SLOW BURN The front page headlines in Tuesday’s Commercial Appeal asked if Hillary is a hard sell. “No magic here”, we were told. A photo caption of a purchaser claimed that, while the senator had made a few sales, she was definitely no wizard at vending books. Harry Potter was put forth as the publishing “enemy” of Hillary, who couldn’t hold a candle to his sales phenomena. Yada yada. With reporting like that, is it any wonder Memphians are more than occasionally the butt of jokes? Can you imagine the amusement of a visitor to Memphis International Airport, who might have been one of the millions watching the blockbuster Barbara Walters interview of Hillary on Sunday night, arriving in these parts to catch a glimpse of such headlines? The fact is, there is little doubt Hillary Clinton’s Living History, released this past week, will be the best selling non-fiction book of the year. The publisher has already ordered an additional 300,000 copies to be printed in addition to the one million copies which were printed for its launch. On the first day alone, the book sold 200,000 copies, setting sales records all over the country. The book is already number two on and predictably will be number one on the New York Times bestsellers list by the month’s end. In other words, it is a publishing mega- hit and a runaway winner. At 562 pages, Living History is a big book because Hillary Clinton is a big, historical figure, whose future on the historical stage is still, in fact, enlarging. She is a woman of unfathomable strength whose life experiences overflow with firsts -- not least of which is that she became the first first lady to be elected to public office. In the book, Hillary chronicles her life as a suburban Midwestern, middle-class Baby boomer who grew from Goldwater Girl to student activist. She describes the choices for women of her generation and her response to the changing times swirling around those choices. As a wife, mother, lawyer, advocate, first lady, and now, U.S. Senator, she is in fact the embodiment of the women’s movement in America. The book successfully captures the essence of one of the most admired women in the world. With all her accomplishments, however, Hillary Rodham Clinton endured something most women consider the pits - a philandering husband. The protective veil of privacy that had been provided former first ladies was destroyed by a well funded, well organized, media-assisted, right wing hellbent on ensuring the most public of personal humiliations. During her husband’s Presidency, the right-wing think tanks, political organizations, and tagalong media made a cottage industry of their pathological contempt for the enitre First Family. To these groups, Bill Clinton was so self-evidently evil - and Hillary even eviler - that a righteous public would welcome the chance to destroy them. And that is what they attempted to do. Again, and again, and again. Hillary haters added their hubs to cyberspace, their books to publishing houses, their words to radio and their dogma to television. They accused and abused. Finally, the culmination came in the absurd impeachment of President Clinton for -- stop the presses and hide your eyes! -- lying about having sex with someone other than hiw wife. The extremist religious forces within these groups focused their attention on Hillary Clinton as if she were a female Satan incarnate. What they really could not stand was that she embraced modernity. She was an advocate of choices for women and girls-- including educational, career, and reproductive choices. It was all too much for those whose fundamentalist religion compelled them to have a totally intolerant view of change in the world and women’s roles in it. Going far beyond derision, the assault on Hilllary and her husband became religious inquisition. Only one problem, you Hillary-haters: If the public shared your revulsion, how might you explain the zooming ratings that attended the former first lady’s appearances on the Barabara Walters, Katie Couric, and Larry King shows? How would you rationalize the respectful Time and People cover articles? Why the reports of so many ordinary people lining up in their pajamas outside bookstores overnight just for a chance at the first copies? Why do both Bill and Hillary Clinton get rock-star treatment when they show up for speaking engagements? If Hillary is so deserving of contempt, why did she finish first in five of the last seven Gallup polls concerning the world’s most admired women? The Commercial Appeal‘s quirky reporting of the matter missed the point.. Check the figures, guys. Living History is selling well in Memphis, just as it is thoughout the rest of the country. The line at the bookstore,where I made my purchase, had dozens in it - many with multiple copies. If I must acknowledge George W. Bush as my president, even though 53% of the American population voted for Al Gore and Ralph Nader, then it is time for Hillary’s critics to do a recount. Her book is selling like hotcakes because people admire her and want to know more about her. Why? Because, like it or not, boys, she may become the first woman President. Burn, baby, burn.


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