CJR's got a good interview with John Harris, author of the Clinton assessment The Survivor. I'm on page 340 of the book and it's a fun read; not much new if you've studied the era before, but about as good an introduction as you're likely to find. Harris's insights, though, are more interesting for what they say about him than the Administration he's discussing.
Harris was the Washington Post's lead reporter on Clinton during the President's second term, and the book reflects that. It's more thoughtful and considered, sure, but Harris's focus is the same now as then: process, personalities, and politics all come before policy. No one reading the book could count themselves uninformed on how the administration's internal debates played out, but the flip side is that no one reading could call themselves experts on the policies that drove those debates.
Health care gets ten pages, and the plan itself only a few paragraphs. Welfare reform gets similar treatment. And even on these policy-heavy subjects, the serviceable descriptions of the policies are clearly subservient to the lovingly crafted retellings of the political process that forged them.
Clinton's many scandals also enter the analysis, and as you'd expect, they fill some pages. Lots of pages. And Harris, interestingly, is honest about both his irritation and fascination with them. It's not what he wanted to be covering, but he certainly took to the task with gusto. I, unlike some, don't blame him for that. I'll never forgive Clinton for Monica, a move that was both self-evidently unethical and completely relevant to his presidency. Did it affect his fitness for office? No, he was as mentally capable as ever. But it still destroyed his ability to do his job.
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