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The Clinton Warsby Sidney Blumenthal
Synopses & Reviews
An invaluable history of an extraordinary presidency, and the chronicle of a generation's political odyssey.
When in 1997 Bill Clinton appointed Sidney Blumenthal as a senior advisor, the former writer was catapulted into the front lines of the Clinton wars. From his first day in the White House until long after his appearance as the only presidential aide ever to testify in an impeachment trial, Blumenthal acted in or witnessed nearly all the battles of the Clinton years. His major new book part history, part memoir is the first inside account we have of the presidency of William Jefferson Clinton.
The Clinton Wars begins in 1987, when Blumenthal first met Bill and Hillary Clinton. His chronicle of Clinton's first presidential campaign and first term draws on his experiences as confidant to both the President and the First Lady, and is enriched with previously unpublished revelations about both. This remarkable personal interpretation goes far in explaining the polarizing nature of Clinton's presence on the national scene.
The narrative of Clinton's second term is even more dramatic. Blumenthal takes special note of the battle that was waged within the media between the President's detractors and defenders, which he expands into a vivid picture of Washington society torn apart by warring factions. But he does not neglect the wars fought on other fronts in Kosovo, against Congress, and for economic prosperity. His remarkable book ends with the inside story of the fight to elect Al Gore in 2000 and extend the legacy of the Clinton-Gore Administration.
Every page of this unrivaled, authoritative book, with its intimate insights into Clinton's personality and politics, attests to Blumenthal's literary skill, profound understanding of politics, and unique perspective on crucial events of our recent past. The Clinton Wars is a lasting contribution to American history.
"Although this invective-filled memoir does come across as a little suck-uppy in places...the author's memoir of his four years with the former president is nevertheless a riveting read. Blumenthal, Clinton's presidential assistant from 1997 to 2001, is naming names here. And what fun it is to watch him destroy Clinton's enemies: Kenneth Starr, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, David Brock, William Safire, The Wall Street Journal. Blumenthal's account of the 'right wing conspiracy' which sought to annihilate Clinton is both chilling and irrefutable." Adrienne Miller, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)
"Blumenthal's book may do more to stir old controversies than settle them. But participants in the Clinton wars would do well to understand that re-fighting 90's battles will be of less benefit to the country than detached analysis explaining how we can avoid future unproductive quarrels over the personal weaknesses of our presidents. Still, for anyone who wants to revisit the political acrimony of the Clinton years, Blumenthal's book is the place to begin." Robert Dallek, The New York Times Book Review
"[Y]ou don't read a former adviser's memoir looking for a detached take on events; nevertheless, The Clinton Wars (re-) constructs a history so selective that it calls into question [Blumenthal's] veracity on almost every point....But as an insider's take on a perpetually besieged White House, The Clinton Wars is an often fascinating and exhaustive look at the bunker mentality that set in at the West Wing." John Giuffo, The Village Voice
"[T]his will more than satisfy conspiracy theorists and anyone with a fascination for the power and the perfidy of American presidential politics, even, as is often the case in these matters, it raises more questions than it answers about that great nation's constant stretching of the definition of democracy." Sean O'Hagan, The Observer
"But just wait for the good people's party to be caught doing something shady or vile; at once you will be told that it's no worse than what the bad people's party would do or has done. Immediately, in other words, the apologist will admit that the game is up, and that he is judging his own team by a standard (of ghastliness in others) that he himself helped to set. "They all do it" means, in this circle, "We all do it." But the apologist won't concede this consciously or honestly. Faced with the task of explaining the Clinton pardons, including one to Marc Rich, Sidney Blumenthal, a former senior Clinton adviser and friend of Dick Morris's, immediately responds, in The Clinton Wars, that Richard Nixon pardoned Jimmy Hoffa; and as for the $190,000 in gifts accumulated by the Clintons, it was "roughly the same amount as the preceding Bushes had accepted." Since he elsewhere accuses the Republican Party of being essentially lawless and segregationist, he might admit that he's setting himself a low standard. But he doesn't get the joke. And of course by the time he makes the accusation he has joined the ranks of the unlucky political-consultant high-flyers ? the ones who have hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills to pay off. This frequent misfortune often entails the writing of a long and turgid and self-justifying book, in return for a completely ridiculous publisher's advance." Christopher Hitchens, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic review)
Book News Annotation:
Reflecting Blumenthal's careers as journalist and advisor to President Clinton (from 1997 to 2001), his new book mixes reportage and political memoir in its narrative of the Clinton presidency. The memoir draws a flattering picture of Clinton and clearly reflects Blumenthal's affinity for the personality and politics of his former boss. However, Clinton's politics are less the topic of the work, preponderantly focused on the three years Blumenthal was in the White House, than the "vast right-wing conspiracy" to destroy Clinton's political power, which on a number of occasions drew Blumenthal himself in. Notable among these were the attempts to set him up for perjury charges, attempts aided by his one-time friend Christopher Hitchens. Also of interest are Blumenthal's implicit criticisms of the George W. Bush administration, contained in his discussion of Clinton's efforts to address terrorism and many other issues. Annotation (c)2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
When in 1997 Bill Clinton appointed Sidney Blumenthal as a senior advisor, the former writer was catapulted into the front lines of the Clinton wars. His major new book — part history, part memoir — is the first inside account of the presidency of William Jefferson Clinton. 32 pages of photos.
About the Author
Sidney Blumenthal wrote for The Washington Post and The New Yorker before serving as assistant and senior advisor to President Clinton from August 1997 until January 2001. He is the author of several books, including The Permanent Campaign, The Rise of the Counter-Establishment, and Pledging Allegiance: The Last Campaign of the Cold War. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife; they have two sons.
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