53 RI Bar J., No. 1, Pg. 21 (July, 2004). Book Review: Bill Clinton: An American Journey by Nigel Hamilton.

AuthorJay S. Goodman

Rhode Island Bar Journal

Volume 53.

53 RI Bar J., No. 1, Pg. 21 (July, 2004).

Book Review: Bill Clinton: An American Journey by Nigel Hamilton

Book Review: Bill Clinton: An American Journey by Nigel HamiltonJay S. GoodmanJay S. Goodman is Professor of Political Science, Wheaton College, Norton, MA, and maintains a small Providence law and lobbying practice.British biographer Nigel Hamilton made a well-deserved splash with his 1992, 898 page volume JFK: Reckless Youth, which, using documents from the Kennedy Library, became an early revisionist history of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Hamilton documented Kennedy's sexual adventures and medical problems, in part with pieces of the late president's correspondence with his lifetime friend, Lem Billings. Reckless Youth ended with JFK's 1946 election to the House of Representatives. A proposed second volume did not materialize, apparently because the Kennedy Library was reluctant to help Hamilton. So Hamilton turned to Bill Clinton, and the result is this volume, An American Journey (2003 Random House, 784 pp. $29.95, which takes us from Clinton's grandparents' Arkansas history through his election as President in 1992.

This Book Mocks the Concept of a Serious BiographyHamilton presents himself as a Professor of Biography at De Montfort University, Leicester, England. That should make him, and the publisher Random House, doubly ashamed of a stunningly sloppy and an amazingly unsourced, or oddly sourced, book. Let me begin with a sample of just a few basic factual errors. Senator Joseph McCarthy, not Senator Eugene McCarthy was the anti-communist crusader of the 1950s. Senator Joseph McCarthy's base was the Senate Government Operations Committee, not the Un-American Activities Committee, a part of the House not the Senate. (p. 126.) Former Senator Bob Kerry did not leave the Senate to become president of Columbia University, but the New School University. (p. 204.) Doesn't Random House employ fact checkers any more?

Then, as to sources: Hamilton met Clinton, but Clinton would not be interviewed or make his papers available, perhaps saving everything for his own new book or perhaps aware of Hamilton's Reckless Youth. Hamilton fills that void with almost entirely secondary sources plus a few interviews, generally with Clinton's enemies.

Thus, the whole inventory of materials of...

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