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June 21, 2003

The Clinton Wars

The Clinton WarsI am reading The Clinton Wars by Sidney Blumenthal. While Blumenthal offers some interesting insight into the workings within the Clinton administration, it seems like his book is one big (800+ pages) rant against various conspiracies launched against President Clinton, his wife, and finally Vice President Gore. It seems everything is a conspiracy to Blumenthal. Most of the conspiracies were being directed by shadowy right wing idealogues against the righteous Clintons and their sincere campaign to make America a better place.

You can see where this book is headed 15 pages into the book when he labels conservatives as indifferent, passive, complacent, nostalgic, and enemies of the wonderful progressives (a word increasingly being used by Democrats to replaced the ugly word, liberal). Blumenthal uses the book to give every Republican and Republican group a nasty label. As if we can not separate out the enemy from the allies without a scorecard. There is no doubt whose side Blumenthal is on in this war.

Blumenthal is an extremely bright person who writes logically and coherently. His problem is that he cannot shed his passion for conspiracy or his partisan outlook that leads him to misrepresent many, many facts. For example, this might be petty but the information is common knowledge to anyone in the least bit familar with Florida vote imbroglio, he says that Judge Sanders Saul is a conservative. This would lead the reader to believe that Judge Saul, an appeals judge in Florida, issued his ruling (unfavorable to Gore) based on his political inclinations. This is not true. He is a Democrat. Just one of many incorrect statements Blumenthal makes throughout the book.

Another device Blumenthal uses is the selective ignore. For example, he mentions Gore's military experience and the fact that he briefly served in Vietnam in one short sentence while he does not ignore the controversial aspects of President Bush's experiences and goes in to detail about those. On the impeachment proceedings he ignores so many things it is laughable. Blumenthal picks up from where he left off while working in the White House with his demonization of Ken Starr who, according to Blumenthal, is one of the most evil people in the world. He and others were so successful at this tactic during the OIC's investigation that they made the investigation about Ken Starr and not about President Clinton's felonious activities. He does this a lot to keep from discussing unpleasant things about the Clintons. This tactic is so common throughout the book it sticks out like a sore thumb.

There are some good parts to the book. The best, my view, was his description of a personal meeting he had with President Clinton where the President denied having an affair with a 22 year old intern in the Oval Office. I could feel the sense of saddness that Blumenthal must of felt at that time. Blumenthal, and you can feel it on every page of this book, actually worships the Clintons so it must have hurt him deeply. He knew what the President telling him wasn't true but he wanted to believe the President. He does, however, later defend the President to the hilt with the old, tired argument that President Clinton lied and covered up to protect his family. President Clinton was a very intelligent, mature (in some ways) lawyer that could, when called on, make lawyerly arguments about the meaning of the word is, and Blumenthal seems to want us to believe that this super intelligent human commited at felony to protect his wife and daughter from knowing something that they certainly knew he was guilty of in the past. Sure, Sidney, I believe that.

Is the book worth reading? As an insight into Sidney Blumenthal's mind, yes, because he was a key player in the last years of the Clinton administration. As an insight as to what really went on during those years, no, it is not worth reading in my opinion. He goes deeply into real and imagine conspiracies too much and after awhile you might begin to say to yourself "Is this guy really that paranoid?". You might also pause and reflect "Are the Clinton's really that wonderful?" Sure, Sidney.

Other reviews: David Greenberg, Sean OHagan, Susan Baer, Robert Dallek, and Byron York.

- posted by Mad Jayhawk and Seven @ 6/21/2003 04:55:00 PM    |

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