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The Clinton Wars Hardcover – May 20, 2003

4.1 out of 5 stars 92 customer reviews

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Crisis of Character: A White House Secret Service Officer Discloses His Firsthand Experience with Hillary, Bill, and How They Operate by Gary J. Byrne
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The title of journalist turned-embattled-White House aide Sidney Blumenthal's memoir/history of his tumultuous years inside the Clinton presidency is both literal and figurative, if something of an understatement; "apocalypse" would seem more to the point. Erudite and fiercely unapologetic, Blumenthal belatedly provides the overwrought saga's protagonists what they so often publicly lacked in its historical context: passionate advocacy and precious perspective. No mere presidential history, the battles chronicled here transcend politics as usual, bitter partisan campaigns whose roots Blumenthal forcefully argues extend beneath lingering class and generational resentments into the darkest heart of America's Southern racist past. Hillary Clinton's accusations of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" garnered cynical chuckles in its heyday; Blumenthal (whose own teasing White House nickname was "Grassy Knoll") merely cuts its treachery down to size, documenting the usual suspects, dates, and places with amply footnoted vengeance. There's irony to burn, from unexpected early Clinton supporters (former GOP standard bearer Barry Goldwater) and the blatant moral hypocrisy of his Congressional accusers to the Supreme Court's sole dissenting voice in arguments to reinstate the Special Prosecutor statute, Justice Scalia (who presciently warned it could easily become the tool of political witch hunts), and the heretical notion that the Clintons may have been the least cynical players in the entire drama; they certainly seem it's most tragically human. It's hardly surprising that much of the Washington news establishment has attacked Blumenthal's tome with equal ferocity; in Blumenthal's telling, the D.C. press corps that zealously safeguarded democracy during Watergate had by the advent of Clinton devolved into an insular faux aristocracy resentful of perceived carpetbaggers (especially from Arkansas) and suckers for any politically-motivated leak, rumor, or innuendo that might give them a leg up on the competition. The media's inept handling of the story is even more ironic considering much of what Blumenthal does here derives from the simple advice Watergate informer "Deep Throat" gave reporters during that crisis: "Follow the money." --Jerry McCulley

From Publishers Weekly

Blumenthal's 800-page gorilla of a book is the former Clinton adviser's indictment of his, and his boss's, pursuers: Republicans in Congress, Kenneth Starr and his minions and the journalists he says were their patsies. It's also a defense of his own role in the Clinton scandals and a loyal account of Clinton's presidency as a highly successful one dedicated to progressive values. The heart of the book is an often tediously detailed account of the Whitewater investigation, the Lewinsky scandal and the impeachment, in which his own role was notable-accused of smearing the opposition, he was known to the anti-Clintonites as "Sid Vicious" and was the only presidential aide called to a deposition at the Senate impeachment hearings (which culminate in a hilarious "Alice in Wonderland" q&a session). The scandals are sandwiched between drier, partisan accounts of Clinton's policies and actions both before and after impeachment, but with only rare glimpses of Clinton the man. Blumenthal argues that there was "an Italianate conspiracy" arrayed against Clinton, "an intricate, covert, amoral operation bent on power," funded by Richard Mellon Scaife and fronted by a ruthlessly vindictive Starr. But Blumenthal is most damning about his onetime colleagues in the press (he wrote for the New Republic and the Washington Post); journalists admitted to him, he says, that they couldn't criticize Starr because they needed leaks from his staff for their stories. Blumenthal paints nasty portraits of Matt Drudge (who accused him of wife-beating), the late Michael Kelly (who here displays an irrational hatred of him) and Christopher Hitchens ("capable of doing harm without conscience or regret"). Often fascinating and undoubtedly controversial, Blumenthal's book will receive much media attention, but most readers will wish it were a whole lot shorter.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 822 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1 edition (May 20, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374125023
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374125028
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,549,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was unable to finish Joe Conason's and Gene Lyons' book "The Hunting of the President" it was so upsetting. Their book is a factual recounting of the events. Sydney Blumenthal's book has been easier to read. He gives us more of the historical context and draws parallels to other progressive presidents who were attacked and smeared with equal ferocity (but without the internet!) in their time. In retrospect these are the greatest presidents to have served us and I'm sure that history will be kinder to Mr. Clinton than Rupert Murdoch has been. Although I am still angry about the GOP's underhanded tactics as well as the Democrats' lackadaisical defense, I'm comforted by seeing the bigger picture.
Mr. Blumenthal is also a wonderful and compelling writer and makes this complex and lengthy tale highly readable. Besides the Conason and Lyons book, Susan McDougal's book is simpler story worth reading for those who are interested in these recent events.
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Format: Hardcover
This book could very well be the bible of liberalism for the early 21st century. Sidney has written an 800-page masterpiece about the Clinton presidency that made me outraged all over again about the GOP's wanton abuse of power during the Clinton years - specifically during Clinton's second term, when Blumenthal served as the president's chief political advisor.
To say that the president was morally bankrupt regarding his affairs is to state the obvious, and Blumenthal doesn't try to defend the president. What he does do is point out the blatant hypocrisy of the GOP leadership and Kenneth W. Starr, chief Clinton hater and possibly the most inept special prosecutor this country has ever seen (one can't help come to this conclusion after reading of Starr's abuses outlined in the book).
Blumenthal also details: Matt Drudge's libel about Blumenthal's relationship with his wife that resulted in a lawsuit, Paula Jones's right wing backers who encouraged her to move forward with her baseless lawsuit (that was later thrown out of court), the myth of the birthmark on the president's genitals, the press's distortions of Al Gore during the stolen campaign in 2000, the right wing scourge named Richard Mellon Scaife, the outright lies cooked up by GOP hacks to discredit William Jefferson Clinton that started before he ever took the oath of office, and the myth of Clinton ignoring the threats of terrorism in the 1990s.
The latter point is a pretty stark one in the wake of 9-11, since President Bush has suffered no political price for the disasters happening on his watch. Clinton ordered the bombing of Osama Bin Laden and just missed him by hours in August of 1998 following the attacks on U.S.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been amused by those on both the political left and the right when it comes to their views of the Clinton years. Here the author shares some first hand experiences which are both enlightening and fascinating. His bias is obvious throughout this long book, but most of the readers tackling this work will benefit despite that. In fact I would have been disappointed if he had not been passionate about the ideas that he believes in. Overall it is a good first-hand account of the Clinton years from an insider.
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Format: Hardcover
I came to Sidney Blumenthal's "The Clinton Wars" hoping that the book would shed some light upon why so many people hated -- and still hate -- the 42nd president with such passion and venom. Given that Bill Clinton's administration produced great prosperity, given that he himself was obviously a hard worker and inspiring speaker, and given that the intial accusations against him were so dubious, why do so many people despise him and assume the worst about him? Regrettably, "The Clinton Wars" doesn't look very deeply into that question. Blumenthal matter-of-factly explains it as people who dislike the 1960s counterculture focusing their hostility upon a (wrongly) perceived representative of that movement, a political interloper that they never recognized as legitimate. Not a wholly satisfying answer.

