The Clinton Wars

Overview

An invaluable history of an extraordinary presidency, and the chronicle of a generation’s political odyssey

When in 1997 Bill Clinton appointed Sidney Blumenthal as a senior advisor, the former writer was catapulted into the front lines of the Clinton wars. From his first day in the White House until long after his appearance as the only presidential aide ever to testify in an impeachment trial, Blumenthal acted in or witnessed nearly all the battles of the Clinton years. His ...

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2003 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Ex-library. Book is a WLP in As New condition: FILL Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 832 p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: ... General/trade. Read more Show Less

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<B> The title of journalist turned-embattled-White House aide Sidney Blumenthal's memoir/history of his tumultuous years inside the Clinton presidency is both literal and ... figurative, if something of an understatement; "apocalypse" would seem more to the point. Erudite and fiercely unapologetic, Blumenthal belatedly provides the overwrought saga's protagonists what they so often publicly lacked in its historical context: passionate advocacy and precious perspective. No mere presidential history, the battles chronicled here transcend politics as usual, bitter partisan campaigns whose roots Blumenthal forcefully argues extend beneath lingering class and generational resentments into the darkest heart of America's Southern racist past. <p><b> Hillary Clinton's accusations of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" garnered cynical chuckles in its heyday; Blumenthal (whose own teasing White House nickname was "Grassy Knoll") merely cuts its treachery down to size, documenting the usual suspects, dates, and places with amply footnoted vengeance. There's irony to burn, from unexpected early Clinton supporters (former GOP standard bearer Barry Goldwater) and the blatant moral hypocrisy of his Congressional accusers to the Supreme Court's sole dissenting voice in arguments to reinstate the Special Prosecutor statute, Justice Scalia (who presciently warned it could easily become the tool of political witch hunts), and the heretical notion that the Clintons may have been the least cynical players in the entire drama; they certainly seem it's most tragically human. It's hardly surprising that much of the Washington news establishment has attacked Blumenthal's tome with equal ferocity; in Blumenthal's telling, the D.C. press corps that zealously safeguarded democracy during Watergate had by the advent of Clinton devolved into an insular faux aristocracy resentful of perceived carpetbaggers (especially from Arkansas) and suckers for any politically-motivated leak, rumor, or innuendo that might give them a leg up on the competition. T Read more Show Less

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2003 Hard cover First edition. STATED 1ST EDITION, 1ST PRINTING New in new dust jacket. BRIGHT SHINY BRAND NEW Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 832 p. Contains: Illustrations. ... Audience: General/trade. Read more Show Less

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The Clinton Wars

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Overview

An invaluable history of an extraordinary presidency, and the chronicle of a generation’s political odyssey

When in 1997 Bill Clinton appointed Sidney Blumenthal as a senior advisor, the former writer was catapulted into the front lines of the Clinton wars. From his first day in the White House until long after his appearance as the only presidential aide ever to testify in an impeachment trial, Blumenthal acted in or witnessed nearly all the battles of the Clinton years. His major new book—part history, part memoir—is the first inside account we have of the presidency of William Jefferson Clinton.

The Clinton Wars begins in 1987, when Blumenthal first met Bill and Hillary Clinton. His chronicle of Clinton’s first presidential campaign and first term draws on his experiences as confidant to both the President and the First Lady, and is enriched with previously unpublished revelations about both. This remarkable personal interpretation goes far in explaining the polarizing nature of Clinton’s presence on the national scene.

The narrative of Clinton’s second term is even more dramatic. Blumenthal takes special note of the battle that was waged within the media between the President’s detractors and defenders, which he expands into a vivid picture of Washington society torn apart by warring factions. But he does not neglect the wars fought on other fronts—in Kosovo, against Congress, and for economic prosperity. His remarkable book ends with the inside story of the fight to elect Al Gore in 2000 and extend the legacy of the Clinton-Gore Administration.

