on July 13, 2004
Hillary Clinton is an interesting woman, with tremendous drive and ambition, and this will often get a woman branded as the devil incarnate. The very polarized views of her are not surprising.
What was surprising was the tone and lack of depth in this book. It reads as if she had a list of items she wanted to tick off as having explained. 'I'm a good girl, really.' was the underlying theme. I can't believe she's as naive as she portrays herself. She does admit to a few mistakes, but her apologies are all for not doing a better job, like any good girl.
The healthcare chapter is a good example. She was unable to overcome hurdles around the complexity of the legislative process involved, and she makes 'apologies' for her failure along the lines of 'well, we tried really hard & it's a good cause'. But as she & Bill are both Yale lawyers, with experience in private practice (her) and as the Arkansas attorney general (him) and as they had easy access to many of the best legal minds in the country, it is hard to understand. It comes across more like professional negligence than the naivety it is painted as. I suspect ambition (the 100 day goal) was the real cause for failure, which is a shame given how important this issue is to our country and how badly we need healthcare reform. To put something this complex under a 100 day deadline is almost sophomoric - or ambition out of control.
She is also careful to mention every person and cause that might win over supporters. An extraordinary number of her enounters seemed to have resulted in 'lifelong' friendships. Many iconic figures like Jackie Kennedy and Nelson Mandela get a lot of airtime. It's a bit too good to be true. It reads almost as if she's running for something.
Maybe Sarah Bradford, who wrote that wonderful biography of Jackie Kennedy, will write the book about Hillary one day and we'll get a better picture of who she really is - from all angles. Personally, I would have found the intelligent, ambitious Hillary much more interesting and admirable than the girl scout we hear about in this book... it's a shame powerful women still feel they have to paint themselves as 'good girls' to be heard.
on July 10, 2004
All right, let's be honest. Everyone who thought that she was going to confess that she was an axe murderer who enjoyed cross-dressing and drowning newborn kittens please raise your hand. Right, no hands.
Normally, people write autobiographies to tell their version of events, and cast themselves in as positive a light as possible. That is what Hillary Rodham Clinton has done in "Living History." If you are a fan of Senator Clinton's, you will enjoy the book, not least because she offers plausible explanations for some of the less savory accusations that have been hurled against her over the last three decades or so, including Whitewater, the national healthcare debacle and those commodities trades. If you are not a fan, you will not enjoy the book for exactly the same reason ' many of the explanations are plausible. Even less appealing to the Senator's detractors, her prose is very readable (though I do wish she wouldn't use "impact" as a verb), her life has been (and continues to be) interesting and she is more charming in print than she often seems in public appearances.
Granted, some of the prose (particularly in the early years) is self-serving: "The keynote speaker at the League convention was Marian Wright Edelman, whose example helped direct me into my lifelong advocacy for children" sound more than a bit self-serving. In her defense, however, she works through the pre-White House days very quickly, so it all becomes a blur of good deeds as a child and honors as a student, right on through graduate school (student government, political activist, first student commencement speaker at Wellesley, etc.). One wonders if she ever got a B in a class or missed a lecture because she overslept. The only exception is her hair, which she treats as a running joke throughout the book.
The other running theme -- no surprise here -- is her belief in a right-wing conspiracy against the Clintons. Read that either as an accurate statement, as the Senator's paranoia or somewhere between. There is no denying, however, that mentioning the Clinton name in certain conservative circles produces the same effect of throwing an ear of corn into a pen of pigs ' both are devoured in seconds.
Whether Senator Clinton does or does not plan to run for President in 2004, or after, one intention of this book is clearly to give her an opportunity to explain herself, and thus reintroduce herself, to the American voting public. That clearly raises the question: why? Perhaps, like Nancy Reagan, she just wanted to tell it her way, or perhaps she is just planning for all eventualities. In any case, this is an interesting read, if not an overly revealing biography of a very complex and ' like it or not ' influential woman in American politics, not a must read, but certainly on the short list for consideration.
