Saturday, November 08, 2014

Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton (Book Review #104 of 2014)

I wanted to read Mrs. Clinton's first memoir before reading Hard Choices. Years ago, I read a couple biographies of her, which made some controversial claims but included a few more facts and timeline checks than this memoir did.

It's a memoir, so you don't expect it to be soul-divulging, but her account is so whitewashed as to be almost unbelievable. Yes, all the investigations into her family's finances and personal lives by Republicans was unfair, but they also uncovered corruption and Clinton associates like Webb Hubble went to prison. Hillary writes that was "shocked" to find that her former partner was actually guilty of the charges leveled against him. So, while she blasts the entire investigation as a political game she hardly acknowledges that it uncovered crimes committed under her nose.

President Clinton told Monica Lewinsky that he'd made a concerted effort to remain faithful to Hillary after he turned 40. This indicates that he was not faithful previously, and we now know that his rendezvous with Ms. Lewinsky was only made possible by the Republican-led government shutdown that caused non-essential handlers to be out of the White House; Mrs. Clinton had made sure staffers knew to deal with Bill's "woman problem." None of that makes it into the memoir, she's shocked to find that Bill cheated on her, and spends little time reflecting on what an abuse of power it is for a boss to start a relationship with an unpaid intern. This whole account is so whitewashed, biographers will have fun with it a century from now.

That said, Clinton has had a remarkable career. She recounts her involvement making policy ranging from healthcare reform, CHIP,  welfare reform (which alienated her former friends on the previous two issues), and women's rights. I found her friendship with Jackie Kennedy interesting, and she got to witness plenty firsthand as a quasi-ambassador, from abused women in Africa to dying AIDS patients in Southeast Asia. This comes across well in the book.

However, there is nothing in here about her management or leadership styles. How did she choose and develop her staff? What books influenced her thinking? How would she manage a government agency, let alone a White House? None of that is evident in the book (do only Republicans include such things in their memoirs, it seems to be a trend).

So, this was a good recap of the Clinton White House through the eyes of the First Lady, and a little bit of info about her successful Senate run, but not many details. 2 stars out of 5

No comments: