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.