Every page of this unrivaled, authoritative book, with itsintimate insights into Clinton’s personality and politics, attests to Blumenthal’s literary skill, profound understanding of politics, and unique perspective on crucial events of our recent past. The Clinton Wars is a lasting contribution to American history.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Former White House aide Sidney Blumenthal takes us behind the scenes of the historic Clinton presidency, examining its stunning accomplishments and crushing failures and analyzing the bitter divisiveness that characterized the Beltway politics and media coverage of the day.
The New York Times
Blumenthal's book may do more to stir old controversies than settle them. But participants in the Clinton wars would do well to understand that re-fighting 90's battles will be of less benefit to the country than detached analysis explaining how we can avoid future unproductive quarrels over the personal weaknesses of our presidents. Still, for anyone who wants to revisit the political acrimony of the Clinton years, Blumenthal's book is the place to begin. — Robert Dallek
Publishers Weekly
Blumenthal's 800-page gorilla of a book is the former Clinton adviser's indictment of his, and his boss's, pursuers: Republicans in Congress, Kenneth Starr and his minions and the journalists he says were their patsies. It's also a defense of his own role in the Clinton scandals and a loyal account of Clinton's presidency as a highly successful one dedicated to progressive values. The heart of the book is an often tediously detailed account of the Whitewater investigation, the Lewinsky scandal and the impeachment, in which his own role was notable-accused of smearing the opposition, he was known to the anti-Clintonites as "Sid Vicious" and was the only presidential aide called to a deposition at the Senate impeachment hearings (which culminate in a hilarious "Alice in Wonderland" q&a session). The scandals are sandwiched between drier, partisan accounts of Clinton's policies and actions both before and after impeachment, but with only rare glimpses of Clinton the man. Blumenthal argues that there was "an Italianate conspiracy" arrayed against Clinton, "an intricate, covert, amoral operation bent on power," funded by Richard Mellon Scaife and fronted by a ruthlessly vindictive Starr. But Blumenthal is most damning about his onetime colleagues in the press (he wrote for the New Republic and the Washington Post); journalists admitted to him, he says, that they couldn't criticize Starr because they needed leaks from his staff for their stories. Blumenthal paints nasty portraits of Matt Drudge (who accused him of wife-beating), the late Michael Kelly (who here displays an irrational hatred of him) and Christopher Hitchens ("capable of doing harm without conscience or regret"). Often fascinating and undoubtedly controversial, Blumenthal's book will receive much media attention, but most readers will wish it were a whole lot shorter. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374125028
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 5/20/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 832
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.36 (h) x 1.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Sidney Blumenthal wrote for The Washington Post and The New Yorker before serving as assistant and senior advisor to President Clinton from August 1997 until January 2001. He is the author of several books, including The Permanent Campaign, The Rise of the Counter-Establishment, and Pledging Allegiance: The Last Campaign of the Cold War. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife; they have two sons.
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Read an Excerpt

ONE

The Challenge to the Old Order

I

Bill Clinton had been president for only a few weeks, less than half of the fabled First Hundred Days by which all presidents have been early judged since Franklin D. Roosevelt's first burst of the New Deal. "Action, action, and more action," FDR had demanded. Now it was March 1993, sixty years later, and President Clinton was coming to Hyde Park.

I arrived early because I wanted to wander around Roosevelt's presidential library to soak up the atmosphere before the clamorous entourage wheeled in. Usually, the press corps traveling with the president misses any sense of place. The media are everywhere and nowhere at once. Acrobats in the circus get to see more of where they are while the tent is pitched. The press corps lives with the motorcade. My White House pass, showing that I represented The New Yorker magazine, got me quickly past the checkpoints of the local police and the sentries of the Secret Service. Their cordon for the new president made this plot of land something of a sanctuary, untrammeled by tourists or even stray scholars burrowing in the yellowing archives.

The cold gray sky cast no shadows down the long lawn stretching from the road to the single-story library. I walked undisturbed and alone past the exhibits. The whole Roosevelt life was encapsulated there. A bronzed statue of the lanky, carefree boy Franklin lounged on his back. Campaign buttons and banners traced the journey from the New York state senate to his last race for the presidency in 1944. Around the corner was the matter-of-fact typewritten letter from Albert Einstein in 1939 urging Roosevelt to develop an atomic bomb before the Nazis did. The artifacts displayed in the old oak cases were like pieces of bone in a natural history museum. The fragments could just hint at the passions, hatreds, and turmoil aroused by the squire who often conducted the swirling business of the nation from his serene Hudson Valley estate. Neatly contained, row after row, from beginning to end, from bucolic boyhood to world statesman, here it was: the past under glass. The story has been drummed into us as though foretold. Every chapter makes complete sense because we know every twist and turn, including the death of the President near Easter in 1945 on the eve of a redemptive victory in war, as Lincoln's death had been. The story, told in retrospect through our parents' lives in the Depression and the Second World War, remains vibrant in almost every family.

But to those who bore its responsibilities, much of this story of an American president appeared as an unlit passage, and the ghosts were not speaking. Their silence was a false signal that what had occurred before was, if not simpler, then always clearer to those working their way through the events. Roosevelt and those around him, even those in his "brain trust" who had been ascribed omniscient understanding, could not predict the storms that would envelop them. No matter how bold their devices, they were constantly disrupted and recast. The president and his advisers could not see around every turn or know when dangerous obstacles might suddenly appear. Often, they could not predict the consequences of their own plans. Exactly what destiny they would arrive at and by what rendezvous they could not say. It is easy to imagine the past as an epic, like a movie seamlessly edited and comfortably paced; it is hard to imagine it as it was experienced. No matter how vivid a vision of the future one may have, the real future is always wrapped in obscurity.

I could hear my own footsteps as I walked past black-and-white photographs of FDR grandly gesturing to roaring crowds. Then, suddenly, came whirling lights, sirens, and black vans soon catching up with their alarms. Out tumbled aides and reporters, hitting the ground running, like an army landing on a beachhead. The present was invading the preserve of the past.

