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My Life: The Presidential Years Vol. II (Vintage) Mass Market Paperback – June 28, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"By a generous measure, the richest American presidential autobiography–no other book tells us as vividly or fully what it is like to be president of the United States.... And he can write.” --Larry McMurtry, The New York Times Book Review

My Life is, without question, the best written U.S. presidential tome of all time.”  --Douglas Brinkley, Financial Times

“A hell of a good story.” --Frank McCourt, Entertainment Weekly

“It’s an almost voluptuous pleasure to read Clinton when he’s recounting and analyzing a political race or a legislative battle, whether it’s one of his own or somebody else’s.” —The New Yorker

“Consistently fascinating.” --The Seattle Times

“Clinton talks with disarming frankness [and] writes with grace and fluidity. . . . He is also a born storyteller.” --The New Republic

“Might just be the perfect representation of the man himself.” --The Plain Dealer

“Clinton has many tales to tell, particularly a rich, sometimes moving account of his years before the public life, fit for future analytical historians and biographers. . . . The personal and the political are intertwined. . . . Clinton’s story very much reflects the man we know.” --The Nation

“He manages to create the distinct impression that he is sitting in the living room talking to the reader. . . . Anyone who is geninely interested in American politics will find his insights and anecdotes fascinating. . . . The book helps to elucidate the question of ‘how he did it.’ ” --Deseret Morning News

“It’s a saga worthy of Cecil B. DeMille, a rags-to-riches tale full of the stuff of human frailty, with a cast of hundreds, complete with low-life villians and high-minded heroes and, as such stories require, an upbeat ending. . . . The 1990s come to life once again as a time of uncommon tumult and riveting personalities. . . . The personalities on parade are as vivid as the events.” --Newark Star-Ledger

“ Tremendously interesting and entertaining. . . . Clinton’s is a truly American story to which the average person can relate. . . . Future politicians will find it a must-read, and average Americans will identify with the highs and lows we all experience as we make our way through life.” --Chattanooga Times Free Press

“Takes readers through a strong account of the achievements and failures of his administrattion. . . . No other presidential memoir is likely to be so lively. . . . Bill Clinton is hard to dismiss, and so is an account of his extraordinary life.” -- The Tennessean

“A reading of MyLife is a necessity for lovers of good autobiograpy. It reads like a down-home history of a life and, thus, anchors Clinton as a superb storyteller. . . . Candid. . . . Honest. . . . Stimulating.” --Huntsville Times


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1

PROLOGUE

When I was a young man just out of law school and eager to get on with my life, on a whim I briefly put aside my reading preference for fiction and history and bought one of those how-to books: How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life, by Alan Lakein. The book’s main point was the necessity of listing short-, medium-, and long-term life goals, then categorizing them in order of their importance, with the A group being the most important, the B group next, and the C the last, then listing under each goal specific activities designed to achieve them. I still have that paperback book, now almost thirty years old. And I’m sure I have that old list somewhere buried in my papers, though I can’t find it. However, I do remember the A list. I wanted to be a good man, have a good marriage and children, have good friends, make a successful political life, and write a great book.

Whether I’m a good man is, of course, for God to judge. I know that I am not as good as my strongest supporters believe or as I hope to become, nor as bad as my harshest critics assert. I have been graced beyond measure by my family life with Hillary and Chelsea. Like all families’ lives, ours is not perfect, but it has been wonderful. Its flaws, as all the world knows, are mostly mine, and its continuing promise is grounded in their love. No person I know ever had more or better friends. Indeed, a strong case can be made that I rose to the presidency on the shoulders of my personal friends, the now legendary FOBs.

My life in politics was a joy. I loved campaigns and I loved governing. I always tried to keep things moving in the right direction, to give more people a chance to live their dreams, to lift people’s spirits, and to bring them together. That’s the way I kept score.

As for the great book, who knows? It sure is a good story.

ONE

On Sunday, January 17, 1993 Al and Tipper Gore, Hillary, and I began inaugural week with a tour of Monticello, followed by a discussion of Thomas Jefferson’s importance to America with young people.

