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The Pact: Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the Rivalry that Defined a Generation 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195322781
ISBN-10: 0195322789
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An unlikely, fleeting and largely unknown alliance between the former president and speaker of the House occupies center-stage of this thoughtful book that recreates the tumultuous years of the Clinton administration. Gillon (10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America) provides compelling evidence suggesting that political foes Clinton and Gingrich formed a secret alliance in 1997 and were prepared to forge a bipartisan compromise on Social Security and Medicare, a plan that was derailed when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke. In slightly shapeless early chapters, Gillon surveys the parallels and divergences in the early lives and careers of both men, casting his two protagonists as mirror images of each other: deeply intelligent children of the 1960s greatly affected by the politics of the decade, they became passionate, charismatic leaders who succumbed to personal weaknesses and saw their brilliant careers overshadowed by ignominy. Though Gillon slightly overreaches in framing his story as an epilogue to the culture wars of the '60s, he nevertheless renders a fraught moment in American political history with clarity. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

The story of how Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich came close to secretly making a deal on Social Security by cutting out their respective political allies, only to be derailed by Clinton’s philandering (and, to an extent, by Gingrich’s), is far from edifying. Gillon, a professor and a History Channel host, interviewed both men, but he had better access to Gingrich, and it shows. Arguing, plausibly, that his subjects had much more in common than one would expect, Gillon points to their difficult stepfathers and love of technology, but what comes across most strongly is a shared habit of self-aggrandizement. This account, sheathed in a rote cultural history of the sixties, never really rises above the pettiest logic of the Beltway—whether various policy initiatives "scored points"—so that the final, Monica-induced collapse of the initiative seems only as poignant as a triumph of sordidness over cynicism can be.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 3, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195322789
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195322781
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.4 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #853,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich working together?! Despite the fact that these two political heavyweights have made careers out of bashing one another, this book shows that once upon a time they worked together on a secret alliance that might have fixed Social Security. Once the Lewisnsky scandal broke, Gingrich felt like he had to distance himself from Clinton and everything fell apart. The author uses a lot of first-hand resources (letters and interviews) to help tell this fascinating story.
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Format: Hardcover
I have a bit of a secret. I am a liberal Democrat with a soft spot for Newt Gingrich. Hearing Gingrich talk and reading his work has always fascinated me. I do not agree with all of his conclusions or prescriptions, but have always been impressed by his intelligence and political skill. Regarding the former, he has an incredible mind for policy and history, can think broadly about complex problems, and is always generating new ideas (even if they are ones I disagree with). Regarding the latter, his long view of returning Republicans to power and building a GOP farm team was a brilliant strategy that paid huge dividends for his party. Part of my admiration in Gingrich may be because I was not politically active until I entered college in 1999, so I missed the day to day political warfare that Gingrich was at the forefront of.

What I know of those days comes from history and books like The Pact. The Pact traces the careers of two figures with more in common than one would think when approaching the material, Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich. Although the book uses the period immediately following the 1996 presidential election and preceding the Lewinsky scandal as its hook, it is really a quick biography of these two figures from their early political careers, through their collision in 1994, to their brief attempt to do big things before impeachment crowded out their hopes.

The author may be a bit too optimistic on what these two big brains could have done had impeachment not gotten in the way. The book demonstrates that Gingrich's partisanship often overshadowed his desire to get something done when it came to the Clinton White House, for example during the budget negotiations that led to two government shutdowns.
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The author and I differ in a major idea. Steven M. Gillon sees it as a tragedy that the Monica Lewinsky scandal permanently damaged the progress of talks between Clinton and Gingrich to make Social Security and Medicare a quasi public/private entity. They were going to make history with their "pact". I see it as salvation that Monica Lewinsky came along and destroyed the ability for the two men to finalize their pact. Gingrich ended up being swallowed up and destroyed by the conservatives and Clinton had to seek protection with the liberal side of his party. I see it as salvation. I also learned how the anti-immigrant provisions and welfare to work bills came to be. Clinton was essentially forced to sign them or not get anything done. The lesson there is that the laws weren't changed later on but became more harmful to legal immigrants and things became worse. Food stamp eligibility was cut which didn't seem to matter in flush times as it does in bad. This is an interesting book and it was good to revisit the Clinton presidency and Republican Gingrich and House. The repercussions of what happened still ate with us today.
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Format: Hardcover
Telling the, until recently, top secret story of how President Clinton and Speaker Gingrich almost solved the Social Security/Medicare problem.

If you were old enough during the 90s, you may remember how heated the political climate was between Democrats and Republicans. This era was based on two personalities: Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich.

Author Gillon takes us back to these two personalities and how their upbringing through the 1960s shaped what was to come thirty years later.

While I would call this book slightly pro-Clinton, I do think this is one of the most balanced political book I have ever read. Gillon points out the values of both men as well as their vices.

When you boil both men down, you'll actually find two very similar people. Although they never trusted each other, they wanted to be part of something historic.

After the Republican take-over of Congress and some public venom from Gingrich, the two men realized that they needed to work together in order to accomplish something no politician ever wants to touch.

Meeting in secret, so secret that Hillary didn't know about it, Speaker and President met in the White House to talk about how they could create a new coalition of middle ground in order to pass significant legislation.

Everything was in place to succeed until "Monica happened".

The Pact is a wonderful political epoch. It provides a wonderful behind-the-scenes narrative which will lead you to imagine, What if...

This book was provided for review, at no cost by Oxford Publishing
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By Eths on April 27, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed reading this book, I enjoy learning about the intricacies of our nations political leaders, it sometimes seems to me they are painted with the same brush, in the end they are all alike, and really not too different...Eth
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