I mingled inside the library with the expectant trustees and dignitaries. The chairman of the library, William vanden Heuvel, a former aide to Robert F. Kennedy and former ambassador, keeper of the perpetual Roosevelt flame, lovingly opened a book as large as a Gutenberg Bible with vellum pages. It was an unusual guest book: he tamed to the signatures of Winston Churchill and then Lyndon Johnson.

If the relationship between Roosevelt and Churchill was that of cousins, the one between Roosevelt and Johnson was between a "daddy," as LBJ called Roosevelt, and his boy. The gangly congressman from Texas, an ardent New Dealer, saw his own presidency as fulfilling his political daddy's mission, realized at last as the Great Society. But Johnson's shattered presidency had left an unfinished legacy for another generation. What would Clinton make of it? The book was readied for Bill Clinton to sign his name.

President Clinton brought in with him a stream of cool, brisk air from outside. At six feet, two inches, with a jutting jaw, gray-green eyes, a ruddy complexion, and loose long limbs, Clinton was the most physically imposing person in the room, as he almost always was. He was immediately accessible, never at a loss for words, yet the strangeness of having a brand-new Democratic president roaming around FDR's home created what seemed a startle reflex among the older legatees. Suddenly, the Hyde Park library didn't feel like Harvard's Peabody Museum. The dust started to be shaken; the pinned exhibits almost seemed to want to move; the past was no longer at rest. It would in time be seen in a new shadow and a new light. But nobody knew what those would be.

Just before New Year's Eve in 1987, I had gone to Hilton Head, South Carolina, for what was then a little-known gathering called Renaissance Weekend, attended by a few hundred mostly Southern participants. Almost everyone there appeared on one or another panel, on any number of political, cultural, and religious subjects. Friends of mine had suggested to me that if I should go to this weekend, I should try to meet a contemporary, the forty-one-year-old governor of Arkansas. I was then a writer on the national staff of The Washington Post.

Clinton and I sat squinting in the winter sun and talked for an hour about his ambitions to be a national figure. He just didn't know how that was going to happen. He was little known beyond Arkansas and had little hope of getting recognized. Governors knew him, of course, but to the general public he was a cipher. I thought he was being perhaps too blunt about his ambition with someone he had just met. He fitted into the enduring category of rising stars to whom nothing might ever happen. Energy in politicians does not necessarily equal mass or the speed of light. Governors and senators from larger states, touted by newspaper columnists as future presidents, regularly melt away. With the Democratic primaries about six weeks away, Clinton wasn't even a candidate. The political talk was focused on the chances of Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts. Clinton was on the sidelines, yet he was feeling his way to a starting gate in the distant future. In his conversation with me, however, he grasped that he was venturing forth during a moment when politics was changing, in particular because of the evolving role of the media, which were disturbingly erasing the distinction between public and private life. Already, two prospective Democratic candidates, Gary Hart and Joseph Biden, had been forced out of the race by the increasingly antagonistic media. Reporters had staked out Hart, who they believed rightly was having an affair, and at a crowded news conference one asked him if he had ever committed adultery. The invisible barrier protecting politicians from probes into their private behavior that had no public impact or appearance was removed. With the heat shield gone, Hart was incinerated. Biden's sin was that he had engaged in a rhetorical flight of fancy about his family's grit, from time immemorial as common a technique for a candidate as extolling his own patriotism, and had done so in words borrowed from a British politician. The intense media glare wilted his financial backers and campaign staff overnight. For his old-fashioned stem-winding eloquence, Biden was shamed into quitting as an exaggerator and a plagiarist.

Though different in detail, the Hart and Biden incidents together showed that power had shifted. Long before the voters entered into the presidential selection process, the media had changed their unwritten rules. A story sparked by one newspaper or television outlet rapidly spread into what was hailed in newsrooms as a "firestorm." Prestigious news organizations that had once disdained stories about sex inevitably wound up justifying covering them as part of a reality they just couldn't ignore. It was not simply that the press was rightfully being more independent in its scrutiny of politicians' claims. In the new game, the politicians' effort at self-presentation would be met as a challenge to the media's self-proclaimed prerogatives.

That winter evening in 1987, Clinton stepped onto the stage at Renaissance Weekend and spoke extemporaneously for about a half hour about his decision not to run for the presidency in the coming campaign. He admitted that he wanted to run, but wasn't ready. Clinton explained himself at the same time as a member of his generation and as a completely engaged politicians Politics was clearly his calling — how he thought, felt, and spoke. At forty-one, he vibrated with the idea of running for national office but was unprepared to enter a terra incognita, and he worried aloud about what the erasure of the distinction between public and private life would mean. Even in voicing his uncertainty, he was involving his listeners in his drama, enlisting their hopes and anxieties; they were caught up in concern about his fate. Later he drew on a number of them for posts in his administration.

A heated discussion ensued about the fate of the leaderless Democratic Party, still entrapped in the age of Reagan. In the middle of the free-for-all, a woman with shoulder-length brown hair and thick glasses stood up. It was the thirty-nine-year-old Hillary Rodham Clinton. She spoke deliberately and pointedly. Her thoughts were framed with great logic. She was emphatic but composed. She referred to what her husband had said and provided steel bracing for his expansive talk. Hillary had the effect of settling in Bill's favor whatever matter was at issue. The issue here, of course, was Bill himself. When the formal session concluded, Bill and Hillary stood a few yards apart, continuing the discussion with separate knots of people, but they were a team.

