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Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal Hardcover – September 4, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Chafe understands, as do too few historians and biographers, that the personal and public lives of political figures cannot be separated . . . [and he] is quite right to insist that the stories of Bill and Hillary Clinton prove the point.” ―Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

“Riveting . . . Chafe sees clearly what we who were there, chronicling the Clintons in real time, missed.” ―David M. Shribman, The Boston Globe

“The strength of this book lies in Chafe's reconstruction of the Clinton's early lives and the way their connection affected the decisions Bill Clinton made as Governor of Arkansas and as President . . . [Bill and Hillary is] a welcome reminder of the great promise that the Clinton "co-presidency" initially held, and of the attributes, from Clinton's intellect to his willingness to engage on racial issues and his ability to connect with people, that made those of us who saw him sworn in truly believe, for a time, in ‘a place called Hope.'” ―The Toronto Star

“Chafe . . . delivers a superior portrait of how the dynamic between Bill and Hillary Clinton affected their achievements in public life.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“An engaging look at the personal relationship behind one of the most powerful political marriages in the nation's history.” ―Booklist

“An illuminating glimpse behind the scenes.” ―Kirkus

“General readers and political junkies will enjoy this reasoned account.” ―Library Journal

“Not since Franklin and Eleanor has a power couple in the White House fascinated the public as much as Bill and Hillary. How did their personal journeys--especially their marriage--shape the Clinton years? For those of us who worked with the Clintons, this book, by one of the nation's best historians, brings a keen eye and fresh insights to the intersection of their personalities and their exercise of power.” ―David Gergen, senior political analyst for CNN and adviser to four U.S. presidents

“A fascinating analysis of how Bill and Hillary Clinton's different family backgrounds and complicated marital history shaped their political fortunes. William H. Chafe documents how the personal relationship between these two brilliant but flawed individuals created blind spots and self-defeating behaviors that often undermined their ability to further the political and ethical goals they sincerely supported. Beautifully written.” ―Stephanie Coontz, author of A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s

“In this mesmerizing account, one of the most astute historians of our era pulls back the curtain on the struggles and passions of the world's most powerful couple. William H. Chafe takes readers behind the scenes to reveal Bill and Hillary as they have never been seen before.” ―Elaine Tyler May, author of America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation

“In electrifying fashion, William H. Chafe reveals that the key to understanding the Clinton presidency is the tortuous relationship between Bill and Hillary. He shows that the First Lady's domination of the president because of his sexual misadventures brought about the failures of his first years in office, but also steeled him to survive subsequent disasters, conspicuously the Monica Lewinsky affair. For any reader seeking to unravel the Byzantine politics of the 1990s, Chafe's book is indispensable.” ―William E. Leuchtenburg, author of In the Shadow of FDR: From Harry Truman to Barack Obama

“Only a writer as gifted as William H. Chafe could have written this splendid book. In luminous and page-turning prose, Bill and Hillary reveals how two strikingly independent individuals, each the product of difficult beginnings, together changed America and symbolized a new world for women. This is a deeply insightful and warmly empathetic portrait of personal ambition, a complicated marriage, and a powerful political partnership.” ―Alice Kessler-Harris, author of A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman

About the Author

William H. Chafe is the Alice Mary Baldwin Professor of History at Duke University and the former president of the Organization of American Historians. The author of numerous prizewinning books on civil rights, women's history, and politics, he is best known, most recently, for The Unfinished Journey: America Since World War II and Private Lives / Public Consequences: Personality and Politics in Modern America.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809094657
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809094653
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,167,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a good read. The title was enough to draw me in - Bill and Hillary - the Politics of the Personal. I literally bought it immediately based on that, because it intrigued me. I've often wondered what makes these two tick. I had never read the author - William H Chafe - before, so it was very much an impulse buy from amazon.com. Reading the first few pages, I was hooked. I was curious to understand more about someone often touted as one of the great Presidents. It really confirmed my thoughts that any role any person takes on is never undertaken in isolation of the very intricate cloth than makes them human.

As an Australian, I didn't live the Clinton presidency as closely as US citizens, but like most global citizens, I lived the very visible lows about this presidency and some of the highs. This book beautifully outlines the roles that both the President and the the First Lady played and paints a pretty compelling picture about the nature of the relationship and how it affected the President's actions. It is probably mostly in retrospect that you truly see the full positive impact Clinton's presidency had.

Throughout the book, I vacillated from thinking this pair are the most community-driven, public service oriented people possible, to swinging my thoughts to them both being master manipulators, intent on grabbing then holding onto power for as long as possible. Bill is painted as incredibly intelligent and politically astute, but lacking any self-control over his sexual urges. Hillary comes through as much more in control but totally arrogant.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Superbly insightful and gracefully written, this is a compelling analysis of the relationship between the personalities, ambitions, still evolving partnership and continuing careers of Bill and Hillary Clinton, arguably the most powerful couple in modern American politics. A leading historian of women, civil rights, and public policy, Chafe shows with persuasive evidence and in page-turning prose "how pivotal it is to understand the personalities of our leaders if we are to understand the politics they have helped shape for us (p. 4)." After delving deeply into their lives since childhood, their personalities, their policies, their crises, and the nature of their partnership, and how Hillary ultimately changed her role in it, Chafe's well supported conclusion is that "who they were together determined, for better or worse, what their partnership was able to accomplish. (p 338)."

Both came from dysfunctional families and both were brilliant, highly driven overachievers, but he was charming and reckless and she was disciplined and persistent. Chafe makes it clear that Bill's womanizing was a regular part of his life, even after he had proposed to Hillary, and that Hillary tolerated most of Bill's assignations in order to keep the family together and to play an increasing role in policymaking, first in Arkansas and subsequently in Washington, D.C.

Chafe has great empathy as well as criticism for both Clintons. For example, in Bill Clinton's dealing with the draft in the Vietnam War, Chafe, shows how he both manipulated the system and at the same time anguished over whether he was doing the right thing.
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Format: Hardcover
This Duke University history professor has crafted the first historical perspective of the unusual interplay of private and public persona in Bill and Hillary Clinton's relationship. This is analysis far more than biography. Chafe may or may not be qualified for the depth of psychoanalysis he applies to their childhood trauma's affects on their personal development and the way each complimented deep emothional needs in the other. But he is masterful in objectively analyzing the influences that their personal relationship played in their roles in public service. It is a book for the thoughtful reader interested in that dynamic, not the avid Clinton admirer or basher.

Most of us who remember the 1990s marveled then, and still do, at the severe peaks and valleys of the Clinton presidency -- the shining intellect and political skills counteracted by an immature and reckless sexual promiscuity. Bill needed Hillary's steel sense of purpose to focus his political skills and she used his emotional need of her support to achieve control and power in their relationship. One of book's best chapters explores the "what ifs" and dramatizes the extent to which it was Hillary's nearly paranoid decisions about staffing, press relationships, and release of documents that led to the most catastrophic failures of the Clinton presidency. Yet her defenses as a wife were essential in rescuing him from sexual misconduct both in the campaign and during his presidency. It was the later defense that actually set her independent course and propelled her to her subsequent career in the Senate and as Secretary of State.

The irony is the success of each in their late life ventures -- Bill with his global foundation and Hillary as a diplomat -- while living mostly separate but parallel lives. Chafe does not cover this period, which is too soon for a historical perspective, but ultimately deserves equally careful anaylsis.
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