Unhappy reading for Republicans or political naïfs, The Hunting of the President is the story of a sustained and well-funded effort to discredit and defeat Bill Clinton, dating from his gubernatorial days in Arkansas and eventually leading to his impeachment trial. Award-winning journalists Joe Conason and Gene Lyons have crafted a tale as compulsively readable as a political thriller--paced, and at times worded, like a summer bestseller. Although they provide ample evidence of backstabbing, revenge, deceit, conniving, and "dirty tricks" in the struggle to oust Clinton, arguing that "the better the president and the country did, the more his adversaries appeared willing to endorse almost anything short of assassination to do him in," they also acknowledge that Clinton's reckless behavior, along with the "panicky, defensive, and occasionally less-than-perfectly-honest" responses of the White House press office, didn't hurt his opponents. Investigative journalism at its juiciest, The Hunting of the President is a surprising valediction to a far-from-angelic public leader who often outmaneuvered his enemies with otherworldly skill. --Regina Marler
From Publishers Weekly
Conason and Lyons (Fools for Scandal), veteran journalists respectively for the New York Observer and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, argue that if the opposition to the Clintons didn't quite constitute a "vast right-wing conspiracy," as the First Lady famously alleged, it was at the very least a "loose cabal" of "Clinton adversaries,... an angry gallery of defeated politicians,... right-wing pamphleteers, wealthy eccentrics, zany private detectives, religious fanatics and die-hard segregationists." They reveal how notable right-wingers like Richard Mellon Scaife (heir to the Carnegie Mellon fortune) and Jerry Falwell bankrolled the muckraking that led to scandals like Whitewater and Troopergate, neither of which, the authors claim, ever produced evidence of Clinton misconduct. Conason and Lyons also point out the ultraconservative credentials of Paula Jones's supporters, including Kenneth Starr, who privately abetted the harassment suit before he was appointed as a supposedly independent counsel. But what disturbs Conason and Lyons even more than the zeal of these conservative critics is the conduct of the national press. They make a case that their colleagues at the New York Times, Washington Post and elsewhere colluded with the most unsavory elements of the fringe right to bring unverified and frequently libelous allegations into the center of the mainstream media. The story of the Clinton scandals is a tortuous, labyrinthine puzzle, and Conason and Lyons do their best to simplify it. But their cast of characters is enormous, and their research overwhelming. Readers may not ultimately agree with the authors that the tactics of the Clinton enemies were worse than any mistake made by the president, but they will nevertheless gain a considerably more balanced and complex picture of the road to impeachment. 16 pages b&w photos. (Mar.)
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