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Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal Paperback – December 30, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


"A fascinating analysis of how Bill and Hillary Clinton's different family backgrounds and complicated marital history shaped their political fortunes."
(Stephanie Coontz, author of A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s)

"In this mesmerizing account, one of the most astute historians of our era pulls back the curtain on the struggles and passions of the world's most powerful couple."
(Elaine Tyler May, author of America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation)

"For any reader seeking to unravel the Byzantine politics of the 1990s, Chafe's book is indispensable."
(William E. Leuchtenburg, author of In the Shadow of FDR: From Harry Truman to Barack Obama)

"For those of us who worked with the Clintons, this book, by one of the nation's best historians, brings a keen eye and fresh insights to the intersection of their personalities and their exercise of power."
(David Gergen, senior political analyst for CNN and adviser to four U.S. presidents)

"This is a deeply insightful and warmly empathetic portrait of personal ambition, a complicated marriage, and a powerful political partnership."
(Alice Kessler Harris, author of A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman)

About the Author

William H. Chafe is the Alice Mary Baldwin Professor of History, Emeritus, at Duke University and former president of the Organization of American Historians. He is the author of numerous books on civil rights, women's history, and politics, including Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro, North Carolina and the Black Struggle for Freedom, winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award; The Unfinished Journey: America Since World War II; Never Stop Running: Allard Lowenstein and the Struggle to Save American Liberalism, winner of the Sidney Hillman Book Award; and Private Lives/Public Consequences: Personality and Politics in Modern America. He is coeditor of Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South, winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award and the Carey McWilliams Award.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books; Reprint edition (December 30, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822357194
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822357193
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,211,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 28, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a good read. The title was enough to draw me in - Bill and Hillary - the Politics of the Personal. I literally bought it immediately based on that, because it intrigued me. I've often wondered what makes these two tick. I had never read the author - William H Chafe - before, so it was very much an impulse buy from Reading the first few pages, I was hooked. I was curious to understand more about someone often touted as one of the great Presidents. It really confirmed my thoughts that any role any person takes on is never undertaken in isolation of the very intricate cloth than makes them human.

As an Australian, I didn't live the Clinton presidency as closely as US citizens, but like most global citizens, I lived the very visible lows about this presidency and some of the highs. This book beautifully outlines the roles that both the President and the the First Lady played and paints a pretty compelling picture about the nature of the relationship and how it affected the President's actions. It is probably mostly in retrospect that you truly see the full positive impact Clinton's presidency had.

Throughout the book, I vacillated from thinking this pair are the most community-driven, public service oriented people possible, to swinging my thoughts to them both being master manipulators, intent on grabbing then holding onto power for as long as possible. Bill is painted as incredibly intelligent and politically astute, but lacking any self-control over his sexual urges. Hillary comes through as much more in control but totally arrogant.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By John W. Chambers on September 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Superbly insightful and gracefully written, this is a compelling analysis of the relationship between the personalities, ambitions, still evolving partnership and continuing careers of Bill and Hillary Clinton, arguably the most powerful couple in modern American politics. A leading historian of women, civil rights, and public policy, Chafe shows with persuasive evidence and in page-turning prose "how pivotal it is to understand the personalities of our leaders if we are to understand the politics they have helped shape for us (p. 4)." After delving deeply into their lives since childhood, their personalities, their policies, their crises, and the nature of their partnership, and how Hillary ultimately changed her role in it, Chafe's well supported conclusion is that "who they were together determined, for better or worse, what their partnership was able to accomplish. (p 338)."

Both came from dysfunctional families and both were brilliant, highly driven overachievers, but he was charming and reckless and she was disciplined and persistent. Chafe makes it clear that Bill's womanizing was a regular part of his life, even after he had proposed to Hillary, and that Hillary tolerated most of Bill's assignations in order to keep the family together and to play an increasing role in policymaking, first in Arkansas and subsequently in Washington, D.C.

Chafe has great empathy as well as criticism for both Clintons. For example, in Bill Clinton's dealing with the draft in the Vietnam War, Chafe, shows how he both manipulated the system and at the same time anguished over whether he was doing the right thing.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By jem on October 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This Duke University history professor has crafted the first historical perspective of the unusual interplay of private and public persona in Bill and Hillary Clinton's relationship. This is analysis far more than biography. Chafe may or may not be qualified for the depth of psychoanalysis he applies to their childhood trauma's affects on their personal development and the way each complimented deep emothional needs in the other. But he is masterful in objectively analyzing the influences that their personal relationship played in their roles in public service. It is a book for the thoughtful reader interested in that dynamic, not the avid Clinton admirer or basher.

Most of us who remember the 1990s marveled then, and still do, at the severe peaks and valleys of the Clinton presidency -- the shining intellect and political skills counteracted by an immature and reckless sexual promiscuity. Bill needed Hillary's steel sense of purpose to focus his political skills and she used his emotional need of her support to achieve control and power in their relationship. One of book's best chapters explores the "what ifs" and dramatizes the extent to which it was Hillary's nearly paranoid decisions about staffing, press relationships, and release of documents that led to the most catastrophic failures of the Clinton presidency. Yet her defenses as a wife were essential in rescuing him from sexual misconduct both in the campaign and during his presidency. It was the later defense that actually set her independent course and propelled her to her subsequent career in the Senate and as Secretary of State.

The irony is the success of each in their late life ventures -- Bill with his global foundation and Hillary as a diplomat -- while living mostly separate but parallel lives. Chafe does not cover this period, which is too soon for a historical perspective, but ultimately deserves equally careful anaylsis.
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