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The President We Deserve: Bill Clinton: His Rise, Falls, and Comebacks

The President We Deserve: Bill Clinton: His Rise, Falls, and Comebacks

by Martin Walker

Martin Walker's critical biography of Bill Clinton focuses on the president as a classic figure of America's post-World War II meritocracy, a poor boy from the segregated old South who won scholarships to elite universities and became a lawyer fascinated by the process and the power of government.  Walker also unearths a private life that has resonated to


Martin Walker's critical biography of Bill Clinton focuses on the president as a classic figure of America's post-World War II meritocracy, a poor boy from the segregated old South who won scholarships to elite universities and became a lawyer fascinated by the process and the power of government.  Walker also unearths a private life that has resonated to the rhythmic clichés of a country-and-western song:  Clinton's father died in a car wreck before he was born; his mother buried three husbands and married two more; his stepdaddy beat his mother and fired gunshots into the bedroom walls; one brother went to jail; and his own marriage tottered under the pain he admitted inflicting upon it.  This president's background is as grittily American as the woeful tales that wail from jukeboxes in bars across the land.  He is Bubba with brains, a redneck with a Rhodes scholarship—America at her most raw, and most cultivated.  And his first term has been unpredictable, volatile, and fascinating.  Martin Walker shows us the why, the how, and the future of the Clinton administration.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Bill Clinton, argues Walker, is a genuine New Democrat who wants to revise the liberal reforms of the 1960s, to end welfare dependency, provide universal health insurance, cut the deficit and get tough on crime. Clinton's vision of an activist government involves investment in high-tech industries, creation of an ecology corps and free college education in return for two years of community service. But this ambitious agenda, in Walker's analysis, was largely derailed by budgetary constraints, the Whitewater scandal and a Republican opposition that, ironically, shares many objectives of Clinton's new centrist consensus. Washington correspondent for Britain's Guardian, Walker, an acquaintance of Clinton going back to Oxford, relies heavily on published sources. Nevertheless, this is a kinetic, dramatic political biography of the 42nd president, whom Walker credits with charting for the U.S. a new post-Cold War international course as linchpin of a free-trading global economy. Photos. (Sept.)
Library Journal
This sympathetic, engaging biography by the U.S. bureau chief for Britain's Guardian, who also wrote The Cold War (LJ 12/93), portrays President Clinton as a man who never gives up"the archetypal postwar American . . . the president America deserves." Clinton and Walker first met at Oxford, where Clinton was neither the radical nor the antiwar leader he is at times portrayed to be. This biography is set apart from others by its emphasis on Clinton's foreign policy, largely viewed as successful by most world leaders. Domestically, the perils and triumphs of the administration's first two years are succinctly related. Whitewater is viewed as a minor financial crisis inflamed by attack journalists and a network of right-wing radio commentators. (A revealing Nexis on-line search identified 2400 stories about the healthcare crisis but 31,000 about Whitewater.) This biography does not supplant David Maraniss's First in His Class (LJ 3/1/95) but goes beyond that excellent treatment of Clinton's youth by providing a seamless account of his roots, education, Arkansas government, the presidency, and the uncertain state of American politics. Recommended for public libraries.Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Township Lib., King of Prussia, Pa.
Kirkus Reviews
In a warts-and-all but ultimately respectful attempt to capture the manifold contradictions and promise of Bill Clinton and his administration, Walker, US bureau chief for the Guardian (The Cold War, 1994, etc. ), portrays the president as the archetypal figure of America's postwar meritocracy.

Walker characterizes Clinton's upbringing and childhood in postwar Arkansas as a quintessentially American story: Raised in a home fraught with pain and conflict, Clinton nonetheless showed early in life a powerful ambition, a deep resilience, and a hunger for success. He brimmed with self-confidence and easily acquired the badges of adolescent achievement: Among other things, he was president of his high school class and a National Honor Society member. During his years at Georgetown University and later as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, and at Yale Law School, Clinton never wavered from his determination to return to Arkansas and launch a political career, and he was successful from the start, becoming governor at 32. Walker shows Clinton's many ups and downs as governor; his slow evolution into a national political figure, the most attractive of the "New Democrats" offering fundamentally conservative approaches to domestic issues; his problematic 1992 presidential campaign; and the humiliations of his first years in office as his administration became mired in crises and his grand health-care initiative was defeated. Walker also portrays the skill with which Clinton has responded to the Republican challenge since the loss of Democratic congressional power in 1994, with Clinton achieving successes on both foreign and domestic policy fronts and throwing the Republicans on the defensive on many important issues. Clinton, Walker concludes, has demonstrated "strong grounds to claim his right to reelection."

This thoughtful political biography shows that Clinton is a consummate politician and that opponents underestimate him at their peril.

