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Book Reviews Review Essay accounting for clinton John M. Murphy All Too Human: A Political Education. By George Stephanopoulos. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1999; pp. 456. $27.95. Behind the Oval Office: Getting Reelected Against All Odds. By Dick Morris. Los Angeles: Renaissance Books, 1999; pp. xxxii + 646. $16.95. Monica's Story. By Andrew Morton. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999; pp. 288. $24.95. Uncovering Clinton: A Reporter's Story. By Michael Isikoff. New York: Crown Publishers, 1999; pp. χ + 402. $25.00. The Clinton Legacy. Edited by Colin Campbell and Bert A. Rockman. New York: Chatham House Publishers, 1999; pp. 424. $24.95 And so it begins. Better than a year before the official end of his presidency, participants and scholars have begun to explain the rise and the fall—and the rise and the fall—and the rise and the fall—of William Jefferson Clinton. It seems unlikely that he will fulfill his very public desire to be remembered as one of the nation's great chief executives. Yet the fact that he has already been the subject of a best-selling novel, a popular film, and more episodes of Geraldo than we care to remember also suggests that interpretations of the "Clinton era" will become a cottage industry.1 After all, his story is nearly irresistible to the denizens of popular culture and academia alike; the mythic stew of a poor boy made president is flavored by drugs ("I didn't inhale"), sex (in the Oval Office?!), and rock and roll (Elvis in the White House). Indeed, I suspect that Bill Clinton will haunt his fellow "baby boomers," much as Richard Nixon casts his dark shadow over the increasingly legendary "long John M. Murphy is Associate Professor of Speech Communication at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. © Rhetoric & Public Affairs Vol. 2, No. 4,1999, pp. 653-698 ISSN 1094-8392 654 Rhetoric & Public Affairs civic generation." We may not want to remember these men, but each is clearly one of us. The example of Richard Nixon, however, should give us pause. Early accounts of the Nixon administration now seem sadly outdated as a result of the increasingly voluminous flow of information and tapes. Similarly, while I devoutly hope never to confront a tape recording of Bill Clinton's Oval Office activities, it seems likely that the books now under review will someday appear equally problematic. Nonetheless, they offer the opportunity to see the president as his contemporaries saw him and therefore these accounts possess considerable significance. I treat the books, then, as rhetorical acts and historical documents. That is, I approach them as persuasive discourse because they seek to set current perceptions of this president and influence generations to come. Simultaneously, they reveal the roles the authors played as well as the times in which President Clinton acted. The books fall into three groups and I approach each in turn. George Stephanopoulos and Dick Morris provide insider accounts of the Clinton administration from two of the president's closest political aides; Andrew Morton and Michael Isikoff detail the events that led to the president's impeachment; the scholars gathered by Colin Campbell and Bert Rockman offer the earliest explicit evaluations of the historical impact of this paradoxical presidency. Taken together, the accounts sketch the initial conventional wisdom regarding President Clinton, a consensus that will provide excellent fodder for future revisionists who, in turn, will be challenged by post-revisionists and post-post-revisionists. In doing this sort of review, it is well to remember one's place in the scholarly food chain. Courting the President Robert Hartman observes, "Court culture seems to be the antipode of modern life. However modernity is defined, it is not likely to be synonymous with terms like 'monarchy' or 'majesty.'"2 Nor does "monarchy" quite seem to capture the essence of the Bubba administration, and yet Stephanopoulos and Morris offer courtiers' accounts of life in the thin air of high majesty. Such an interpretation undermines conventional wisdom. The presidency, as several essays in The Clinton Legacy claim, has fallen on hard times, personalized by television, diminished by Mr. Clinton's actions, and challenged by independent counsels and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5238
Print ISSN
1094-8392
Pages
pp. 653-668
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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