A new Clinton biography is reviewed in NY Times today. It recalls when the headline on this item appeared on a cover story in the Arkansas Times.
The president is a failure. His foreign policy is a mess, and he’s hounded by scandals at home. A hostile opposition has seized the Congress, and he’s fought to stay relevant in the face of humiliating approval ratings.
George W. Bush today? No. Bill Clinton in 1995.
The Clinton of today is a kind of political demigod, with a White House legacy of peace and prosperity that shines all the more next to his successor’s failures. But it’s easy to forget that the man from Hope once appeared headed for failure, his name destined to join the likes of Pierce and Van Buren in the annals of forgettable one-term flops.
The story of how Clinton nearly ruined his presidency and — with the help of domestic terrorists in Oklahoma City and the zealotry of Newt Gingrich — managed to resurrect it is the focus of Nigel Hamilton’s book “Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency.” It is an interesting tale, partly because it’s hard to remember a time when Clinton was considered something of a political incompetent — and partly because, as Hamilton reminds us, Hillary Rodham Clinton had much to do with her husband’s early troubles. But this is hardly an untold story, and Hamilton’s straining effort to make it an epic drama, at a groaning 766 pages, adds little to our understanding of the Clintons.