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HILLARY'S HISTORY -- REVISITED AND REWRITTEN

Rewriting History
By Dick Morris with Ellen McGann
Putnam, 352 pages, $26.95

American Evita
Hillary Clinton's Path to Power
By Chirstopher Andersen
William Morrow, 269 pages, $ 25.95

Two histrionic, Hillary-bashing books have arrived on bookstore shelves as if stumbling out of a Clinton time capsule. That means not one but two publishers have egg on their faces for counting on Hillary Clinton to be John Kerry's running mate.

Now, instead of a sprint up the New York Times bestsellers list, it's likely to be a race to the remainder rack for Dick Morris' "Rewriting History" and Christopher Andersen's "American Evita: Hillary Clinton's Path to Power."

Timing was all these books had going for them. Neither adds much of consequence to a cottage industry of overheated, criminally researched and weakly written diatribes intended for people still unable to come to terms with Hillary Clinton's success story.

Morris' book is by far the most credible. He was a campaign svengali to Bill Clinton, someone both Clintons saw occasion to turn to when the governor and later president had his back up against the wall.

A master election strategist, Morris' 1997 book, "Behind the Oval Office," was a feast for political junkies and remains the essential insider's account of how the Clinton presidency recovered from its disastrous 1994 midterm defeat to coast to reelection.

Morris' political consulting days ended in 1996, dropped by Bill Clinton after being scandalized in a tabloid for dalliances with a prostitute.

Morris resurfaced working for Rupert Murdoch's conservative media empire. He has been a frequent commentator on Fox News, a columnist for the New York Post and -- in this reborn role -- requisite basher of all things Clinton.

In "Rewriting History" -- a rebuttal of sorts to Hillary Clinton's 2003 runaway bestseller, "Living History" -- Morris proceeds to disassemble her book under the pretense she may be too ethically challenged or devious to become president. He explores a number of examples in which he suggests New York's junior senator has taken the low road to get her way.

He revisits familiar, tired territory, from Whitewater to accusations of insider training to questionable presidential pardons, while relying on borrowed research to draw conclusions. Some of his personal anecdotes are recycled from "Behind the Oval Office."

Notably, the book is hobbled by Morris' propensity to continually contradict himself. By the last page, he is questioning the whole basis of his book.

"It's hard to think of any such memoir that has been completely forthcoming, and for any number of reasons Hillary's 'Living History' is filled with predictable ellipses, cover stories and creative embroidery of the truth."

In conclusion, he practically issues an open call to her to run someday for president.

"Our current political landscape badly needs Hillary's perspective, her passionate idealism," he writes. "Her willingness to fight for the underdog and her compass for issues are rare indeed in our male-dominated, profit-obsessed society."

Huh?

The only thing odder is when Morris questions whether Clinton had an anti-Semitic streak because -- believe it or not -- she remembered on several occasions to ask her Jewish guest if he minded being served pork or ham in the Arkansas governor's mansion. "She was being solicitous," Morris decided.

If Morris' book reads confused, it at least has the vantage point of drawing from the author's personal experiences and a keen political nose.

Andersen's stick-to-the-wall mess employs the classic bottom-feeder approach, with one sensationalized page after another spewing out unnamed and unfootnoted quotes and accounts.

"American Evita" follows in a long line of tabloidish celebrity books, such as the bestselling "The Day Diana Died," the former contributing editor of Time and senior editor of People has cashed in on.

Like most anti-Hillary books, this one goes to great lengths to choose an unflattering cover photo.

The book is also glaringly incomplete. Nowhere does it appear that Hillary likes to feast on aborted fetuses, hold lesbian trysts with Barbra Streisand and seances with Vince Foster and Alice B. Toklas.

Maybe Andersen was holding them out to spice up the book's reissue in 2008 or 2012.

Mark Sommer is a News reporter. e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com