54 RI Bar J., No. 4, Pg. 15 (Jan/Feb 2006). Book Review: My Life by Bill Clinton.

AuthorJay S. Goodman, Esq.

Rhode Island Bar Journal

Volume 54.

54 RI Bar J., No. 4, Pg. 15 (Jan/Feb 2006).

Book Review: My Life by Bill Clinton

Rhode Island Bar Journal January/February 2006pg. 15Book Review: My Life by Bill ClintonJay S. Goodman, Esq.Jay S. Goodman is Professor of Political Science, Wheaton College, Norton, MA, and maintains a small Providence law and lobbying practice.

Some reviewers complain that former President Bill Clinton's My Life (New York: Knopf, 2004, 957 pp.) is too long. That has not deterred the American public from making it a best seller in hardcover and paperback. Nor is Clinton's memoir as long as Harry Truman's, done in two separate excellent volumes (Vol. One: Year of Decisions, 1955, 561 pp. and Vol. Two: Years of Trial and Hope, 1956, 521 pp.). As a read, My Life is not too long. Readers have generally commented favorably on his treatment of his childhood and pre-presidential campaign years, which gets us to around page 394. (The book has no table of contents.) Then, considering that everything a presidential candidate and president does all day is important, six hundred more pages is probably not enough.

Some also complain that parts read as though Clinton lists every famous person he met, every meeting he attended, every speech he gave, and every event he went to, along with every decision he made. Some accuse him of snobbish name-dropping. These comments are unfair. Clinton does list names, but not only the powerful - he lists every rural Arkansas politician he met and liked, and he is grateful to the lowest staffers and most obscure friends. So, we do have the wide-eyed Arkansas boy letting you know about all the world leaders he got to hobnob with, but we also learn about the genuinely friendly Arkansas boy, remembering with affection, hundreds of pretty ordinary folk he met and liked. He has no airs, a very attractive and winning quality.

If there were less space devoted to the bulletin board of historical high points, there would be more available for the kind of analysis and revelation that people are looking for from him. Yet, there is more of that than one might expect from a President, as to policy and as to the personal crises that tormented his term, most notably the 1997-1998 impeachment proceedings against him. In some ways he is candid, and in others he is still dancing around, but in all he is revealing. Since everyone knows the main outlines, let me go through four big topics: (1) Gennifer Flowers and womanizing, (2) Monica Lewinsky, Kenneth Starr, and Impeachment, (3) Osama bin Laden, and (4) Clinton's Introspection.

Gennifer Flowers and Womanizing

Clinton visits the womanizing issue in many contexts. First, he attempts to deal with the claims of Gennifer Flowers, which exploded in January 1992 during the New Hampshire primary. As he confronts this issue, he has to deal not only with what was on the record then, but all the subsequent revelations, not least of which is that Ms. Flowers has pretty much made a career out of her claims of a relationship with him. Clinton splits the difference. At the time, he ducked through the...

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