"Living History" by Hillary Clinton is a captivating book that tells various events that powerfully played a part in Hillary Clinton's Life. Hillary Clinton opens her heart to reveal pivotal circumstances that played influential agents in her life. Among the following are some of the excerpts of circumstances that Hillary Clinton shared:
Page 23: Hillary shares how she was actually at a speech of Martin Luther King Jr. that was titled "Remaining Awake Through a Revolution."
Page 39: Hillary describes her first meeting with Dean Acheson.
Pages 60-61: Details are shared about an exciting trip that Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton took to England. This was also the country where Bill Clinton had asked her to marry him.
Pages 172-178: Vince Foster, a close friend of the Clintons, took his own life. Naturally, Vince Foster's death was painful for Hillary Clinton to bear. Hillary Clinton mentioned that she poured herself into her work to cope.
Pages 210-211: Multiple photos of Hillary Clinton's life milestones are shared. The photo that stood out the most for me was photo 42 (featuring the Clintons practicing their dances for the Inaugural Ball).
Pages 370-371: More photos are included, with one picture that featured her surprise forty-sixth birthday party.
Page 372: She mentions how Condoleeza Rice helped Chelsea Clinton to feel welcome at Stanford University.
Page 461: Hillary Clinton confesses to feeling concern about some of the members of Congress that bragged about never leaving the states.
Page 523: She shares her victory of U.S. Senator.
"Living History" by Hillary Clinton is a compelling book for the many who are interested in reading about some of the early influences that shaped Hillary Clinton throughout her life.
on July 18, 2004
I must admit that this is the first memoir I have ever read that was by the First Lady and given this one is graded as one of the better ones, I think it may be my last. It was not that the book was badly written, it was just that the majority of what the First Lady does is not all that interesting to me. Reading about this fund raisers, good will trips or party planning are not my idea of thrilling political insider info. I am more interested in the hard fought, inside the beltway battles that make major decisions. I obviously new this book was about the First Lady, but given the Clinton Presidency, I assumed that it would cover more in depth the political battles the administration faced. Then again the book was about her.
The next compliant I would have about the book is that the author seamed to take the high road on all the areas you thought she would come out with both guns blazing on. Her comments were so bland that they almost acted to diminish or completely disregarded the very negative attacks the Clinton's faced during their terms. Sure she touched on the items of major interest, heath care reform, the full independent counsel investigation, Monica and the Senate race, but it seamed to be at such a high level that all the real nasty, dirty inside details were left out of the book. Ok I know that she has a new job now so that she did not what to lay waste the political landscape that she will be working in and one could make the argument that the First Lady needs to stay above the partisan attacks, but hey this is the edge of the seat reading I wanted.
Lastly I wanted more detail. Now given that she had lead a rather full life, Governors wife, working on the Nixon impeachment, First Lady and now Senator, to get a real detailed account of all of these areas she would have needed a much larger if not multiple volume book. I guess I would have just liked her to focus on the First Lady section of her life and have gone into more detail. Just as the book seamed to be getting into a topic, the chapter was over and on to the next installment of Hilary on the move.
Even though I have focused on the areas I disliked with the book, overall I thought it was probably better then most books dealing with the Clinton years. I did think the writing was better then average and she did have an interesting story to tell. The details she did given about the life of the First Lady and some of the inside information about the Clinton Presidency were worth the purchase price, throw in some of the personal bit and the book was not bad at all. I also have a sympathetic spot for her, so the increased my enjoyment of the book. I guess I am just a bit disappointed that the book could have been so much better. It could have been a stinging and focused rebuttal of all the overly negative and harmful to the country attacks. Then again how could one book fight back the 8 year, over the top negative campaign focused against the Clinton's. I felt the book was interesting and enjoyable.
on July 11, 2004
the criticism aimed at this book for its not being a bear all tell all is rather silly.
hillary writes as a politician and as a politician she writes about what interests her most, and thats the issues she is passionate for and her experiences as a first lady.
hillary clinton will go down as one of the most ambitious, if not the most ambitious first lady in history (and you know what they say, an ambitious woman is just downright uncouth!) and was dutifully ostracized for it by a supposedly 'modern progressive country'.
for many though, it was refreshing to see a woman at the white house who wasnt just tucked away and brought out for white house tours (as ms bush is).
