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Legacy: Paying The Price For The Clinton Years Paperback – 17 Jun 2004
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About the Author
Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He writes a twice-weekly syndicated column for King Features and is a political analyst for Fox News.
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But the attacks of 9/11 which occurred just a few months after he left office shattered that carefully manicured perception. People quickly began to ask where this global terror network sprang from, but more to the point, why the President did nothing about them since they first appeared on the CIA's 'radar' a decade earlier. It wasn't until people started asking questions that we understood what the failures in Somalia,Rwanda,Bosnia, North Korea, Kenya and Tanzania, had really cost us.
On the face of it, Clinton seemed like one of the busiest presidents in recent history. How was it possible that someone who seemed to have done so much did so little; and not just in foreign policy. The State Dept. during the '90s looked more like a UN goodwill agency than being concerned with the affairs of state. At home, the CIA and FBI were finding their hands becoming increasingly tied. Janet Reno, Clinton's appointment to Chief Justice seemed more concerned with going after absent fathers, than catching and investigating terrorists.
Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, has pieced together a cool, calm, and collected work, damning the 43rd president's term of office, not to mention the consequences of his 8 years in power. The sex scandals were merely a distraction, window dressing, to what lay beneath, and what was really going on. Considering this was published in 2003, before the 9/11 Commission Report, this is an amazing work.
Lowry really manages to get behind the spin and formidable personal defences of Clinton and his campaign `war' machine, and Lowry doesn't give an inch. While Clinton's domestic policy seemed to fare better, with a booming economy and shrinking crime rates, Lowry dissects the issues and delivers his verdict with eloquence and also balance. Where criticism is due, Lowry equally dishes it out to the Republicans too (including some of the current, grandiose claims made by Newt Gingrich in the Republican presidential race). I have to say overall I found Lowry to be quite harsh on Clinton at first, but the more I read the more Lowry convinced me.
Originally, I had ordered this book because of my interest in America's foreign policy prior to 9/11, but found myself engaged not only in a witty, perceptive, and informative biography of the man, the politician and his (scary)wife, but a snapshot of a country all too decadent and that had let its guard down in a post Cold War world. Lowry not only covers the major issues of the presidency, but the minutiae of laws, policy changes and other common issues (such as crime, the economy, environment etc.) which Clinton took credit for, but which Lowry shows Clinton as having little, if anything to do with.
One of the central character flaws Clinton showed was timidity, in virtually all areas except sex. It was largely due to Clinton's fear of upsetting his carefully created public image that stopped him from doing anything that would jeopardise it. In fact, vetting could be described as Bill Clinton's key method of leadership.
The underlying criteria that would define the Clinton administration were polls. Polls decided everything from where Bill should go on holiday to whether he should tell the truth about Monica. By the end of Clinton's time in office, he would spend more on polls than all other American presidents in history combined. What's more, even as his responsibilities increased, he still spent hours pondering each question on a poll. Clinton, then, was the man-child In Chief; smart, talented, hyper-articulate, but caught in a childish, Woody Allen-esque self-obsession.
Clinton's greatest concern was himself, or rather his legacy and how he'd be seen in history. In Dec 1997 Clinton even complained to the New York Times that history seemed to be determined to rob him of some challenge he could rise to, which would give Clinton a chance to create his legacy. Yet he repeatedly refused to handle the various incidents that occurred during his premiership, he refused to tackle the various issues staring him in the face; the biggest of which was the rise of Osama bin Laden.
One of the most fully rounded books on politics I own, and crucial for any student of politics or political science; those wanting a good first book on politics or just a downright entertaining read.
Blocking the Path to 9-11 [DVD] The film about why the amazing ABC documentary, 'The Path To 9/11' based on the 9/11 Commission Report, is being blocked by the Clintons.
Hatred's Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism With a great history of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Secret War with Iran: The 30-year Covert Struggle for Control of a Rogue State
Descent into Chaos: The world's most unstable region and the threat to global security
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Besides the sexual escapades of Commander-In-Chief Clinton (which would result in court martials for his military subordinates), Mr. Lowry describes President Clinton's aversion to any confrontation which would damage what he believes was his national and international image and mar his "legacy." His charisma and ability to say exactly what people wanted to hear blinded so many to his inability to lead, most notably when global terrorists began attacking the U.S, i.e., USS Cole, Khobar Towers, Somolia, World Trade Center, etc. Due to his disdain of the military and enforcement authorities, the FBI, CIA and mililtary had their budgets and personnel slashed, and our intelligence community suffered and had their priorities changed to global environmental issues and other avenues that had nothing to do with national security. Mr. Lowry tells of the FBI head, Louis Freeh, not having a direct meeting with the President for 4 years! Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden knew all this, of course, and didn't hesitate to take advantage and wreak their havoc.