After the event, we boarded our bus for the 120-mile trip to Washington. The bus symbolized our commitment to giving the federal government back to the people. Besides, we cherished the fond memories it held, and we wanted one last ride. We stopped for a brief church service in the pretty Shenandoah Valley town of Culpeper, then made our way to Washington. Just as in the campaign, there were well-wishers, and a few critics, along the way.

By the time we got to the capital, the public events of our inaugural, entitled “An American Reunion: New Beginnings, Renewed Hope,” were already under way. My good friend Harry Thomason, advisor Rahm Emanuel, and Mel French, a friend from Arkansas who would become chief of protocol in my second term, had organized an extraordinary series of events, with as many as possible free of charge or within the price range of the working people who had elected me. On Sunday and Monday, the Mall between the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument was filled by an outdoor festival featuring food, music, and crafts. That night we had a “Call for Reunion” concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, with a star-studded lineup including Diana Ross and Bob Dylan, who thrilled the crowd of 200,000 that filled the space from the stage all the way back to the Washington Monument. Standing beneath Lincoln’s statue, I gave a short speech appealing for national unity, saying that Lincoln “gave new life to Jefferson’s dream that we are all created free and equal.”

After the concert, the Gores and my family led a procession of thousands of people carrying flashlights across the Potomac River on Memorial Bridge to the Lady Bird Johnson Circle just outside Arlington National Cemetery. At

6 p.m., we rang a replica of the Liberty Bell, to start “Bells of Hope” ringing all across America and even aboard the space shuttle Endeavour. Then there was a fireworks display followed by several receptions. By the time we got back to Blair House, the official guest residence just across the street from the White House, we were tired but exhilarated, and before falling asleep I took some time to review the latest draft of my inaugural address.

I still wasn’t satisfied with it. Compared with my campaign speeches, it seemed stilted. I knew it had to be more dignified, but I didn’t want it to drag. I did like one passage, built around the idea that our new beginning had “forced the spring” to come to America on this cold winter day. It was the brainchild of my friend Father Tim Healy, former president of Georgetown University. Tim had died suddenly of a heart attack while walking through Newark airport a few weeks after the election. When friends went to his apartment, they found in his typewriter the beginning of a letter to me that included suggested language for the inaugural speech. His phrase “force the spring” struck all of us, and I wanted to use it in his memory.

Monday, January 18, was the holiday celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. In the morning I held a reception for the diplomatic representatives of other nations in the inner quadrangle at Georgetown, addressing them from the steps of Old North Building. It was the same spot on which George Washington stood in 1797 and the great French general and Revolutionary War hero Lafayette spoke in 1824. I told the ambassadors that my foreign policy would be built on three pillars—economic security at home, restructuring the armed forces to meet the new challenges of the post–Cold War world, and support for democratic values across the globe. The day before, President Bush had ordered an air strike on a suspected weapons-production site in Iraq, and on this day, U.S. planes hit Saddam Hussein’s air-defense positions. I supported the effort to bring Saddam into full compliance with UN resolutions and asked the diplomats to emphasize that to their governments. After the diplomatic event, I spoke to Georgetown students and alumni, including many of my old classmates, urging them to support my national service initiative.

From Georgetown, we drove to Howard University for a ceremony honoring Dr. King, then to a luncheon at the beautiful Folger Library for more than fifty people Al, Tipper, Hillary, and I met during the campaign who had made a strong impression on us. We called them “Faces of Hope,” because of their courage in the face of adversity or their innovative ways of dealing with contemporary challenges. We wanted to thank these people for inspiring us, and to remind everyone, amidst the glamour of the inaugural week, that a lot of Americans were still having a hard time.

