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Living History Hardcover – 9 Jun 2003
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As with most books written by politicians while in office (or at least aiming for one), Living History is, first and foremost, safe. There are interesting observations and anecdotes, the writing is engaging and there is enough inside scoop to appeal to those looking for a bit of gossip, but there are no bombshells here and it is doubtful the book will change many minds about this polarising figure. This does not mean the work is without merit, however, for Hillary Clinton has much to say about her experience as first lady, which is the primary focus of the book. Those interested in these experiences and her commentary on them will find the book worth reading; those looking for revelations will be disappointed.
Beginning with a brief outline of her childhood, college years, introduction to politics and courtship with Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton covers a wide variety of topics: life on the campaign trail, her troubled tenure as leader of the President's Task Force on National Health Care Reform, meetings with foreign leaders and her work on human rights, to name a few. By necessity, she also addresses the various scandals that plagued the administration, from Travelgate to Whitewater to impeachment, though she does not go into great detail about each one; rather, she seems content to simply state her case and move on without trying to settle too many old scores.
Along the way, she offers many apologies, though perhaps not the kind some would expect. She does not shy away from her "vast right-wing conspiracy" comment, for instance, though she does wish that she had expressed herself differently. Regarding the Monica Lewinsky scandal, she maintains that her husband initially lied to her, as he did the rest of the country, and did not come clean until two days prior to his grand jury testimony. Calling his betrayal "the most devastating, shocking and hurtful experience of my life", she explains what the aftermath was like personally and why she has elected to stand by her man. In all, Living History is an informative book that goes a long way towards humanising one of the most recognisable and controversial women of our age. --Shawn Carkonen, Amazon.com
Over the past couple of weeks, I've spent every spare minute I can with my nose buried in Living History, Hillary Clinton's engrossing account of her life (Fiona Phillips, Sunday Express)
Hillary's book is engrossing stuff. I found myself liking her and wishing she could stand for presidency next year (Daily Mail)
The book is at its best when Hillary is rueful or self-satirising (The Times)
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There are no brave new revelations into Lewinsky, Whitewater or the many other scandals and near scandals that dogged the Clinton Presidency. Handled with the skill of the politician, she passes the indiscretions to Bill to explain. Hilary Teflon.
This is not a manifesto for the Hilary Presidential campaign, but a rather bland account of her life that without admitting too many mistakes, fails to claim perfection, but is a pretty good C.V. She claims to be a wife, a mother, a sister, a woman, simply driven by John Wesleys' command to do as much good as possible.
The great right wing conspiracy theory is given an airing and not without good cause. When the most powerfull man in the world is likely to be a woman in 2008, then Hilary will find out what a right wing conspiracy is really like.
Living History has the foreboding of a job not yet finished and half time scores are not that interesting.
Clinton retires from politics and gains more of a historical perspective, she will take on the task of authoring a comprehensive analysis of the Clinton Administration. That is a book I will really look forward to reading.
Senator Clinton, a woman of my generation, writes with intelligence, wit, sensitivity and lots of savvy, about the experiences in her life that made her the woman she was on January 20, 1993, when she moved to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. It is important to understand who she was then, the product of an amazing time in history, especially for American woman, in order to appreciate just how unique she was as she began her White House years. As a woman - wife, mother, professional and a daughter of the '60s - Hillary came to the White House with the education, potential, goals (her husband's and her own), and ambitions that were totally unlike those of any First Lady before her. We catch a glimpse of the young woman who was the first student to speak at a Wellesley graduation - and who received kudos to boot. I appreciate and admire that particular early accomplishment and how hard she must have worked, scholastically and with student government, to be invited by her peers to speak. How many young women...or men...did any of us know in 1969 who could have delivered such an address to such an exacting audience? The accuracy with which she describes the issues and conflicts of the time, i.e., Vietnam, civil rights, political activism, the Equal Rights Amendment, brings back the period with all its upheaval, innocence and idealism. Hillary was a political activist, working within the system for changes that would benefit a majority of Americans, even in high school. She entered Yale Law School, when female matriculation was still a rare occurrence. During her early career she focused on children's advocacy, reform for migrant workers, education, and healthcare. In her twenties, Hillary was already a person with strong convictions, making and living history.
I enjoyed her account of her courtship with Bill, and do give him credit that he had the sense to stick with her and not select the Miss America figure that his Mom seemed to expect. From the get go, this was a couple that did well together. They were very attracted to each other, yes...and more importantly, their minds meshed.
Her account of the Health (insurance) Task Force, which she headed is disappointing. As Chairperson, she received a major appointment in President Clinton's administration, and I did expect a meatier description of the job, her duties, pitfalls, successes and failures...and, of course, the results.
When the former First Lady was interviewed on the Today Show, years ago, and talked about the "vast right-wing conspiracy," many called her paranoid and naive. Now, though she admits that "conspiracy" was not the most appropriate word, she sticks to her guns. She believes that there is a powerful and moneyed right-wing element in our country who wants to impose their political agenda on America. They spend their money, not by publicly debating issues of national importance, but by spreading scandal and destroying personal and professional reputations, at times using little more than rumor for their reality base. Although the "politics of personal destruction" had been employed long before the Clintons came on the scene, the radical conservative movement took these politics to a new high...or perhaps low is the better word... during the Clinton administration. The result was millions of US tax dollars spent trying to prove that the Clintons were guilty of illegal activities. None of the accusations proved true. Many years and investigations later, I believe that the country, and probably the Clintons, are still exhausted by all the needless vitriol.
I accept that both Hillary and Bill Clinton are super controversial figures. Yes, folks tend to either love them or hate them. Both are talented, intelligent, human beings, who sought public office to serve their country. In a democracy one does not have to agree with their political or personal philosophies. Just vote no...or yes, as the case may be.
Finally, I have read commentaries that state this memoir is lacking, because Senator Clinton did not add lurid details to her book or discuss events that have already been written about and discussed, ad nauseum. Baloney!! If you are interested in the White House Years during the Clinton Administration from the First Lady's point of view, a woman who redefined the position of presidential spouse, then you will enjoy "Living History." I did.
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