Nigel Hamilton’s account of Bill Clinton’s early life and career, Bill Clinton: An American Journey, drew widespread praise for its candid reconstruction of the archetypal baby-boomer’s extraordinary political ascent, from humble beginnings in small-town Arkansas to the winning of the White House at the age of forty-six in November 1992.
Now, in the second volume, Hamilton takes us on another journey: charting the experience of the 42nd President as he took presidential oath of office; and, how he fared thereafter in the piranha pool of Washington DC. In riveting narrative, Hamilton charts what was possibly the greatest disaster and re-reinvention of a president in office in modern times. The Clinton Administration began badly – kicking off with the worst Transition in living memory. The presidency then deteriorated through a series of fiascos at every level, from domestic policy and congressional relations to international failures such as Rwanda and the failure to act over Bosnia. The disaster over health care reform capped a litany of errors. When the Democrats lost their majority in both houses of Congress in 1994 for the first time in forty years it looked as if the President’s days in office were numbered.
How Bill Clinton faced up to his failures, and refashioned himself in the White House thereafter is thus an epic one. It is a story that climaxes with William Jefferson Clinton becoming the first Democrat to win re-election to the White House since Franklin Roosevelt.
Insightful, balanced, prodigiously researched and a joy to read, this book is set to become, alongside its prequel, the classic story of Clinton’s extraordinary effort to be a modern president, in a modern world – and a chronicle one of the most extraordinary reversals of fortune in modern American politics.