The Faces of Hope included two former members of rival gangs in Los Angeles who joined forces after the riots to give kids a better future; two of the Vietnam veterans who had sent me their medals; a school principal who had created a violence-free magnet school in Chicago’s highest-crime neighborhood, with students who regularly scored above state and national learning levels; a Texas judge who had created an innovative program for troubled kids; a young Arizona boy who had made me more aware of the family pressures caused by the extra hours his father had

to work; a Native American doctor from Montana who worked to improve mental-health services to her people; men who had lost their jobs to low-wage foreign competition; people struggling with costly health problems the government didn’t help with; a young entrepreneur scrapping for venture capital; people who ran community centers for broken families; a policeman’s widow whose husband was killed by a mental patient who bought a handgun without a background check; an eighteen-year-old financial wizard who was already working on Wall Street; a woman who had started a large recycling program at her plant; and many others. Michael Morrison, the young man who drove his wheelchair down an icy New Hampshire highway to work for me, was there. So was Dimitrios Theofanis, the Greek immigrant from New York who had asked me to make his boy free.

All of the Faces of Hope had taught me something about the pain and promise of America in 1992, but none more than Louise and Clifford Ray, whose three sons were hemophiliacs who had contracted the HIV virus through transfusions of tainted blood. They also had a daughter who was not infected. Frightened people in their small Florida community pushed to have the Ray boys removed from school, fearing that their children could be infected if one of them started bleeding and the blood got on them. The Rays filed a lawsuit to keep the kids in class and settled it out of court, then decided to move to Sarasota, a larger city where the school officials welcomed them. The oldest son, Ricky, was obviously very ill and fighting to hang on to his life. After the election, I called Ricky in the hospital to encourage him and invite him to the inauguration. He was looking forward to coming, but he didn’t make it; at fifteen, he lost his fight, just five weeks before I became President. I was so glad that the Rays came to the luncheon anyway. When I took office, they championed the cause of hemophiliacs with AIDS, and successfully lobbied Congress for the passage of the Ricky Ray Hemophilia Relief Fund. But it took eight long years, and their grief still wasn’t over. In October 2000, three months before the end of my presidency, the Rays’ second son, Robert, died of AIDS at twenty-two. If only anti-retroviral therapy had been available a few years earlier. Now that it is, I spend a lot of time trying to get the medicine to many of the Ricky Rays across the world. I want them to be Faces of Hope, too.

On Tuesday morning, Hillary and I started the day with a visit to the graves of John and Robert Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery. Accompanied by John Kennedy Jr., Ethel Kennedy, several of her children, and Senator Ted Kennedy, I knelt at the eternal flame and said a short prayer, thanking God for their lives and service and asking for wisdom and strength in the great adventures just ahead. At noon, I hosted a lunch for my fellow governors at the Library of Congress, thanking them for all I had learned from them in the past twelve years. After an afternoon event at the Kennedy Center highlighting America’s children, we drove out to the Capitol Centre in Landover, Maryland, for the Gala Concert, where Barbra Streisand, Wynton Marsalis, k.d. lang, rock legends Chuck Berry and Little Richard, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Jack Nicholson, Bill Cosby, the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, and other artists kept us entertained for hours. Fleetwood Mac brought the crowd to its feet with our campaign theme song, “Don’t Stop Thinkin’ About Tomorrow.”

After the concert, there was a late-night prayer service at the First Baptist Church, and it was after midnight when I got back to Blair House. Though it was getting better, I still wasn’t satisfied with the inaugural address. My speechwriters, Michael Waldman and David Kusnet, must have been tearing their hair out, because as we practiced between one and four in the morning on inauguration day, I was still changing it. Bruce Lindsey, Paul Begala, Bruce Reed, George Stephanopoulos, Michael Sheehan, and my wordsmith friends Tommy Caplan and Taylor Branch stayed up with me. So did Al Gore. The terrific staff at Blair House was used to taking care of foreign heads of state who kept all kinds of hours, so they were ready with gallons of coffee to keep us awake and snacks to keep us in a reasonably good humor. By the time I went to bed for a couple of hours’ sleep, I was feeling better about the speech.

