Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal
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In Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal, the distinguished historian William H. Chafe boldly argues that the trajectory of the Clintons' political lives can be understood only through the prism of their personal relationship. Each experienced a difficult childhood. Bill had an abusive stepfather, and his mother was in denial about the family's pathology. He believed that his success as a public servant would redeem the family. Hillary grew up with an autocratic father and a self-sacrificing mother whose most important lesson for her daughter was the necessity of family togetherness. As an adolescent, Hillary's encounter with her youth minister helped set her moral compass on issues of race and social justice.
From the day they first met at Yale Law School, Bill and Hillary were inseparable, even though their relationship was inherently volatile. The personal dynamic between them would go on to determine their political fates. Hillary was instrumental in Bill's triumphs as Arkansas's governor and saved his presidential candidacy in 1992 by standing with him during the Gennifer Flowers sex scandal. He responded by delegating to her powers that no other First Lady had ever exercised. Always tempestuous, their relationship had as many lows as it did highs, from near divorce to stunning electoral and political successes.
Chafe's many insights―into subjects such as health care, Kenneth Starr, welfare reform, and the extent to which the Lewinsky scandal finally freed Hillary to become a politician in her own right and return to the consensus reformer she had been in college and law school―add texture and depth to our understanding of the Clintons' experience together. The latest book from one of our preeminent historians, Bill and Hillary is the definitive account of the Clintons' relationship and its far-reaching impact on American political life.
America. Elizabeth Dole, the Republican candidate’s wife, did a brilliant job at the Republican convention, walking the floor and interacting with delegates as she gave a rousing speech in support of her husband. But then Bob Dole followed with a meandering, overly partisan, and boring acceptance speech. Haley Barbour, chair of the Republican National Committee, summed up the contest succinctly: “Bob Dole is a plainspoken, humorous man. [But] he is not the television personality Bill Clinton is
his connections at the University of Arkansas in hopes of securing an appointment there as professor in its law school. He contacted the appropriate deans, gave a talk to the faculty, and walked the halls using his charm to persuade his future colleagues that he would be a positive addition to their ranks. Yale’s letter saying he had a “very good but not outstanding record” seemed good enough for Arkansas. The only question the faculty had was whether he really wanted to teach law or just wished
sent out Hillary. “Bill’s eyes were puffy and his voice was hoarse,” Webb Hubbell commented. “Hillary had dark circles under her eyes. Both of them looked more fragile than I’d ever seen them.” The next day, Bill and Hillary had lunch with their friends Jim and Diane Blair. Clinton was morose. Sitting at a table in a downtown juke joint, he said he did not know whether to laugh or cry as they listened to the country song “I Feel So Bad I Don’t Know Whether to Kill Myself or Go Bowling.” David
when his mother called the police to have Roger put in jail, or when Bill called the family lawyer after another episode of abuse. “I’d forgotten,” he wrote, “perhaps out of the denial experts say families of alcoholics engage in when they continue to live with [the disease].” Roger’s alcoholism not only terrorized the family, it also induced a kind of schizophrenia, with family members pretending it did not exist when it was not in full display, or repressing its fearsome reality lest it prove
blame, immediately winning praise. Clinton was furious with himself, first because he had not followed through on questioning the wisdom of the raid, and second because he had allowed Stephanopoulos to dissuade him from assuming public responsibility for the raid’s consequences. In both cases, he later noted, “I had accepted advice that ran counter to my instincts.” In Clinton’s mind there was a direct link between his errors in Waco and the fact that two days later, Congress turned down his