cover image In Search of Bill Clinton: A Psychological Biography

In Search of Bill Clinton: A Psychological Biography

John Gartner, Author . St. Martin's $25.95 (466p) ISBN 978-0-312-36976-7

The language of clinical psychology can convey detachment—or, as in this starstruck study of the 42nd president, gushing admiration. Deploying his trademark diagnosis, Johns Hopkins psychologist Gartner (The Hypomanic Edge ) pegs Clinton as a hypomanic personality with boundless energy and charisma, but prone to impulsive appetites and lapses in judgment. The author attributes much of Clinton's psyche to genes (many inherited, he argues, from an illegitimate father he tentatively identifies), but he also embraces Freudian notions: Clinton's relationships with women, Gartner contends, follow a pattern established in childhood when he felt torn between his bossy, Hillaryesque grandmother and his lushly erotic, Monica-like mother. Gartner sometimes overreaches—“We can almost see Clinton going through the stages of his relationship with [stepfather] Roger in his approach to Bosnia”—but his analysis of Clinton's political talents, right down to his mesmerizing facial expressions while on receiving lines, yields intriguing insights. The author himself unabashedly surrenders to Clinton's magnetism and “genius” intellect: “[H]e has been walking in the footsteps of moral giants,” Gartner rhapsodizes about Clinton during an AIDS-relief junket, comparing him to Jesus as a healer of the sick. Nevertheless, Gartner reminds us why this complex figure still fascinates. 17 pages of b&w photos. (Oct.)