In case you missed "our long national nightmare" the first time around, or have recovered from the stunning deluge of coverage and pundit-babble inflicted upon the nation, or if you're just hazy on some of the details, The Breach
is for you. Peter Baker, a longtime reporter for the Washington Post
, covered the White House from 1996 to1999. He has used his experience and access to write the ultimate Beltway book about the six-month saga of the impeachment and trial of President Clinton, from the unfortunate, verb-parsing grand jury testimony of August 1998 to the Senate acquittal in February 1999.
The Breach is a refreshing departure from the daily onslaught of revelations, spin, and commentary that characterized the affair as it unfolded; it's a rigorously researched and extremely detailed account of what happened. Some of the information is new, even shocking, and often depressing. But mostly it's a reminder of how savage and surreal the whole thing was, with adulterers accusing adulterers and the fate of the Executive held to ransom. In a tale of rampant male ego, it is the old feminist saw "the personal is political" that perhaps best encapsulates the experience. Though The Breach is detailed, compiled from hundreds of interviews, investigation files, diaries, and recordings, it lacks that numbing quality the contemporary coverage had. This is inside baseball, written for C-SPAN geeks, Beltway bandits--wannabe or actual--and curious citizens alike. Perhaps the highest praise for such an endeavor is that even after all the hype, this book still manages to be a page-turner. --J. Riches
From Publishers Weekly
Baker covered the Lewinsky brouhaha and the impeachment of Clinton for the Washington Post; this very absorbing and very thorough volume tells the complicated story of both, from the president's admission in August 1998 that he had "misled people" to the Senate's votes in February 1999 to acquit him. Previous scandal chronicles have focused on the president's personality and his (real or alleged) misdeeds, or else on his most dedicated opponents (like independent counsel Ken Starr). Baker admirably concentrates instead on the day-to-day doings of White House staff and on members of Congress. He shows the conflicts between Clinton's political strategists and his legal team, the mixed reactions of congressional Democrats and the infighting among House Republicans, who went through three speakers (Gingrich, Livingston, Hastert) inside a month. He looks at the effects of the Starr report and at its impact on members of the media, like Larry Flynt and Christopher Hitchens. Finally, Baker shows how, in the trial itself, minority and majority leaders Tom Daschle and Trent Lott "labored together... to keep the Senate from coming apart." In addition to his Post reportage, Baker has used all manner of further research, interviews and documents, many of them (unsurprisingly) not for attribution. As a result, he describes many scenes and conversations he could not have heard, all reconstructed from participants' statements and notes. His story is less about Clinton than about the moral, political and practical judgments all the other folks in the process had to make. As such, it's a tale with continuing relevance: Clinton will leave office soon, but many of Baker's other players will stay. Hardly salacious and nearly without prurience, Baker's detailed narration will delight would-be historians; politics junkies will find it the book of the season. First serial to the Washington Post. (Sept. 18)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.