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Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal Hardcover – September 4, 2012
This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
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“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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Top customer reviews
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.
I came to the conclusion that both ends of the continuum are true - and the reality is that both are multi-dimensional humans, very far from perfect and yes, both service-oriented and yet somewhat self-obsessed.
The writing is well-pitched, thoroughly researched and well considered. The author remains non-judgmental but the insights drawn make a lot of sense.
All in all, a great read and adds such richness to the story of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
It may not be enough that the couple have previously had an arrangement, because this time she will be boss in charge.
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. In regard to Hillary, Chafe sympathetically treats the importance of her decision, after her forceful involvement in the disastrous first two years of the Clinton administration, to seek a new spiritual center and take on the role of human rights advocate. In the scandal with Monica Lewinsky, Hillary rescued Bill one more time, as per their arrangement, but, Chafe reveals, in riveting detail and sophisticated analysis, how complex her response and the situation was. Hillary's acceptance of Bill's initial denial and her resolve to protect him and his presidency pushed him into an even more resolute denial. But in the long run, the Lewinsky affair, Chafe asserts, liberated Hillary to redefine their partnership. He became an independent person, resumed the reasonable negotiating manner she had perfected in her younger years, and has built her recent public career as successful Senator and Secretary of State.
In a thought-provoking, penultimate chapter, "What if?," Chafe employs alternative historical analysis to re-evaluate the Clinton presidency, analyzing the possibilities if the Clinton's agreed-upon partnership had been different, if Bill had appointed and supported a strong chief of staff from the beginning, if he, after deficit reduction, he had turned to welfare reform rather than health care, if the White House had treated the press differently during the first six months, and if, instead of stonewalling, the administration had dealt with and settled the Whitewater and Paul Jones cases quickly and completely.
This is a book for our time, an astute analysis and perceptive reflection on a still large-than-life couple and a roller-coaster presidency, written in such a clear and engaging style that it is hard to put down. It is no wonder that Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review as one of the outstanding books of the month and recommended it as "a sympathetic if often regretful account of a stormy, occasionally self-destructive political partnership."
John Whiteclay Chambers II, Professor of History, Rutgers University.