Product Details

Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.45(w) x 9.59(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Highs and Lows of the Clinton Administration taken from THE PRESIDENT WE DESERVE: Bill Clinton: His Rise, Falls, and Comebacks by Martin Walker  


January 20                Inauguration
January 22                Zoe Baird nomination withdrawn
January 25                Hillary Clinton given health reform task force
February 10                Promise of U.S. troops to enforce Bosnia peace
February 17                Clinton presents economic plan to Congress
April 3                First summit with Yeltsin
April 19                FBI assault on Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas, followed by fire and 83 deaths
April 29                Clinton loses economic stimulus bill in Congress
May 19                Christophe's $200 haircut at LAX
June 4                        David Gergenappointed
July 5-6                G7 Tokyo summit
July 19                Vince Foster found dead
September 13                Arafat and Rabin sign peace accord at White House
September 27                Health reform plan unveiled to Congress
September 29                White House first hears of possible Justice Department criminal investigation into bankruptcy of Madison Guaranty
October 3                18 U.S. Rangers killed in Mogadishu
October 11                USS Harlan County turns back from Haiti
November 17                Congress passes NAFTA
November 20                Asian-Pacific summit in Seattle
December 15                Defense secretary Aspin "resigns"
December 19                American Spectator publishes "What the Troopers Saw"
December 21                 Washington Times says Whitewater files removed from Vince Foster's office after his death.


January 6                Senator Dole demands a special prosecutor
January 12                Clinton, from NATO summit in Europe, asks Janet Reno to appoint an independent counsel to investigate Whitewater affairs
January 30                U.S. visa granted to Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams
February 5                68 die in Sarajevo marketplace mortar attack; NATO promises to protect Muslim "safe havens"
March 5                White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum resigns
March 18                U.S. diplomacy establishes Bosnian-Croat Federation
April 10                NATO jets hit Serb ground targets at Gorazde
June 27                Leon Panetta appointed White House chief of staff
June 28                2656 Haitian boat people picked up by U.S. Navy
July 6                         G7 economic summit in Italy; Yeltsin pressed to withdraw last Russian troops from Baltic states
July 21                Clinton health reform plan dropped by Congress
August 12                Crime bill defeated
August 17                Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman resigns after congressional hearings into "improper" referrals to White House
August 21                Crime bill passed
August 31                Cease-fire announced in Northern Ireland
September 18                Haitian military agree to leave office
September 27                GOP congressmen sign "Contract with America"
October 7                U.S. reinforcements rush to Persian Gulf after Iraqi threat
November 8                The Republican landslide victory in Congress
November 11                 U.S. stops enforcing UN arms embargo in Balkans
December 1                GATT trade pact passes
December 6                Lloyd Bentsen resigns as treasury secretary
December 9                Miami summit on Western Hemisphere free trade pact
December 29                Mexican economic collapse


January 4                Republicans take over Congress
February 4                $1 billion sanctions threat against China
March 2                Republicans lose balanced budget amendment in Senate
April 18                Clinton says, "The president is relevant here"
April 19                Oklahoma City terrorist blast
May 8                        Moscow summit; Clinton demands "more robust" policy on Bosnia
May 17                  Clinton's first veto, on $16 billion budget cut
June 14                Clinton promises to balance budget in ten years
July 11                Fall of "safe haven" Srebrenica
July 25                Fall of "safe haven" Zepa
August 4                Croation offensive begins against Bosnian Serbs
August 11                Clinton vetoes Congress attempt to lift arms embargo
August 19                Death of Ambassador Robert Frasure and two other members of U.S. negotiating team on Mount Igmanin Bosnia-Herzegovina
August 30                Start of NATO air strikes, led by U.S., against Bosnian Serb air defenses
September 7                Outline of Bosnian peace agreement announced
October 5                Bosnian cease-fire announced
October 16                Million-Man March; Clinton sticks with affirmative action
November 8                General Colin Powell says he will not run for president
November 14                First U.S. government shutdown in budget battle; lasts three days
November 21                Bosnian peace agreement reached at Dayton, Ohio
November 30                Clinton's triumphant reception in peaceful Belfast
December 1                Clinton signs treaty of intent for free trade with European Union
December 15                Second U.S. government shutdown begins; lasts two weeks
December 15                Last day for New Hampshire primary deadline; Clinton will face no serious Democratic opponents


January 8                First lady is "congenital liar," says William Safire in New York Times
January 9                Budget talks with Congress break down
January 9                U.S. Appeals Court says Paula Jones lawsuit may proceed
January 23                "The era of big government is over," says Clinton in much-praised State of Union address; Dole's response falters
January 26                Hillary Clinton appears before grand jury
February 9                IRA breaks cease-fire with bomb in London; 2 dead
February 20                Pat Buchanan wins New Hampshire primary
February 27                Steve Forbes wins Arizona primary
March 2                Dole wins South Carolina primary
March 12                Dole sweeps Super Tuesday primaries
March 14                 Clinton orders two carrier groups to Taiwan waters
March 25                Dole secures Republican nomination by winning California primary
April 28                Clinton gives video testimony in Jim McDougal's fraud trial
May 15                 Dole steps down from senate
August 12-15                Republican convention, San Diego
August 26-29                Democratic convention, Chicago
September 2                Electronic convention of Perot's Reform party
November 5                 Election day

Meet the Author

Martin Walker is the U.S. Bureau Chief for Britain's Guardian and is a regular commentator for CNN, CBC, National Public Radio, Monitor Radio, and the BBC.  He also writes a regular column for the Los Angeles Times and is an occasional contributor to the New York Times and the Washington Post.  He lives in Washington, D.C.

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