It seems that being a Friend of Bill is all too often just the first step on that slippery slope to disgrace and the hoosegow. Take, for example, Jim McDougal, Susan McDougal, and Webster Hubbell--all former First Friends now facing stiff prison sentences. Susan McDougal has refused to talk about her case at all, while her ex-husband Jim is saving his material for a grand jury; Webb Hubbell, however, has decided to bare both his soul and his legal difficulties in Friends in High Places, an account of his rise in Little Rock and fall in Washington, DC. In a nutshell, Hubbell--a former law partner of Hillary Clinton's--confessed to stealing almost half a million dollars from the law firm and its clients. His book purports to reveal the full inside story. Readers looking for dirt on the Clintons will be disappointed--Hubbell takes full responsibility for his crimes, absolving the White House of any knowledge about his shady financial dealings.
For five years now, a ceaseless series of scandals has dogged the highest officials of the Clinton administration. What, if anything, can be learned from the story of Webb Hubbell, the single high-ranking official who went directly from the Clinton administration to washing windows in a federal prison?
Hubbell's jaunt to and hard fall from the pinnacle of power, Vincent Foster's misery and tortured end, Hillary Clinton's metamorphosis under the spell of power--this is the stuff of melodrama. But for the last five years these people, and others like them, have been running the government of the United States. What convictions, if any, do they hold, and toward what ends have they sought power?
In the department of political ideas, Friends in High Places is wafer-thin. On several occasions Hubbell describes himself at the dawn of his career as "idealistic," but what he means by this is left unclear. The officeholders from Arkansas who flit in and out of these pages appear similarly insouciant, similarly ambitious, and similarly apolitical (if that is the right word). Even the Clintons, though clearly of a more activist hue, come across as 99 parts ambition and avarice, one part '60s radicalism.
Empty ambition is an old story in American politics. It hardly explains every alliance the Clinton administration has struck, or every policy it has advanced. But it does go some way toward explaining the malfeasance, the improprieties, and the constant stretching and bending of the rules that by now have become our national daily fare. -- Commentary, Gabriel Schoenfeld
In the genre of confessionals, Friends in High Places falls short because the issues that make Hubbell an important interesting figure in the career of the Clintons go largely unaddressed.... his book is also particularly disappointing because rather than provide the inside account it promises, it recounts incidents and conversations that are at best trivial and at worst misleading. -- The New York Times Book Review, Stephen Labaton