- Publisher: PublicAffairs
- Language: English
- ASIN: B000X1L62W
- Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,070,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency Hardcover
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From Publishers Weekly
Ah, the British accent! Time-tested shield for all literary sins and effective cover for this exhaustive rehash of Clinton-era misdemeanors and scandals. Brit James Adams (identified as one of the world's leading authorities on terrorism) reads the second volume of fellow Brit Hamilton's biography of the 42nd president. Beginning with Clinton's inauguration, Hamilton documents the man from Hope's missteps, from gays in the military to Monica Lewinsky, reserving extra snark for every mention of first lady and current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Adams reads with fruity upper-crust flair, but even his mellifluousness cannot hide the warmed-over stench of Hamilton's tired prose. Anglophiles will enjoy hearing Adams read, undoubtedly, but appreciators of Bill Clinton—or, really, anyone who possesses anything less than a fanatical hatred of him—will find Hamilton's work rough sledding.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
In the wake of the almost simultaneous publication of two biographies of Hillary Clinton (Gerth and Van Natta's Her Way and Bernstein's Woman in Charge), it is interesting to once again view the first Clinton administration with the focus on the president, not the first lady. Hamilton, in this sequel to Bill Clinton: An American Journey (2003), examines the forty-second president's first term. By no means unsympathetic to Clinton, Hamilton views his subject as a man with a big heart and a big brain but also with a shocking inability to make decisions or manage personnel. Hamilton's strength is in making the most of the many secondary sources he relies upon, but he also draws material from some out-of-the-ordinary interviews, including one with Cliff Jackson, a Clinton rival and eventual enemy who helped bring Troopergate (the scandal over Clinton's extramarital affairs in Arkansas) to light. The only instance of using overtly slanted sources comes in the opening chapter, when Hamilton relates Gary Aldrich's version of an incident focusing on a foulmouthed first lady (Aldrich has been widely discredited and was not used by either Bernstein or Gerth and Van Natta). That lapse aside, this volume provides a straightforward and effective recounting of the ups and downs of a presidency shaped as much by personality as by policy. Cooper, Ilene --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
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Having read Joe Klein's The Natural, a journalistic and short biography, which covers Clinton's personal flaws in an unbiased and critical way, it gives the ability to discern that Clinton is unabashedly human. Klein flawlessly points out when this works, and when it didn't and doesn't force a particular opinion down one's throat. Hamilton's slant is not always correct, or modern, and would be my main criticism of the biography.
Like the poorly organised start to Clinton's first term, it is retold in a poorly organised manner too. It read as an account of other people's verbatim quotes (often journalists) which just compounded as dribs and drabs stitched together to create a laboured point. The point being so clear, it seems as an early excuse for the rest of the book's sympathy.
As Clinton made changes in the administration and pulled himself together, so does the ease of read and enjoyment. As the subject matter improves (whether you like it or not) Hamilton's sympathetic slant creeps into the story. As a Briton, with no partisan baggage, Hamilton can tend to be hypercritical of the misguided Republicans, while basically leaving out all discussion of perpetually ineffective Democrats. While Hamilton's non-partisan, international perspective is a breath of fresh air; it tends to feel as if it lacks a balanced domestic review of a President, reviews that feel most balanced when delivered by the ones who made him President.
While Hamilton can criticise the media's obsession in the later years in regards to Clinton's personal life, Hamilton tends to lack the ability to identify most of this was brought on by Clinton himself. Hamilton, in a strange almost misogynistic way himself, tends to excuse Clinton's infidelities and even goes as far to criticise the woman involved.
Perhaps leaving the door open for a second-term sequel, the biography creates suspense in terms of the Monica impeachment and when the budget is brought to surplus, something I believe could have been included. Upon finishing the biography, I felt a little underdone.
Poor starts, sympathy and cues for a sequel aside, Hamilton's biography is a good read. Detailed in parts which are extremely interesting (Haiti, Bosnia and Morris), the biography is largely fulfilling. Hamilton has a brilliant ability to call upon history and relate to classical literature and philosophy which adds another dimension to the study. It is certainly worth a read and will entertain what you would have been looking for in a chronology of Clinton's first term.
Hamilton has no reservation in identifying Clinton's transition into the Presidency as the worst ever - beginning with his failure to appoint an effective chief of staff. (This is a topic Hamilton repeatedly returns to, contributing to Clinton's early lack of focus and being victimized by weak members of his administration. It does not get resolved until almost two years later.) It is also interesting (and scary) to read of Hillary's temper tantrums, beginning even prior to the Inauguration - concerning her wanting to take over the traditional V.P. office in the West Wing. Her decision-making also was a problem - eg. her choice for Attorney General (Zoe Baird) and for Attorney General in charge of civil rights (Lani Guinier) - despite warnings to the contrary, both nominations went forward and both went down in flames.
Then there was Clinton's early move to permit gays in the military (backed down, looking indecisive), Hillary's locking correspondents out of access to the White House press office, Hillary being appointed to reform health care in 131 days (she acerbated the problem with secrecy and refusing to even talk to industry insiders), the Waco fiasco, LAX "Hairgate,), Hillary's "Travelgate," the Vince Foster suicide (followed by Hillary's orders to remove her personal papers prior to any investigation), Black Hawk down in Somalia (Clinton expanded the mission while troops were cut 90% and Defense Sec. Aspin refused to send the requested armor), the troop-ship Harlan County carrying President Aristide being turned away by Haitians chanting "Somalia," "Troopergate" - allegedly procured and lied for Bill Clinton, Paula Jones, Watergate (no illegal Clinton action, by Hillary inflamed the issue by refusing to turn over documents), and Gennifer Flowers and Dolly Browning.
Then came New Gingrich and his "Contract with America," vs. a public perception that Clinton had no agenda. After losing both the House and Senate to Republicans, Clinton then re-invented himself as he moved to the center, and became a successful President.