Wednesday morning dawned cold and clear. I began the day with an early-morning security briefing, then I received instructions on how my military aide would handle the launching of our nuclear weapons. The President has five military aides, one outstanding young officer from each service branch; one of them is near him at all times.

Though a nuclear exchange seemed unthinkable with the Cold War over, assuming the control of our arsenal was a sober reminder of the responsibilities just a few hours away. There’s a difference between knowing about the presidency and actually being President. It’s hard to describe in words, but I left Blair House with my eagerness tempered by humility.

The last activity before the inauguration was a prayer service at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church. It was important to me. With input from Hillary and Al Gore, I had picked the participating clergy, the singers, and the music. Hillary’s family and mine were there. Mother was beaming. Roger was grinning, and enjoying the music. Both our pastors from home participated in the service, as did Al and Tipper’s ministers, and George Stephanopoulos’s father, the Greek Orthodox dean of the Holy Trinity Cathedral in New York. Father Otto Hentz, who, almost thirty years earlier, had asked me to consider becoming a Jesuit, said a prayer. Rabbi Gene Levy from Little Rock and Imam Wallace D. Mohammad spoke. Several black clergymen who were friends of mine participated, with Dr. Gardner Taylor, one of America’s greatest preachers of any race or denomination, giving the principal address. My Pentecostal friends from Arkansas and Louisiana sang, along with Phil Driscoll, a fabulous singer and trumpeter Al knew from Tennessee, and Carolyn Staley sang “Be Not Afraid,” one of my favorite hymns and a good lesson for the day. Tears welled up in my eyes several times during the service, and I left it uplifted and ready for the hours ahead.

We went back to Blair House to look at the speech for the last time. It had gotten a lot better since 4 a.m. At ten, Hillary, Chelsea, and I walked across the street to the White House, where we were met on the front steps by President and Mrs. Bush, who took us inside for coffee with the Gores and the Quayles. Ron and Alma Brown were also there. I wanted Ron to share a moment he had done so much to make possible. I was struck by how well President and Mrs. Bush dealt with a painful situation and a sad parting—it was obvious that they had become close to several members of the staff and would miss and be missed by them. At about 10:45, we all got into limousines. Following tradition, President Bush and I rode together, with Speaker Foley and Wendell Ford, the gravelly-voiced senator from Kentucky who was co-chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies and who had worked hard for the narrow victory that Al and I had won in his state.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 28, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400096731
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400096732
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.2 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #731,339 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Jefferson Clinton was the 42nd president of the United States. Under his leadership, the country enjoyed the strongest economy in a generation and the longest economic expansion in United States history. President Clinton's core values of building community, creating opportunity, and demanding responsibility resulted in unprecedented progress for America, including moving the nation from record deficits to record surpluses; the creation of over 22 million jobs--more than any other administration; low levels of unemployment, poverty, and crime; and the highest home ownership and college enrollment rates in history. After leaving the White House, President Clinton established the William J. Clinton Foundation with the mission to strengthen the capacity of people in the United States and throughout the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence. His Clinton Global Initiative brings together global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing issues. He served as the UN Envoy for Tsunami Recovery and is now the UN Special Envoy to Haiti.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By RamMan03 on July 27, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As a Clinton Democrat, I grew up with issues like Social Security and welfare in my mind. I found out more about Clinton from this book then watching him for the last 14 years on TV. Clinton uses easy to understand words yet at some points he uses more complicated rhetoric. A fun book to read and will test what you know about Clinton's term in office.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jardis James on December 8, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As a long time follower of Bill Clinton, I have enjoyed his books. Clinton's time as President was overshadowed by his sexual encounters, which is disappointing. In my opinion, Clinton was an excellent President. Clinton gives insight in to his adminstration and the condition of the political world during his time in office. It's an unknown fact that we have only had two Presidents who did not have mistresses or affairs at some point in their lives. As Nixon had to face the music for Watergate, Clinton faced the music for his sexual indiscretions. Both became poster children for actions that neither were the first to participate in, nor the last, leaving their legacy's forever tarnished. Politics is a dirty business and for those who manage to endure the mud slinging and back stabbing, I take my hat off to them. Bill Clinton is a survivor who has managed to shake off past negativity, to reemerge as a strong and trust worthy leader. I highly recommend this book for any Clinton follower looking for insight in to the Clinton administration, as it is a very detailed, honest accounting of his life.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. L. Emerick on November 25, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Most interesting of all is reader reception. For some reason, hundreds of readers commented upon the first volume of My Life. Yet, on the second volume, I am the fourth to make any remarks. So, why do people pay such great attention to the "developmental" volume and so little attention to the "consequences" volume? That is the question of prime importance, in grasping how Americans, in particular, have been overly receptive to issues of character and less attentive to more critical issues of policy formation, in the crucible of current circumstantial events. People would rather cling to some indefensible opinion of the man than explore the interleaved nuances of public necessity and private interest that we call politics. [Perhaps, volume III will draw our attention better to the stories we ought to read, of American public values processes!]
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
As someone who has written a lot about Bill Clinton over the years I was disappointed by his book. This was a chance for him to set the record straight on both the good and bad in his administration and he did neither. He talks about a lot of the issues but not how he approached them. He talks about what his administration looked at but not what he did and did not solve. He allows Yassir Arafat to get off completely free for his rejection of the Clinton plan the book is very well written and is still worth reading if nothing else to understand Clinton's perspective on what happened but overall it could have been far more enlightening.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David Seaman VINE VOICE on October 20, 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Bill Clinton was a president who commanded history, there is no denying it. Regardless of your political position, this can;t be denied. And there is plenty within his presidency that leaves us with unanswered questions. so the 1200 p-age epic "My Life" which is written by a lawyer and where huillary is able to write as a gifted writer who can connect to the public at times Bill's book is dry. There's not a single character introduced who isn't ammended with words of praise and how this person as a great friend. Even p;ost presidency, Clinton is in political mode the reasons for which will become vividly clear as you read this book. "My Life" builds to a climactic point of seeing just how far the oposition (Is it the GOP or was it just Gingrich and his puppet, Kenneth Starr) would step on the Constitution, abuse power, manipulate the American people simply for a chance to bring down the ofice of the President of The United States. It may have seemed to be about CLinton, but having read this book during the Obama administration and watching The Tea Party Republicans in congress purposely shut down the Governmennt it is clear that not a word of what both Clinton's in their respective books had to say is very clearly accurate.

