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Bernstein Claims to Reveal the 'Real' Hillary

Sen. Hillary Clinton has called herself the most famous person that nobody really knows.

Carl Bernstein would agree. "What she didn't add," Bernstein says, "is that she's tried to make it that way."

Bernstein, whose reporting on the Watergate scandal helped earn The Washington Post a Pulitzer in 1973, claims to offer a "real biography" of the New York Democrat with his latest book, A Woman in Charge. The book spans much of the former first lady's life, from childhood to the announcement of her presidential candidacy.

Clinton did not grant any interviews to Bernstein for the book, but he says "it wouldn't have made much difference" in the final product. Instead, Bernstein relied on on-the-record interviews with people who have known Clinton, including Webb Hubbell (a Clinton associate and prominent figure in the Whitewater scandal), Betsy Wright (chief of staff during Bill Clinton's governorship of Arkansas) and Donna Shalala (former secretary of Health and Human Services).

Bernstein describes a less rosy picture of Clinton's childhood than she has suggested in the past, claiming that Clinton's father was an unhappy and abusive man. And Shalala reveals that she was opposed to Clinton's heading the Presidential Task Force on National Health Care Reform during Bill Clinton's first term in office.

"There has been so much mythology and self-generated myth [about Hillary Clinton]," Bernstein says. Now I think we have a very shaded, nuanced, complex picture of the whole person."

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Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.