165 of 193 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read and Learn
I am a conservative economist who, like many of the reviewers here, never voted for Bill Clinton. However, unlike those same reviewers, I read this entire book. I must say that it is somewhat satisfying to understand the thought processes behind this president. He is a remarkably bright individual who overcame a somewhat deprived childhood to excel at some of the...
Published on July 4, 2004
134 of 180 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Its pretty bland...
Just to let you know that I am objective in this, I am a big fan of Clinton. I think he was a good president who got a raw deal. I will also admit, I havent read all of it yet--in fact Im about 300 pages in to this voluminous memoir.
That said, its pretty dull stuff. His legendary attention to detail is evident, often recounting individuals and events with...
Published on June 22, 2004
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165 of 193 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read and Learn,
By A Customer
I am a conservative economist who, like many of the reviewers here, never voted for Bill Clinton. However, unlike those same reviewers, I read this entire book. I must say that it is somewhat satisfying to understand the thought processes behind this president. He is a remarkably bright individual who overcame a somewhat deprived childhood to excel at some of the world's finest educational institutions. Given the ineptitude of the current administration which won on pedigree, it is refreshing to know that hard work, intellect, and perseverance can also lead to the White House.
The book has a few tedious moments. The Arkansas campaigns are littered with the names of individuals no one outside of the Ozarks will recognize. On the whole though, this book delivers for the aficionado of American politics. You will see the deep thought and debate surrounding policy decisions. You will appreciate the fact that this president actually led his administration with his own ideas and strategies for implementing them. Likewise, he wrote many of his own speeches and routinely held press conferences without knowing the questions in advance. I would have liked even more from these areas, but the book does provide as much depth as most political memoirs.
What I would like from Clinton's second book would be a discussion of the perception and reality of American politics. For example, the Bush administration, with annual budget and trade deficits of over $1 trillion, has the most liberal fiscal policy since the Johnson administration. At the same time, they have increased the size of the government more than any other administration in history, with the effects of the war and 9/11 accounting for only 45% of this enormous growth. Clinton, on the other hand, was extremely conservative during his second term, shrinking the government, slowing the growth in expenditures across the board, and balancing the budget. Yet, Clinton is reviled as being too liberal by conservatives who don't seem to do their homework. It's too bad they're unwilling to spend time reading a book like this instead of allowing radio talk show hosts to fill their heads with lies that matter.
496 of 614 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A view from the inside...,
I must confess I am a fan of political autobiographies. The first one I ever read was the Nixon autobiography; I've since read the various presidential and prime ministerial works past and present. Against these various tomes, Bill Clinton's memoirs, 'My Life', stacks up well. There is nothing earth-shattering and revealing here; there are some different nuances and a little more candour involved, but not a lot. After all, Clinton is still a relatively young man, and could have other political aspirations (he wouldn't be the first president to also serve in the Congress after the presidency), and of course, his wife has an active political life of her own, which I am certain was a major consideration in the tone and content of this volume.
I was fortunate to get advance reading material of this before the day of release, and got the local bookseller to permit me a purchase after midnight last night. Of course, like many people, I turned first to the part about Monica Lewinsky, who, for better or worse, will be a defining image of Clinton's presidency for the foreseeable future - history will likely be kinder to Clinton (as it ended up being for Nixon, and others who have stumbled in office), but for the present, this image holds true. There is a typical Clinton-esque mixture of self-reproach and blaming of others. Clinton's greatest ire is saved for Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor, who Clinton characterises as being the tip of the spear of a vast right-wing conspiracy including conservative white southerners who never worked for civil rights.
He discusses the icy situation with his wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea after the revelations, and how he slept on the sofa in different rooms for a significant period after the revelations. He also writes of his own self-examination and self-therapy (how does one do therapy with a president? Actually, there is some insight here, with his marriage counseling going on for a year after the incident). From visits with preachers (Clinton was never a traditionally religious man) to his own readings of self-help books and spiritual classics (one such, 'Imitation of Christ', by Thomas a Kempis, is a superb and well-known text, but not one I would have ever guessed useful for a president in this situation).
He gives some insights into the campaign trails, his early Arkansas experiences prior to national politics, and the two presidential elections, the first against the elder Bush, and the second against Bob Dole. He also takes good account of his childhood - the stories of his mother and various male figures in his early life are quite interesting, and beyond what was public during his presidential days. Even the derivation of his name - William Jefferson Blythe Clinton, has a story behind it worth reading.
