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Book Explores What Makes Hillary Hillary

Carl Bernstein's new book, "A Woman in Charge," examines the major factors in Hillary Clinton's life that have helped her make a successful run for the Senate and now have her as a front-runner in the race to the White House.

Bernstein worked on the book for seven years and delves deep into her life. He said that she is one of the most well-known women who people don't really know.

"She is a whole person, a fascinating person who's never really been seen in the whole until I was able to do this book," he told The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith. "And once you see the picture of this epic life, this great American life, you say, 'Oh, this is the best-known woman in the world and I knew nothing really about who she was.' And there's all these facets and there's all this drama and there's all this internal warring going on."

He explores Clinton's childhood and her relationship to her parents, in addition to her faith, which he says is central to her character. It's faith, Bernstein writes, that allowed Clinton to get through the infidelity of her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

"You find out about her religion," Bernstein said. "And you find out about her family and growing up with a father who abused her mother, humiliated her mother verbally in a marriage where a lot of people thought her mother ought to walk out of the marriage. You find a life totally in struggle and her struggle not to be known. That's the real thing. That is partly the story of her life, is camouflage."

While Bill Clinton was in the White House, it was often suspected that she was the power behind the throne. In fact, Bernstein describes it as a co-presidency. Now Clinton is running for office herself. Clearly, she is an ambitious woman and many speculate that ambition caused her to say with the former president even when he was repeatedly unfaithful.

"First of all, it's a great love affair in its way, however dysfunctional you or I might judge it," Bernstein said. "Second of all, these are two people who believe in a commitment to public service and they've followed it as a unit, as it were. Look, I think that — first of all, nobody can be inside a marriage except two people themselves. But more important than that is the fact that they have a purpose in life. Together, a family. And, more than that, she has been, since her childhood, told by her mother, told by others, you do not get divorced in this family."

One of the big revelations in the book is that Bill Clinton wanted a divorce when he was governor of Arkansas around 1989 or 1990. He was having an affair, but Hillary would not let him out of the marriage. Bernstein said he talked to one of Clinton's childhood friends and also Bill Clinton's chief of staff in Arkansas during his governorship.

"Diane Blair, who was Hillary's closest friend, who I spent many hours with and is reflected in this book," he said. "(She was) the first person to talk about her friend on the record — then explain to me how Hillary came to her and said, 'What am I going to do on my own? I've got Chelsea.' She did not want him to leave the marriage."

Leaving the former president in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1998 during Clinton's presidency would have been unthinkable, Bernstein said.

"Remember, she believed — one of the things that's in here — how she alone, her family even, believed that Bill Clinton had not had a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky," he said.

Read an excerpt of the book to learn more about her.