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THE COMEBACK KID by Charles F. Allen


The Life and Career of Bill Clinton

by Charles F. Allen & Jonathan Portis

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 1-55972-154-5
Publisher: Birch Lane Press

 If Clinton wins the White House, he should consider choosing as his press secretary either author of this subtle panegyric. ``This biography,'' write Allen and Portis, ``is a thorough examination of a man who dreamed of being president...from his earliest days.'' Thorough, perhaps, but also delicately biased. Portis (a former editor of the Arkansas Gazette--``whose editorial page,'' the authors note, ``had been a constant Clinton supporter through the years'') and Allen (who began the book as a graduate project at the Univ. of Mississippi) give the lion's share of quotations to Clinton-admirers: ``Bill Clinton was very enthusiastic and a very dedicated professor,'' says a former student of the governor in a typical statement. And, at times, the authors gloss over damning facts (e.g., a clear Clinton lie regarding a question about his college-drug use becomes a statement that's ``not entirely true''). But Allen and Portis are frank about their subject's titanic ambition and do an adequate job of tracing the candidate's earlier years (scarred by tragedy: his father died before Clinton was born; his stepfather died when Clinton was 21; and, in 1984, Clinton's younger brother went to prison for cocaine distribution). Of most interest are the in-depth coverage of Clinton's years as governor, which convincingly portrays Clinton as a man passionate about reform, particularly in education; and the concluding chapter, which--while swiping at Ross Perot (``wild promises'') and proclaiming that Clinton will defeat Bush ``if the campaign becomes one of ideas and issues'' instead of ``personal attacks''--urges Clinton to give up his overriding fear of losing and to take the risk of stating ``hard truths'' in the upcoming campaign. By no means a definitive biography, but not flack-fluff either; and, for all its slant, the most informative text available on the man who would be President. (Sixteen pages of photographs- -not seen.)