The next day I noticed that Clinton was carrying a book filled with papers under his arm as he made his way from table to table at the buffet lunch: it was The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy, by William Julius Wilson. This was a rethinking of the reasons for job loss and welfare, and it focused on how the deindustrialization of America's cities had left blacks there structurally removed from employment. Clinton and I chatted about Wilson's policy approach compared to others. After a few days' exposure to him, my initial impression of a young man in a hurry was evolving and deepening. To be sure, he had ambition, but he possessed more than that essential quality. He was a charismatic if loquacious speaker who had an easy facility with the arcana of public policy. His formidable wife was a force in her own right. He was ambivalent about his future in a swirling political world and hinted at personal difficulties. Underlying it all was a determination to bring the Republican era to a close and alter the coordinates of politics.

Copyright © 2003 Sidney Blumenthal

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Table of Contents

1 The Challenge to the Old Order 3
2 The Forces Are Arrayed 46
3 First Blood 115
4 Clinton's Strategic Offensive 137
5 Hillary Under Siege 166
6 A Political Education 193
7 Mine Canary 232
8 Inside the West Wing 257
9 Clinton's Third Way 298
10 Seven Days in January 318
11 In Starr's Chamber 380
12 The Reign of Witches 432
13 Show Trial 497
14 The Twenty-first Century 629
15 A New York State of Mind 676
16 The Stolen Succession 700
17 The Sands of Time 773
18 The American Conflict 788
Acknowledgments 801
Index 803
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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Sidney Blumenthal
Barnes & Noble.com is pleased to present an exclusive interview with Sidney Blumenthal, senior adviser to former president Bill Clinton and author of The Clinton Wars. We asked him via email about writing the book, the Ken Starr investigation, and more -- and here are his explosive answers.

Barnes & Noble.com: The Clinton Wars painstakingly documents the time you spent working in the Clinton White House and, among many other episodes, your involvement in the Ken Starr Whitewater/Lewinsky investigation. When did you decide to write this book, and was it difficult to recall events you'd probably like to forget?

Sidney Blumenthal: I had a unique vantage point and a special responsibility to record what I saw for history. My book is the complete story, not only from inside the West Wing but from sources in the Congress and even from the Office of the Independent Counsel. During my work in the White House and while writing The Clinton Wars, many people, including my former colleagues, gave me crucial factual information that was not in the news accounts at the time.

If there was anything that was difficult to write about, it was the constant vilification that I was subjected to, along with others, not least the president and first lady. Starting with my first day at work, when Matt Drudge posted a defamatory lie on his Internet site smearing my wife (who was the director of the White House Fellows program) and me -- inspired by partisan right-wingers -- the falsehoods never really stopped. I describe in the book how I had to put on armor every day, wear a game face, and try not to allow myself to be distracted from the important work on the president's program. That was the case for many of us in the White House. Writing the truth about this "reign of witches" (a phrase of Thomas Jefferson's that I take for one chapter title) -- from Drudge's lie to being falsely accused of the very smear tactics of personal destruction that the right wing was engaged in -- was cathartic, not only personally but in setting the historical record straight.

B&N.com: How many times during Starr's investigation did you think, OK, it's finally over -- we can relax?

SB: After the midterm elections of 1998, almost everyone in the White House believed that the Republicans would not push forward with a partisan impeachment. They had just lost seats because of their extremism on the issue -- an unprecedented result for a midterm for a second-term incumbent president. But, as I relate in the book, through an extraordinary interview with one of the key House managers, they were living in a self-enclosed universe of their own, isolated from larger realities, in denial about the public's rejection of their plan for impeachment, and stoking up their self-image as warriors. It took a full month for us to realize that the Republicans had no intention of listening to the voters and intended to force an impeachment.

B&N.com: Should Ken Starr even have been in the position of running what seemed to many to be a partisan inquiry?

SB: At the time of his appointment, as I point out in The Clinton Wars, Ken Starr was acclaimed by the Washington establishment as a judicious figure. But he turned out to be more than temperamentally unsuited for the job. He was a weak, indecisive man who was easily won over by the appeals to toughness by his thuggish deputies. He had conflicting ties to the political right, including the Paula Jones legal team, that should have disqualified him from the post in the first place, but which he did not disclose at the time of his appointment. And he had no prosecutorial experience whatsoever, so he deferred to his rough-and-ready crew that even, as I report, called the professional prosecutors among them "commie wimps."

