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The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Taylor Branch
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 29 2009
A GROUNDBREAKING BOOK about the modern presidency, The Clinton Tapes invites readers into private dialogue with a gifted, tormented, resilient President of the United States. Here is what President Clinton thought and felt but could not say in public.

This book rests upon a secret project, initiated by Clinton, to preserve for future historians an unfiltered record of presidential experience. During his eight years in office, between 1993 and 2001, Clinton answered questions and told stories in the White House, usually late at night. His friend Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch recorded seventy-nine of these dialogues to compile a trove of raw information about a presidency as it happened. Clinton drew upon the diary transcripts for his memoir in 2004.

Branch recorded his own detailed recollections immediately after each session, covering not only the subjects discussed but also the look and feel of each evening with the president. The text engages Clinton from many angles. Readers hear candid stories, feel buffeting pressures, and weigh vivid descriptions of the White House settings.

Branch's firsthand narrative is confessional, unsparing, and personal. The author admits straying at times from his primary role -- to collect raw material for future historians -- because his discussions with Clinton were unpredictable and intense. What should an objective prompter say when the President of the United States seeks advice, argues facts, or lodges complaints against the press? The dynamic relationship that emerges from these interviews is both affectionate and charged, with flashes of anger and humor. President Clinton drives the history, but this story is also about friends.

The Clinton Tapes highlights major events of Clinton's two terms, including wars in Bosnia and Kosovo, the failure of health care reform, peace initiatives on three continents, the anti-deficit crusade, and titanic political struggles from Whitewater to American history's second presidential impeachment trial. Along the way, Clinton delivers colorful portraits of countless political figures and world leaders from Nelson Mandela to Pope John Paul II.

These unprecedented White House dialogues will become a staple of presidential scholarship. Branch's masterly account opens a new window on a controversial era and Bill Clinton's eventual place among our chief executives.


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Review

“I have seldom read a more compelling account of a leader in power. . . . An unexpected treasure-trove. Here is Clinton out of hours and off his guard. . . . The story behind this book reads like the plot of a Hollywood movie.”

--Robert Harris, The Sunday Times (London)

“A remarkable portrait of White House life. . . . An important work about American political life. . . . Branch is an historian by trade, and an excellent one. . . . To the extent that Branch’s portrait of the president rescues politics from ignominy, he has done a real public service; that he has done this while vividly portraying an exuberant American original is cause for joy. . . . Revealing and often delightful.”

--Joe Klein, The New York Times Book Review



“By turns intimate and dispassionately historical . . . this book will be a boon to historians. The casual reader might delight more in Branch’s glimpses of an unguarded president.”

--Gilbert Cruz, Time

“Taylor Branch’s latest book has made me whistle more than any comparable piece of work for a very long time, and not just because of its many remarkable disclosures.”

--Christopher Hitchens, Newsweek

About the Author

Taylor Branch is the bestselling author of Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63; Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-65; At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-1968; and The Clinton Tapes. He has won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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By KRZ
Format:Hardcover
It's sad, but also sadly typical, to observe the deteriorating effect that hindsight has played on the minds of so many of today's leading historians when they assess the international accomplishments of the Clinton presidency ("locust years" in the words of Timothy Garton Ash, and the less said of Tony Judt's estimation the better). More interesting, though still slightly annoying, is the critique from journalists such as James Mann, who argues that Clinton's foreign policy never truly broke with that of his Republican predecessors, and that by merely shifting the focus of policy to trade treaties and international agreements, he simply left the engine of the military industrial complex warm and waiting for George W. Bush, who then had no trouble cranking it into overdrive in the aftermath of September 11th.

Taylor Branch has been able to avoid this deluge of self pity. While his book The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President is nominally a review of the Clinton presidency in its entirety, its longest and most fascinating parts deal with the motivations and inner workings of his foreign policy interventions. And it makes a strong case that while certainly not perfect, the Clinton White House was indeed passionately engaged in important foreign policy issues of the day (or at least much more so than any of its congressional peers), and that at its heart this policy was driven by a small but persistent affinity to the principles of liberal internationalism.

If this seems surprising now then it's partly a reflection of how successful those interventions were, and if they seem like small accomplishments now it's only because we have a hard time imagining how intractable those problems seemed at the time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Clinton Tapes Jan. 15 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Very Good book!! Provides an accurate insight into President Clinton's presidency. The book is very detailed and easy to read. Excellent book for readers that enjoy politics, history or just to get an untainted or sanitized version of the President's term and life at the White House.
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