One of the key points of interest of any political autobiography is the commentary and speculation the author makes on present and future situations, and Clinton's is no exception. He mentions his own assessment of the danger Iraq posed (he would have rated it no higher than number six on his list of priorities), and claims to have been more forceful in warning the incoming Bush administration about the dangers of Osama Bin Ladin. He also gives interesting perspectives on allies and other foreign leaders (John Major and Tony Blair, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Yasir Arafat, Ehud Barak, etc.).
In all, Clinton takes some of the blame for the troubles of his presidency, but shifts quite a bit of it to others, too. He also takes credit where credit is due for some of the successes in his presidency, but on the whole, as is typically true in such writings, casts the best of possible lights on most of his actions and the outcomes. Being an extrovert with a penchant for introspection, it is a wonder that this book could be contained in a mere 1000 or so pages.
Love him or hate him (and it is amazing how few people have neutral feelings about him, as he experienced and wrote about in his book), Clinton is a figure politicians must deal with for some time to come, and historians will likely rarely tire of debating and analysing.
36 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great feast for his haters as well as his supporters,
The intelligence, eloquence, charm, and generosity of Bill Clinton all come alive in a 957-page documentary of an intriguing and rich life. The adoption of the "Clinton" name after his abusive and alcoholic first stepfather and his acceptance and forgiveness of his second stepfather, despite his bad reputation, signal the magnanimity of the young Bill. His mother's life-long struggle to provide him stable family environment, education, and love all made him a special person who understood the suffering of the poor, the black, the sick, and the old. His rural Arkansas upbringing fostered his curiosity in early life to explore the greater world of politics that took him to Washington, New York, Oxford, and Moscow, in only two decades of his early life. Clinton reveals the crucial role of school in training and preparing young people for future participation in democratic governments.
No wonder why the rich, white, and religious hated his guts since he embodied the struggle and charisma of the poor and well-educated class that would shake the foundation of the old tradition of politics that only serves the rich and powerful minority. He won all wars waged against him solely by the way of reasoning he had inherited from his poor yet closely attached family members, in addition to his extensive reading of books that made his mind deals with complex conflicts without losing focus of the fundamental issues. His encyclopedic mind was also his drive for adoring sex and appreciating its great pleasure in soothing life, which also infuriated his haters. That also made him the most peaceful and economically successful president that loved sex and hated violence.
Clinton's supporters will be thrilled with this book that demonstrates how a man goes through eight years of presidency yet still retains his ability to remember details, associate with simple people, and question all traditional values in the context of their benefit to the progress of democratic governing. The generosity of Bill Clinton in sharing his life experience with his readers is evidence that he might exceed Jimmy Carter in his global reach for peace, democracy, and equality. This also explains the timing of publishing the book in the election year with a president who stumbles speaking simple sentences and who has ruined America's reputation around the world with his arrogance and narrow scope of understanding.
Ironically, Clinton starts his book by dignifying his critics' claim that he was a bad man and by expressing his love to Hilary, whom he has betrayed. Thus, he shows that even a man as expansive as Clinton could possibly be shaken in his strongest assets despite the fact that most of his adversaries have committed worse mistakes than his (e.g., Newt Gingrich). While Bush senior spends his retirement relaxing and parachute jumping from airplanes in his eighties, both the democratic ex-presidents, Carter and Clinton, are roaming the globe working on solving greater international problems to educate and heal greater masses of people around the globe.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I don't understand why critics do not rate this book as one of the best presidential memoirs ever written,
I read this book 5 years ago, in 2004 when it was first released. It was a book I had been waiting for many years to come out, and I had the pleasure of meeting the man himself during his book tour after the book was eventually published. The book is heavy. More than 957 pages.I hardly used to read non-fiction biographies during those years. The only one I had read by that time was Nelson Mandela's The Long Walk to Freedom, and I was able to get through that book because it was the story of a life of wonderful leader, and the book was very well written. But I was not to be let down by Bill Clinton either....
Just a background- I have read a number of presidential biographies and autobiographies of other US Presidents since 2004, but I must say that Bill Clinton's memoirs ranks amongst my most favourite so far. The book is told chronologically, from the time he was born, till the time he leaves the presidency. A lot of other US Presidential autobiographies are told by division of chapters that discuss certain specific issues in each chapter. But Clinton decides to tell it as it happenned. As he himself indicates in the book, when you are president, issues occur all at once, not waiting for the other. There is Clinton, sleeping in the sofa, in exile from his bed by Hillary, and at the same time knowing he would be bombing Osama Bin Laden's bases in Afganistan the next day and making sure the plan is solid.