Starr was also a culturally narrow man, with an obsessive fixation on President Clinton and consumed with his own sense of piety, which he confused with the truth. As I report in the book, on Whitewater and all the other so-called scandals before him, his own legal counselor, Samuel Dash (famed as a former Watergate counsel), reviewed all the prosecution memos and told Starr that there was absolutely nothing to indicate wrongdoing by the Clintons and that his responsibility as a prosecutor was to drop it all. "They had nothing," Dash told me. "Zero plus zero plus zero equals zero," Dash informed him. Another of Starr's top professional prosecutors told me for The Clinton Wars: "It was clear that this was a mean-spirited, political motivated investigation."

B&N.com: You make it very clear in The Clinton Wars that Bill Clinton was well aware of the threats posed by Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, and you document his attempts to deal with them both. How much did the attention paid to Clinton's personal life distract the president from protecting the homeland?

SB: President Clinton was never distracted from the struggle against terrorism and against Osama bin Laden in particular. In August 1998, after the East Africa embassy bombings, he ordered the missile attack on bin Laden's base in Afghanistan that only barely missed killing him by hours. And there were many, many other actions taken. Unfortunately, some Republicans said that the war on terrorism was a ruse to distract from impeachment. They claimed it resembled a movie, Wag the Dog, about a president who fabricates a war. And they were encouraged in this by some in the media. But this was a very real war to President Clinton. And terrorist attacks timed for the millennium celebration were thwarted.

When we left office, the Clinton national security officials held several lengthy briefings for the incoming Bush administration, warning that terrorism was an imminent danger. I reveal in The Clinton Wars that Don Kerrick, a three-star general, who was our last deputy national security adviser, stayed on for several months into the new Bush administration, and sent its national security officials a memo stated: "We will be hit again." Kerrick said that his memo was ignored. "They were not focusing," he told me. "They didn't see terrorism as the big mega-issue that the Clinton administration saw it."

B&N.com: Coincidentally, as your book is being published, Hillary Clinton's long-awaited memoir is also just about to come out. Have you and Senator Clinton discussed your respective book projects? Have you been able to read any of her book?

SB: I did not give copies of my book to former President Clinton and Senator Clinton until it was finished. They've read it now, and they think it provides a true history and context of the times. Hillary told me she didn't know "half of it." And the former president told The New York Times: "It's a roaring good read." I haven't read Hillary's book yet, but I'm sure it tells a real story and will also be an important contribution to history. Our books will be complementary.

B&N.com: Many in politics and the media scoffed when Hillary Clinton spoke of "a vast right-wing conspiracy." In a sense, you yourself became a victim of that conspiracy, didn't you?

SB: I don't think of myself as a victim at all. I was proud to stand up against the right-wing assault on the progressive Clinton presidency and against the Constitution. I was hauled before Starr's grand jury three times because he wanted to intimidate everyone by making an example of me. I was being very critical of his bullying tactics, his political motivation, and his illegal leaking of stories to an all-too-compliant, sensationalizing media. I describe in The Clinton Wars what it was like in the grand jury to be asked endless, paranoid questions by the prosecutors, and how my speech on the courthouse steps, saying that I would not be intimidated, helped the American people to see Starr's inquisition for what it was.

B&N.com: Have you ever had a chance to confront Ken Starr privately? Is there one question you'd like to ask him?

SB: Starr never questioned a single witness in his grand jury, yet he appeared before the House Judiciary Committee as the only fact witness on the "evidence." Like the other witnesses, I never met him. The question I'd ask him is why didn't he listen to his own counselor, Sam Dash, who told him there was nothing to Whitewater and all the other pseudo-scandals and who urged him as a professional matter to wrap up the investigation with a report declaring that the Clintons had committed nothing wrong, which is what happened in the end, in any case, but only after years of tearing the country apart in his effort to get President Clinton.

B&N.com: How frustrated were the Republicans at not being able to "get" President Clinton?

SB: The effort to stop President Clinton from enacting his progressive agenda to get the country moving again began from the moment he assumed office. I describe in The Clinton Wars that when the Republicans captured the Congress in 1994, their new speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, turned more than 20 committees into investigative bodies. The Republicans were so determined to get Clinton that they were willing to lose two speakers of the House to gaudy sex scandals of their own; they were willing to attack President Clinton for his struggle against terrorism and Saddam Hussein; they were willing to prevent a resolution in the House of support for our armed forces in the Kosovo War from passing.

And, of course, the House Republican leadership and then Whip Tom DeLay especially, as I detail in the book, coerced through threats Republican members to vote for an impeachment that failed to establish any constitutional standards. Congressman Peter King, Republican of New York, told me: "Most of the pressure [on Republicans] went through the Christian right network. It happened over a ten-day period. The whole world changed."

B&N.com: Can one argue that the right wing's assault on the Clintons effectively delivered the presidency to George W. Bush, in that Al Gore was reluctant to use a scandal-battered Bill Clinton to campaign for him -- a move that might have given Gore the needed electoral votes to win.

SB: Al Gore won the popular majority of the votes handily -- and if they had been counted, he would have almost certainly have emerged as the winner in Florida. Gore's hesitance to send President Clinton out to campaign for him fostered an issue that the Republicans turned into a "character" issue about Gore. The systematic stream of stories they created about Gore as a liar and exaggerator were false and distorting, but the Republicans, through a tabloid-minded press, managed to turn Gore's image into a negative one.

