My Life by William J. Clinton

Not so much a straight biog­ra­phy, but a auto­bi­og­ra­phy from an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent who real­ly under­stood all the pres­i­dents before him. The kind of per­spec­tive only some­one with this posi­tion and his kind of love for his­to­ry and pol­i­tics could write.

My Life

While I began read­ing My Life by for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton back in the sum­mer of last year, my read­ing of it was inter­rupt­ed by the release of a install­ment in the Dune series (weird pri­or­i­ties, I know). How­ev­er, I’ve been back on it recent­ly, and I find the book well worth the time.

I sup­pose most peo­ple skimmed through the first half or more of the book just to read what­ev­er sala­cious details about extra-mar­i­tal affairs they could find, or sim­ply imply. Hon­est­ly, I could care less. I always thought that was a lit­tle too per­son­al for my busi­ness. What’s more, my opin­ion is this: it hap­pened, he lied to con­gress, he was cen­sured, I moved on. It’s not the most sig­nif­i­cant thing in the man’s life and I’m not going to spend any­more of this post or my time wor­ry­ing about it. It’s not like a war got start­ed over it…

Bill Clin­ton is, and prob­a­bly always will be, a nerd of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ty (or in politi­co-ease, a wonk). I mean this as a com­pli­ment, in that he is tru­ly one of the mod­ern times great minds in pol­i­tics. He is a stu­dent of the game, so to speak. As A studi­er of his­to­ry and as a per­son who lived through some of the coun­tries more tumul­tuous times, he is able to put ideas and pol­i­cy in per­spec­tive. As a can­di­date and as Pres­i­dent, he received a lot of atten­tion for his pain feel­ing abil­i­ties, but after read­ing more about his youth, I don’t real­ly doubt him. How­ev­er, it is a true love of pol­i­tics that makes him a nerd. I get the impres­sion that this is a man who seeks out polit­i­cal races like a com­pul­sive gam­bler finds race tracks. Sure, he’s a pro­gres­sive who wants change, but I think he also likes the chal­lenge just for the sake of it.

The parts of the books I enjoy most, aside from some inter­est­ing tales of his youth, are the insights into Amer­i­ca’s his­to­ry. Mr. Clin­ton does an nice job of mak­ing Jef­fer­son, Tru­man, and Kennedy all feel as though they were con­tem­po­raries as much as ances­tors. Of course, he has inti­mate knowl­edge of mak­ing his­to­ry, but he hon­est­ly makes Amer­i­ca’s past seem not just inter­est­ing but rel­e­vant. I was aware from read­ing oth­er books by staffers about the Pres­i­den­t’s love for read­ing and how he often would ref­er­ence events in the lives of for­mer pres­i­dents back to Wash­ing­ton for insight. This is what I was look­ing for­ward to in this book. Not so much a straight biog­ra­phy, but a auto­bi­og­ra­phy from an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent who real­ly under­stood all the pres­i­dents before him. The kind of per­spec­tive only some­one with this posi­tion and his kind of love for his­to­ry and pol­i­tics could write. I’m sor­ry to say that up until now in the book, it has only been com­ing in snip­pets.

I can imag­ine crit­ics not car­ing for the all-over-the-map style of writ­ing. How­ev­er, I love it. It adds a sense of place to every inci­dent described. Sure, there are some goofy parts and some anec­dotes that just seem out of place. On the whole, I’d say it’s a good read. I know that many of his detrac­tors sim­ply think this book is revi­sion­ist his­to­ry. I’d say that if some­one is going to attack the man and his work, the least you could do is read his side of the sto­ry, and here it is.

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