Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal
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In Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal, the distinguished historian William H. Chafe boldly argues that the trajectory of the Clintons' political lives can be understood only through the prism of their personal relationship. Each experienced a difficult childhood. Bill had an abusive stepfather, and his mother was in denial about the family's pathology. He believed that his success as a public servant would redeem the family. Hillary grew up with an autocratic father and a self-sacrificing mother whose most important lesson for her daughter was the necessity of family togetherness. As an adolescent, Hillary's encounter with her youth minister helped set her moral compass on issues of race and social justice.
From the day they first met at Yale Law School, Bill and Hillary were inseparable, even though their relationship was inherently volatile. The personal dynamic between them would go on to determine their political fates. Hillary was instrumental in Bill's triumphs as Arkansas's governor and saved his presidential candidacy in 1992 by standing with him during the Gennifer Flowers sex scandal. He responded by delegating to her powers that no other First Lady had ever exercised. Always tempestuous, their relationship had as many lows as it did highs, from near divorce to stunning electoral and political successes.
Chafe's many insights―into subjects such as health care, Kenneth Starr, welfare reform, and the extent to which the Lewinsky scandal finally freed Hillary to become a politician in her own right and return to the consensus reformer she had been in college and law school―add texture and depth to our understanding of the Clintons' experience together. The latest book from one of our preeminent historians, Bill and Hillary is the definitive account of the Clintons' relationship and its far-reaching impact on American political life.
was politically at fault [as well].”45 Most Washington observers agreed. She was more responsible than anyone else for the resounding defeat of health care and the administration’s downward spiral in public opinion. Joe Klein, one of the most insightful of Washington’s reporters, blamed the plunging poll numbers directly on Hillary’s “unwillingness, from the very start, to listen to opposing points of view in White House staff meetings, and then her unwillingness to compromise [on health care]
tax credits for parents with children in college, $24 billion for new children’s health programs, a hundred thousand more police on the streets, V-chips to prevent youngsters from watching violent TV programs—but they added up, and the political dividends were huge. By addressing meaningful issues for millions of mainstream Americans, Clinton reestablished his credibility as a New Democrat. Republicans, meanwhile, alienated mainstream Americans when they chose to close down the government rather
18. Bernstein, Woman in Charge, 43–48; Sheehy, Hillary’s Choice, 40–46. 19. Bernstein, Woman in Charge, 46–52; Sheehy, Hillary’s Choice, 45–50; Maraniss, First in His Class, 355–57. Both Sheehy and Bernstein were able to interview Geoffrey Shields, Rodham’s boyfriend at Harvard. Shields also shared with Bernstein some of the letters he exchanged with Rodham. 20. Bernstein, Woman in Charge, 44, 50–58; Sheehy, Hillary’s Choice, 56–60. 21. Bernstein, Woman in Charge, 54–56; Sheehy, Hillary’s
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the issue be studied and that instead of outright acceptance of gays, the president consider a policy of simply not inquiring of soldiers whether they were gay. If they wished to keep their sexual orientation to themselves, that would be fine. It was the precursor of the ultimate policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Democratic members of the U.S. Senate preferred such a stance to outright endorsement of Clinton’s original position. The Senate Republican leader, Robert Dole, meanwhile, let Clinton