The other thing I like about this book is that it is pretty simple to read as well. You can fly through the book. It is engrossing, and it doesn't get stuck in places because of some sections being too boring or some sections being too difficult to understand. After all, Bill Clinton is the master of explaining complex subjects in very simple language.Even if one is interested only in foreign policy, his discussions on domestic public policy or economic policy won't bore you. Even if one is interested in his political life, his description of his personal life won't bore you. The other good thing about this book is that it is not ghost written. It is Bill Clinton all the way. It is long. But once has the patience to listen to what Clinton has to say.
When the book first came out, everyone wanted to know what he had to say about the Monica Lewinsky affair. During interviews right after the book's release, Clinton indicates he did it because 'he could'. I thought that it was a great answer. Yes, he did it, because it was there, and he could. He couldn't restrain himself. It also happened under mutual consent. Not that Clinton excuses himself. He just explains what happenned and why he did it. You won't obviously get the sordid details in this book. (For that you'll have to read the Starr Report!). Only 17 pages are dedicated for the issue - an issue for which Clinton will likely be forever remembered. In fact, in the book, Clinton doesnt even explain the issue. He starts off by surmising that everyone knows what he is talking about. He also starts to explain that he did it because he was leading a 'parallel life', as explained to him by his shrink (I can't remember the official word he uses in the book), that because he grew up in a family where there was domestic violence, he would often retreat to another life, where he is reckless. In all honesty, I think that's nonsense. I believe in his initial statement. He did it coz he could! It had nothing to do with the fact that Newt Gingrich and the Republicans were threating to shut down the government.
When Bill Clinton became President, the Cold War was over. There were few hot spots in the world, but nothing as substantial as the Cold War, or Desert Storm, or 9/11. He became president through his campaign to end the recession of the early 90s. Bill Clinton succeeded in bringing prosperity to the nation, but he was helped by the recession ending even before George HW Bush's term was over. Bill Clinton never had a big crisis like 9/11. Presidents are often remembered if they are a war president or if they succeed in resolving a big crisis. But there never was one under Clinton's presidency. (I'm sure sometimes he asks himself how Obama was able to be president under such circumstances with crisis just left and right of him). So in the narrative, there really isn't anything that would be considered a major crisis under Bill Clinton, simply because they never occured! But it is wrong to judge a president just by the way he conducts himself in a crisis. I think Bill Clinton did a great job. His handling of the presidency led not just to prosperity in the country, but overall peace in the world. Yes, his first year in office went badly in foreign policy - Somalia, Bosnia, even Haiti and N. Korea. But he grew and learnt the job as he went along. It is interesting to read about his dealings during the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement and the Israeli-Palestian Peace Process. There are a number of examples where the reader will be able to read the book and learn about the events that occured. For instance, at the end of his presidency, Yasser Arafat tells Clinton that he is a 'great man', and Clinton tells him 'no, I am a failure. And you made me one.' Such kind of revelationss with other world leaders are discussed throughout the book. I absolutely loved it! Clinton deserves credit for keeping overall peace in the world, and for the great economic book not just in the US, but for saving failing economies around the world. I think he played a good role in the handling of the Asian Economic Crisis of the mid-90s.
Bill Clinton's journey to the most powerful post in the world is worth reading about. After all, Clinton was born to power or wealth. He was a product of a single mom, at times a product of living with a step dad who would often be violent because he was an alcoholic. He was the youngest governor and one of the youngest presidents. The book is aptly titled 'My Life' with a portrait of his handsome face. This is the story of a man who loved his job, who would bounce back after every fall. The story of the comeback kid. One can read about his many comebacks here. After all, this was a guy who was impeached, whose troubled marriage was there for all to see, and yet - he leaves the presidency with one of the highest popularity ratings, and whose wife would go on to become Senator of the Empire State, and a future candidate for the job that he so loves. This book is thorough and it isn't divided into 2 books. Some presidents, like Eisenhower and Truman, have divided their memoirs into 2 volumes, which sometimes can be painstaking to read. But Clinton tells it all in 1 volume, and the book is never painstaking to read. Clinton also reflects on what he wishes he had done, e.g., done more to stop the genocide in Rwanda.
I certainly believe that this is the best book written by a president about his life and his presidency. Critics indicate that the best memoirs written by a US President is by Ullyses Grant, but those memoirs are about the Civil War, not really about the presidency. Also, there are rumours that the books were actually written by Mark Twain. My Life by Bill Clinton gets 5 stars. It is an inspirational book. Go Clinton...
