I have read several memoirs about the Clintons, including Living History, Rewriting History and as much of My Life as I could manage. I’ll get back to it, I swear. I think I keep going back because I have a hard time reconciling my politics (which aren’t so terribly far off from theirs, I expect) to how very much I dislike them.
I think I can now safely say it is the hubris.
Bernstein is sometimes sympathetic and sometimes calls BS. There are a few threads that were particularly interesting to me:
First was the story of poor Vince Foster, the law partner from Arkansas that followed the Clintons to the White House and killed himself after the Travel office scandal. I don’t believe for a second that it was anything but a suicide. I don’t think that anyone taking files from his office was doing anything particularly sinister. But as the narrative ticked down to that moment, I really wanted to shake someone. And Hillary was supposed to be his closest comrade.
Another followed Betsy Wright, who was a senior staffer in Arkansas and wasn’t even working in the White House when she was dragged into the Whitewater scandal. She incurred $600,000 in legal fees for her years of loyal service. The words “collateral damage” rang pretty loudly to me there.
Finally, there was the relationship between the Clintons and Dick Morris. Bernstein referred to him as a kind of Rasputin, which I found funny. But he spent years in the inner circle and I never quite understood why he turned on them. It seems entirely personal. Bernstein goes to some length to separate truth from fiction in statements Morris made after leaving the administration.
Near the end, Bernstein talks about Living History, which I found to be the most disingenuous, self-serving piece of garbage ever. Bernstein called it a “campaign document” that used a strategy of “obfuscate, omit and avoid”. However, he sees it as less deliberate than I do, rather allowing that she sees it as she sees it. “Airbrushed” was the adjective he used and said, “introspection is not her strong suit”.
Overall, this seems a really balanced account of Hillary Clinton’s life, which is what I would expect from Bernstein.