As a liberal Democrat and Clinton supporter, I liked reading "The Clinton Wars" because it affirmed many things that I believe: Whitewater was a fraud; Kenneth Starr was politically motivated from the get-go to remove Clinton from office; Clinton was a capable commander-in-chief; George W. Bush stole the 2000 presidential election, etc. Furthermore, without explicitly saying so, this book implies something even more disturbing: Starr's legal harassment of Clinton drained the anti-terrorism activities of the FBI and State Department and enabled Osama bin Laden to carry out the horrifying events of September 11, 2001. But at the same time, I could tell that I was in the company of a starry-eyed Clinton admirer whose biases might cloud his retelling of events.

Usually, when a conservative reads "facts" that support his/her beliefs, he/she accepts them at face value but takes less comforting "facts" with a grain of salt.
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Format: Hardcover
In trying to fairly review this book, as politics has gotten ugly and mean and divided this nation, let's imagine that someone from my favorite island (Tristan da Cunha) sets foot in the USA with no more knowledge of Clinton than he was the leader of the country recently. He wants to know more, so he picks up this book and reads it. Our man from Tristan will be able to tell that Sidney Blumenthal likes and admires Bill Clinton a lot. That's not a knock against Mr. Blumenthal in the least, as other authors have liked and admired their subjects, too - that's why they do a fine job of writing about them, their personal interest shows. But in reading this book, the Tristan man will also learn that Mr. Clinton oversaw continuous economic expansion, more than 22 million jobs created, a home ownership rate increase from 64.0% to 67.5%, the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years, higher incomes at all levels, the largest budget deficit in American history converted to the largest surplus of over $200 billion, the lowest government spending as a percentage of GDP since 1974, higher stock ownership by families than ever before, a 220% increase in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and a 300% increase in the Nasdaq from 1993 to 2001.

Sounds like a heckuva job of improving America to me. So why is Mr. Clinton one of those "50%" people, half love him and half hate him? Mr. Blumenthal lays out a few reasons for the hate that still resounds today, and at base level it's all politics. the hatred and vitrol directed at Mr. Clinton and family is absolutely, positively, moronically senseless. We spent in excess of $70M trying to find something, anything, on a duly elected president, and it all ended up with an impeachment charge that seems as wispy as smoke today as it did in 1998.
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