News & Politics

The Girls in the Van: Covering Hillary

“Hilarious, knowing, and lively look at Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign.”

 No offense to Associated Press writers, but who would have guessed that a reporter from that venerable just-the-facts-ma’am wire service could turn out such a hilarious, knowing, and lively look at Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign?

 Harpaz gives a trenchant reporter’s-eye view of the candidate, her political machine, and her prospective voters—from skeptical to blindly enthusiastic—across New York state. Woven into this anecdote-packed account is the author’s struggle to meet the demands of family while bouncing from press conference to town-hall meeting to televised debate for nearly two years. “Why are you so late?” Harpaz’s son demands when she’s delayed picking him up one day. “Only Hillary,” she deadpans to the reader, “could highlight the child-care crisis in America while simultaneously causing a child-care crisis in my life.”

 Some of the funniest parts of the book depict dead-on Hillary imitations among reporters on the beat. Here’s how to nod your head like the former first lady when she was listening on her famed Listening Tour: “Without ever blinking your eyes, you bring your chin way up, so that your neck is painfully extended, then you slowly drop it way down to your chest, then you move your head an inch to the left or the right and repeat—sort of like those velvet dogs you sometimes see on taxi dashboards.”

 It’s the kind of punch-drunk accuracy with which high-school students can nail their teacher, or employees their boss. They’ve earned the right.

Beth J. Harpaz

Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press


Senior Managing Editor

Bill O’Sullivan is senior managing editor; from 1999 to 2007, he was a features editor. In another lifetime, he was assistant managing editor. Somewhere in the middle, he was managing editor of Common Boundary magazine and senior editor at the Center for Public Integrity. His personal essays have been cited three times among the notable essays of the year in The Best American Essays. He teaches at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda.