Bill Clinton's 'My Life': Much Too Much of a Not-So-Good Thing

Article excerpt

Byline: JERRY SCHWARTZ

My Life (Alfred A. Knopf, 957 pages, $35) Bill Clinton

In 1992, presidential candidate Bill Clinton flew home from New Hampshire to affirm the execution of a cop killer, Rickey Ray Rector. Rector was brain-damaged; when he took his last walk, he left a slice of pecan pie in his cell, intending to eat it when he returned.

Many have wondered whether the Arkansas governor was influenced by politics. His campaign was struggling with reports that he had had an affair with a blond entertainer, Gennifer Flowers, and the execution embellished his tough-on-crime reputation.

But Rickey Ray Rector is not mentioned in Bill Clintons autobiography, "My Life."

Instead, we read about people like Mauria Jackson, with whom he attended his senior class party in high school: "Since Mauria and I were both unattached at the time and had been in grade school together at St. Johns, it seemed like a good idea, and it was."

Thats it. Nothing more about Mauria Jackson, except that she showed up in New Hampshire to campaign for him in 1992, along with hordes of other friends of Bill.

Jackson is not the only person who makes a cameo appearance in "My Life." There are multitudes of them, each of them no doubt treasured by the former president but many of them completely irrelevant to the rest of us.

None of them comes alive, not even the main characters of this badly conceived, flatly written, poorly edited book. Not Hillary Rodham Clinton, who comes off as a cardboard saint who is said to be smart and tough and good. Not special prosecutor Kenneth Starr, the books villain, who comes off as pure evil not really a human being at all, more of an incubus.

And not even Bill Clinton himself. Here is one of the most fascinating figures of his time, a charismatic and brilliant man a fatherless boy who rose from humble beginnings to live, in his own words, "an improbable life" and he has produced a book that lacks anything more than the most rudimentary insights. This master politician does not even offer a single good discussion of the art of politics.

Part of the problem is that "My Life" is relentlessly chronological, especially the second half of the book, which is devoted to his presidency. …