President Bill Clinton's My Life is the strikingly candid portrait of a global leader who decided early in life to devote his intellectual and political gifts, and his extraordinary capacity for hard work, to serving the public. It shows us the progress of a remarkable American, who, through his own enormous energies and efforts, made the unlikely journey from Hope, Arkansas, to the White House--a journey fueled by an impassioned interest in the political process which manifested itself at every stage of his life: in college, working as an intern for Senator William Fulbright; at Oxford, becoming part of the Vietnam War protest movement; at Yale Law School, campaigning on the grassroots level for Democratic candidates; back in Arkansas, running for Congress, attorney general, and governor. We see his career shaped by his resolute determination to improve the life of his fellow citizens, an unfaltering commitment to civil rights, and an exceptional understanding of the practicalities of political life. We come to understand the emotional pressures of his youth--born after his father's death; caught in the dysfunctional relationship between his feisty, nurturing mother and his abusive stepfather, whom he never ceased to love and whose name he took; drawn to the brilliant, compelling Hillary Rodham, whom he was determined to marry; passionately devoted, from her infancy, to their daughter, Chelsea, and to the entire experience of fatherhood; slowly and painfully beginning to comprehend how his early denial of pain led him at times into damaging patterns of behavior. President Clinton's book is also the fullest, most concretely detailed, most nuanced account of a presidency ever written--encompassing not only the high points and crises but the way the presidency actually works: the day-to-day bombardment of problems, personalities, conflicts, setbacks, achievements. It is a testament to the positive impact on America and on the world of his work and his ideals. It is the gripping account of a president under concerted and unrelenting assault orchestrated by his enemies on the Far Right, and how he survived and prevailed. It is a treasury of moments caught alive, among them: * The ten-year-old boy watching the national political conventions on his family's new (and first) television set. * The young candidate looking for votes in the Arkansas hills and the local seer who tells him, "Anybody who would campaign at a beer joint in Joiner at midnight on Saturday night deserves to carry one box. . . . You'll win here. But it'll be the only damn place you win in this county." (He was right on both counts.) * The roller-coaster ride of the 1992 campaign. * The extraordinarily frank exchanges with Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole. * The delicate manipulation needed to convince Rabin and Arafat to shake hands for the camera while keeping Arafat from kissing Rabin. * The cost, both public and private, of the scandal that threatened the presidency. Here is the life of a great national and international figure, revealed with all his talents and contradictions, told openly, directly, in his own completely recognizable voice. A unique book by a unique American.
I will never claim to be a fan of Bill Clinton and his politics but I do have to say that this biography was well written and kept me reading. The stories related to the international affairs alone were worth reading this book. There are many aspects of the presidency (of either party) that the public simply does not see or do not pay close attention too...Clinton lays many of these things out in fascinating stories.
There are aspects of the political policy (in my opinion) that he exaggerated his support.
The book kept me entertained and I came back time and again to get this HUGE book read.
On the contrary - it is a piercing and interesting book about the nature of the presidency. It has become more interesting with the benefit of hindsight. Having a friendly debate with Newt Gingrich? Trying to pass health care reform? Preventing the stagnation of the economy? All of these issues are too relevant to the modern discourse. The political wranglings then have only become worse now, and many can rightfully yearn for the peaceful days of the 1990s.
I am impressed by his strong memory, attention to detail, his descriptions of events of every nature, his dealings with all characters. Any president has to do some superhuman effort in order to even get elected.
Of course, no president is flawless. He does gloss over some of his most unsavory affairs. But if you can survive these shortcomings, as well as the vast length of the book, you can find a truly interesting portrait of a past era.
Pres. Clinton's book is not the normal biography. It is written in chronological order starting with his boyhood. Though as you read it you will find yourself jumping all over time. He does this whenever he feels he has to defend his actions. And I felt the whole book is about trying to defend his legacy and set the record straight. The book seems very self-serving and he seems more concerned about what we think of him, instead of just writing what transpired.
Though I did find his book very easy to read. I did feel as if he I was sitting on a covered front porch with a class of ice tea and listening as Pres. Clinton spins an interesting tale. I had no problem reading the entire book and did find it enjoyable despite his agenda. He does share some of his shortcomings and how he overcame them. This is also a story of a boy making good in America. He comes from rural state and used every opportunity America offers each and every one of us. And that message is worth sharing.
Do not pick up this book looking for dark details of his life. You will not find it. But I did learn much about how he saw himself and his view on affairs that affected or touched his life. I do recommend reading this book.
The audio book begins with his childhood in Arkansas; covers his years of schooling and difficult home life; his education at George Wasington University and then Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar; his struggles over the military service issue; his years in law school and his early relationship with Hillary; his move back to Arkansas and marriage; his entry into politics, culminating in the governoship; his successful run for national office; and the eight years of his presidency.
Mr. Clinton is passionate on the political issues (including the heavily- financed and well- coordinated attempt by the Republicans to force him from office), and is at times unsparing in his self-criticism when it comes to the personal failings that armed his bitter political enemies. Love him or not, this is one of the most extraordinary politicians in US history, a powerful personality of prodigious talents. Listening to the story being read by the man who wrote it and lived it is an opportunity not to be missed by anyone interested in Bill Clinton and the times he helped to shape.
good but in some places (the excruciating detail of the various peace talks
for example) I found my eyes crossing and had to lay it down for a while.