clintons passionate obsession for reforming health care was perhaps the most nobled failed ambition in recent memory and time will vindicate her efforts and her as a heroine.
ms clintons writing is like her; reserved but passionate for what she believes in and i, for one, miss bill and hilary clinton.
heres to hoping we will see the day when someone like ms clinton in the white house as president.
of course im not holding my breath
on July 5, 2004
My interest in reading "first lady books" pre-dates the political polarity of these interesting first person or biographical accounts of women's lives lived in the limelight of our country's premiere leadership. I began to read "first lady books" in elementary school - remember those old fashioned kids' biographies with the silhouettes for pictures? I loved those books and quite a few were about America's first ladies. Given my nature to enjoy America's first ladies, I found the audio book, "Living History" read by Senator Clinton, like talking with one of my litany of heroines. It was just like she was talking to me in the privacy of my automobile. I wish skeptics would put partisan politics aside when it comes to Senator "Mrs. Clinton". Instead, people who like autobiographical stories should simply enjoy listening to one of the most pleasant political histories I can imagine, told from the point of view of a woman who certainly earned the right to comment on her life in her own words. "Living History", read by Senator and former first lady Hilary Rodham Clinton is a terrific audio book to listen to during a long family trip. Read by the author in soothing tones, Senator Clinton explains her rather ordinary mid-western American girl's life and how it surprisingly turned into a marriage with destiny. Regardless of how you love or not-love Senator Clinton, she is destined to be America's most beloved first lady. Therefore, either challenge yourself or simply enjoy listening as she explains how she became America's first lady and subsequently elected to the United States Senate representing the great state of New York. It's American history told from the person who lived it. "Living History" is aptly titled.
on July 5, 2004
I picked this book up in Detroit airport (along with its counterpoint: Rewriting History by Dick Morris), while waiting for a plane to take me to JFK airport in New York. Little did I know that a friend who I was to meet there had acquired two tickets to David Letterman. I was late by an hour. The guest: Hillary Clinton!
Living History is a must read to compliment the President's My Life and Morris's double take on her tome. These tales all balance out in the end, don't they? I'm all for taking the high road, as Hilary surely does, but enough with the right wing conspiracy already. It's hardly a conspiracy when the Republicans play with a full deck of cards, face up, now is it? Bill Clinton blames "that woman" and Hillary, who is undoubtedly one of the hardest working woman in America, is also a partner in her husband's "crimes." I'm not referring to all the stuff they were investigated for. I'm referring to a gross lack of respect for the women who may have viewed Mr. Clinton's privates.
Hilary turned her eye on her career womanizer, not only because she loves her husband, as I'm sure she does, but also because he surely wouldn't have been elected, and re-elected President without her. I think you'll find Morris's behind the scene take on his twenty year involvement with the Clintons much more interesting than Living HIStory or My Life. Nevertheless, Mrs. Clinton's book deserves your attention. As much for what it says as for what's left out. Author of Father's Touch
on July 12, 2004
If you are looking for gossip, go read another book. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's book is as the title states: It is a Living History. It is well-written and filled with facts and stories of past generations. If you have children or grandchildren this is a book you should buy for them. It is a warm and compassionate way to learn history (as opposed to our education system that tends to teach history via war dates). Buy this book. You Won't Be Sorry!
on June 16, 2004
I haven't read the text edition of Living History; I have listened to the CD. In fact, I am listening to it a second time. My admiration for Hillary Clinton rose immensly as I listened to her voice talk about her life, her trials, the ups and the downs. I knew she was a strong, active participant in political events; I had no idea she had done as much as she has for women, children, emerging nations, health care, the constitution. I strongly recommend listening to this book; whether or not you like Hillary; whether or not your opinions of her are based on what the media has said about her, either read the book, or listen to it. Her passion, intelligence, strength, honesty and humor will give you a new slant on one of the most remarkable First Ladies in our history. More, it will give you a new view of a strong, capable woman who has the courage to make choices and to stand by those choices. Like her or hate her, Hillary is a formidable woman and an energizing role model; this story gave me insights into living in a fish bowl that i never imagined. It was an excellent trip and I recommend it heartily.
on June 15, 2004
I was shocked to learn that Hilary Clinton was a Goldwater Girl. Growing up near her in Rolling Meadows, little Hilary in nearby Park Ridge seems to me to have been a typical idealistic Chicago suburban teen of the early 1960s, many of whom were attracted to Barry Goldwater's relative honesty, tonic against the background of the growing moronization of TV politics...managing to ignore the simple fact that Barry Goldwater was a lunatic who would have gotten us blown to Kingdom Come.
