author Joe Klein offers a nonfictional take on his favorite subject, Bill Clinton, whom he describes as both "the most talented politician of his generation" and "the most compelling." Klein is of two minds when it comes to the man from Hope: he is at once disappointed by Clinton's failure to achieve greatness, but also a defender of what Clinton did do. He can be unremittingly harsh about the 42nd president's personal shortcomings: "Bill Clinton often seemed the apotheosis of his generation's alleged sins: moral relativism, the tendency to pay more attention to marketing than to substance, the solipsistic callowness." Yet he also credits Clinton with running "a serious, substantive presidency" whose chief success was dragging "Washington toward a recognition that a revised form of government activism might be appropriate in the anarchy of an instant economy." Klein is a smart and engrossing writer, and The Natural
is an honest liberal's best effort to explain eight controversial years. Readers who supported Clinton will discover new insights into why he didn't accomplish more; those who opposed him will gain a sharper understanding of why he remained so popular with the public. --John Miller
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From Publishers Weekly
HKlein may have set himself a formidable task when he decided to evaluate Bill Clinton's fractious presidency and his enigmatic personality without the camouflage of the fictitious characters that populated his bestselling Primary Colors, but he's more than up to it. This insightful, often funny book which provides a serious and intelligent look at the successes and failures of the Clinton administration as well as an insider's view of the sometimes sordid, sometimes exhilarating political and personal battles that engaged the President succeeds on every level. Clinton's positions on health care, affirmative action, NAFTA, welfare reform and foreign affairs are straightforwardly explained, and Klein's considerable knowledge and sophisticated understanding of the political arena add depth and breadth to the explanations. Klein doesn't can't ignore Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky, of course, and he argues that Clinton's willingness to take such shocking risks demonstrates an intrinsic weakness of tragic proportions. But Klein is even more critical of the fanatical press that fed on the affair, and the Newt Gingrich-led Republican ideologues and their subsequent suicidal impeachment mission. Klein also provides brilliantly illuminating caricatures of the political players who swirled around Clinton. North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms is an "antediluvian Visigoth," consultant Dick Morris "a prohibitively bizarre human being," and Gingrich is an "American Mullah" and a "faux revolutionary who tried to turn democracy into war." There will be numerous books written about Clinton and his presidency, but they will be hard pressed to capture the public and private Clinton as well as this one. (Mar.)Forecast: Who won't want to pick up this careful analysis by one of the nation's foremost political observers? With the author's big name and his subject's even bigger one this is sure to be a big seller.
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