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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

My Life: First 100 Pages

I was up late reading the first 100 pages of the Clinton memoirs, and the book is really excellent.

He paints an affecting portrait of his childhood in Arkansas, where his upbringing seems idyllic, despite his stepfather's intermittent violence. The stuff you've heard discussed about Clinton confessing that he's a "secret-keeper" happens at the end of one of the earliest chapters--I think it's in the 20's as pages go. Clinton explains how he attended Boys State and eventually turned that into his chance to meet President Kennedy, but he denies that was the start of his serious interest in politics, as others have claimed. I enjoyed his discussion of Georgetown too, and the book is getting more political now that I've read about his involvement in the 1966 Arkansas Governor's race and his work for Senator Fulbright and the Foreign Relations Committee.

Commenting on the defeat of his man, Holt, at the hands of segregationist "Justice" Jim Johnson, Clinton notes that Johnson used a formula that has been politically successful in the South through time, that of dividing people, Us vs. Them, and telling white folks they're OK, the implication being that Republicans do that today. Clinton notes that Johnson peddled lies about Whitewater and that some in the so-called liberal eastern establishment ran with them. At the Senate, Clinton says he had a chance to read plenty of documents marked secret and so he knew that the government was publicly telling lies about our involvement in Vietnam. He is wistful about the days when Republican moderates existed (in fact, he gives an excellent overview of the US Senate of the 1960s right around page 100 where I stopped). One caustic comment that stood out in this discussion was that Joe McCarthy would've fit right in with the crowd that was elected in 1994.

Based on what I'm through so far, I strongly recommend the book (maybe, as I've heard, the writing about his actual presidency is less vivid). I'll post more as I read on, perhaps even with page references if I'm posting from home and not just from memory.

MORE: Slate highlights the juicy bits.

MORE II: My sister, upon learning I was already reading the Clinton book, said the following to me last night: "You're such a dork!" I also believe she called me "obsessed." Sorry I forgot this crucial detail earlier.