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First In His Class: A Biography Of Bill Clinton (1995)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0684818906, Paperback)Lots of people have put forth theories on what makes Bill Clinton tick, but the most trustworthy source may be David Maraniss of the Washington Post. Maraniss won a Pulitzer covering Clinton's campaign, and his book on the man is nonpareil; you simply can't understand Clinton without reading Maraniss's anaylsis of his past. When Bill Clinton is good, he is very, very good, and when he's bad, he's exactly like he has been all his life. Fair-minded but no apologist, Maraniss is essentially an inspiring reporter who, virtually alone among Americans, has troubled to interview Clinton's Oxford classmates and therefore knows that Clinton was, according to them, not lying when he said he "never inhaled"; his classmates devoted hours to teaching Bill to inhale, but he just couldn't do it. Maraniss also casts light on what Clinton did imbibe intellectually at Oxford; precisely what he did to elude the draft, and its moral significance; how Arkansas politics shaped his political style; and what his character and marriage might actually be like. Yes, Maraniss gives us a comic scene in which fiancée Hillary comes through the front door of the campaign headquarters while a young female staffer is hustled out the back--but more importantly, Maraniss puts such events in perspective. As he once observed in the Post, "The question of whether a president who cannot control his sexual appetite should not be president is a tough one. It might mean that most of our presidents should not have been presidents."
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 14 Feb 2013 13:32:28 -0500)
Drawing on letters, documents, and interviews with several hundred people whose paths intersected with Clinton's at every level - family, friends, girlfriends, classmates, teachers, campaign workers, staff, and associates - Maraniss explores the evolution of the personality whose greatest strengths are also his greatest weaknesses: his talent for politics and careful networking, his perseverance and optimism, his ever eagerness to please, his tendency to shade the truth, and his insatiable appetite for life and ideas. It is a definitive study of Clinton's rise from obscure, provincial Arkansas, of the clear development of his ambitions, and of the Faustian bargains he made along the way. Maraniss looks at the split personality of Hot Springs, where Baptist churches and gambling casinos, all-American ideals and vaporous spas, were next-door neighbors - and how these childhood influences worked their way into Clinton's persona.The Georgetown-to-Oxford-to-Yale years reveal Clinton as a remarkably quick study, a smooth and astute operator, and an unrivaled magnet, drawing many of the brightest people of his generation, first and foremost his wife and closest adviser, Hillary Rodham, and others who are now key members of his administration and circle. His career in Arkansas provided the important learning experiences and stepping stones that propelled him to the Oval Office - and the stumbling blocks that threaten his stay there. Still, Maraniss shows, Clinton is not a man to count out of any fight. There have been numerous defeats along the way - in "dress-rehearsal" elections for student council president, "out-of-town runs" for state office, and even now that he is on center stage - but Bill Clinton has learned and bounced back, stronger after every setback.
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