I have to say that one of three things must be true of Bill Clinton. Either
a) he kept copious journals from about the age of 2 year onward, b) he has a
photographic memory, or c) he was making this up as he went along. He
included the most minute details of his formative years, every campaign he
ever ran, nearly every hand he ever shook. But for all that, he left out
details of certain episodes we all know took place in the Oval Office with a
certain intern. Actually, he did refer to that and even devoted about
half a chapter to it, but even with all his words, he didn't really tell us
anything we didn't already know in lurid detail from the Starr report that
went to Congress and got posted on the Internet. The insights he did give
into the whys and wherefores of the Starr investigation into the most
private details of his (and many others as well) life were interesting.
I enjoyed this book because it gave me another point of view for a lot of
things and explained the odd relationship between Clinton and Newt
Gingrinch, Clinton's love for his family and his home state of Arkansas, a
little behind the scenes explanations for some of the mistakes Gore made in
the 2000 campaign and a myriad of other things. If you enjoy biographies
and politics, you'll enjoy this book. Clinton has a very friendly writing
style and tells the stories of his life well. I do think, though, that he
would have benefited from some editing. There were a lot of details that
seemed to drag on and on forever. So it is for that reason that I will give
the book a 4, though it should have been a 5 with better editing.
-Vietnam story important to him. Probably even more so because of criticism faced later as a draft dodger.
-the nasty tone of Newt Gingrichs’s Republican party is striking, but maybe above all its certainty. A lengthy quote from Clinton: “Even though I was intrigued by Gingrich and impressed by his political skills, I didn’t think much of his claim that his politics represented America’s best values. I had been raised not to look down on anyone and not to blame others for my own problems or shortcomings. That’s exactly what the “New Right” message did. But it had enormous political appeal because it offered both psychological certainty and escape from responsibility: “they” were always right, “we” were always wrong; “we” were responsible for all the problems, even though “they” had controlled the presidency for all but six of the last twenty-six years. All of us are vulnerable to arguments that let us off the hook, and in the 1994 election, in an America where hardworking middle-class families felt economic anxiety and were upset by the pervasiveness of crime, drugs, and family dysfunction, there was an audience for the Gingrich message, especially when we didn’t offer a competing one.
Gingrich and the Republican right had brought us back to the 1960s again; Newt said that America had been a great country until the sixties, when the Democrats took over and replaced absolute notions of right and wrong with more relativistic values. He pledged to take us back to the morality of the 1950s, in order to “renew American civilization.”
Of course there were political and personal excesses in the 1960s, but the decade and
the movements it spawned also produced advances in civil rights, women’s rights, a clean
environment, workplace safety, and opportunities for the poor. The Democrats believed
in and worked for those things. So did a lot of traditional Republicans, including many of
the governors I’d served with in the late 1970s and 1980s. In focusing only on the
excesses of the 1960s, the New Right reminded me a lot of the carping that white
southerners did against Reconstruction for a century after the Civil War. When I was
growing up, we were still being taught how mean the Northern forces were to us during
Reconstruction, and how noble the South was, even in defeat. There was something to it,
but the loudest complaints always overlooked the good done by Lincoln and the national
Republicans in ending slavery and preserving the Union. On the big issues, slavery and
the Union, the South was wrong.
Now it was happening again, as the right wing used the excesses of the sixties to
obscure the good done in civil rights and other areas.”
This many seem to have retained.
-Clinton offers Republican Senator Alan Simpson’s view of the Whitewater affair and the press generally: “I was genuinely confused by the mainstream press coverage of Whitewater; it seemed inconsistent with the more careful and balanced approach the press had taken on other issues, at least since the Republicans won the Congress in 1994. One day, after one of our budget meetings in October, I asked Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming to stay a moment to talk. Simpson was a conservative Republican, but we had a pretty good relationship because of the friendship we had in common with his governor, Mike Sullivan. I asked Alan if he thought Hillary and I had done anything wrong in Whitewater. “Of course not,” he said. “That’s not what this is about. This is about making the public think you did something wrong. Anybody who looked at the evidence would see that you did'nt.” Simpson laughed at how willing the “elitist” press was to swallow anything negative about small, rural places like Wyoming or Arkansas and made an interesting observation: “You know, before you were elected, we Republicans believed the press was liberal. Now we have a more sophisticated view. They are liberal in a way. Most of them voted for you, but they think more like your right-wing critics do, and that’s much more important.” When I asked him to explain, he said, “Democrats like you and Sullivan get into government to help people. The right-wing extremists don’t think government can do much to improve on human nature, but they do like power. So does the press. And since you’re President, they both get power the same way, by hurting you.” I appreciated Simpson’s candor and I thought about what he said for months. For a long time, whenever I was angry about the Whitewater press coverage I would tell people about Simpson’s analysis. When I finally just accepted his insight as accurate, it was liberating, and it cleared my head for the fight.”
-It should not be forgotten how scandalous the stealing of the Bush-Gore election was, where the conservative majority in the Supreme Court decided not to recount the votes.