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Kirkus ReviewsThe title of this book by columnist Reeves (President Kennedy: Profile in Power, 1993) far exceeds its grasp.
In 12 short chapters, which read more like distinct columns than the integrated sections of a well-thought-out book, Reeves analyzes the Clinton presidency and dissects the reasons it has failed to capture the hearts of the American people. Reeves, a proven political observer of great merit, comes up with occasional gems, such as his observation that Clinton "could be called the first true president of a new American public opinion democracy, acting as a facilitator for the wobbly will of the people." The phrase captures a major thesis of this slim book, that polls rather than principles motivate Clinton and Congress, and that all Washington suffers from too much information received and then acted upon—or reacted to—much too quickly. To make matters worse, in the shark-infested waters of talk-radio, take-no-prisoners modern American politics, Clinton's repeated gaffes make him so much live bait. Reeves offers various theories for Clinton's troubles: his ethical lapses; his disorganization; his wife's influence; middle America's continuing resentment of the children of the '60s; the ways in which Clinton committed his life to winning the presidency but failed to prepare himself to govern once he got there. In the end, however, it is difficult to tell what point Reeves is trying to make. He paints a worse picture of the times than of the man and, perhaps inadvertently, generates sympathy for the president he sets out to critique.
Reeves is capable of much better than this book, apparently rushed into print in time for the 1996 elections. He looked at the Kennedy administration from a perspective of 30 years. Perhaps he will try again with Clinton, from a perspective slightly broader than that of last week's news.