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This presidential (auto)biography does what most (sadly) don't: tells you about more than just their presidency. Many presidential biographies tell you very little about their pre-presidency, and so aren't as informative as they could be, especially if you know a lot about American history already. This prevents you from really understanding how the person ticks and why he thinks the way he does. Though I already knew a lot about his presidency, I did learn a lot about it from this book as well. It does a good job at filling in many of the gaps, and clarifying what was unclear.
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Where does My Life, Volume II rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
Among the best. A very detailed and exhaustive recounting of the Clinton Presidency in Volume II, unmistakably written in WJC's voice, which is well represented in Michael Beck's reading. Its not an impersonation, but Beck nails the enthusiasm, intelligence and unflagging energy of Mr. Clinton. Doubtless, Mr. Clinton's critics would be off-put by the author's point of view and would tire of his relentless drive. But that is his story, his life, and he brings such passion to the writing about the job he clearly loved, that, more than any Presidential memoir I've read, "My Life" conveys something of what it must be like to be in office. Over the course of 2 volumes, you become familiar with Clinton's methods, his likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, and what emerges is a rational account of an irrational period in our history.
What did you like best about this story?
The cumulative detail and the sense of the irresistible, unceasing movement of history. There always was another crisis, another budget, another challenge, another trap. Indefatigable, boundless energy and a manic need to engage and connect.
Which character – as performed by Michael Beck – was your favorite?
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
Mr. Clinton attempts to place his conduct, including his misdeeds, in the context of his upbringing and his background and you can feel his restless nature working toward some self-understanding.
Any additional comments?
As long and as detailed as the book is, I was ultimately carried along to the point the President's last fleeting days in the Whitehouse are poignant and full of meaning. It is remarkable to consider that, for all he had been through, his appetite and enthusiasm was undiminished. There may have been better Presidents but I doubt any of them had loved the job so well as Clinton.I was surprised by the prominence he affords the Starr inquest and the Lewinsky scandal which he weaves throughout the second volume. He acknowledges wrongdoing and weakness and self-indulgence and goes further, recognizing what those things say about his character and the consequences and suffering for those around him. The one figure in the book, the one man met and unrelentingly disliked, is Kenneth Starr, whom the President seems to exempt from his personal efforts to be more forgiving in the name of spiritual growth. Mr. Clinton, acknowledges his tendency toward self-pity and blame-avoidance, and then actually demonstrates those weaknesses by letting them all hang out during some of his diatribes against his persecutors. He is nothing if not smart, and this is no editorial or authorial oversight -- what we hear are the thoughts that fought through the complex, sometimes conflicted web of his mind. He allows his true nature to show through at the bare parts, at some cost to himself, for the good of the book, for the telling of the tale. What emerges is a sense of the simmering pressure cooker of his days and nights. Always, the Starr inquest is bracketed by the Nation's business -- the revelations, the indictments, the depositions and trials occur, not against the background of domestic and foreign crises and triumphs, but in the midst of them, providing some sense of what it must have been like to live in the center of those cross-hairs for those 8 years. And another intended aspect emerges in this way -- the triviality, the hypocrisy and the venality of his most fevered accusers and their utter lack of good faith. Clinton repeatedly and heatedly calls Starr on his conflicts of interest and his questionable tactics and ethics, but he is otherwise circumspect in castigating his attackers.Mr. Clinton devotes a lot of time and effort, commensurate with those same proportions during his time in office, to foreign affairs and his traveling around the globe to meet and deal with the world's leaders in its most troubled spots. He also burnishes his reputation for policy wonkery and budgetary deal-making -- no one ever outlasted this President in a negotiation (although the clock ran out in the Middle East during the waning days of his Administration). He formed personal relationships with many of the world's leaders, using these connections as a means to bridge cultural, political and sometimes military divides. It is not mere self-aggrandizement -- it comes to signify one of the central tenants of his worldview -- that our destinies are as shared as our genetic make-up (he repeatedly cites to scientific evidence that we all share more than 99% of the same, identical DNA). Clinton had a remarkable ability to process highly complex information and to synergize ideas and to formulate understandable arguments and then to foresee how they might be brought into practice. He had the trick of relentlessly reducing abstract concepts into human terms, how to get people to accept those ideas and then how they might impact on everyman's life. He combined raw political skill and instinct with a high level of intelligence, if not judgment or soundness of character. He was not above pettiness, self-indulgence and self-pity but those flaws could not extinguish his energy and passion for the process and the life of a President.
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