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The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton, by Joe Klein
(Click for Amazon book review)
BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:
This is the biography to read if you want to understand Bill Clinton. It is not pro-Clinton nor is it anti-Clinton -- it feels like journalism rather than propaganda. So many political biographies feel like advocacy that it's refreshing to read one that does not.
Joe Klein, the author, is most renowned for his anonymously-published book, "Primary Colors", about the 1992 primaries. Klein writes for "The New Republic" and several newspapers which are usually called liberal; but he is described as a neoconservative who admires George W. Bush. Hence he has a mixed opinion politically about Clinton, and that mixed opinion comes out in this book.
OnTheIssues.org feels that political biography is superior to political autobiography because autobiography is inherently biased. Readers cannot get a fully balanced picture of Bill Clinton from his autobiography, My Life, because Clinton uses his memoir to present his view of things without presenting his opponents' views. While Clinton's autobiography is valuable reading as well, like any autobiography, it leaves many things unsaid. Klein says them here.
OnTheIssues.org was approached by several media organizations during the 2008 presidential campaign to talk about presidential candidate autobiographies, because our editors have read all of them. In each case, we offered to also discuss books ABOUT the leading candidates as well as books BY the leading candidates, based on the "balancing" view above. For example, we considered the best character sketches of the leading candidates to be A Bound Man for Barack Obama; The Myth of a Maverick for John McCain; and God and Hillary for Hillary Clinton. All those offers were declined -- the media really do prefer autobiography to biography. We hope readers here try both.
-- Jesse Gordon, jesse@OnTheIssues.org, November 2008
The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton, by Joe Klein.