Academic journal article Teaching History: A Journal of Methods

David H. Bennett. Bill Clinton: Building a Bridge to the New Millennium

Academic journal article Teaching History: A Journal of Methods

David H. Bennett. Bill Clinton: Building a Bridge to the New Millennium

Article excerpt

David H. Bennett. Bill Clinton: Building a Bridge to the New Millennium. Routledge, 2014. P. 232. Paper, $39.95; ISBN 978-0415894685.

Bill Clinton: Building a Bridge to the New Millennium is David H. Bennett's recent contribution to the Routledge Historical Americans series. In this short biography of President Bill Clinton, Professor Bennett seems to have written with the upper-division history or political science major in mind. It is brief, well organized, and written very clearly in accessible language.

After a brief (29 pages) overview of Clinton's early years, Bennett deals with Clinton's political races for attorney general and governor of Arkansas in the 1980s. From that second chapter on, the book is organized into discrete chapters on domestic agenda, foreign challenges, the politics of impeachment, and a chapter on his life after the presidency. Throughout the above mentioned territory, Bennett stressed Clinton's "Third Way" or "New Democrat" theme to emphasize that Clinton was a moderate Democrat through and through, or certainly at least since the founding of the Democratic Leadership Council in 1985.

Throughout the work Bennett is critical of Clinton's opponents on the left in his own party and insists that Clinton's moderate approach to domestic issues was the only way the Democratic Party could regain the presidency:

   But it was the belief in these "ossified little boxes" that made it
   possible for Clinton's critics to miss the important new direction
   he was suggesting his party must take if it was to ever retake the
   White House. This was his "third way" vision. This was the New
   Democrat message that he offered in the speeches at Georgetown, in
   the campaign to follow, and into the White House. (41)

As Clinton was the first Democratic president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt to achieve two terms in office, one might conclude that he was correct in his assumption that the "third way" was indeed the key to success. In fact, after a dip in presidential approval rating to the mid 30% range in his first year, Clinton consistently had ratings in the high 50% range, reaching his top mark of 73% in the Gallup Poll of December 1998, the month he was impeached.

Bennett's treatment of Clinton's foreign policy is, as is the rest of the work, sympathetic. Undergraduates reading this book will probably be surprised that Osama bin Laden was on the White House hit list for at least the last six years of the Clinton presidency. …

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