Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal

William Henry Chafe, Author
William H. Chafe. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-0-8090-9465-3
Reviewed on: 06/04/2012
Release date: 09/04/2012
Open Ebook - 400 pages - 978-1-4299-5554-6
Paperback - 385 pages - 978-0-8223-5719-3
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Duke history professor Chafe (The Rise and Fall of the American Century) delivers a superior portrait of how the dynamic between Bill and Hillary Clinton affected their achievements in public life. Both fiercely ambitious superachievers from dysfunctional families, their personalities were complementary (he charming and brilliant, she disciplined and demanding), and they married; despite her knowledge of Bill’s philandering, both “love and calculation” (that she could achieve her own goals by marrying him) underlay her decision. They worked together; Bill’s laid-back charm made him reluctant to twist arms, so he often deferred to the far more assertive Hillary. This caused controversy when he was Arkansas governor and threatened disaster when he became president in 1992. Hillary’s political missteps doomed a universal health program and, in Chafe’s view, contributed to the 1994 Republican midterm landslide. After she took up issues outside the administration, the president rebounded politically. Combining reform with fiscal conservatism, he left office with superb approval ratings, a flourishing economy, and a balanced budget despite crippling ethical and sexual scandals, an impeachment trial, and terrible press relations. A sympathetic if often regretful account of a stormy, occasionally self-destructive political partnership. 8 pages of b&w illus. (Sept.)
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