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly kind to foes,
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I had read in reviews that the book was very dull, but I found it so interesting I could hardly put it down. I think that now, having read so many recent books about the last two administrations, I have a very good picture of the differences in both style and substance. There were few real surprises in the book except the fact that Clinton had something nice to say about nearly everyone, even Newt Gingrich. Bill Clinton is apparently a man who is fascinated by human nature and appreciates political deftness. I liked reading the book because it put most of the news stories of the 90's into context whereas my memory has them in patches. Don't read it if you are bored by politics or hate Arkansas.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for anybody inspiring to be in politics,
The book is reflection of the brilliance of President Clinton. This is must read for average citizen aspiring to be in politics but doesn't have the blue blood backgrounds that define our politics more specifically presidential politics. The book describes very well the bare knuckle politics that is so common in grassroot level. For all those who are involved at that level of local politics I will recommend this book as survival guide.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading but it gets slow,
This review is from: My Life (Audio CD)
It was terrific hearing a review of history that I actually experienced but from the President's perspective. Many times I stopped and thought to myself wow he had a lot going on at once. It's obvious he's a good person and did the best he could, warts and all. But the book does get boring at times.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Listen to audio version (by the author) as well as read,
By A Customer
Since I'm on the road a lot, I bought the audio version. I'm glad I did this because I got to hear the author's telling of his story.
Of course it's not the world's greatest writing or story telling, but then that's not what I was expecting.
On the one hand the book is extremely personal and candid, telling of the President's difficult childhood and his remarkable survival and rise to public life through it.
On the other hand, it does not go into personal relationships in a way that the hype for the book leads the reader to expect.
While their privacy should be respected, especially given the horrible expose that has occured, the Clinton's seem to have worked through issues in their relationship. This work would be valuable and healing to share in more detail with others.
What impressed me most in the book also deeply saddened me: how easy it is for a party or group who doesn't like a particular elected official to bring harm to that person, rightly or wrongly, through discrediting campaigns.
Whatever your political persuation, you should come away from this book believing this ease of manipulation needs to be addressed for the health of both the presidency and the nation. And that's a very important reason to read the book.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Life by Bill Clinton,
When faced with impeachment after Monica rumor became The Story, President Clinton, to whom ambiguity was never part of his nature, took the worst situation to mean retreat from Office, which would not have relieved his soul.
This autobiography is informative and tender in every corner. At times the ex-President aggravated his bitterness and despair; not a pleasing prospect for a vigorous man with an appetite for distinction. His excessive passions, one for his wife and the other for his daughter, at the end of the day had caused Miss Lewinski and partners to be removed from the White House. I believe the young lady was also a victim of irrational exuberance (Excuse me Mr. Greenspan)
At times there is always some sort of melancholy demeanor than can grow daily more somber in high offices. President Clinton is telling us he could not possibly have been entirely impervious to the mounting evidence against him, such signs were motivated by political reasons from rival factions with nefarious ends - to hurt the Democrats from within.
Clinton, once known for his vivacity, was now showing the strain of the shameful events.
Clinton, the deep-rooted optimist who found it temperamentally difficult to resign from trouble, has had his face already sagging with worry as daily attacks compounded his sense of doom...
At 55 he left office with a 65% approval rating. (One of the highest after WWII)
However, the charismatic President looked a narrow-chest man with the face of a person much older in age. That did not at all resemble him nine years ago when he took that Office.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just Like the Man,
This review is from: MY LIFE (Audio Cassette)
The ideologues on both sides are going to give this 5 or 1 depending on their perspective. But if you are a curious reader without a particular political axe, I think you will still enjoy this book.
My word of caution is that remember this is the guy who got an ovation for the words "in conclusion" toward the end of the Dukakis convention because of his long windedness, and you may find this a tome to get through.
But just as it is longwinded, a little slick, and graceful with the truth, it is also lyrical in places, insightful and intelligent, and capable of touching emotional chords.
WJC certainly has some axes to grind. I don't think Newt Gingrich or Ken Starr will be invited over to Chappaquah anytime soon, and I found the pop psychology bit to be a little rich. He would have been well-served by a strong editor. Also, I think there is something profoundly unknowable about the man, and I know he pulled his punches when it came to some of his analysis -- he had to, because of political senstitivities.
But it's his perspective, and whatever else he may be, he is truly an American original.
I gave this book to my deeply conservative father-in-law because I thought he would get something out of it (and not because I think it will make him a Clinton-lover either).
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My Life by Bill Clinton (Paperback - May 31, 2005)
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