President and Mrs. Clinton rode a wave of prosperity for which they took full credit that had its beginning long before they took office, and the bubble starting collapsing at least 18 months before they left office. I can personally attest to that from my own personal meager portfolio.
Mr. Lowry has drawn a timeline of events that eventually leads to 9/11/01, and I have a much broader understanding of the reasons we are presently in Iraq. I would highly recommend this book to any Americans who care to understand why we are where we are. Mr. Clinton was so concerned with leaving a "Legacy", but we will pay for his "Legacy" for many years to come.
I could not believe that Clinton ran his presidency on the basis of opinion polls. He was elected to rule not follow the feelings of public sentiment. I think that the people should get their money back from his eight years because we seem to have decided all the issues. This was not leadership at all. His policy not to meet with the head of the CIA because he wanted to focus only domestic policy his first years in office was ridiculious. I was not surprised to find out that Hillary needed to give approval but I didn't know how much she hated all white males and that they are all evil. I espically liked the line she used when asked what to do for white males. She said "Screw 'em!!!"
In the scandal and law section I could not believe all the lawsuits that this guy got in. I didn't realize Clinton got the state police to get him girls. The book really emphasises the adultry thing when I think that is minor compared to his getting illegal foreign money to pay for his campaign in '96. The only reason he settled with Jennifer Flowers was because he lied under oath and was caught with Monica.
In the foreign policy section Clinton seemed very naive. He thought every one wanted to work together in harmony. He trusted Arafat and it revialized him and made Clinton look like a fool. He didn't do a thing when 800,000 were killed in Rwanda but he was Africa's friend. In Somilia he tried to build a nation but got shot at and ran away. He gave away a plethora of technology to American enemies to line his pockets.
The shows the most in the final chapter where they tell what he is doing now. He is getting as many speaking enagements for as much money as possible.
Overall the book was interesting but it was pretty right-wing if you're a Clinton lover you won't like it. If you can handle that then book's strongest part is the information on foreign policy.
Rich Lowry divides his book into three parts: domestic policy, scandals, and foreign policy. Clinton�s biggest claim to fame is that he presided over record prosperity. The claim is that Clinton�s tax increases reduced the deficit, resulting in a reduction in interest rates and an economic expansion. Lowry points out that the expansion was well underway before Clinton took office. Annual $200 billion deficits were predicted well after the tax increase. Interest rates actually increased after the tax increase. What helped Clinton most was the business cycle. Besides good timing (the downturn was starting just as he left office) Clinton deserves credit for supporting free trade and cooperating with a Republican Congress (which he unintentionally put in power) in his second term.
Clinton�s main scandals were Whitewater, his perjury about his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, and his fundraising scandal. Lowry leaves little doubt about Clinton�s guilt. Clinton�s own lawyer admitted that reasonable people could consider Clinton guilty of serious charges. Lowry makes several interesting points about what saved Clinton: (1) he was very experienced in running a cover-up; and (2) by the mid-1990s there was a substantial constituency that supported offences related to sex. Indeed, the one area where Clinton was bold was the pursuit of adultery.
The worst part of Clinton�s legacy was foreign policy. He did very little about Saddam Hussein or al Qaeda. When dealing with terrorists or dangerous regimes his military policy seemed to be �Thou shall not kill.� Unfortunately, terrorists did not reciprocate. They were emboldened by Clinton�s unwillingness to take serious action. Now his successor has to deal with unpleasant realities that Clinton put off to avoid taking risks.
Some minor criticisms are in order: In his Troopergate story David Brock made it plain that he was quoting a state trooper; if his quote was wrong it was the trooper who was at fault. Lowry should have realized this when he later mentions that Jones sued the trooper for defamation. In covering the scandals Lowry should have mentioned that Clinton�s Justice Department harassed The American Spectator on the basis of unreliable evidence. Lowry may be wrong in thinking that Clinton�s removal from office would have helped the Democrats in 2000. While this would have given Al Gore a head start, it also would have caused a great deal of recriminations among Democrats.
These complaints are quibbles. Overall, this is a fine book. Readers shouldn�t overlook the Notes section. It�s about 100 pages and has lots of interesting material.