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The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton Paperback – February 11, 2003

3.6 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Primary Colors 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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (February 11, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767914120
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767914123
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
It is nearly impossible to think objectively about Bill Clinton, the man or his administration. In THE NATURAL, Joe Klein, the once-anonymous author of PRIMARY COLORS, gives us a concise, balanced history of the Clinton presidency. He provides a fair account of Bill Clinton: we are not spared his self-pity or the scale of his appetites and indulgences, but we also see the seriousness and vision he brought to the nation's leadership.
The Clinton administration had a rocky beginning, noted for its naïve political blunders. Remember Travelgate? How about the mere possibility of universal health care? The Clintons relied heavily on their friends, who were not always the wisest or most capable choices. One of the strengths of THE NATURAL is its portrayal of key relationships. We learn a lot about the former president through Mr. Klein's account of his complex marriage and Mrs. Clinton's formidable, imperfect influence. He also describes the similarities and differences between Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, who led the failed Republican revolution and masterminded one of the nastiest, most counter-productive political arenas in American history.
It is unfortunate that Bill Clinton's comprehensive understanding of economics will not be what history remembers about his presidency. Mr. Klein points out that balancing the budget was a tremendous gamble and the budget surplus Clinton left the next administration was unprecedented. His sound policies --- welfare reform, Internet commerce, the earned income tax credit --- provided a base for financial prosperity that we are unlikely to see again. One of the melancholy notes of the book is the sense of squandered talent and opportunity. What else might Bill Clinton have accomplished if he had not been so distracted?
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Format: Hardcover
This book isn't likely to please either Clinton's critics or defenders.
Joe Klein essentially argues that Bill Clinton was a man both of many virtues and many flaws, and I think that is a fair assessment of this book as well. On the one hand, this is perhaps the first attempt at a fair and reasoned understanding of who President Bill Clinton was. Most books on Clinton have either been poorly documented and badly researched attacks on him, or well documented and better researched books explaining how poorly documented and badly researched that first wave of books was. In other words, books like Conason and Lyons superb THE HUNTING OF THE PRESIDENT, provided a massive amount of documentation correctly the scurrilous attacks of Clinton's previous critics. These books, however, primarily say much, much more about Clinton's attackers and the attackers of the attackers rather than about Clinton himself. The great virtue of THE NATURAL is that Klein attempts to focus primarily on Clinton himself.
Bill Clinton disappointed Joe Klein. Clinton was, in Klein's estimation, enormously knowledgeable, intelligent, well intentioned, and insightful. Why, then, was Clinton not a great president? Klein has several answers to this. First, Clinton was never really tested as president. There was never a serious crisis facing the US during his eight years in the White House, nothing comparable to 9-11 or Pearl Harbor or the Cuban Missile Crisis. Therefore, there was a sense in which he was never tested. Klein does, however, point out that Clinton does not, perhaps, get the credit he deserves for his role in providing the US with eight of the most peaceful years in US history. Second, Klein shows a number reasons that Clinton was ineffective as president, Monica Lewinsky aside.
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By A Customer on December 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
In this publication Klein essentially presents a summary of the Presidential career of Bill Clinton. Any reader of previous Klein commentary knows that, on the whole, Klein likes Clinton a good deal; however, he avoids becoming an apologist that the likes of Frank Bruni and Bob Woodward seem to have become with President Bush. He makes available criticisms of Clinton--both political and ehtical--at least as quickly as he does praises. In the end, this seems to be the culmination of the very vivid picture that Klein has been painting of Bill Clinton the man and politician ever since _Primary Colors_. The prospective reader should note before beginning that there is no controversial argument at work here (apart from what is already controversial about the President), nor is _The Natural_ a systematic synthesis based on study of recent history; this is merely a summary of the events of Clinton's presidency with subsequent commentary. Particularly engrossing is the section just over halfway through the book in which Klein succintly recounts the history behind the presently bitter partisanship in Washington and the effect of the post-Watergate media on public and private political discourse. In the seventh chapter (of eight) Klein also begins to analyze Clinton with respect to his historical context--which quickly gets interesting--but stops abruptly (Klein clearly hasn't gotten this far with Clinton yet). I would surmise that most of the people that dislike this book do so because of their emnity towards Bill Clinton himself, but if you are looking for a summary of the era with generally just and honest commentary from a rational and balanced commentator, this isn't a bad place to begin.
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