Authors Say Clintons Had '20-Year Pact' to Gain Presidency

The Clintons planned to remake the Democratic party, says book.

June 4, 2007 — -- A new book about Democratic presidential front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is generating a great deal of buzz -- especially the details about her marriage to former President Bill Clinton and their "secret pact of ambition."

Former New York Times reporter Jeff Gerth and Times reporter Don Van Natta, the authors of "Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton," contend that the Clintons had a secret 20-year plan to gain the White House.

"They decided in mid-'70s when they were just in their 20s in Arkansas they would remake the Democratic party. Within 20 years, Bill Clinton would become president of the United States," Gerth said today on "Good Morning America."

"It was an audacious goal to set, and they did it."

After Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992, the couple updated the pact -- it would be eight years in the White House for him, then eight years for Hillary.

But historian Taylor Branch, who Gerth and Van Atta call a key witness to the plan, called the story "preposterous" in the Washington Post and said he never heard the Clintons talk about the pact.

Gerth said today that Bill Clinton's chief of staff, Leon Panetta, heard the term "20-year project" from Bill Clinton himself on Air Force One in 1996.

Clinton allegedly told Panetta that's why they relied on people like adviser Dick Morris, who has since become an outspoken Clinton basher.

According to the authors, Clinton told Panetta that "you had to hear from the dark side," referring to Morris, and "we had to do what we had to do."

The Clinton camp has dismissed the book, calling it an "Ambien substitute" and saying that there are no new revelations in the book.

Did Hillary Do Homework on Iraq?

Van Natta and Gerth say that they wanted to "fill in some of the gaps" Hillary Clinton left out in her own book "Living History."

"This is the first and only book that's really looked at her record over the last seven years in her role as a senator and political leader, and of course these are the qualifications people are looking at to judge whether she should be president or not," Van Natta said.

"As investigative reporters, we shine a spotlight on some of the things she doesn't want you to know about."

One of those things is her Senate vote to go to war in Iraq. Van Natta and Gerth say that Clinton didn't do her homework before voting to authorize the war.

"She had to backtrack from that position and show that she … carefully misrepresents some of the things she said in 2002," Van Natta said. "For instance, she said there was a link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein on the Senate floor."

The authors say it's unlikely she read the National Intelligence Estimate, which raised major doubts about that link.

When asked what kind of president Hillary Clinton would be, Gerth said, "There are two Hillarys."

"She's battle tested, well-qualified, she certainly demonstrated last night how well versed she is on a variety of issues," Gerth said. "But when it comes to pitfalls in the road like Iraq or other areas like energy, she doesn't like to admit mistakes."