In Florida, Republicans even used mob violence against county supervisors to stop the votes from being counted. Most of the votes that turned out not to be counted were cast by African Americans. When the Supreme Court gave the presidency to Bush by a vote of five to four, it was the worst case of voter suppression of black voting rights since the days of Jim Crow.

B&N.com: To play devil's advocate for a moment, in a time of war and economic malaise, why should readers want to read your book? Isn't all this "old news?"

SB: History will make its own judgment of the Clinton presidency. But I think its achievements provide clear guidelines for the future.

As I write: "The Clinton wars over the progressive presidency and its uses of government had a partisan cast, but they were not about one side versus another as in some sporting match. They focused on Clinton the man because he personified his office, but at issue was how the executive would use the instruments of government. Would they be wielded on behalf of the interests of the great majority of citizens, allowing the Constitution to be a living document for advancing the people's rights and social equality and the nation's needs -- 'the organic law,' as Lincoln called it -- and the United States to be a vital nation advancing public purposes? Or would the executive branch define the nation as a shell, a confederation of states, clearing the way for private special interests, and asserting the armed forces as the only expression of national power?"

This underlying conflict between democracy and the old order will go on. To quote the book, "Bush's efforts to repeal the progressive policies of the twentieth century were bound to provoke a new politics of crisis. The Clinton wars were over, but there would be intense conflicts to come."

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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2004

    Good Read

    The Clinton Wars is a very good book about the eight years of unending legal maneuvers put forth by the right to have Clinton impeached. Yes the man has his faults, but who doesn't. If the left was has well funded as the right than the current 'president' would be in trouble. This is a very well written and informative book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2003

    Wonderfully descriptive

    This novel was a breeze to read with tons of factual information on the Clinton years that were brushed past in Living History. I love this book and the same goes for Bill!!! Too bad he can't run again, I'm holding out for Hillary in 2008!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2003

    Pay attention

    I find it very interesting that the critics are surprised at the book's length. Clinton did serve for 8 years, so 100 pages per year does not seem to be too much. As for the substance of the book, it is extremely enlightening and well documented. With the facts on his side, Blumenthal is able to explain by example the problems with a political party that chooses to lead by deception (the Republicans), a media that has a strong profit motive, and a country that is sexually repressed. This is a must read for anyone that is concerned about the state of our democracy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2003

    Even better than expected

    At 800+ pages, 'The Clinton Wars' takes a while to finish, but the time and effort are well worth it. While I also enjoyed 'The Natural' and 'Living History', this book contains a broader and deeper inventory of information than both of those books, combined.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2003

    So that's what really happened!

    Last summer, I read an out of print book about past presidents. It stated that numerous presidential administrative staffs have semi-destroyed the West Wing offices upon departing and this is actually a tradition. According to the news media when Clinton¿s staff left, the offices were destroyed, some hinted at criminal charges and no mention was ever made of the long standing tradition or the condition of the offices when Clinton began his first term. But, I also read that Clinton¿s staff attempted to break tradition by only removing the ¿W¿s on the keyboards and otherwise left the offices intact. So which is it? I read this book to find out what happened during the Clinton years from a Clinton staff member¿s point of view. I had just finished listening to Hilary Clinton¿s book, ¿Living History¿, on tape and wanted more factual information. Her book is wonderful, but I didn¿t find it convincing. ¿The Clinton Wars¿ is full of factual information such as reprints of documents, direct quotes and much of the information is footnoted. It is very convincing. Yes, the book also lists all of what the author considers Clinton¿s greatest achievements. He does not list any of former president¿s failures. I didn¿t expect to find that information in this book. If this was a definitive look at the Clinton presidency it should have had a more balanced description of the president¿s successes and failures, but it is not. This book describes what went on in the White House during the Clinton presidency while the media was lead on a full scale assault on the president, the first lady and their staff. It clearly outlines the events, sources of information, key players and their motives. After reading this I read David Brock¿s ¿Blinded by the Right¿ which was the perfect next step.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2003

    Clinton Wars

    This well written book is written from the vantage point of someone who had first hand knowledge of what it was like to be under attack from the 'vast right-wing conspirators'. Sidney Blumenthal tells a compelling story of his years working for and fighting for the Clinton Administration in this very informative book. We, the public, received very little information from the Clinton side and now I see why. Because of the investigation, anyone who is suppoened is not suppose to talk about the case, thus, stiffling any defensive actions. They couldn't talk to the public about much of what was going on, but Starr and his henchmen (they were almost worse than Starr) were leaking information right and left, much of it very misleading and lies. When Blumenthal, through his connections, tried to get the truth out and Starr started to look bad, they suppoened him in the Lewinsky case, even though he never knew her or knew anything about her and Clinton, to silence him. The astronomical legal fees the innocent victims of Starr amassed were certainly unjust and inhumane. This book contains a large portion dealing with the Lewinsky/Clinton/Starr war along with other personal, political (at home and abroad) wars and well as Hillary's and Gore's campaign and elections with a look at their battles. It is a book written by someone who had first-hand knowledge of those years, and who tells of his own legal battles and even though he was disappointed in Clinton's moral faux he still believes, rightly so, that the Clintons accomplished many good and beneficial things for the people of both this country and other countries. Oh, to be back in the good ole days of the Clinton administration. I have always voted for the person who I thought would do the best for all the people, regardless of party, but now I don't feel that I or my country can afford to vote for the Republicans, even though I know there are many good ones, because of how betrayed we have been by the right-wing conservatives.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2003

