A Review of A Complicated Man

A Complicated Man: The Life of Bill Clinton as Told by Those Who Know HimA Complicated Man: The Life of Bill Clinton as Told by Those Who Know Him by Michael Takiff

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I generally enjoyed reading this comprehensive book on Clinton, ranging from his childhood to his post-presidential years. The author had quite an undertaking, interviewing more than 170 people who knew/know him and getting insights and opinions that vary wildly, ranging from total devotion to abject hatred. I learned that Clinton’s greatest strength was perhaps his empathy toward others, followed closely by his incredibly high intellect. His weaknesses? Perhaps some arrogance. A bit of a temper. Oh, and women. Yep. There’s quite a lot about Paula Jones and Monica Lewkinsky in here. Perhaps a bit too much, but that’s just my opinion. I’ll be honest. I’m a huge Clinton fan. I think he’s the best president I’ve seen in my 45 years on earth. He oversaw an amazing time during American history, presiding over the greatest economic boom ever. He sought Middle East peace accords, fixed the Bosnia and Kosovo crises, enacted controversial welfare reform, and so much more. I love the man. So it hurt me when I saw some of the really overly dramatic criticisms leveled at him by haters. Some people just genuinely hate him more than anyone on earth and make no bones about it. While the book is fairly balanced overall, I do think it spent quite a bit of time on his weaknesses and failings and not enough time on his successes, but as I said, I’m biased. I would have given this book five stars, but the final few chapters encompassing his post-presidential years basically trash him to hell and back and that really pissed me off royally. Very jaded. It ends with a couple of questions and an odd statement: “Can he overcome his outsized flaws so that his outsized talents can work to maximum effect? … Maybe now Bill Clinton will finally live up to his potential.” I didn’t like that. So Clinton didn’t end a world war. That’s really not his fault, and yet that’s actually held against him in this book. He never fulfilled his potential because there was not a major war or depression to fix — this is actually said in the book. That irks the hell out of me! He did a damn good job under the worst possible personal circumstances with a rabid Republican Congress and hateful media out to destroy him daily. I admire him for that. So, anyway, overall a pretty good read, yes, but like I said, the final few chapters leave me with a sour taste in my mouth. Pity.

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