Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Why Bill? Why?

Over the weekend, I read My Life, Clinton's autobiography. I had expected to find the account of his childhood quite gripping and to be bored by all the policy details of the rest of the book. In fact, his childhood was quite boring to read about especially because he had to tip his hat to everyone he ever met as being nice or helpful or what have you. While this need to write an extended thank you note remains, there is far more meat in the rest of the book. It is very good as a summary of the main accomplishments and battles of his time as governor and president, but it lacks a certain depth which would let you say why, exactly, he did what he did. You rarely get a sense of the hard decisions that had to be made -- and what the moral convictions that supported those decisions are or where they came from. Yes there are vague allusions to caring about the downtrodden and etc., but why does he embrace -- no, found -- the DLC, rather than going for the old line liberal? Why does he not protest the Vietnam War until 1970 when everyone was doing it? Esepcially because in '67-'68 as a staff member on Fullbright's foreign policy committee he had had access to classified government documents showing that the government was deceiving the American people. Why did he go into politics rather than policy? Somehow, the book lacks that explanatory element which could potentially make it life changing or inspiring. What Clinton did was admirable (particularly because I, in general, agree with him), but you can't actually put down the book and say "I want to be Clinton" because you have no sense of why he is who he is and why he believes what he believes. This is certainly too much to expect from a presidential autobiography, and probably for the genre it is quite good, but a boy can hope, can't he?


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