    Some Bright Spots

    I am a Clinton supporter, but was, for the most part, disappointed in The Clinton Wars. At no point in this book is Blumenthal critical of Clinton or any administration policy. It is unfortunate because we need people like Blumenthal to inform us about the inner workings of the West Wing so we can begin to develop a historical analysis of the administration. If you are careful and can read past the clearly partisan tilt, there are some things that you can learn about the man and the administration, although the little useful info that is available is not worth plowing through the 800 pages. For a balanced, early analysis of Clinton read 'The Natural' by Joe Klein.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2003

    Good tale

    Blumenthal's book does much more than re-tell the Lewinsky saga. It provides the reader with the kind of insight and exposure to life in American politics not seen in years. It evaluates the role of the press, the failure of Clinton's advisors to focus on big-picture messages and the strength of the Ken Starr crowd. Blumenthal includes some very relevant anecdotes that give the reader detailed insight into the Clinton White House. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but wish the author had more thoroughly addressed the disconnect between the press and the public.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2003

    Fascinating Look Inside The Clinton White House!

    Finally, the other shoe drops. While I shared the dismay of most Americans over the excesses and sordid aspects of the Clinton presidency, I tire of the persistent neo-conservative spin, which rather categorically discounts much of the positive thrust of the Clinton years in terms of balancing the budget, accomplishing welfare reform, and creating the underlying conditions for the largest and longest economic expansion since World War Two. And while no one can seriously suggest Mr. Clinton was singularly responsible for the many accomplishments of his administrations, he certainly was a critical player in making the kind of social and economic progress Americans enjoyed during his eight-year presidency. In this massive reconsideration of the accomplishments and endeavors of the Clinton presidency, Clinton¿s former advisor Sidney Blumenthal marshals a convincing argument for the many significant milestones achieved by Bill Clinton. His personal take is fascinating as it helps lay persons to better understand the crucible of competing interests and opposed groups that scramble for a hearing and a helpful push by the President in the direction of their interests. However, the book is also a scathing examination of the sometimes not so honorable opposition, people he portrays as fanatical ideologues, arrogant pursuers such as former Independent Prosecutor Kenneth Starr, who often seemed to be making the rules, regulations and laws up as he surged in persistent pursuit of the Clintons. Starr is pictured as a man so wildly obsessed with a vendetta against the President that he eventually attempted to destroy the Clintons by smearing them with accusations of criminal conduct, lying to federal judges to gain the necessary permission to investigate the Monica Lewinsky affair, which was clearly absolutely unrelated to his purview over the so-called Whitewater Investigation he had been appointed to look into. He shred privileged information with private attorneys for Paula Jones, abrogating his duty as an officer of the federal court by aiding their civil suit against the President. And he was so outraged by the ways in which public opinion was turning against his aims to trigger the impeachment and conviction of the President that he himself ignored the profound conflict of interest implicit in impeaching his own supposed objectivity by testifying against the President to the House of Representatives. The author also has some unusual insight as to why journalists did not attack Starr for his obvious bias and zealotry. It makes for fascinating reading. He also reserves special contempt for the Republicans in Congress so blinded by what they saw as an opportunity to bring the Clinton Presidency down that they lost all semblance of fairness and objectivity, instigating such a firestorm of poisonous invective that Blumenthal now fears its effects may be felt literally for decades. Certainly, anyone assessing the current partisan atmosphere in the hallowed halls of the Capital Building, his assessment may not be far off the truth. There is much material here for someone to pore over in great detail that it is indeed a treasure trove for anyone desiring to know how the Whitewater investigation, or the many political intrigues between the Clinton White House and the partisan republicans over on ¿Capital Hill¿ that it has to be considered a unique resource for anyone interested in delving into the particulars of those much-debated years. This is a great book, and one I can heartily recommend. Enjoy!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2003

    Clinton Wars

    I don't know about all of you, but I think that most of the people who wanted to know the truth had figured out a long time ago that they were being fed lies about the Clintons and those that didn't want the truth, even though deep down I believe they knew the truth but didn't want to admit it, listened to the lies like sheep led to slaughter. Well, I read this book, (it took me a while as its 800 pages) and I thought it was superb. No where in this book did I not find it to not coincide with what had been going on at the time. The only thing is, I got to see it from the other side. Because of all the legal stuff, there were many instances that the president and Blumenthal could not defend themselves because they were not allowed to talk to the press. Starr supeoned Blumenthal, even though he didn't know anything about Monica as she wasn't there when he was, because he wanted to stop Blumenthal from getting to the press to let the people know what was really happening. Starr (actually some of his co-workers were worse than him)didn't like looking bad to the public. I think this book is a book that will be used as one of the more accurate and honest representations of the Clinton era for years to come. It should be used in political classes and for anyone who wants to know the truth. Everyone should be able to defend themselves. As the saying goes-'The truth shall set you free'. I believe I have read the truth and that the Clinton Administration will go down as one of the best of all times. I wish he could've had another term as we surely would be in better shape in this country with him in charge. Good work Mr. Blumenthal.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2003

