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Saturday, June 26, 2004

My Life: Third 100 Pages

The part about Clinton's involvement in the McGovern campaign and attending Yale Law School was probably the weakest section I've read so far. While it wasn't bad, it lacked the life of the other parts of the book. An interesting omission from the Yale part was that Clinton makes no mention of helping work to make Joe Lieberman the Connecticut Attorney General. He also spares surprisingly few words to discuss falling in love with Hillary. Critics will say that Clinton is still mad at Holy Joe for his sanctimonious Senate speech during the Lewinsky drama and that Bill and Hillary don't have an affectionate marriage (Clinton does have a strong rebuke to those who pass judgment on his marriage from the outside).

The book gets back on track in the next part when Clinton returns to Arkansas to teach law school and run unsuccessfully for Congress in 1974. During the campaign, he discusses making a courtesy call on Orval Faubus, whose wife asks him something like, "What do you think of the communist plot to take over the country?" Clinton recalls that he deadpanned, "I'm against it, aren't you?" As he travelled the district in '74, Clinton was also still trying to teach, and he mentions that he was embarrassed to lose a few student exams he was carrying around with him. One student was very upset about this, and she turned out to be Susan Webber Wright, who became a judge and took her revenge on Clinton in the Paula Jones case years later. It was also interesting to note that Clinton's popular Republican opponent (Clinton ran so young because others declined the race) had Nixon as an albatross that year. The resignation helped him, though the Ford pardon that followed hurt him and pumped some life back into Clinton's campaign, which fell just short and set him up to run again.

He writes of some funny encounters with the emerging Moral Majority in Arkansas during his time as Attorney General, though he also notes his affinity for attending Pentecostal services with some supporters. I'm currently at page 272 with Clinton describing how he managed to rub everyone the wrong way in his first term as governor, leading up to his failed effort to win reelection in 1980. You can envision Clinton shaking his head as he wrote this part, saying to himself "How could I have been so politically tone deaf?" The best bit is on the doubling of car tag fees Clinton reluctantly signed into law in a desire to spend more on roads. He notes that every year on their birthday, Arkansans went to a government office to pay the tags, and this time their birthday present was to learn the fee had doubled. Many didn't realize this and didn't bring enough money or a checkbook, so they had to drive back home to get it, often 20 or 30 miles. When they returned, they would have to angrily wait in line, with a big photo of the smiling young governor on the wall above them. Clinton calls the car tags bill his biggest political mistake prior to requesting an independent counsel in 1994.