Her harsh judgement, in print, of her grandmother, indicates to me that Hilary remains middle class and as such, despite her good intentions, cannot speak for the growing poor of this country.
Britain's Labour party and the Democrats in the USA have both been taken over by the middle class in part because the war on labor unions in both countries mean that working people are too busy working to be active in their own interests, or even form a coherent idea of what is going on.
The book had me thinking well of Hilary: but then, she, the Bubba and Chelsea attended an unveiling of the Bubba's portrait at the White House. In view of what Bush has done to this country, had I been the Bubba I would not have shown up.
The United States won't rethink its committment to inequality. In the 1960s there was already a sharp racial and class divide at the Des Plaines river. This divide has moved to the west and is now at Salt Creek in Palatine but it is real. Another divide exists between the regentrified core and the ring of immigrant, minority and (former) working class neighborhoods.
Hilary shows there is an unavoidable tendency for upper class feminists to blame the victim and fall prey both to blame-the-victim religion and "personal responsibility".
The book is entertaining. I would like to know what jokes Bill tells to make her laugh after all these years.
The problem is that we need not find political figures entertaining. Abraham Lincoln reserved the off color stories and anecdotes for a small circle of friends when the jug was passed. He had enough respect for the people to be a serious man when he spoke to the people.
We have in other words been entertained to the point where working class males literally have no representation whatsoever and instead form rich fantasy lives of identification with the very males who are screwing them. Hilary, Barbara Boxer and other demonized ladies have done in fact more for these bozos than Rush Limbaugh including the recognition that, with respect to child support, it is true that you can't get blood from a rock.
But with their lack of relative passion and simple outrage against what's been done to this country by Reagan and Bush, these ladies seem to many to be irrevelant Ladies Bountiful worth at best a pound from the poor box and a prayer meeting that does not pay the back child support.
Meanwhile, men like Mario Cuomo, who gave an impassioned but unremarked speech at the 1984 Democratic convention against the simple dishonesty of creating a deficit in order to destroy the safety net (a crime which the current administration has repeated), don't get the book advances, it appears...and are subject to a racist, anti-Italian, and anti-Catholic whispering campaign that has predisqualified them from high office in a manner reminiscent of Know-Nothingism and the Ku Klux Klan.
Of course, for Cuomo's kid and countless other liberals who dare not speak their name, the Democratic party is now the ship, and all else is the sea, as the Republican party used to be for W. E. B. Dubois; they share his despair at a winner-take-all, devil take the hindmost, wealth-dominated, gerrymandered and oligarchic Republic which was created by ambitious Yankee sharpers in 1776 and has persisted without needed reform since then.
Their despair is transmuted into anger against spoilers like the gloomy Ralph of Nader: but his inability to get elected is not only the result of his defective character, it's also an artifact of the system.
Hilary is part, whether she likes it or not, of a dysfunctional American family in the same way the goodwife of a drunk may be said, by her sweet reason alone, to enable his behavior. Living History makes this clear.
At the end of the 1960s, caught between the Weathermen on one side, with their foolish rampage in my Chicago, and ambitious, "progressive" Hilary/Bill RFK and McGovern supporters on the other, already learning, as their elders had learned, to compromise themselves and be enablers, I despaired of the possibility of "change".
The genius of the American system, if we may call it that, is that for 200+ years it hasn't sucked, just enough, to make us want to change it. We've "enabled" it.
However, Bush may change the rules of this poker game, simply by insisting on the rights of the planter class to such an extent that enabling old Massah in the Hilary mode becomes unsustainable.