Sunday, June 12, 2005

New book about Clinton

The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House is a new book about Clinton by John F. Harris, a White House correspondent who covered Clinton.

The NYTimes has a book review, "'The Survivor': Measuring His Success", that is interesting to read. Apparently this book paints a picture of Clinton as a complex man who had trouble making hard decisions because he appreciated the different sides of each issue simultaneously. It also talks about the people around him, comparing and contrasting themselves with Clinton. It also addresses how people feel about Clinton (many people really hate him for reasons that are hard to describe) and suggests why they felt that way.
Harris tells all the important stories of the Clinton years in detached, workmanlike prose that not only tracks the events and decisions but offers perceptive judgments of the figures who were close to the president as they unfolded. The national security adviser, Sandy Berger, was ''a shrewdly political man'' who, when Clinton barked at him, ''was comfortable barking right back.'' The chief of staff, Erskine Bowles, was a natural organizer who, as Harris saw him, protested a little too often about his preference for business over politics. The treasury secretary, Robert Rubin, had ''an appreciation for shades of gray and a disdain for absolutes that were very much like Clinton's.''

The debate about Bill Clinton, about his character and achievements and moral worth, will go on long after the subject himself has departed from the scene. Clinton ''was too vital and too vexing a character to be easily forgotten or dismissed,'' Harris writes. This is a complex, interesting and subtle book about a complex, interesting and subtle man.

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