The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton / Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative

By Scranton, Margaret E. | The Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton / Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative


Scranton, Margaret E., The Arkansas Historical Quarterly


The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton. By Joe Klein. (New York: Doubleday, 2002. Pp. 230. Prologue, acknowledgments, index. $22.95.)

Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative. By David Brock. (New York: Crown, 2002. Pp. 336. Prologue, epilogue. $25.95.)

These books retell previously told tales. But this time, the authors (both journalists but not White House correspondents) claim to tell the "truth." In The Natural, Klein reworks much of the material from his novel Primary Colors (1996) into a nonfictional evaluation of Clinton's presidency. He wants to clarify "misunderstandings" about Clinton's record: "solid policy and brilliant politics" have been "obscured by the consequences of tawdry personal behavior" (p. 21). Brock wants to clear his conscience: Blinded by the Right rectifies his treatment of "troopergate" and Anita Hill in American Spectator and his book, The Real Anita Hill (1993). Brock explains, "Like a kid playing with a loaded gun, I didn't appreciate the difference between a substantiated charge and an unsubstantiated one" (p. 99). He confesses that his epiphany came after receiving a $1 million cash advance to write a second "attack book," The Seduction of Hillary Rodham (1996). When he turned up "no basis to allege criminal wrongdoing or cover-up," he was transformed: "In finding Hillary Clinton's humanity, I was beginning to find my own" (p. 261). As a result, Brock wrote two essays for Esquire ("Confessions of a Right-Wing Hit Man" and "The Fire This Time: A Letter to the President") which are the basis for this scathing memoir of his disillusionment as a conservative who "plotted in the shadows, disregarded the law, and abused power to win even greater power" (p. xi). Brock apologizes, casting himself as the central character in a tawdry tale of money, ambition, and shoddy writing and editorial practices. He says he was "blinded by" a conservative culture of "corrosive partisanship, visceral hatreds, and unfathomable hypocrisy" (p. xi). He regrets his contribution to Clinton's impeachment: "Had these conservatives not intervened in the way they did, [Paula] Jones might have sued the Spectator, rather than the president, and though I might have been in the dock, the catastrophic political consequences of her lawsuit might have been avoided" (p. 180). Thus, Brock tells an admonitory tale, "to illuminate for others the dangers that I see in an empowered conservative movement" (p. xii).

Klein's tale is updated but not much changed. As one of the first reporters to promote Clinton's candidacy (they met in 1989; he covered the campaign for Newsweek), he became an early booster. He had less contact with Clinton during his presidency, until Clinton granted him an extensive interview after the 2000 Democratic convention. Klein wrote his first take on Clinton's legacy for the New Yorker that autumn. That essay plus several additional interviews provided the basis for The Natural. Klein is still amazed at the "comeback kid" who was a "serious, disciplined, responsible" (p. 11) president with "domestic policy achievements" that "were not inconsiderable and were accomplished against great odds" (p. 216). Elsewhere, Klein characterizes Clinton's legacy more modestly, correctly noting that the record shows a mix of successes and failures. He reaches the same assessment as current political science scholarship: instead of one major domestic policy achievement, Clinton's legacy is one of incremental steps toward reform, which Klein aptly calls "victories in dribs and drabs" (p. 14). Klein suggests an explanation for Clinton's uneven record: "he never received credit for the essential coherence of his vision because he never found a way to articulate it credibly, much less succinctly-no small irony, given his ability to communicate" (p. 13). This is a thoughtful insight about presidential rhetoric and the failure of Clinton's catchwordsNew Choice, New Covenant, Third Way-to capture the imagination of the public and the press.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton / Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?