the big question? Yes. President Clinton tells the whole story of Lewinsky, Joes, Whitewater and FLowers. Given how honest he is regarding Lewinskly it's clear that he tells the truth about the others too- though we knew that in 1993, when The State of Arkansas Supreme Court cleaared the Clinton';s oif any wrong doing for Whitewater.

But the book gives us an idea of what it is to be the leader of the free world.
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By Janet Roberts on November 10, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoy this book very much. This is a great read for any political junky like me. This is the story of one of
the most respected Presidents of our time.
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8 of 13 people found the following review helpful By John P. Maher on October 14, 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The positive reviews are by ignoramuses who believe the "free press"... I
"Looked inside": 0 results for Yugoslavia, 0 results for Bosnia war, 0 results for illegal secession of Kosovo, 0 results for US 2nd biggest military base (Camp Bondsteel) on land stolen from Serb farmers, 0 results for Albanian False Flag Ops Racak; 0 results for "Zlata's Diary" hoax, 0 results for Depleted Uranium, 0 results for cluster bombs on civilians (Nish); 0 results for false flag bombing of Sarajevo Markale market places (Feb 1994, Aug 1995); 0 results for using fascist Croatia to ethnically cleanse a quarter million Serbs from their western homelands(Krajina); 0 results for air attacks on civilian train (Grdelica, on Orthodox Easter), 0 results for bombing Belgrade maternity hospital, 0 results for O'Grady "rescue" hoax (Milosevic turned "hero" Scotty over to US); 0 results for bombing Chinese embassy, 0 results for establishing 2 Muslim states in Christian Europe...
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