testified. The cameras showed Chelsea acting as a buffer between her parents, walking in the middle holding each of their hands.

"Buddy, the dog, came along to keep Bill company. He was the only member of our family who was still willing to. I felt nothing but profound sadness, disappointment and unresolved anger. I could barely speak to Bill, and when I did, it was a tirade. He slept downstairs. I slept upstairs." Even now she maintains that while what her husband did was morally wrong it did not amount to a betrayal of the public.

Her campaign for the Senate in 2000 election, she says, helped them rebuild their lives. "Over time we both began to relax." She was sworn into the Senate in January 2001, the same month he left office. On their last day in the White House, she says, she waltzed down a long hallway in his arms.

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