Friday, February 26, 2016

In pursuit of Hillary Clinton with 'The Girls in the Van'

Originally posted on

“The Girls in the Van,” Associated Press journalist Beth J. Harpaz’s celebrated account of Hillary Clinton’s successful run for a U.S. Senate seat from New York in 2000, is back with new insights as her second fight for the Democratic presidential nomination intensifies.

First published in 2001, “The Girls in the Van” has been reissued as an e-book by AP and Diversion Books. It’s a remix of the original, with some passages dropped, a new opening chapter added and certain events given a context sharpened by time as Harpaz brings along readers in the press van that followed the former first lady from Buffalo to Brooklyn.

Then as now, questions about her authenticity, her marriage to former President Bill Clinton and an array of thorny issues have shadowed her chances.

“The Girls in the Van” was titled with a nod to a classic of politics and media, “The Boys on the Bus,” Timothy Crouse’s chronicle of the race that pitted President Richard M. Nixon against Sen. George McGovern, D-S.D., in 1972, when the candidates, their handlers and the reporters were all men.
Some things in “The Girls in the Van” will seem “terribly dated to today’s readers,” Harpaz writes. “The book was written just as old media was giving way to new media, when the daily deadlines of newspapers and TV broadcasts were replaced by the 24-hour cycle of cable news and the Internet. In the year 2000, we marveled that anyone could read email on a cellphone. We thought it was overkill to get a mere 12 emails a day (!!) from the campaign. We needed satellite equipment to send a photo to our offices ... As such, the book is a snapshot in time.”
“On the other hand,” Harpaz adds, “I believe my portrait of Hillary Clinton has withstood the test of time. She started out the Senate campaign as a buttoned-up, standoffish first lady who once insisted that the press be escorted out of a fundraiser while she ate. She didn’t take questions from reporters, she didn’t rub shoulders with the public; the Queen of England was more accessible than Hillary Clinton. That changed as the campaign wore on, and by the end, she thought nothing of standing in the middle of Grand Central, literally allowing herself to be engulfed by fans.”
“Beth offers a look back into Hillary Clinton’s history that feels notably familiar to those of us charged with covering her today,” AP national political writer Lisa Lerer writes in a new foreword. “Beth follows her on grueling campaign swings, traces her struggles to connect with voters and valiantly tries to analyze the back-and-forth of a never-ending stream of political outrage.”
Lerer adds: “Yes, the scandals have been updated: Emails and paid speeches, not parades and pardons, are the controversies of the day. A $300 million family foundation has replaced a White House intern as her most pernicious personal baggage …  And though technology has profoundly remade media and politics, so much about the experience of covering her hasn’t changed. The clashes with a strategically unhelpful campaign staff. The notably female press corps endlessly scrutinized for bias.  And the intense outpouring of emotion -- be it love or hate -- that Hillary seems to spark across the political spectrum.”
The new e-book is available from a number of outlets. A photo of Harpaz and a cover image are available on request.     

To learn about other AP books, visit our website.
About AP
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Paul Colford 
Vice President & Director of Media Relations
The Associated Press

Lauren Easton
Media Relations Manager

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