    A Delightful Fairy Tale

    Move over Joseph Goebbels, Sid Blumenthal has taken mendacity to new levels. Of course the Clinton Adminstration was pristine. It was that lose cannon and lascivious cigarette-pusher Kenneth Starr with his dirty mind. There was nothing wrong about Whitewater and the Clintons lost money, Jim Guy Tucker was framed, McDougald was a straight shooter and his wife a martyr.Jim Carville the man who said on TV that he would destroy Ken Starr gets only 4 brief mentions. Mr. Blumenthal is proud that no members of the Clinton Adminstration quit when the White House was under siege. Guess there were no honorable people there. Hillary is the greatest commodity player of all-time and Bill never played sax without woman. This opus is is better than Harry Potter as a work of pure fiction. 'That is a good book which is opened with expectation and closed in profit.' Amos Bronson Alcott

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2003

    Clinton Wars

    I finally get a truthful report on the Clinton years! I have known for years, as I know many have, that there was a vast right-wing conspiracy, but because of the lies told to us never got to know all of the facts. This an informative book, a long book, that has taken me longer to read than most because I have wanted to take my time to absorb it all. You can read it much faster than me because it is written in such a uncomplicated way. The meanness and cruelty of the Starr investigation is in here. You will read about the innocent victims of Starr's witch-hunt and how the legal fees destroyed them. You will read about the political, international, Lewinsky/Clinton/Starr and all the other battles that took place. You will hear about the good that Clinton did during his years in office, like securing enough money to keep our Social Security money safe, only he didn't count on Bush's group destroying that safety factor (almost like he wants the people to be poor and helpless), the job rates were so much better, economy the best in thirty years, etc. This is an important book to read so that you can, at least, get the look at the other side. While I don't condone Clinton's actions with Monica, it DID NOT affect the running of his office. It was not illegal or any of my nor anybody else's business. The time for us to object was before we elected him as there was already the hint with Gennifer Flowers and yet the people spoke and still elected him, rightly so. The media and those who told the lies were the ones who besmurched the presidential office and our country, they were the ones who gave our country a bad name. The very ones who did this would have a hard time looking any better (worse) under the same kind of scrutiny, in fact, I doubt if they will have such an easy time when they have to face their maker and explain their actions. President Clinton (and Hillary (future?)) will go down in history as being one of the greatest presidents of all time. Already the people are wishing he was back in office when times were good. Great book, very informative and worth every penny!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2003

    A voice of political history worth reading

    It is unfortunate that book reviewers in noted newspapers have panned The Clinton Wars. The book exposes reporters of the Starr era. It is filled with historical context as well as insider reporting of the making of The Starr Report. Anyone interested in understanding the power of a few angry white men in Washington will appreciate this book. I hope that Mr. Blumenthal is working on a follow-up. This is loaded with verifiable facts and thoughtful exposition, laced with history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2003

    A new chapter in our history

    A solid, grounded first hand account of life and love at the top of the political ladder.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2003

    Lack of Decency

    I enjoyed this book immensely and allthough it was not an eye opener for 'dirty' politics it was refreshing to read again the lack of decency so called human beings would act in such a treacherous and out right evil way to discredit another human being. The saddest part of this novel is how the media fed us (the public) this garbage without checking even the most outrageous claim for any resemblance of making sure it was true.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2003

    Not Impressed

    While it was interesting to see Clinton put in a good light, Blumenthal's attempt to slam the evil conservatives only succeeds in showing us his own narrow-minded liberal fantasy-land.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2003

    An Exercise in Self-Indulgence

    Unquestionably, Sidney Blumenthal has the credentials to write a balanced history of the Clinton White House. It is a pity that he has failed to do so, opting, instead, to devote 800+ pages to grinding old political axes. Democrats and Republicans who experienced the Clinton years are entitled to something more than what 'Wars' turns out to be: a cloying exercise in self-indulgence.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2003

    To understand politics in America...buy this book

    Blumenthal details the vicious, right wing, extremist Clinton haters: Liddy, Hannity, O'Reilly, Limbaugh, Gingrich, Barr, Starr, etc...etc... who spent every waking moment of their sad lives trying to destroy Bill Clinton...and Blumenthal shows how the conservatives failed..and succeded in that effort. This book is a must read for anyone-liberal, moderate or conservative--who wishes to understand the ugly underbelly of politics in America today. He also shows that those radicals are now in charge of all three branches of government.

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